Free Flash Fiction:
Mrs. Wordswhittle - Part 01
By: Jae El Foster
September 1, 2019
Old Mrs. Wordswhittle was by no means an ordinary woman. No, indeed. She was much more human – a little deeper, perhaps, than the normal soul. At her current age, she was ninety-three and was the eldest resident of the small town of Chariot. The residents relished her – and not just for her elderly wisdom but because she was a healer and the only doctor that the people of Chariot had seen for most of their lives. There was not an ailment that Mrs. Wordswhittle could not cure.
Mrs. Wordswhittle, in her own way, was a bit bashful over the attention that she received from the townsfolk. There were many times when she would walk home from the bakery or grocer, only to be stopped by a kindly face or two, always willing and eager to give her a ride home. She would never accept the ride, but she was always appreciative. Children would help her cross the street or offer to carry her bags – acts of good deeds that were rarely seen outside of Chariot these days.
Even though it had its fair share of crime, Mrs. Wordswhittle considered Chariot to be a remarkable town, and the good deeds were always plentiful.
This day, however, Mrs. Wordswhittle noticed a bit of difference in the old town. People who were normally eager to chat with her or help her to wherever she was going simply hurried off on their way with barely a nod of the head. The scout troop actually ran when they saw her approach, and it was like pulling teeth and nails just to get the grocer to ring up her order. In her ninety-three years of living in Chariot, she had never been treated so poorly.
She could have used the ride home – had a ride been offered today – as her feet were tired and swollen, but she hobbled along just as she always did and made it all the home to her tiny cottage in the center of town.
Normally, she would have found flowers or candy waiting on her – she loved candy! – but today there was nothing, save her old colored-stone door. Setting her bags down on her walkway, she pushed the door open and flipped on the light.
Shelving filled much of the space in the front room. There were medical books of all types and from all ages of medicine lining most of the shelves, and tiny jars of liquids, powders, and other things hidden behind the darkness of their bottles filled the rest of the shelf space; what wouldn’t fit was scattered out onto three wooden tables that lined one wall. Three worn, wooden chairs sat around a smaller wooden table in the center of the room. There were no magazines on the table, but a fresh stick of incense still burned from where she had lighted it during her morning ritual.
Where there were not shelves, there were pictures on the walls – all black and white and of people who were long passed from this world. Mrs. Wordswhittle kept their pictures to preserve memories… not hers, but theirs. Each was a photo of a soul that had touched her deeply, and she believed that as long as their pictures were preserved, their memories would live on.
From the shadows of the floor, a black cat leapt into the air and onto the seat of one of the chairs. She purred warmly as Mrs. Wordswhittle neared her.
“Hello, Prunella,” Mrs. Wordswhittle said, scratching the cat under the chin. “Have you been a good gal today? Catch any mice?”
The cat meowed loudly and pawed at the air, as if she had done her job for the day and was satisfied with the results.
“At’sa good gal!” From nowhere, she pulled out a pinch of catnip and pampered her loving companion. “At least someone has a little love for an ol’ woman today, eh there, Prunella!”
Prunella meowed and rolled around in her pinch of nip.
“Well, I guess I should jes’ go through my mail here. I haven’ read it in days!” Moving into the kitchen, she stared down at the stack of mail that had accumulated for nearly a week. Mrs. Wordswhittle had a thing about mail: if she didn’t want to read it, then she just didn’t read it. Thumbing through the stack, she came across an odd blue pamphlet, like something she had never seen in Chariot before.
In Chariot, there simply wasn’t any junk mail.
Curiously, she took the pamphlet into her withered hands and read.
Apparently, there was a new minister in Chariot, and he was the hellfire and brimstone type. The pamphlet called for the citizens of the Chariot to join his church on Sunday – that was yesterday – for a revival. There, they would protest the wickedness and evil that had bestowed the town and its people.
She didn’t know what to make of this. What wickedness and evil could this new pastor possibly have meant?
Feeling a bit confused, she held out her hand and a cup of black tea appeared, freshly brewed.
Sipping it, she looked to the pamphlet again, studying it more intently than she had before.
“Now,” she whispered, thinking as hard as she could. “What evil could be lurking out there that I don’t know about? Maybe I should have gone to that there revival, but it was yesterday, and I missed it!” Her tea was a much too strong, but as she waved it before her, it was lightened with cream.
Prunella hopped atop the counter, brushing her tail over the pamphlet. Anxiously, she meowed at her master.
Mrs. Wordswhittle looked at her familiar in surprise. “You can’t mean that!” she replied, absolutely astonished by what the cat was implying. “It… it must be something else!”
The cat cried out again, this time in a different tune.
“Silly. The whole idea is silly! This is Chariot. I’ve raised these people since they were children. I’ve even raised their children! I’ve taken care of the sick in this town my entire life. Why would they think I am wicked?” She hadn’t felt this anxious in a long time, and her hand shook as she sipped her tea.
Again, the cat spoke.
“You would think,” the old woman replied, “that this town would be happy to have a witch. What is wrong with a witch? I make them feel better when they are sick. I make sure that no one here goes without a Christmas or a birthday gift. Why, I’ve thrown literally every baby shower in this town since our mayor was still wetting his bed! Who wouldn’t want a witch?”
“Purr…” the cat cried, pawing against the pamphlet. Her paw landed gently on the face of the minister, but her claws were not so gentle as they tore into the photograph.
“What is his name?” Mrs. Wordswhittle asked, snatching the pamphlet from beneath her cat. Scrolling down, she read, “Reverend Lovegood,” she grimaced. “I think it is time you and I had a little chat.”
Tossing the pamphlet to the floor, it caught fire and incinerated in seconds.
Copyright Jae El Foster, 2019