She Makes One Hell of a Wicked Witch

by Peter Kovochich

When the newspaper girl started getting weird, when she started talking about meeting the wizard and killing the witch, Ray decided it was time to cancel his subscription. The paper kept coming, though, so he had to say something to the girl. He stood out on the front porch and waited for her. She had some friends with her this afternoon, people in costumes. He watched them walk up and down his neighbor’s walkways: the girl, a scarecrow, a lion, and, yes, a tin man. Seemed the only thing missing was a little dog. Then he spotted a tiny head of fur poking out from the carrier bag. He met the gang out at the sidewalk.

I’m not supposed to get the paper anymore,” he told the girl. Her tennis shoes were ruby red. Maybe the rest of her costume was still under construction.

Yes, I’m aware that you cancelled,” she said. “And I’m assuming that you’ll change your mind about that.” Then she held out the day’s bundled paper. “In the meantime, the paper is on me.”

No thanks, really,” he said, noticing the little dog watching him from down inside the bag. “I just don’t have time to read it anymore.”

I don’t believe that,” the girl said, still holding out the paper. This girl couldn’t have been older than fourteen. “Everyone has time to read the paper.”

Not me.”

There was a silence then, the girl and her costumed friends simply staring at him. Then, very quietly, the guy who was supposed to be the lion started to growl. The girl glanced over. “Hush,” she said. She turned back to Ray and gave him an embarrassed smile. She lowered her arm. “Tell you what … You think about it while we finish the route, and then we’ll come back.”

He just wanted them gone, so he gave a little shrug and went inside and he didn’t answer the door when they came back a half hour later. They left the paper inside the storm door. Later that night, he called the paper’s business office.

I’ve cancelled, but the girl won’t stop delivering,” he said.

Well, you’re no longer being charged,” the lady on the line said to him.

“But I don’t want the paper anymore.”

You’re not being charged. If she wants to give you a paper, then just throw it out. She’ll stop eventually.”

She’s walking around with the cast of the Wizard of Oz!”

That didn’t get him a reply, and the conversation ended. The girl came alone the following day. He locked his storm door and she left the paper on the porch. The day after that was a Saturday, and the characters were with her again. He waited for them to finish his block before going around and asking the neighbors what they thought. The general consensus was that the girl was young, a bit eccentric, and probably looking for attention. But otherwise no one seemed to care, as long as they got their paper every night. There were bigger things out there to worry about. You only needed to read a page or two of your paper to see that.

Call the paper back and re-subscribe,” one elderly lady advised from her backyard garden. “You shouldn’t make that girl pay for your paper.”

But I didn’t ask for her to pay it,” Ray said. “I don’t want it anymore.”
“It sounds like you were just fine with your paper until she started coming around with her friends.”

Ray was done here; no one seemed to get it. He heard the fat Sunday paper flop against his door early the next morning. He kept the sports and the classifieds and threw out the rest. The next day he decided he would track her route, following at a distance. He was pretty certain she started somewhere two or three blocks south, then meandered east and north. He tried to think of the best way to follow her without looking too suspicious. Hard to pull off, though, in this neighborhood. Faces leered from windows. The ones who recognized him all waved; those who didn’t just watched him all the way down their block. He’d have thought they’d all be too busy reading their damn papers to notice anything else going on.

He spotted the girl and her gang near the end of her route, where the neighborhood trickled away into a wooded reserve. There, he thought. The woods. He could hide out there the next afternoon and watch them. See what they were up to.

The next day, he took off early from work and drove to the far side of the reserve, where he parked and then walked back toward the neighborhood. Found a nice place to watch from, a cozy patch of soft ground shielded by pine scrub. They came around their last turn later than the previous evening, down that last stretch of homes on just one side of the block. Skipping and bouncing along, arms locked together just like in that stupid movie. Even the girl was in costume today. Blue and white checked dress and hair done up in pigtails.

They were signing that song from the movie, the one proclaiming they were off to see the wizard. Insane. And then they stopped. The Tin man looking straight at him. Shit. Ray kept still. But then the group was turning around, the four of them together, pivoting around Dorothy. On their way back to wherever the hell they’d come from. Ray trotted back through the reserve to his car. No more, he thought while driving away. He was through with this nonsense. If they wanted to prance around the neighborhood in full costume, then let them. He’d simply stay inside.

His doorbell was ringing later that evening. He peered out the window. There was a woman at the door.

I don’t think we’ve met,” the woman said. She was probably somewhere around his age. Dark hair and a jutting nose. Her hands were curled together, drumming nervously. “I live three blocks down.”

Okay?”

I believe we share a papergirl.”

Dorothy.”

The woman nodded. He noticed, then, the long point of her chin. “I heard you were asking around about her.”

She won’t stop delivering my paper,” Ray said.

Mine either.”

The witch, Ray thought. This was Dorothy’s witch. Should he ask?

Would she be insulted?

She thinks I’m the witch,” the woman said.

You’re kidding me?”

The woman let out a pleasant laugh. “No.”

I wonder what that makes me, then,” Ray said.

Well, you don’t exactly look like the wizard,” she said.

He wished he could have said she didn’t look like the witch. “We should talk,” he said simply, and he invited her inside, thinking she’d probably refuse. What kind of woman would just walk into a complete stranger’s house? But she followed him right on in. They talked. They agreed on what should be done. It was kind of crazy, what they were thinking of doing. But maybe it was exactly what the girl and her pals needed. A reality check.

Ray’s cancelled paper came again the next afternoon. He paid it no attention. The idea was to lay low for a week. Let the afternoon light drip down so that they’d be finding Dorothy and her friends at something closer to dusk. The woman had his phone number. And yes, she had a name. Bree. They talked just about every night. Laughing about the girl and her friends. The big day finally came along. Ray met her at a park a mile from the reserve. She dashed into his car, cape flying behind her. Her hands and face a beaming coat of green.

Hi,” she said.

He just wanted to stare at her. Wow. She really made one hell of a Wicked Witch of the West.

What are we thinking here?” Bree said.

Ray had had similar thoughts on his way out to the reserve. But now he just wanted to have a walk through the woods with this amazing goblin of a woman.

Let’s just see what happens,” he said.

They walked. Ray carried a small duffel bag, Bree carried her broom. Halfway through the reserve, they joined hands.

I don’t think this happened in the movie,” the witch said.

The hell with that movie,” Ray said, and he thought it might be a good time to go in for a kiss. It had been so long. He really had no idea. She kissed him back. They kissed there in the woods. The brim of her hat bumped into his forehead and he pulled back.

She looked up at him from under her hat. “There’s something you need to know about me,” she said.

You’re really a witch?”

She laughed. “Yes,” she said. “That’s right. What do you think of that?”

Doesn’t bother me,” Ray said.

There’s something else,” she said. And she told him. Not a big deal, Ray thought. We’ve all got our problems. She seemed relieved. “Do you still want to do this?” she asked him then.

I want that girl to leave us alone,” he said, so they continued on. Ray found that same soft patch of ground he’d spied from a week ago and they set up their little camp. Ray studied her face while they waited there for the group to come around. The long, sleek angles. The pointed nose and chin. Remarkable how much she resembled that witch from the movie. Poor girl. Poor pretty girl. Had the resemblance started the paper girl on this bizarre fantasy? It was possible.

Do we have everything?” Bree asked.

He nodded, supposing they were about as ready as they could possibly be. She was looking at him from under that hat of hers. Smiling at his costume. Castle guard. He guessed he’d done alright with the outfit. Though he’d felt completely ridiculous right up until she’d gotten into his car.

I hear them,” she said.

Their voices turned the corner just before they did, a chorus announcing that they were once again off to see the wizard. Ray took Bree’s hand and led her up to the edge of the woods, just enough so that they’d be out of the sightline of the eagle eyed Tin Man. He fumbled at the zipper on the duffel bag, suddenly a little nervous. Relax, he told himself. It wasn’t like they were committing a crime here. Well, maybe a small crime. A temporary one. The dog would be dropped off at the humane society. No harm. Just taking him for a ride. The point was to give those kids something to think about. Or at least one kid. He wasn’t sure about those other three idiots.

Bree was watching them go up and down the walks while Ray finished unpacking. “Well,” he whispered, “what do you think?” He was thinking he’d really better get moving if this was going to happen.
She tilted her head just a little and snuck him a nervous smile. Cute. Very cute. He was starting to think it was downright surreal that he hadn’t even considered her all that attractive when he first met her. “Okay,” she said. “What am I doing here?”

He showed her again, a click and a pull. The getaway. Just some fireworks and smoke bombs wrapped together. Easy.

Okay,” she said.

Ray checked up the sidewalk. The gang was three houses away. “I’m off, then.”

She poked him goodbye with the head of her broom.

Crouching low, he scooted for the backyard of the house closest to the woods. He’d scouted the location over three afternoons. No fence. No dog. And he hadn’t once seen any sign of anyone even being inside. Big spooky house with the big porch that just happened to get a paper. It was just about perfect.

He stopped behind the far corner of the house, his heart running wild, allowing himself just a peek around. They were walking up to the house next door. The carrier bag was around Dorothy’s right shoulder, and he was glad to see her right hand locked with the Scarecrow. The Lion was just big, but you never knew about big guys, while the Tin Man was just plain scary. Though Ray was pretty much counting on their costumes being too cumbersome for them to give much of a chase.

He crouched there and waited. The woods wrapped behind the backyards here, which had turned out to be another bonus. He glanced over, finding a little to his surprise that he could see right into the kitchen of the house next door. There was an older couple who lived here. Low risk. Still, he kept his eye on the kitchen while he waited for Dorothy and her friends to come to their last stop. When he heard them start up the walk, he moved around. Slow, pacing himself, not wanting to reach them too quickly. He heard the door open up and the paper slap inside. Then the closing slam. He moved around as they skipped on down the steps, four across. Singing their hearts out now. The Scarecrow still practically joined to Dorothy’s right hip.

All he needed was that paper bag with the little dog inside. Bright yellow bag, practically the color of that road from the movie. They were at the end of the walk. For a second, he thought that Bree might have changed her mind. He wouldn’t have blamed her if she did.

But then he caught her running from the woods. The cape trailing behind her. And her broom on fire. That hadn’t come up as an option. But he loved it. Loved it. He charged in.

It should have been an easy swipe. Snatch the bag by the strap and run right on through. But Dorothy had let go of the Scarecrow and the Lion, stepping forward to meet the witch head on. A hand going into a pocket in her dress. She spun on him at the last moment. Spun and ducked a little. Just enough. He still managed to still get a hand on the strap, but when he saw what was in that hand of hers, he let go.

But it was too late for Bree. She’d gotten too close. The girl spinning back on her with the pepper spray. Ray caught the look in his new girlfriend’s face, that second of recognition before the spray hit her eyes. A look that pretty much said she couldn’t believe this was happening to her.

Which, Ray supposed, was exactly what the witch must have been thinking in the movie.

I hate that girl,” Bree said to him the next time they met up. He liked that. He just liked the way it sounded. He could see it becoming an inside joke of sorts. A cute little thing to say when things were looking tough. Maybe they could even work it into their vows. But by the end of the night, it was looking like that would never happen. Turned out he wasn’t finding her half as attractive without all the green makeup. He’d never say that to her, of course. How could you say a thing like that to someone?

But he also got the feeling she had her own issues with him. Not that she wanted to see him in a castle guard’s costume or anything like that. Maybe she’d gotten a glimpse of something that afternoon. Something besides the pepper spray that she didn’t much care for. Or was it the difference in the way he was looking at her now? Was it really that obvious that he preferred a girl in green? He supposed it was.

But what was he supposed to do about that?

The story had made the newspaper. The girl was a hero. The girl and her stupid little dog. There wasn’t any mention of her three friends, as if they didn’t even exist. Funny. Bree thought it was shameless self-promotion on the part of the newspaper. Look at what one of their carriers did. What bullshit. The picture in the paper showed her cradling the dog in one hand while proudly holding the extinguished broom in the other.

The story had gone around the neighborhood. What kind of monsters would try stealing a little dog? Ray had no idea, he would say to them. No idea. He expected the police to come asking questions, but no one ever did. The girl ended up getting some kind of reward. A medal or a certificate of bravery or something. If Ray could have given something to that dog for jumping out of its carrier and running back up the street, he would have.

The papers kept coming. The girl simply dropping them in front of the door as if nothing had happened. Then, one week at a time, her friends began to disappear. The Scarecrow was the first to leave. The next week it was the Lion. Then the Tin Man. Even the dog went away. Leaving things just the way they used to be, just a girl going up and down the sidewalks delivering the afternoon paper. The only thing left of her costume were those ruby colored tennis shoes.

One day he caught her at the door. “What happened to your friends?” he said.

They went home.”

Just like that?”

Yeah, just like that. “

What about that witch of yours?”

Finished,” the girl said.

Finished?”

What word would you use?”

He didn’t know what to say to that.

Don’t you read any of these papers?” the girl asked.

No, I don’t read them,” Ray said. “I cancelled weeks ago. Remember?”

The girl shrugged. “You’ll come back around.”

I doubt it.”

It’s on me until you do,” she said, now walking away.

Wait a minute,” Ray said.

She stopped, turned back.

You still have that broom?” he asked.

I thought you don’t read the paper.”

He didn’t say anything. He just stood there.

You want the witch’s broom?” the girl said, something coming alive in her eyes.

Yes,” he said.

No problem,” she said. “Just renew your subscription.” She left him, then, doing a little skip at the end of his walk. He called the paper that night. The next afternoon he found the broom inside his door along with the paper.

It took him almost a week to pull together the nerve to visit Bree’s apartment. He didn’t call ahead. He rang the doorbell. Tulips in one hand, the broom in the other. She opened the door and she looked a little surprised. More than surprised. She laughed.

Come on in,” she said. She took the tulips and smelled them with her long nose. Something about the way she did that, the way her nose seemed to stretch itself toward those bright flowers brought it back for him. Not quite all the way. She’d never look as good to him as when she was green. But this was good. Hell, it was good enough.

The witch’s broom,” she said.

Apparently, the witch is dead,” Ray told her.

Well, thank god.”

Now he just had to convince her that he was better than advertised. That maybe she could like a guy with a problem. A sucker for a girl in green.

I want one more thing,” she said to him later in the night. Proof that he was serious about things.

Anything,” he said, and he meant it.

Those shoes.”

What shoes?”

The girl’s shoes. Those ruby shoes,” she said. “I want them.”

He smiled at that. And right then he had the feeling he might even be in love with her. That she might be the one. Because the wicked witch was alive and well and she wasn’t through with that stupid girl. Not yet. Not even close.

Watch out, he thought.

I’ll get those shoes.”

And he would. This time it wouldn’t be a problem. Not like it was in the movie.


Peter Kovochich studied English at Northern Michigan University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He has worked as a proofreader and done some freelance editing, and his recent career adventures have taken him into the strange worlds of library circulation and human resources. He once had an afternoon paper route, though he never considered walking around dressed like a character from The Wizard of Oz. But that would have been interesting. He lives in Milwaukee in a small house with his lovely wife and a small child, working on a first novel.

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2 Responses to "She Makes One Hell of a Wicked Witch"

  • I gave this story one sentence, the first one, to win me over, and now here I am, all the way at the end. That was fun.

    1 Josef said this (May 6, 2011 at 5:48 am)


  • Wow. Great story. Creative and fun. I just wish Bree would have set the Scarecrow on fire…

    2 D.J. Troxell said this (July 2, 2011 at 2:43 pm)