Fiction from Chelsea Stickle
Belly Full of Witch’s Stew
The luxurious smells that came from the witch’s house at the end of Watercress Lane made everyone wish they had problems monumental enough to bring her. It was said that when it was your time, you’d feel compelled to buy a bundle of meat and appear on her stoop. Without knocking, the door would swing open and the witch would appear. The more observant of the meat-bringers might notice her familiar face. One they recently saw during a challenging moment. But most failed to recognize her.
The meat-bringers settled into chairs while they explained their problems. The witch cleaned the meat and removed the excess fat. Out came the seven-and-a-half-inch cleaver designed with sparks on each side of the blade that blurred as the swift thwack of the cleaver made her guests jump. Though it was impossible to tell if it was from the sudden noise or the sharpness in their nerve endings. The witch was rewiring them. She cleaved the meat into manageable pieces—understandable ones—that she froze and fed into her meat grinder, gently turning the handle. The meat-bringers slumped in their seats, relieved that their nerves weren’t constantly touching and screaming.
The witch sprinkled in herbs from her garden. Never overwhelming the meat, but making it more palatable and delicious. Ragu for the couple that spread their problems onto every aspect of their life until everything was infected. Dumplings with ginger for the couple that dressed up their issues as other things. Hamburgers for men stuck in old-fashioned American ideas.
The meat-bringers feasted as she cleaned the cleaver. Nothing had ever tasted so familiar and yet improved. There was a fullness, a completeness that came with every bite. As if they were reincorporating what had been lost or mangled by the outside world. Once reunited the meat-bringers possessed a sense of wholeness. Like their slip sliding edges had firmed into place. When asked what happened, they could never quite explain what transformation had taken place, just that it made everything a little better.
Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in Monkeybicycle, The Molotov Cocktail, matchbook, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and others. She’s a reader for Pidgeonholes. Breaking Points, her debut chapbook, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (fall 2021). Read more at chelseastickle.com/storiesor find her on Twitter @Chelsea_Stickle