Let It Out
I stole my witch from the forest. Years ago. She’s with me today, in my purse, as I walk the mossy path with my children. She is niggling and fussing in there, clamping her gums at me, slap, slap, slap. I zip her up. I show the girls the lines of an oak leaf and how they are like the constellations. You can always trace them. You just need to know how to look.
They are young, my girls. They ask about origins, but not their father anymore. I tell them mostly what I know. But I’ve never explained about the witch.
She nestles next to me at night, in bed, hisses that my breath is foul.
“Do you like to burn, girl?” she says to me most nights, around two.
My husband died at that time. He was at his lover’s house and there was a terrific fire. Not a thing left, not even a letter or a shoe.
It was soon after that I found my witch in the forest. She was sitting on a branch over the creek. I thought she was a girl’s doll at first, but I knew. I snuck her in my purse. I knew what for.
Today we’re here again. I might put her back. I might stuff her tiny mouth with moss. I might bury her in mud. I might drown her in the creek. I might keep her. I might have lit the match.
Every Day the House
Every day she wakes to build a new house, the same house. She starts with mud, slaps it into terracotta, and then makes a roof of moss. Puts a plant in the corner, taken from the forest path. She makes spaghetti for lunch, eating with a fork branch. For tea and biscuits in the afternoon, a little company of mice comes in to tidy up the cobwebs that have already formed in the corners. The mice nibble on crumbs under the table. As the day goes on, the clay walls grow soft and her body grows cold. By nightfall, her hair has turned a moldy green; by the moonlit midnight, she lay on the earth covered in fuzz, and insects swarm her mouth.
Every day she wakes to build a new house, the same house.
Cheryl Pappas is a writer from Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Chattahoochee Review, Juked, Jellyfish Review, Hobart, SmokeLong Quarterly, and more. Her website is cherylpappas.net and you can find her on Twitter at @fabulistpappas.