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Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Cindy Rosmus: Witchy

100_ym_witchy_hlyon.jpg
Art by Hillary Lyon 2023

WITCHY

 

by Cindy Rosmus

 

1967

 

          Back in the 60s, there was no pc shit. On Halloween, you wore what you liked: warrior feathers, fuzzy wigs, slant-y eye makeup. Nobody said shit.

Same with treats. Sure, every apple risked a razor-split lip, or tongue. But who ate apples, when you got Hersheys, Butterfingers, and my favorite: chocolate doughnuts!

Moist, white cake, covered with delicious, fudgy icing. Mmmmm . . . Cool, it was, ‘cos it got cold out by Halloween. S’almost like eating a frozen candy bar—and cake—at the same time!

          These days, you’d get sued for giving doughnuts to trick or treaters. Scared you’d shoot ‘em up with cyanide. But back then, who cared?

 The Santangelos—those bakery owners, gave out chocolate doughnuts every year. Sometimes, the line of kids reached around the block. All day at school, we talked about those doughnuts.

In ’67, rumor was, the bakery was closing. Not . . . yet, but by New Year’s, or maybe Christmas. The Santangelos had to sell their big house. Or maybe, somehow they’d already lost it. “Lost more than that house,” my mom said, about the husband.

On Halloween of ’67, the Santangelos gave out chocolate doughnuts.

 For the last time . . .

*   *   *

All these years later, I still shudder, thinking about it. How close I got . . .

That night, Theresa Santangelo—the prettiest, meanest kid in sixth grade—stood outside, giving out the doughnuts. Like her shit didn’t stink. Broke, or not, she had on the fanciest costume her dad could buy his only child. Cinderella, or Snow White. I swear I don’t remember.

Behind her, the house they were losing was made up like the Munsters’, or the Addams Family’s. Cobwebby, and even creepier, with ghoulish masks all over.

Smirking, Theresa gave doughnuts to us poor, jealous slobs. Like fat Carmella Tucci, whose sluglike Pop left a trail of booze wherever he went. And Bridget “Boo Hoo” Dougherty, who cried a lot and whose mom took pills. And . . . me. With divorced folks and who had the dirtiest mouth at St. Jude’s.

 

With each treat, came a whispered remark: “Just one, Fatty Pants,” she told Carmella, who cried all the way up the block.

“Where’s your fucking costume, Samantha?” Theresa asked me.

With my painted green face and witch’s hat, I looked pretty scary.  Not like that other, blonde Samantha on the show Bewitched. Till that doughnut was in my hand, I struggled for a real nasty answer.

“You fucking leave it home?”

What came out scared even me: “Shit, before you take off yours . . . you’ll be dead.”

She turned as white as that ghost mask behind her. “Daddy!” she screamed, but by then, I had leapt down the steps.

Heart pounding, I caught up with Carmella and Boo Hoo up the street.

“Don’t cry,” Boo Hoo said. That was a switch. Usually she was the one crying.

“Fa- fa- Fatty Pants, she called me!” Carmella was dressed like a fat baby doll, but still . . .  Theresa shouldn’t have said that.

And I . . .

You’ll be dead, I’d said, like a real witch might’ve.

Even scarier, I just knew it would happen. Not how, just that it would.

“Sam?” When Boo Hoo touched my arm, I jumped. “We’re gonna head home.”

They still had their doughnuts. I didn’t hear what Theresa had said to Boo Hoo.

But . . . You’ll be dead, I’d told Theresa.

“Sure,” I mumbled, but they’d already left.

I had to go back. Later. To see if she was OK.

Sure, I thought, nibbling my doughnut, she deserved to die, but not yet. We weren’t even Confirmed, yet. She might even turn out nice, someday.

It got later. Only older kids were still out. The little ones trick-or-treating with their folks had gone home.

I was thinking so hard, I didn’t realize I’d gone around in a circle.

There was the Santangelos’ house, again, with only a few kids outside, and Theresa still handing out doughnuts. But, from inside, there was yelling.

“You cheating bitch!”

Her folks. Even from the street, I saw Theresa was crying. Like she’d never heard them fight before.

I crept closer.

A loud, smacking sound meant someone got hit. Then muffled, female sobs.

Theresa dropped the doughnuts. Almost tripping over her costume, she ran inside.

I started to go home. But, like a gnarled witch’s hand, something dragged me back.

I walked the same streets, avoiding the one that was calling me, till it got really late. So late, my mom must’ve called the cops. No kids were around, anymore. And it was cold. I shivered in that thin witch’s cape.

          From outside, the Santangelo house seemed so quiet, like they’d all gone to bed. Like all slept peacefully.

I crept up the steps, relieved that the screaming and sobs had stopped.

Till I peeked in the window . . .

Of the baker-turned-butcher’s house.

 

“Witchy” by Cindy Rosmus. Collected in Backwards: Growing Up Catholic, and Weird, in the 60s by Cindy Rosmus. Copyright 2021 by HEKATE Publishing. With cover and illustrations by Coates “Keith” Walker. Originally appeared in Flashes in the Dark, January 2, 2016.


Cindy originally hails from the Ironbound section of Newark, NJ, once voted the “unfriendliest city on the planet.” She talks like Anybodys from West Side Story and everybody from Saturday Night Fever. Her noir/horror/bizarro stories have been published in the coolest places, such as Shotgun HoneyMegazineDark DossierThe Rye Whiskey Review, Under the Bleachers, and Rock and a Hard Place. She is the editor/art director of Yellow Mama and the art director of Black Petals. She’s published seven collections of short stories. Cindy is a Gemini, a Christian, and an animal rights advocate.

Hillary Lyon is an illustrator for horror/sci-fi and pulp fiction websites and magazines, and the Assistant Art Director at Black Petals Horror/Science Fiction Magazine. She is also founder and senior editor for the independent poetry publisher, Subsynchronous Press. An SFPA Rhysling Award nominated poet, her poems have appeared in journals such as Eternal Haunted Summer, Jellyfish Whispers, Scfifaikuest, Illya’s Honey, and Red River Review, as well as numerous anthologies. Her short stories have appeared recently in Night to Dawn, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Sirens Call, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others, as well as in numerous horror anthologies such as Night in New Orleans: Bizarre Beats from the Big EasyThuggish Itch: Viva Las Vegas, and White Noise & Ouija Boards. She appeared, briefly, as the uncredited "all-American Mom with baby" in Purple Cactus Media’s 2007 Arizona indie-film, "Vote for Zombie." Having lived in France, Brazil, Canada, and several states in the US, she now resides in southern Arizona.  https://hillarylyon.wordpress.com/

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2023