Below I’ve copied a clip from CHAPTER 2 of the novel THE WITCH AT SPARROW CREEK in the hopes of sparking some interest before the launch party – please enjoy!
He walked in.
Bill took a look at him and figured who he was from the looks of him. He’d wished his wife would have not told him many, many things.
Bill nodded and adjusted his belt around his waist and said, “Well, she says there’s a spook in back a them woods.”
“Where at?” he said.
“Up, way up there,” Bill said, “and he comes down.”
The room in Bill’s house was cold and brown. The sky coming in the windows was white.
“When do you see him?” he asked.
“He’s got a long, gray face, yellow eyes, like egg yolks.” Bill said. “I dunno, he comes down at different times.”
Bill’s wife came in. “Oh, my . . .”
She looked at the strange man in the hat, and her mouth moved as if to say something, but then she said, “We have company. You should tell me when we’ve got company. We have coffee.”
“Ma’am,” he said and glanced at her quickly, but didn’t look at her, and then turned back to her husband. “I’m Jim Falk. I’m here to talk about the spook.”
“Well,” she said and looked quickly at Bill, “You tell ’em. I’ll just get you some hot coffee.”
“I’m tellin’ him.” Bill said.
She went off. She was pretty, with red hair and high cheeks, and she was younger than her husband. Jim Falk didn’t look at her, but he wasn’t sure that he had to look at her to see her. It must be her.
Jim said, “This spook—he comes down in winter or in summer?” Then Bill looked at Jim and opened his eyes a little wider, but not very much, and he pointed at the wood chairs and his square table in the room. Jim saw that Bill’s fingers were crooked from work with busted knuckles.
They sat. There was a book with a leather binding on the table and a couple of candles. The candles were dirty. The book was a book of the scriptures.
Bill went on, looking at the candles and the table. “He comes down every season, I suppose, maybe once a season maybe more, but there’s no certain time.”
“When does he come?”
“He comes at night in summer.”
“In the fall he comes at night, and in the spring.”
“In the spring he comes at night too?”
Bill nodded, but looked at the backs of his hands and not at Jim.
“What about in the winter?”
“In the winter he comes at night. He came during the bad blizzard, and it seemed like he came twice that winter and came during the day.”
She brought out two white cups of dark, hot coffee. She set them down in front of Bill and Jim and then leaned in the doorway listening.
“Twice in the winter?” Jim continued.
“Yes. That’s how I remember it. Violet?”
“Tell Jim Falk what you said when the spook came down out the woods during that bad winter.”
“Well,” she started. She moved around, recrossed her arms, and stared at her feet in black shoes on the wood floor. “That winter was a bad one. That winter was about four years ago, and when that spook came down outta them woods, well . . .” She talked as if she was bored, arranging herself against the door frame. “Well, that’s when the baby Starkey went missing . . . and I think that spook got hold of that little baby.”
“For what?” Jim asked.
She blinked and looked at Jim sort of sideways and squinted, whispering, “I think that particular spook’s a baby eater.”
Jim Falk looked at her. There she was. She leaned on the doorway with her pointy shoulders and her ruddy hair. Jim saw no lie in her eyes, but he caught something else there, playing. It was like a jewel or a sparkling thing. Jim looked away.He wondered if somehow or another she knew—if she knew that he had seen her, or someone that looked like her, in his mind.
“That’s right,” her husband said, “that’s right.” He picked up his cup with a clink and blew off the steam. “A baby eater.”
Jim Falk flipped open a little leather book to a blank page. Bill Hill watched the pages of black symbols go by, words he didn’t recognize. Violet shifted again.
Jim asked, “Who is the baby Starkey?” and got out a little black stick that looked a little oily.
Violet said right away, “That was Dan and Elsie Starkey’s baby. Their real baby together. They lived up the road.” She sneezed a short sneeze and looked at her husband. He looked down at his coffee.
“That’s been a few years back now,” she said, pulling a small rag from somewhere in her shirt and wiping her nose. “Dan’s moved on.”
“That’s right,” Bill said. “Dan’s supposed to have moved up north somewhere and Elsie lives with her other boy now, that Simon. It ain’t right by the scriptures, him leavin’ her alone like that, just walking away from her, leavin’ her with that boy. That boy, Simon, he takes care of her, they say I guess on account of she’s been sick.”
“Except he ain’t her boy,” Violet said and went back fast into the kitchen.
Bill looked at Jim and watched him write things in the book with the oily stick. He shook his head and said low, “That boy’s not from around here. He’s from some other place across the sea or some such place. Like them peoplefrom the Far East that they took out west to make ’em build the towns in the West. Them Starkeys raised him up from young. Guess they found him all alone.”
“You meanyou think he’s from the Far East?”
“A foreigner of some kind. Maybe a one from the Far East.”
Jim drank some coffee. Violet was off in the kitchen making noise, and the wind was blowing against the little house.
They drank some more coffee. Jim closed his writing book and looked around the little house. It wasn’t too different from the one he grew up in. A wood-burning stove in the kitchen filled it with that fire and coffee smell he remembered from times long ago. He didn’t want to think about that. Jim glanced at the stack of firewood in the corner.
“These woods are the woods the spook appears in right here in back of your house?” Jim finally asked.
“Yes,” Bill said. “Yessir.”