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.”


“I believe we share a papergirl.”


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.


“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. 


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)