“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 straightforward 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.