BY ANITA MARIE MOSCOSO
Inspired by the Soul Food Cafe Writing Prompt:
The Grave of Calisaya Stoneroot is lost back up in the hills of White Ash Mountain here in Washington State and not a year goes by that a story doesn’t show up on the evening news or the front page of a local newspaper with the headline:
” Remains of Hikers Found ”
And somewhere in the story you will find that these Hikers weren’t going to White Ash to admire the scenery. They’re out there looking for the grave of the infamous Witch of White Ash Mountain.
I know this story by heart and here’s how it goes…
Rocella Coffin was the law in White Ash back in 1964, she was also short and dark and bad tempered as were most of the Sheriffs in the Duwamish Bay area. To be specific none of the Sheriffs in Ballast County are known for their sense of humor but at times they do laugh and some joke and some smile all except for Sheriff Coffin.
Sheriff Coffin held her spot as the Ballast County” least likely to be amused by anything law enforcement official ” with a grip so tight it’s unlikely anyone would ever be able to pry the title from her hand.
That title, however, became Coffin’s for all eternity when Avery Bowen showed up the day after the execution of Calisaya Stoneroot.
Avery pulled into the Sheriff’s station and forgot to stop his truck. It only stopped because the Sheriff’s car (her own car, not her patrol car) was in the way. Avery wasn’t hurt but he was bleeding and he was sort of running around in circles and no matter how loud she yelled he wouldn’t stop.
Sheriff Coffin didn’t even read him his rights.
She just pulled her gun and shot him right between the eyes, right there in the parking lot in front of the Sheriff’s Station. When she was done Rocella stood over Avery’s body and said down at his pale white face, ” I told you to settle down, now start over. ”
Avery looked up at her and said, ” she’s back Sheriff, and I saw her walking up the road not even an hour ago. Calisaya Stoneroot is back.”
Rocella dragged Avery into her office and pulled a pair of tweezers from her desk drawer. She took a look at Avery’s wound and dropped them back in and he saw she had a crochet hook in her hand. ” Sit still ” she told him.
Avery obeyed and he felt Rocella pull some of his skin away from his wound with her fingers and then with one smooth move the hook was in and out and in her hand was a small piece of mashed gray metal.
” Tell me what you saw, and I suggest you don’t fool around with me because the next thing I’m pulling out are the silver bullets. Got it? ”
Avery tried very hard to focus his eyes and he nodded, ” I saw her down on Middleditch Road, walking kind of slow and funny and …”
If Avery hadn’t been so distracted by picking at the bullet wound in his forehead he would have found it a little amusing that Calisaya had been hung just the day before on November 5, 1964 at dawn for Witchcraft.
You read that right. Not 1664, 1564, 1264.
1964: That was the year Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in Prison and China detonated it’s first atomic bomb and US Surgeon General Luther Terry affirmed that cigarette smoking caused cancer.
You read that right, it was 1964, and back in the hills of White Ash Mountain a woman died laughing with a noose around her neck and she was buried with that terrible wide grin on her face and her mouth was stuffed with garlic and her eyes had been sewn shut.
Not that anyone in the town thought it would do them any good; they’d figure Calisaya would be back before dawn.
They were right.
The towns’ people of White Ash had for the past 20 years tried everything to rid themselves of Calisaya Stoneroot.
First they tried bringing in that Priest from Seattle.
The Sheriff from Duwamish Bay and two of her friends that worked the Sideshow came to watch Father Thomas bless the Cemetery the Witch and her Demons were living in and Sheriff Coffin thought it might actually work; the Witch and the demons rode out of the Cemetery Gates like the Devil himself was chasing them.
Later Sheriff Coffin realized Sheriff Blitzer and her friends snorting and snickering and stupid comments were probably what really drove Demons and the Witch away.
Four days later Stoneroot was back.
Another year they even tried to burn Calisaya at the stake and Blitzer and a woman with bad skin actually brought Snow Puffed Marshmallows and skewers and handed them to Rocella and her Deputy with the advice, “ you might as well get something out of this cause that won’t work either.”
Calisaya, over the years, went from tormenting farm animals and turning the water in the wells to blood and making the crops and the fruit trees go bad (which turned out to be a favorite of hers) and casting curses and playing petty tricks on the Towns People to grave robbing.
That was the last straw as far as Ballast County was concerned.
They sent word down that White Ash cut out the theatrical executions and do something about Stoneroot or they (Duwamish Bay, Fallen, Ninebones Cross and Abandon) were going to do something about them.
The Valleys and Mountains of Ballast County were full of barren dead places where it reaches over 90 degrees in the summer only it’s still so cold you’d get frostbite if you weren’t covered up.
The ground in these barren places are full of a fine heavy dust that’s almost impossible to wash from your clothes and if you aren’t careful it’ll work it’s way into your skin and cause a nasty infection that acts like leprosy.
That dust is all that’s was left of the people and the places that Ballast County ‘did something about’ when things got out of hand.
Sheriff Coffin had no intention of letting the town of White Ash become another open grave.
No matter what it took.
Even if it meant going to Duwamish Bay itself.
The Duwamish Bay Curiosity Shop is famous for a lot of things: it’s genuine Egyptian Mummy, it’s collection of shrunken heads, it’s electric chair (you could sit in it and get your picture taken) it’s ” funeral tools from across the ages” and it’s jars.
People drove from all over the state to look at ” The jars” which where kept behind a door riddled with bullet holes.
Inside of those jars are things like the three- headed cat, an alligator with human face, tumors and eyes and brains and limbs and hearts and medical experiments gone bad.
Most infamous of all in this collection is the ‘devil baby”.
The Devil Baby not only had horns and a tail but an eye in the center of it’s forehead and sometimes that eye opened and sometimes it was shut and no matter where you stood in the store you knew it was watching you.
The Shop was also famous for it’s Soda Fountain but on that day Sheriff Coffin wasn’t in the mood for a Strawberry Phosphate. She read over the menu anyway and next to it on pressed tin sign was a sign that said:
OVER 2000 AMAZING ARTIFCATS
25 ARE GENUINE FAKES
FREE SUNDAES FOR A YEAR
IF YOU GUESS RIGHT
“ Want to take a guess?” Ignancia Guzman the Shop’s owner asked from behind the Counter.
“ No. “
“ Go on, take a guess…I got all day and from what I hear you don’t.”
“ The Baby…” she snapped.
“ Nope, you’re wrong. Everybody wants that baby to be fake. That’s how come we don’t have to cough up the free ice cream. It’s that baby bless it’s dark little heart. Nobody wants that baby to be real.”
It was true; Rocella felt her chest tighten when Ignancia told her about the baby. “ Look Mrs. Guzman, I need to get rid of a nasty tempered Witch who’s developed some weird culinary habits. Can you help us?”
Ignancia looked up at the ceiling like she was reading something up there and Rocella had to fight the urge to do the same.
Finally Ignancia said, “ Oh, this is going to be good, come on follow me, we have to go into the Workshop”
Rocella followed Ignancia behind the Counter and they went back into her Workshop and when the door clicked shut behind them it occurred to Rocella the door hadn’t been there a minute ago.
As Rocella drove back up to White Ash she went over the instruction again, “ You can’t write these down you know. You have to memorize this so don’t blow it. “
“ You know why Calisaya is bothering you all up in White Ash and not us down here in Duwamish?” Ignancia asked
“ I don’t know she likes the View?”
“ Don’t be stupid, it’s because you’re all old world up there. All that garlic and chanting and potions. She’s a modern woman and none of that is going to work on her. You have to think, how do you trap and kill a modern witch? “
Rocella shook her head, “ Come on Mrs. Guzman, the Sun is going to set soon and the Auditors will be heading up soon. “
Ignancia handed Rocella three sheets of what she thought were paper. But as the Sheriff took each one from Ignancia’ s hand she saw what they were, she could feel what they were and worse they were still warm. “ I don’t want to know “ Rocella said.
“ Don’t be such a baby. Now listen. You go to that tree by your courthouse. You go up on a ladder this has to be at least 7 feet up and you nail this first…”
“ Spells? I thought you said the old world…”
“ It’s not what you think. This is strictly modern and legal. Don’t look at me like that … it is. See, this is a Summons for her to appear, the minute this goes up no matter what she has to come forward.
This is a warrant for her execution you nail this up second.
This time I think you’ll find your rope will do it’s job and so will fire. I’d go with the rope it’s so dry out right now you wouldn’t want to start a forest fire, would you?
Now, this little puppy is the dealmaker.
This is her death certificate. You just sign here and there and here “ Ignancia said as she flipped the heavy pages up one by one and I think you’ll find yourself short a citizen before morning.
But if this comes down, if someone is dumb enough to pull the nail out and this paperwork is disturbed. Well, it won’t be good for White Ash. Won’t be so hot for me either.”
“ Fine, you got a pen or something cause I have to be going…Oh let me guess” Rocella said as she sat down hard on a wooden barstool and tilted her head to the side. “ Don’t get any of it on the Uniform. I just had it cleaned.”
Ignancia pulled a scalpel from a little black bag and as she found Sheriff Coffin’s artery and nicked it open she asked, “ hey Rocella, how’s the family?”
So did it work? You’re probably wondering.
Well, White Ash is on the Map, and you can go there if you want and see for yourself.
It’s small and old fashion and the Sheriff is bad tempered and has this funny scar on the side of her neck that bleeds at the wrong time (birthday parties, funerals when she’s in Court and swearing and using profanity isn’t something you don’t want to do at the tops of your lungs)
As for Calisaya Stoneroot, you know there isn’t a Halloween that’s gone by for the past 40 odd years since her execution that a bunch of weirdos from Seattle and as far away as Bellingham don’t descend by the hundreds on poor little White Ash looking for the grave of the Witch of White Ash.
Was she real?
If proof is all you want all you have to do is go to the tree besides the court house and look up and there on one of the branches is an old frayed piece of rope still gray and covered with moss and further up still are three pieces of something that looks like parchment nailed firmly to the tree’s trunk.
Just make sure you leave White Ash before the sunsets.
And before the residents of White Ash start thinking about dinner.