Several days passed before Gary patronized Russell’s Market again. He had convinced himself that Old Black Maggie was near and waiting for him to return. After scouting the neighborhood for hags and anything suspicious Gary entered Russell’s Market like a speakeasy patron.
“Hey, Mr. Russell,” Gary said, “Has Old Black Maggie been back?”
“Nah,” Russell said, “She hasn’t been back sense you paid the nickel for the dog food. She’s only been in here a couple of times ever that I know of.”
“I wonder what brought her to this side of town?” Gary said.
“You followed her home, right?” Russell said.
“Yeah,” Gary said.
“Did she see you following her?” Russell said. “She must have, she said something.”
“I was careful,” Gary said.
“She’s wily,” Russell said. “She’s managed to get away with who knows what.”
“But why did she come into your store?” Gary said.
“Don’t you get it, kid,” Russell said. “She knows you followed her and she’s out to get you. You got to be careful, son.”
“You ever heard of Billy Rhinehart?” Russell said and grabbed an orange soda from the cooler.
Gary stood curiously as Russell opened the bottle and took a large swig. He wiped his lips with his sleeve.
“Who is he?” Gary said.
“A kid about your age,” Russell said. “He got hit by a car about ten years ago; died in an instant.”
“What does that have to do with Old Black Maggie?” Gary said.
“Billy used to hang out down at the park,” Russell said. “They say one day Old Black Maggie came walking through the park. Everybody got to wondering about her; where she lived. Billy was a big talker. He said he was going to find out about her. He followed her. He said he peeked in her window. She was boiling some stew. Billy swore to god there was a finger in it. A week later he gets hit by a car.”
“How is that linked to Old Black Maggie?” Gary said.
“She was the only witness,” Russell said.
“What about the driver?” Gary said.
“Old guy,” Russell said. “Died on the spot also; figure it out for yourself.”
“Does that help?” Gary said.
“What?” Russell said.
“The orange soda,” Gary said and walked tp the cooler. He pulled one out and opened it. He dug in his pocket for change.
“I’m 2 cents short,” Gary said.
“That’s okay,” Russell said, “Pay me the next time you’re in. On second thought, I‘ll just put it on you family‘s book.” Russell opened a drawer beneath the cash register and fingered through the charge books. He found Gary’s families and marked it.
Gary walked solemnly from Russell’s Market and toward home. He moved as far away from the street as he could. Every car that rolled by held the potential for death by Old Black Maggie’s curse.