Old Black Maggie – Episode 21

thPJE857FJPot’s Advice

“I’m afraid for my mom and dad,” Gary said. “If they know anything about this they’ll do something. That will put them in danger. I’ve been thinking about just running away.”

“That’s where I come in, right?” Pot said.

“Yeah,” Gary said. “You could give me advice about living on my own and how to hop a train. You could tell me the good places to go where I’ll never be found. I just want to lay low for a while, maybe until she dies.”

“Hmmm,” Pot said. “That’s a lot to toss my way. Let’s eat and we’ll talk some. Tell me about yourself.”

While eating the fish Gary told him about where he lived, his mom and dad, his school, friends, and more about Old Black Maggie.

After Gary ran out of things to say Pot stroked his chin. “How old are ya, boy?”

“I’m 14,” Gary said.

“That’s a problem,” Pot said.

“What do you mean?” Gary said.

“Ya see,” Pot said, “I got principles. I can’t give advice to anyone under the age of 16.”

“It would seem to me that a guy 14 would need advice more than a guy who is 16,” Gary said.

“Ya have a point,” Pot said, “But I’m not the one ya should be getting it from. Do ya have an uncle, a teacher, or an older friend who can give ya advice?”

“There’s this guy named, Beez,” Gary said. “He travels a lot and I’ve been thinking about asking him to take me with him someplace and leaving me for a while, you know…”

“Right,” Pot interrupted, “until the hag dies. I’m going to break my principles, boy. I’m going to give ya some straight forward advice.”

“I was hoping you would,” Gary said.

“Life on the tracks is no way to live,” Pot said. “It’s only for those who have no hope, those who have lost everything. You have your whole life ahead of ya. I don’t know about witches, spells, and hags, but I’m open and cautious. I’ve heard tell of strange things and I’ve seen them, although some have been the result of too much hooch.”

“But I don’t drink none,” Gary said.

“I was about to say,” Pot continued. “I’ve been stone cold sober, months without a drink or even thinking about one and strange things have happened. If she’s a hag, boy, there is no place on earth you can get away from her. Running away will only make the challenge that much more rewarding for her. Ya got to show her ya aren’t bothered by her, that is your strongest weapon. It’s your mind and determination.”

Gary pondered Pot’s words. “Thanks, Pot.”

Pot shook Gary’s hand, “Now ya better get on home. If ya are caught down here with me that could land me in trouble.”

Gary stood and climbed up the bank of the river and the bank to the railroad tracks. He looked south to see if a train was in the distance. The tracks stretched endlessly. He turned north. A hundred yards away Old Black Maggie walked along the tracks toward him.


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Old Black Maggie – Episode 20

1343231416_6799_1[1]Shades of Salem

Gary stammered to search for the words. “Well I want some advice.”

“Well,” Pot said. “Ya come to the right place. I spent a lifetime thinking up advice. I got so much advice I don’t have room for a house or car. I got it all stored away and it’s about time I started to give it away. So what’s bothering ya, boy?”

“You got to promise not to tell another soul,” Gary said.

“It doesn’t look like people are lined up down the tracks looking for me to tell ‘em something,” Pot said stretching his neck as if looking down the railroad tracks. “There was this guy last year who wanted to know how to get to Detroit. I told him to follow the tracks.”

“Okay,” Gary said. “There’s this hag in town. She’s out after me.”

“What did ya do to her?” Pot said.

“Nothing,” Gary said.

“Nothing,” Pot said, “You had to do something.”

“I followed her home one night,” Gary said, “just to see where she lived. There’s no harm in that, is there?”

“No,” Pot said. “At least the way you see it, but how do ya think she sees it?”

“I don’t know,” Gary said. “What could I do to a hag?”

“Have ya ever heard of the Salem Witchcraft Trials,” Pot said.

“A little,” Gary said.

“Well there ya go,” Pot said. “I bet that hag of yours knows all about them. It starts with kids like you following them and stories start. The next thing ya know they’re being bothered and blamed for everything.”

“But I just wanted to see where she lived,” Gary said, “to see if she really is a hag.”

“What do ya think now?” Pot said.

“I’ve been told not to believe in those things,” Gary said. “But there’s things I can’t explain.”

“Like what?” Pot said.

“She shows up all the time,” Gary said. “One day I was in the store on the other side of town from her and she comes in. She showed up in the park. I see her around me all the time. She’s out to get me. She’s killed before and she’ll do it again.”

“So,” Pot said. “How am I supposed to help ya?”

Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Old Black Maggie – Episode 19


The old man pivoted slightly and calmly looked over his shoulder at Gary.

“They bightin’?” Gary said.

“I got four in a pale at my campsite over yonder,” the old man said motioning with his head. “If ya clean ‘em ya can help me eat ‘em.”

“Sure,” Gary said.

“There’s a knife in my gear,” the old man said. “Do a good job.”

By the time they were cleaned the old man had two more fish.

“Ya did such a good job on them fish here’s two more,” the old man said. “Ya got a name boy?”


“Just call me Pot.”

“That’s a different name,” Gary said.

“We hobos don’t ever tell our real name,” Pot said. “No matter where ya go on the tracks if ya mention Pot they’d know who yer talkin‘ bout.”

Pot used the knife to whittle shavings from a dried limb. He started a fire by using a magnifying glass. He laid a flat piece of metal on rocks that circled the fire and laid the fish on the metal. He turned the fish using his knife. When the fish were done he pulled the metal from the fire using the sleeve of his shirt.

“We’ll let that cool a might before we eat,” Pot said. “Now if you ‘s to go over by them rocks and reach down in the water ya might find a couple of cokes. I stole them last night. I hope ya don’t mind them bein’ stolen. But I walked into the place and was all set to pay and the guy kicked me out. I walked around behind the place snuck in the back door and got exactly what I came for. The Lord provides.”

Gary smiled.

“Ya don’t have to believe that, boy,” Pot said. “I just don’t want you to feel bad about drinkin’ anything stolen.”

Gary fished the two Cokes from the river. Pot opened them by using his knife.

“Now let’s eat,” Pot said.

“What brings you down here, boy?”


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Old Black Maggie – Episode 18

thOWCX6VKFDread of Night

It was late that night while in bed that Gary became unimaginably fearful. He imagined Old Black Maggie breaking into the house and creeping slowly into his mom’s and dad’s bedroom and quietly slitting their throats. He envisioned waking to the bodies lying in blood and Old Black Maggie sitting in her rocker at home smiling with pleasure at the thought of Gary finding them and crying out in anguish.

“Running away would be better than that,” Gary thought and he went to sleep.

He dreamed of a far away island; a distant place in the Polynesians where troubles were beyond the horizon and life was easy as an ocean breeze. White beaches stretched forever and palms swayed hypnotically.

Gary awakened. “Could Beez make it happen?” Gary thought. “Can I gain his confidence and friendship to the point where he could do that for me?”

“I could return after the death of Old Black Maggie,” Gary thought. “How many more years does she have? It won’t be long.”

Sleep eluded him the rest of the night. Gary feel asleep soon after he heard his dad leave the house for work. One eye barely opened an hour later when his mom left for job.

He dreamed of Old Black Maggie stalking him in the shadows of the downtown alleys and chasing him. No matter how fast he ran she was always close, so close he could smell the musty stench from her clothing.

It was 10:30 AM when Gary dislodged himself from his bed. He splashed water on his face at the bathroom sink. He trudged downstairs and poured a bowl full of cereal at the kitchen table.

Morning brings hope after a night of dread. Gary munched on the cereal and stared straight ahead at the door of a flat white refrigerator. It revealed no hope nor clues.

At 11:15 he walked along the railroad tracks near his home. He thought about returning home and packing a few belongings in an old army surplus backpack and hoping a train: west to Chicago and east to Pittsburgh.

He wondered what advice Beez might offer. “Perhaps if I tell him what I’m going to do he will offer to take me to Samoa or some other far flung and out of the way place, at least till Old Black Maggie dies. She’s going to get me; I know she is. She will hunt me down and knife me or haunt me until I die of fright. I wonder if she practices voodoo?”

“I wonder what life on the railroad would be like,” Gary thought. He walked on until he came to the bridge that crossed over the river. He stopped and looked down into the slow moving water. “If I could get the Ohio River I could stole away on a barge and go to the Mississippi and find a place to stay on the river far from here.

There on the bank below him was an old man. He was a hobo dressed in old cloths. He sat on the bank holding a fishing pole made from a tree branch. Gary walked off the bridge and slid down the steep bank to the river. He walked toward the man.


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Old Black Maggie – Episode 17

th5LHHMLEOBeez’s Story of Old Black Maggie

“Years ago I almost hit her with my car,” Beez said. “She stepped out in front of me. If I hadn’t swerved to miss her she would have been dead today. It was because of my quick reflexes that she’s alive. She got scraped up a little. There were no witnesses; it was my word against hers. She stalked me for weeks. She was crazy. I had her arrested once for trying to break into my apartment. She tried to slice me with her knife. If not for wearing a thick jacket she would have taken a chunk of flesh out of my arm. The knife fell to the ground, she bent over to get it, and I shoved her into the gutter. I grabbed the knife and dropped it down the sewer”

“Why didn’t you report it to the police?” Gary said.

“She has a nephew on the police department,” Beez said. “That’s how she’s able to get away with so much. She snoops around. She has secrets on everybody. They say the chief of police frequents a cathouse above the Cameo Bar and Grill. I bet she knows everything about him and if she gets pulled in for something she’ll spill the beans on the whole dirty bunch, right through city hall and the police station. She walks the street sometimes all night. That’s where a city’s secrets are kept, in the night, and she knows plenty of them.”

The girl behind the counter brought Gary’s meal. He thanked Beez and they talked more about Old Black Maggie. Gary finished eating and they walked to the car.

“Let me drive you closer to your home,” Beez said opening the passenger door.

“Nah,” Gary said, “I want to walk home and think things over.”

“I’ll worry about you, Gary,” Beez said.

“I’ll walk around the park,” Gary said. “I got to talk this over with mom and dad.”

“How do you think that will help?” Beez said.

“Maybe they can do something,” Gary said.

“What can they do?” Beez said, “Go to the police. They may act in a way that more attention will be drawn to it. Old Black Maggie knows just enough people to make life miserable for your mom and dad.”

“What can she do?” Gary said.

“Both of my parents are dead,” Beez said. “I never married and I have no children. She can’t touch any family; I have none. My parents left me well-off. The building that the Majestic Theater is in is mine along with several other buildings and apartments. Thirty years ago my life was a living hell. It was right after the incident with my car. I had fire inspectors, electrical inspectors and code inspectors for everything pounding on my door threatening to close me down. She spread all sorts of rumors about me that still fly around town today. Nobody knows where they started, but I do. If I worked for anybody I’d been fired by now. That’s why I travel so much. It’s good to get away. It’s carefree. I’d love to have a wife and children, but why subject them to all the rumors and who wants their wife and child followed around. If it were me I wouldn’t want to subject my mom and dad to that sort of thing. All she has to do is start making phone calls.”

“The more attention I bring to her the more she will do?” Gary said.

“That’s how she operates,” Beez said.

“What can I do?” Gary said.

“What can we do?” Beez corrected. “We’re in this together like it or not. She already knows I’m helping you. She’ll be coming after me also.”

“But what can be done?” Gary said.

“Let me think about it,” Beez said. “Sometimes it just pays to get away.”

“What do you mean?” Gary said.

“I just go away for awhile,” Beez said. “It’s a great way to forget about things and clear your mind; you come back a new person.”

“I don’t think that’s anything I’m ready to do,” Gary said.

“I’m not suggesting it for you,” Beez said, “It’s what I do.”


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Old Black Maggie – Episode 16

In Fear’s Grip

Gary sat with Beez at the counter of Walton’s Drugstore.

“You are looking tired and worried,” Beez said.

“Is it true that Old Black Maggie won’t let you alone until she finds somebody else?” Gary said.

“Let me buy you a sandwich and fries,” Beez said. He called out the order to the counter girl.

“Who did you hear that from?” Beez said.

“From Mr. Russell at Russell’s Market,” Gary said.

“There is some truth to that,” Beez said.

“So if she leaves me alone that means she’s set her sights on someone else, right?” Gary said.

“So I’ve heard,” Beez said.

“So if I want to protect my friends I should steer clear of them?” Gary said.

Beez paused and rubbed his chin. “That makes you a very brave man. Those kids should be gratified to have you as a friend.”

“But, I should be concerned about you also,” Gary said.

“Don’t be,” Beez said. “I can take care of myself. You let me worry about me.”

“None of this makes sense,” Gary said. “I feel like I’m allowing witchcraft and superstition run my life.”

“I don’t believe in those things,” Beez said. “But people like Old Black Maggie use mystery to scare people. Some may think there is one chance in a million those types of things may exist and that one chance holds them captive. She doesn’t have special powers, but she has power. She enjoys scaring people.”

“What should I do?” Gary said.

“She is a violent woman with a violent past,” Beez said. “Rumor has it she carries a knife in her purse and she has used it.”

“Do you know who?” Gary said.

Beez became serious. “Me. It was years ago.”

“Is that why you’re looking out after me?” Gary said.

“As we have gotten to know each other I couldn’t believe you were stalked by Old Black Maggie,” Beez said. “It was a bitter reminder of me many years ago. I was older

than you at the time and she still found her way to me.”

“How did she happen to find her way to you?” Gary said.


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories

Old Black Maggie – Episode 15

thKZ67NHOFProtection From The Holy Mother

Gary dreaded of leaving home. He even had a dread of being at home alone. The nights were difficult, filled with speculation and fear of the improbable.

He reasoned Old Black Maggie now knew he was spending his time at the drugstore. He could no longer go there. He went back to Russell’s Market.

The little bell above the door tingled when Gary opened the door. Mr. Russell leaned on the counter reading the newspaper. He looked up, but remained leaning. “Gary, haven’t seen you in a while.”

“Yeah,” Gary said. “Not since that day when Old Black Maggie was in here.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Russell said. “That’s right. The old hag scared you off. So where ya been hiding.”

“Walton’s Drugstore,” Gary said.

“Let me guess,” Russell said, “she found you there.”

“Yeah,” Gary said.

“Let me tell you how it works,” Russell said. “She’ll keep coming for you until she finds someone else to distract her.”

“She trailed me into the park a few days ago,” Gary said. “She warned me. She said I was in danger.”

“Ah!” Russell said standing. “Those old hags messing with your mind. They tell you they’re coming for you. They want you in fear. Those necklaces on the counter,” Russell said pointing to a display of hanging necklaces. “They’ve been blessed. It says so right on the tag. One of those could protect you from that hag. You won’t every have to worry about her again. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious, but that necklace will protect you and help you make good decisions.”

“They’re 79 cents,” Russell said. “But I know the bind you’re in so I’ll knock a nickel from it. Tax and everything 75 cents.” Russell handed one to him. “Look at it. Anyone can tell that it’s good material. It’s got a cross on it and the holy mother. What else do you need?”

Gary looked closely as he fondled it through his fingers.

“They make ’em in a small village in Mexico where there have been many miracles,” Russell said. “This is the second batch I’ve had. They won’t last long. Look here, I got one.” Russell showed Gary the one around his neck. “Mrs. Cavanaugh bought one last week. She fell in her house. No one ever comes to see her, but on the day she fell a door to door salesman came by her house and found her. If not for the necklace she’d still by laying there rotting.”

Gary reached in his pocket and counted 75 cents.

“This is the best money you’ll ever spend,” Russell said.

Russell put the money in his pocket.

“Why didn’t you put the money in the register,” Gary said.

“If this money is mixed with the money in the register the necklace won’t work,” Russell said.

Gary nodded slightly, skeptical of the explanation.

Gary walked from Russell’s with the necklace around his neck not certain of its power, but certain Russell just made some under-the-table gain. “It’ is better to be safe than sorry,” he mumbled.

In the distance, two blocks away, he saw Beez’s car parked in a driveway. No sooner did he take notice and Beez drove away. Gary smiled knowing that others were looking out for him including Russell and the holy mother.


Leave a comment

Filed under Short Stories