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About the Author

Prior to raising a family, Margaret Dockry published short stories in national magazines such as Yankee, Sign, and Ramparts and poetry in the New York Times, New York Herald Tribune, and the Christian Science Monitor. Now retired from secretarial work, her op-ed columns have appeared in the Easton Express Times and the Hunterdon County Democrat. She is now engaged in a survival contest with a matching senior citizen husband, two ancient cats, and a greyhound that doesn't have a clue. She plans to win.

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The Witch and Her Children

by Margaret Dockry

Through the chill October mist, they are coming up my lane - I sense it. I shall stand, as I always do, in my shadowed vestibule to watch them walk by. Are they aware that I observe them? Who can say? They are careful not to stare rudely into the windows of this solitary man. Politeness, perhaps; however, Consuelo is a witch. She must take heed where her glances fall.

Ah, yes, there is the cat - fat, white, malignant, rolling along like a pasha. Not even he stares (orders from Consuelo to her familiar?), yet his animosity sings in my ears. Strange, that a witch should own a white cat. The group passes before my devouring eyes - the witch and her children. Consuelo, tall and slender, is laughing - dare I call her my Consuelo? Her little girls, dark-haired as she, pull a wagon, in which sits the blond boy of about two years. I have no doubt that the daughters are sibyls, wise, all-knowing, molded by their mother’s power. They hover over the innocent brother. He drops his constant plaything - a small blue tin box - and the sisters rush to retrieve his prize, while Consuelo bends to kiss his yellow curls. He is blissfully unaware of the passions that swirl around him.

As they disappear from my sight, I hurry to the front room to feast my eyes once more. Clever Consuelo, disguised in jeans and windbreaker, only I know you. Surely, you must sense that I pass from window to window, lurking at the curtain’s edge. Do you smile inwardly at my infatuation? I cannot say yet that I desire you, but I sense that wave approaching. How delicious it will be, to indulge myself in human lust! I savor each delaying day.

- - - - - -

Through the fine November rain, the witch and her brood approach down the lane that passes my cottage and on through a descending curve to where Consuelo and her husband dwell. From my kitchen window I can look down on their roof. Every witch should live at the bottom of a track, if only to give a soul pause to reflect before seeking her out.

How touching a picture - the young sibyls and their brother clad in yellow raincoats! One might see them as a suburban snapshot, but to me, they seem a procession of significance, much like those medieval tapestries portraying nobles, soldiers, servants, bishops, and fools on high purpose bent, to crown a king or tear out his heart. The fat feline swaggers defiantly through the rain. I think, "Look at me, fine fellow!" but he will not. Proceeding to my parlor window, I wonder whether Consuelo’s spouse is also besotted with her. A large, blond man, he is often absent because of work, and all goes smoothly (according to my cleaning drab). The man knows not what a strange, wild creature his hausfrau is, nor on what arcane current his household is run. The hearth fire is never extinguished where Consuelo and her daughters weave the spell.

What would I do, were our glances to meet? Perhaps I would be impelled to say or do something imprudent, eventually tragic, and I would prefer to cause no scene. Surely, it is possible for an intelligent being to have his way without bringing the house down on his head. For now, I am content to observe my witch as she walks laughing through the brilliant leaves, her long hair whipping about her shoulders. One would think that, at any moment, she would soar high with the leaves. The girls dance around their brother’s chariot and one finds a pretty stone for his tin box, the whole charade held together by the witch’s strands of magic.

- - - - - -

All Souls’ Eve and it is midnight, my cottage creaking in the wild wind and rain. My passion’s enchantment is to be borne no longer; I shall claim my prize. Since I have been captivated in the manner of humans, it is my pleasure tonight to indulge my desires in ordinary fashion - no flying through the air or appear beside her bed. Far from her, I will call her from among her family - and she will come.

- - - - - -

So much for human desire. It is finished. My Consuelo is dead, for apparently there was no witch. Unused as I am to human lust and obsession, I mistook my delectable entrapment for a spell. Waiting beyond the village, I summoned her to leave her sleeping husband and to drive out. She - nothing but a lovely human girl - arose, not knowing why she went and I, drunk with passion, was unable to foresee until the last minute the moron whose truck skidded wildly, destroying the body I craved. In that final moment, I was able to capture her spirit (that much is given to me) and the spell I have chosen for it is that of a beautiful bird with jeweled feathers and ruby eyes - silent, it is true, but still in my possession in its cage. Perhaps some day she will sing for me.

- - - - - -

At last, the accursed December holiday has come and gone. From my cleaning slattern, I learn that Consuelo’s husband is frantic, but strange to say, her human children are not bereft. Now and then, the grieving husband will walk them up the lane. Just this afternoon, it occurred to me to place Consuelo’s cage in the open window as her little ones passed in the flurrying snow. What a glory of song sprang from her quivering throat! I could not read it - when soul speaks to soul in what is termed "love," we cannot break the code. I must keep hands off that particular element, rather than have my powers destroyed. Before my eyes, the children trudged by, totally unheeding of their mother’s melody, a song so astoundingly beautiful that even the cloddish husband turned, entranced. The fat cat stalked closely behind them. Idly I tried to influence it in some way, but it remains impervious to my testing. No matter - I no longer have any interest in them. Let them be thankful.

- - - - - -

I can scarcely contain myself! I have lost her, my gorgeous bird, my Consuelo! I must exert unbelievable control to refrain from blasting the entire village from the face of the earth! It has been my pleasure every day to bring my caged prize to the open window where she sings passionately as her family walks by. Never once did she beat her wings against the bars. Clever Consuelo, listening as I cautioned the accursed maid against touching the cage! When I discovered my trophy gone, I reduced the shrieking slut to terror for her life. "Honest! It was whistlin’ at me all the time, but i ain’t never let it out!" Oh, no? OH, NO? I forced an admission that she daily had opened the cage to stroke "the pretty bird," and wily Consuelo made no move to escape, but one day the drab goes to the porch to shake her mop, and Consuelo opens the carelessly latched door. Having imprisoned her spirit in another form, I can control her no longer - lost, lost!

- - - - - -

The village is agog over the sightings of an exotic bird, but equally astir over the disappearance of my maid. What would townsfolk say could they know that the slattern now resides in my bird cage as an ugly brown soundless thrush? Her shrieks were satisfying for a while until I tired of the racket and promised to produce a large snake to silence her. Every day I place her on my finger and remove one feather, holding it before my face to ignite it with my glance. And when the last feather is gone, I shall hold that naked bird before my eyes - but enough. I shall savor that pleasure when the time comes.

- - - - - -

Busy, busy Consuelo! Frustrated though I am, I cannot withhold my admiration. At any local street corner, one can hear the amazing story of the succession of girls applying for the position of au pair to Consuelo’s brood, only to be attacked on doorstep by a screaming fury of scarlet and indigo! My new servant tells me that the bird permits no stranger to enter. And then - the most astounding detail of all! - an unknown young woman appears at the father’s door. She is visiting her sister who lives in our hamlet and the two women, chatting on the patio, notice a bizarre bird studying them from close by. Consuelo approves and one day, finding the visitor alone, drags a wing in the dust and coaxes the girl with a beautiful call. This extraordinary female, attuned to the magic of the heart, follows the rainbow-hued bird the quarter-mile to Consuelo’s door, where the husband must admit that the bird has picked a governess for his family. Now every day the girl walks up the lane, leading the little boy between his protective sisters. He is talking now, but still clutches the tin box of his infancy. Consuelo is somewhere in the topmost branches. There is another aspect of this arrangement that I have observed from the curtain’s edge. The father, walking with his children, exchanges fond glances with the au pair. Consuelo has chosen a mother for her children. Small wonder that she impressed me and continues to do so.

- - - - - -

The summer dawns in incredible beauty - blue sky, soft air, a richness of grass and flowers about. Standing in the shadows, I watch the au pair pass by with only the little girls. Perhaps the boy is ill. Close to the window, my thrush lurks in the bottom of its cage, hoping to escape my notice. Its final destruction might be amusing today. Dwelling on this pastime, I go into my kitchen, opening the window to perhaps catch a glimpse of my gorgeous Consuelo on her rooftop, but no - I see only the small boy, climbing from the attic window to the roof’s edge! Brave Consuelo, can you prevent your son’s plunge to the stones below? His soul might prove an interesting plaything, perhaps as a snake to consume the thrush - a quaint revenge on my truant love! I lean to the window for a closer look. The boy sits in the very gutter, raising his arms. The gesture is vaguely familiar as the small fingers point to me - TO ME - and his eyes make contact with mine, shooting forth two rails of blue fire! Caught unaware, I realize the family I have fixated on was not a witch and her children, but an infant warlock attended by females! His the control, his power that bears me up, a captive hurtling along the sizzling rails of light, falling into a metallic cell, imprisoned in the tin box. Reduced to insect size, I tumble from one clanging wall to another, as the warlock runs along the roof, summoning the waiting bird with his loud cry, "MOTHER, MOTHER! I HAVE SOMETHING FOR YOU TO EAT!"

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