Thursday, October 1, 2020


Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


Julia Hughes moves the waters of the River Thames and the literary hearts of millions of readers. From her home in London, her unsurpassed mastery of fiction and her vast and unsurpassed knowledge of the Queen’s English make her one of the world’s most brilliant writers. Depth of Character is one of the Holy Grails of Writing and she keeps this legendary treasure within easy access in the titanic and mystical chambers of her brilliant mind. She has been my editor and greatest literary friend for more than a decade.

There has always been magic in writing, ever since that first mark was cut into a tree and some wandering cave man “read” it. That enchantment lives on in the world of today. Saturday nights have become “my” time for writing. Any time after 7 PM finds me racing against the clock to finish a short-story by midnight. It is 7 AM when Julia opens my e-mail in London. I am no doubt snoring when Julia reads the jumbled words from that “Hillbilly Writer” in the U.S.

I always awaken in a Fairy Tale and find that just like the “Shoemaker and the Elves” the scribbles I laid out the night before have been transformed into something readable … and occasionally much much more. No one could ask for a better friend. Her adorable little dog is of course named “Tinkerbelle”

Thank you Julia!

Sorry if this all seems a bit rambling. I could have sent it over for edits … but I wanted to “surprise” you.

I will love you forever … and I will never forget!

Julia Hughes books can be found on Amazon. I don’t know how many there are. Her literary “gifts” would definitely have to include “proliferation.”



Monday, September 21, 2020


Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


Part 8

By R. Peterson


-------Black Rose Cemetery-------


The rotting corpse of forty three year old, Richard Miles hung from a traverse shaped like a capital X. Someone had doused the body with gasoline and set it on fire. The flickering fire-light made the moon-shadows of trees appear to dance … but no one would look. Two chests overflowing with silver spoons and forks guarded the sides of the cross.

Joanie Otter picked up two forks from one of the chests and then flung one toward the recently covered grave of Erma Bates. “You should have let the birds take it,” she said. “You won’t need it now that the worms crawl into your mouth without any help.”

“Let’s hold hands … shall we?” Hamilton Fisk beckoned the hand-held spoons and forks clustered in the oldest part of Black Rose Cemetery to come closer.

            “We must become children,” she said, “the children of darkness,” Joanie Otter closed her eyes and nodded her head as they joined hands.

            “What is death … but sleep on another world?” Hamilton’s eyes flashed around the circle of moving bodies seeing beyond that which was reflected of light.

            “Nothing … and everything,” the witches chanted as they spun as one.

            “Who will close your eyes when we are gone?”

            “No one … and everyone,” the witches sang. The wheel they created with their bodies began to sin faster.

            “Who can see with their eyes open?”

            “Only the dead … and those about to be,” all nine covens chanted. Black garments and bits of cold-silver became a static blur.

            “Do we fear death … or welcome her?”

            “She is mother,” the witches sang. “And life is the inattentive father she waits for.”

The storm, which had ravaged everything in a circle outside the cemetery, suddenly spun itself into a dark and fantastic funnel-cloud that touched down somewhere in the vastness of Motha Forest and opened just above their heads. Two girls screamed with pleasure as they were spun into the air and then vanished. A glowing green figure appeared as a tiny speck in the tube and approached the cemetery with the leisure of darkness.

            “Time is the doctor who kills her patients,” Hamilton said, “… so who you gonna call?”

And the witches laughed …


------- Descombey Mansion Cloverdale -------


“It seems Marjorie had her heart torn in half.” The sheriff was looking out the upstairs window of Melania’s bedroom. The storm outside appeared to be growing. A broken branch from an old Cottonwood tree sailed past the glass … as if it had wings.

            “Love will do that,” Melania agreed. “But she really had no choice. A young girl with her whole life ahead of her must not fall in love with some magical creation … even if that creation was mine.”

            “Show me a heart that listens to reason … and I’ll show you a fairy tale.” Allison was gathering the empty cups and putting them on a tray.

            “We can’t be finished,” John said. “There is too much going on in that place we just visited.”

            “I agree,” Melania said. “And we will drink more tea. But we can’t stay here. Something evil is coming to Cloverdale on this night … I think perhaps we should go for a ride.”

            “I’ve got my patrol car parked just down the street.” The sheriff smiled. “It even has a radar detector … if you fancy a real fast ride.”

            “Thank you sheriff but I don’t think your car is fast enough …” Melania started to remove her nightgown and John quickly turned his head. “Not when you have half the angels in hell polishing your tail-lights.”

            “You going to drive that old Buick you keep tied up in your garage?” John tried to look anywhere in the room but at her.

            “No you are,” Melania said. “And watch out for cops! That Roadmaster can outrun a jet airplane … but them law boys is mighty sneaky in this side of Comanche County.”





By R. Peterson


It was morning, but still dark. Ray Davis left his farmhouse and staggered toward the outhouse.  It was something he did every morning. The gas lantern he held in his hand illuminated the barnyard with its cluster of weathered outbuildings and a long windowless chicken coop. There had been a ruckus in the coop during the night; he suspected a fox was getting after his chickens. The smell from the two-seater nearly rolled him over as he hung the light on a hook. He knew he would have to dig out the pit and re-freshen it before too long. He wanted to put it off as long as possible. It was a nasty job and his bones ached with the slightest exertion. He began reading a torn-in-half catalog from Sears and Roebuck. 

A tremendous thump shook the ground and made the lantern fall from the wall. Ray opened the door a crack and peered out. He swore under his breath. Maybe one of those Nelson youngsters  from the neighbor’s farm was playing a prank. They would be dealt with harshly when he caught them. He smiled to himself as he removed his wide leather belt from his trousers. “It’s been a while since I beat me a brat,” he muttered.

Not finding anything in the yard, he gave up and was almost to the house when the light from the moon was suddenly blocked from behind. There was the strange smell of almonds and molding straw. Ray turned just as two large boney hands clutched at his throat and lifted him high into the air. His legs kicked frantically and bits of chopped straw sprinkled over him like salt on pork. His pants, without a belt to hold them up, fell around his work-boots. Ray was dead before the towering Hodmedod tore his arms off. He was fifty two and his heart had failed. Inside the house, Ray’s wife, Nora, had heard a small cry. “Must be constipation,” she muttered as she slipped into a gingham dress with an apron attached and wearily trudged outside to help her husband.



                Margie was frantic. She looked everywhere, but Brian was gone. When was the last time she had seen him? She hated herself for walking in the orchard with the soldier. What had she been thinking? Spending so much time with Sean O’Brien! The shed by the woodpile was Brian’s favorite place … but he wasn’t there. What if he had been captured by the mobs rounding up scarecrows? What if he were already burning on a pile somewhere? Margie could not stand to think about it. She stood in the doorway perplexed; Brian’s things were gone. He always kept a bag nearby with tools a knife and extra clothing. As he became more human he felt things like cold … and he had to eat. A bundle she had given him, before he hid in the shed, containing bread, fruit and a bottle of water was also missing.

Margie noticed tracks in the snow, they belonged to Brian and they headed out of town toward the mountains. She felt a strange relief. He had left on his own. He hadn’t been captured yet.

She ran toward the house. She would have to tell Emma. They would take her car. Maybe they could catch up with him.

“Oh Brian, I am so sorry.” Margie sobbed as she went into the house.



Ed Fowler drove the 1939 Ford grain truck, the back was loaded with Hodmedods, and Judge Walker sat in the passenger side reading from two sheets of paper. He held the first list up for Ed to look at.

“This is the list of people we can count on to support us,” he said. “Most of them is good old boys what know which side their bread is buttered on. This other page…” he held up the second list, “shows the ones who are sure to make trouble for us!” He frowned at Ed. “We better deal with them right now … before they do.”

“That second list looks to be a lot longer than the first.” Ed glanced at the judge then turned and spat tobacco juice out his window then continued driving down the snow covered road.

“Of course it is,” the judge said. “Loyalty always has a price; you can’t recruit good men if you don’t share the wealth.”

“And you’re not in the mood for sharing?”

“No more than I have to be, there’s too many hands in the kitty as it is.”

They were just approaching a small farmhouse surrounded by ramshackle outbuildings. A mailbox painted with flowers stood on a post next the gravel driveway.

            “Turn in here,” the judge said. “Jacob and Alice Mathers are dairy farmers; their names are on the list.”

            “Which list?” Ed looked at him and grinned.

The judge gestured toward the back of the truck where the Hodmedods had begun to move about causing the truck to rock side to side. “Which list do you think?” he said.



            Sheriff Walker and Eve walked back toward the encampment with a group of Mommet that had escaped from the roaming mobs of angry townspeople. Some were helping scarecrows who were badly hurt while others carried children in shaky arms. Joe Walker had never been around a group of people who were so gentle and kind. It amazed him that they even existed. Just before they came into the Mommet encampment they heard a large group of voices, all talking excitedly. Melania Descombey Kerns stood in the center of a group of adoring Mommet. The sheriff recognized his old friend.

“Melania, I never thought I’d see you in the middle of the Motha woods surrounded by scarecrows!”

            “Believe me, It’s a lot better here than where I came from -- State Hospital North.”

            “Why the devil would you be at that place? That’s a mental hospital!”

            “Your brother the judge wanted to get me out of the way; he has plans for using these straw people and others like them to control this part of the state. He’s the one who signed the papers to have me committed.”

            “Excuse me for asking.” The sheriff looked at her. “But what could they possibly fear from a kind old lady like you?”

Melania laughed as she looked around and gestured toward the Mommet.

“These are my children,” she said. “I created most of them thirteen years ago.”

“I’ve heard talk of you being a witch, but I never believed it.” The sheriff’s eyes were like two full moons. “Is it true?” He took a step back.

Melania grinned. “I guess I’ve got a lot of explaining to do,” she said.



            Brian kept himself on the opposite side of the fire and held a burning branch to keep the Chinaman away. He kicked more wood on the fire to build it up. The monster was made of straw but had the cunning of a fox. Every-time Brian tried to get around the thing, to try to flee down the tunnel, the creature blocked his escape. The huge Hodmedod’s face was even more gruesome reflected by the light of the fire. The flesh was burned completely away on one cheek. The ragged cut showed a jaw that was a strange mixture of straw and cartilage. The monster lunged in a vain attempt to knock the burning stick away but Brian dodged at the last moment and the creature’s claws grazed his chest, cutting a six inch long tear in his bib overalls. Tiny grain seeds ran from the cut like dripping blood.

            “Your chafe turns slowly to flesh and I hunger to taste you.” The Chinaman said.

The fire was slowly burning to coals and it was no longer keeping the beast from lunging. The Hodmedod’s blackened claws caught Brian’s shoulder and tore away a large part of his previously injured arm before he was able to pull away. The branch Brian was holding had burned down to where it was not much more than a twig and the constantly shifting monster kept him from putting more wood on the fire. Brian tried to think of a plan, a way to escape from the monster but his brain wouldn’t work. He knew his time of death was near. His memories always returned to the girl who had created him. In the last moments of his life he wanted only to think about the girl. The girl his thoughts danced with. Brian’s last wish was to think only of Margie.

The end came suddenly. Brian stumbled slightly; he was worn out and slowing. The Chinaman’s huge clawed hands caught and crushed onto his throat with a tremendous force that nothing could pry away. An ephemeral vision of auburn hair blowing in the breeze framing the lovely face of Margie drifted across the young Mommet’s mind as he went limp and began to pass out. He smiled despite the pain.



“My mother was a Zingara (gypsy) from the old country,” Melania told the sheriff. “She brought with her a wooden recipe box called an Ombre. A cook will use a box like this to store recipes, but a Bruja (witch) like my mother uses her Ombre to store magic spells. I used a card from the box called Walkstraw to create the first Mommet in the county. Later on, Lemont Hicks stole the card from me and began to create different types of scarecrows Tattie Bogals, Moggies even the Hodmedod.”

“Somehow I didn’t believe all this wickedness came from your hand.” The sheriff gazed at the group of Mommet thoughtfully.

“No enchantment is all good … or all bad,” Melania said. “Ombre is always in balance. There is as much kindness in the Mommet … as there is evil in the Hodmedod.”



A gasp came from the crowd of Mommet as a small squat figure shuffled from the trees. Sheriff Walker reached for his gun. Melania put her hand on his arm.

            “Wait, its Crab,” she said. “He’s a friend of mine.” The dwarf-like figure smiled as he walked toward the old witch. “What are you doing in my neck of the woods?” She asked him with a smile.

            “My third eye tells me there is great trouble coming to your village.” Crab tapped a spot between his eyes as if to show an optic that wasn’t there.

            “You’re talking about the town, about Cloverdale?” Melania’s tone startled the Sheriff he stared at the old woman. He had never felt fear radiate from anyone before.

            “Yes,” Crab said. “We must leave at once, and army of Hodmedod is about to attack your village and these creatures,” he pointed to the Mommet, “are the only things that can stop them.”



            The Chinaman suddenly released his hold on Brian’s throat and flung his huge arms into the air. The monster twisted and clawed at his back as if trying to remove a stinging wasp. Lavar Hicks stood behind the beast holding a broom-handle with a wire loop tether and a gob of black tar on the end. The Hodmedod did a convulsing dance as he tried to scrape the back ooze from his back.

Brian lay on the floor of the cave. Lavar looked at him without sympathy.

            “I ain’t saving you,” he muttered. “I’m just taking back what’s mine. With my pa gone the Chinaman is all I got in this world.” He grinned as Brian looked up at him. “So get the hell out of here before I change my mind.”

Brian scrambled up and ran from the cave … on wobbly legs.



            It slowly became dark in the town of Cloverdale. It was strangely quiet as if everyone expected something to happen. Judge Walker looked down the street where his friends and a group of Klu Klux Klan members from Alabama had begun the ravaging of the town. Hodmedods dragged the terrified residents from their homes and businesses while the city police looted.

There was a metal on metal whine piercing the air like an aircraft in a nose dive. Hundreds of  Mommet, led by Sheriff Walker, came around the corner of Wallace and started down Townsend Avenue. They were carrying torches and the metallic sound came from their voices. A small squat figure pranced alongside the witch Melania Descombey who held a wooden box in her hands.

            Judge Walker smiled. “I’ve been expecting you little brother,” he sneered. He gave a signal and a fire truck with men riding on the sides pulled from the alley blocking the path of the Mommet.

Seconds later another group of Hodmedods armed with grain cutters flanked the Sheriff and his army.

A blast of water from the fire truck swept the startled Mommet backwards knocking them to the ground. Their torches were extinguished. The Hodmedod charged into the confused mass cutting down the scarecrows like grain. There was screaming chaos everywhere as the Mommet began to break rank and flee. Mommet children were dragged from their parents and butchered for sport.

A young female Mommet who carried a tiny baby in a pack on her back tried desperately to crawl to safety on one un-severed leg. A huge Hodmedod sliced off her head with a curved blade then threw her screaming child into the air and speared it with the scythe as it fell. The Mommet clustered together around an old female in a group frantically trying to re-ignite their torches. The old scarecrow bravely faced the charging Hodmedod and was torn apart by the horrible monsters.

Crab grabbed at Melania’s skirts and smiled up at her, as she opened the small wooden Ombre box. “Yes, that’s it,” he said as she pulled out a faded yellow card. “The Returning River Spell.”

            “How did you know?” Melania looked down at the dwarf.

            “Mmm-mm-mmy third eye,” Crab stuttered. “It sees things before they happen.”

            “Then this will work?” Melania turned pale as she studied the instructions.

            “Oh does it!” Crabs eyes were bright and laughing as he looked at the fire truck.

Melania held the card high above her head as she twirled around faster and faster. She sprinkled blue liquid from a vial as she spun. Her voice rose above the turmoil of the fighting, an eerie ominous song announcing the coming darkness.

            “Pioggia rugiada e massiccio del canto del Gallo, vola torna ora da dove sei venuto (Cockcrow dew and massif rain, fly back now from whence you came.)”

She repeated the chant over and over as her spinning motion accelerated and became a blur.



            Sean O’Brian drove Emma Kern’s car while Margie sat in the passenger seat scanning the countryside. Sean looked at her. “Don’t worry we’ll find him,” he said.

            “With the county in an uproar … it’s a fine time for him to run off!” Margie pouted.

            “Maybe that’s a good thing,” Sean said. “Hiding out in the hills might save his life.”

            “He didn’t run off because of the scarecrow hunters,” Margie fumed. “We used to be close but I’ve been neglecting him since …” She looked at Sean. “…since I met you.”

            “Look just up ahead, I think that’s him.” Sean pulled the car to the side of the road and stopped.

Brian stood doubled over at the side of the road out of breath from running. He looked up as Margie leaped from the car.

            “Brian! Oh my God Brian! Where have you been?” She began to get angry. “I was worried sick. I told you to hide. I thought you had been taken.” She grabbed her creation and pulled him into the car still scolding.

Brian looked at Sean as he sat, then he hung his head. “I wanted to be by myself … maybe to find my own kind.”

Margie sobbed as she hugged him.

            “My dear Brian,” she said. “I love you. I am your kind.”


Sheriff Walker fired his automatic into the crowd of charging Hodmedod until his clip ran out. Then he pulled Eve behind him and beat at the scarecrows with a Texan, a lead bar covered with leather.

The ground began to tremble and shake like Cloverdale was having its first ever earthquake. The puddles of water under the fighting masses began to fly backward returning into the fire truck hoses they had just came out of. Inside the shops, stores and homes that lined Townsend Avenue toilet tanks began to empty and the water began to flow back toward the metal water-tower in the center of town. The pumps on the fire-trucks continued to try to push the returning water forward and smoke began to stream from the whining motors. A water main under the paved intersection of Wallace and Galbraith ruptured under the tremendous back pressure and the explosion blew chunks of asphalt and a parked Volkswagen Beetle high into the air.

The huge metal water tower was rocking violently on its seventy foot tall metal legs, and liquid sprayed from the overflow pipe at the top of the silver receptacle. Water in the aquifer deep under Comanche County began to rise to the surface. The Cottonmouth River that ran through the town overflowed its banks and washed out Motha Bridge in one huge surge of water driven upward like a tidal wave coming from the oceans of hell.

A giant Hodmedod, with a gash dripping chopped straw down one side of his face, fought his way forward. He swung a grain cutter viciously downward trying to sever the neck of the woman who held the magic card above her head. Suddenly Crab was in front of Melania he climbed up her torso like a monkey climbs a tree. The huge blade sliced through the dwarf splashing blood down the blue/gold dress of the witch.



Ed Fowler and Dr. O’Conner gazed at the carnage going on at the end of Main Street. Behind them were a group of men, friends of the doctors from down south. The men wore swastikas on their sleeves.

“Hitler has the right idea,” Ed said. “But he’s taking too much on at once, not thinking it through.”

Dr. O’Conner picked up a German made machine gun and examined it. He lay it back down carefully.

            “He is a fantastic source of weapons; we should thank him.”

            “It is in his best interest that we start an insurrection in this country, and he’s also very interested in the Hodmedod … very interested.” Ed looked at the doctor. “We will not disappoint him.”

Dr. O’Conner looked out the window. “As soon as the Hodmedod have weakened the town, send our storm troopers in, clean up and then have Judge Walker declare martial law. This is just the beginning. Comanche county is just a stepping stone to World Domination and with friends in the third Reich … how can we lose?”



Margie, Sean and Brian were just turning off highway one onto Main Street when the supports on the water tower collapsed and the tank holding 90,000 gallons of water crashed to the ground leveling half a city block and washing away houses two streets away. Sean spun the car around and just missed the huge tank as it plummeted into the ground. But the surge of water flipped over the car and tumbled it end-over-end down the street like a lost fishing bobber in a raging river.


Sheriff Walker shoved Melania to the side and beat at the monster scarecrow. The lead filled leather club sunk deep into the stuffed effigy tearing out huge chunks of straw and bloody flesh.

            Melania gathered the severed dwarf in her arms and hurried toward her house. Sheriff Walker had just smashed in the head of a Hodmedod and grabbed her arm as she ran past.

            “Where are you going?” He gestured towards the fighting. “We may still need your powers.”

Melania carefully extracted the sheriff’s fingers from her arm.

            “My magic is complete,” she said. “The ones responsible for the evil in this town are now dead or soon will be.” She stared down at the bloody mass in her arms. “This little one here needs my help to stay alive; there are many things the future needs him for.” She pointed down the street toward the Spare-a-dime diner. “Your brother is in there with the last of the evil ones, you must confront him.”

Sheriff Walker watched the old witch scamper away carrying the injured dwarf, then he turned and ran toward the diner.



            Margie, Sean and Brian were all thrown from the car as it tumbled down the street. They bobbed in the flooding waves like corks. Margie fought to keep her head above water then Brian was there holding her up. The current pushed them toward a light pole that was bent over the water. Brian grabbed the pole and held on with one hand as he held Margie with the other.

            “Sean! Do you see him?” Margie asked. She was frantic.

            “There!” Brian pointed upstream where Sean was swimming toward them, he was too far away to grab and would be swept past. Brian pushed Margie onto the pole then thrust himself outward. He grabbed at Sean and flung him with a twisting motion toward Margie and the pole. Then the young Mommet was sucked under the churning water.


The waters began to recede almost as quickly as they had come. Sheriff Walker walked down the street looking at the damage. Most of the heavy Hodmedods had sunk in the water and drown while the lighter Mommet floated. A mob of townspeople lit torches and were burning the few stragglers as they found them, one by one. The door to Spare-a-Dime was ajar and water poured out from the wooden floor. Judge Walker was standing on a table when his brother walked in. The judge pointed a service revolver at his brother.

            “This is your fault,” he said. “If you just hadn’t interfered, but then that’s you isn’t it?”

            “Don’t do something you will regret.” John pleaded with him.

            “This is something I should have done a long time ago.” Tom grinned suddenly and looked at his younger brother. “I was the oldest, but I was still always in your shadow! No matter what I did I always came in second.” He lowered the gun and smiled. “This time I’m going to be first.” The Judge raised the gun to his own head.

The blast knocked John Walker to his knees. Blood trickled from his ear from a concussion. The smell of smoke and gunpowder filled the café. The sheriff looked at his dead brother with stunned disbelief. Jap Mary Yokohama who had been hiding in the kitchen crept in softly. She knelt on the floor beside the Sheriff and put her arms around him. After a while they both began to cry.



            Melania carried Crab down the ladder into the tunnel under the shed in Black Rose Cemetery. He was weak, but still alive. “You want to go this way, don’t you?” She gestured into the darkness. Crab mumbled a “yes”. He looked comatose. Near the middle of the tunnel Melania stopped in front of the door she had noticed on the way out.

            “Now we will find out what your secrets are,” she said.

The old witch’s scream echoed down the tunnel and scared a flock of nesting birds in the graveyard above … seconds after she opened the heavy oaken door.


            The waters receded quickly. Two days later the only water left was in large puddles around piles of wreckage. The townspeople of Cloverdale had already begun the cleanup and were starting to rebuild.

Sean walked alongside Margie. Her stark face was pale, Mommet-like and her soft brown eyes still searched for her scarecrow lover. They walked past the collapsed water tower on the end of Main-Street and Margie turned away from a Cloverdale police officer’s body lying in the rubble. A sewn on emblem on the sleeve caught her attention, it was a Swastika. “That’s odd,” she murmured to Sean. “Isn’t that a German emblem?”

            They watched as one of the farmers from the Spare-a-Dime soaked a huge pile of wood with gasoline and then set it on fire.

The flames illuminated Margie’s face as she looked at Sean. “Do you think we will ever find him?”

            “I’m sure he got away. After all … straw floats,” Sean pulled her away from the flames that were now roaring. He playfully patted her on the stomach.

            “What do you think of the name Chloe, if it’s a girl?” he asked.

Margie laughed. “Don’t put the plow before the horse.”

She was oddly distracted. Something in the fire had caught her eye. She took a step closer.

            “Oh my God! Brian!” she screamed.

The scarecrow lay near the bottom of the debris pile. The flames were starting to consume his straw-filled body.

            One eye opened. It was the sky blue color of early morning. Brian stared at his love. He smiled feebly. His last wish had been granted. He had seen her one last time. A single tear escaped from under his eyelid and rolled down the grain sack that covered his face.

            “I love you,” he whispered just as the fire covered him like a blanket.

Margie lunged forward but was driven back by the heat and Sean’s strong arms. The flames erupted with a roar and consumed the Mommet.  The sinew and straw became ash and began to spiral upward.

Margie collapsed on the ground. She was heavy with a weight of grief that not even Sean could support. The flames danced toward the sky and a part of her heart rose with them, and left only ash in her breast. Brian would forever be her greatest love, there would never be another.

And the two entwined parts were driven upward by heat, eternally joined but also lost, along with the ashes and the tears of a beautiful autumn romance. Then everything slowly vanished into the night sky.














Sunday, September 13, 2020


Copyright (c) 2020 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.


Part 7

By R. Peterson


Allison went downstairs to heat more water for tea. “A gang of murdering scarecrows attacking the town!” Sheriff Walker looked out the window. Heavy rain beat against the glass; a heavy oak in the front yard appeared to bend with the wind. Broken branches littered the lawn. The storm appeared to be getting worse … rather than receding. “Why wasn’t this on the news?”

“The Vanishing River Tribune tried to cover the story but the entire town was in kayos,” Melania said. “And the national news was too busy with World War Two to care about what was going on in a small town in Montana. Your great uncle, Judge Walker, and others were starting their own war trying to seize all the power in the city. I’m sure they told the newspaper what to print. They locked me up in jail so I couldn’t make any trouble for them.”

“Did it work?” The sheriff smiled.

“I’ve had a knack for starting trouble since the day I got my driver’s license,” Melania told him. “Sometimes it’s just a little harder to get all the wheels turning.”

Allison arrived with a fresh pot of tea. “Who wants to do more traveling?”


Scarecrows part 4 Love & Loss


By R. Peterson



The sheriff sat up on the cot, his head was still swimming but he was starting to feel better. He slipped the white bag, with holes cut out for his eyes and mouth, over his head before he tottered outside. The encampment was surprisingly silent; the children, who had so often awakened him while he lay in feverish dreams, were nowhere to be seen. Voices drifted across the rows of pumpkin and onion vines coming from the grain fields. Joe Walker staggered toward them. Snow had been brushed away from a large area where a crowd of Mommet gathered.

The frozen ground had been painstakingly tilled and worked till the soil lay piled in soft furrows. An oversize scarecrow walked the rows spilling what looked like ashes from a bulky sack with a small hole cut in the bottom, Joe noticed Eve standing with her children.

“Are you sure you are healthy enough to be up?” She whispered, as he stood beside her.

“What are they doing?” He kept his voice low.

“It is the ceremony of Awakening.” Eve murmured. “The ashes of the dead killed by the Hodmedod are mixed with the grain seed so that after next year’s harvest they will once again be straw.”

They watched as the group followed humbly behind the planter with rakes and covered the furrows.

The ground felt damp beneath his boots as he followed Eve down the rows.

            “Do they add water to the seed before it’s covered?” he asked.

            “Only the family’s tears,” Eve said.

Eve led him to an area under the trees that contained three crudely made wooden coffins.

            “Our customs are different than yours,” Eve said. “Your companions did not survive, I’m sorry.” She put her hand on his shoulder. ”Were you close to them?”

            “One was a good friend.” The sheriff thought of his subordinate and the loyal service he had given. “And the other two were enemies.” He thought about the men his brother had sent with him, they were probably along to kill him and his deputy.

He opened the casket lid and gazed at what was left of his friend.

            “What would you have us do with them?” Eve asked.

The sheriff let the coffin lid bang down. “I’ll take this one back with me.” He gestured toward the other two caskets. “You can burn them or bury them, I really don’t care.” He said.


            Judge Walker was swept from Spare-a-Dime out onto the sidewalk with the rest of the diner crowd. Gunfire erupted across town and echoed down the emptying streets. Cars were starting up everywhere and speeding away into the night. One old farmer, who had driven a wagon with a team of horses into town, whipped his animals furiously heading south even though his farm was north-west. He didn’t want to go near the source of the fighting. The crowd began to curse the absence of law enforcement.

            “Where is that sheriff-brother of yours?” One of the men asked the judge. “Where is he when we need him?”      

            “My brother has problems.” The judge hung his head; he smiled slyly when he thought no-one could see. “I just never thought his troubles would keep him from doing his duty.”

            “Looks to me like this is a job for the city police, this ain’t the county,” another farmer shouted.

The crowd turned ugly. They began to chant “Where are our police? Where are our police?”

The judge found Ed Fowler in the crowd. “We need to do something,” he whispered.

            “Relax,” Ed told him. “The cops are helping to herd the Hodmedod. Once they come into town, and do a little damage they’ll chase them back out. It makes the chief of police look like a hero … and us as well.”

            “This had better work.” The judge shivered as he looked at the mob.

The sound of gunfire was louder now. A crowd of gun-packing men backed around the corner from Wallace Avenue shooting wildly. A mob of scarecrows, armed with grain cutters and pitch-forks, pursued them. The shots had no effect.  A direct hit on a Hodmedod blew out bits of straw and sinew from the backside, but did little damage. One man stumbled as he tried to re-load and fell. He used his rifle barrel as a club to ward off the monster who loomed over him. Streetlights reflected off the blade the scarecrow carried as he swept it downward. A metallic roar from the beast rumbled down the street as the Hodmedod held the severed head high like a hunting trophy. Several women fainted and their men made an abortive attempt to drag them away. The people of Cloverdale scattered and ran for their lives.



            Melania woke up. She lay on her cot and wondered why. Then a sound came again, the scratchy voice from the cell next to hers. “Witch woman, are you awake?” Crab asked.

            “Yes I’m here.” Melania got out of bed and squatted next to the hole in the cement wall where Crab’s eye glowed.

            “You want to leave, or do you like it here?” Melania could see Crab’s open mouth and his tongue moving, and then it was replaced with his eye as he waited for her answer.

            “Yes I want to leave.” Melania’s voice trembled. “But I’m old, too old to fight my way out, if that’s what you have in mind.”

            “No fighting, I’ve dug a tunnel. It took me two years. I hit the pipe more than a year ago.”

            “Pipe?” Melania asked.

            “I used to be the caretaker of the Black Rose Cemetery next door, worked there most of my life. I know the place like the back of my hand. I surveyed the place lots of times I know where every grave is, every building. There is a well pipe runs down from the shed where I kept my equipment, when I hit that I knew I could start digging up.”

            “How big is this tunnel?” She was starting to think she might be able to get away.

            “Big enough! Make up your bed so it looks like you’re in it. I’ll unlock your cell and we’ll take us a look.” Melania heard Crab open the door to his cell. She was pulling blankets over a pillow on her cot when he opened her door. He was short and squat with a long white beard, each eye was a different color. He looked like a dwarf.

            “You have keys to the cells?” Melania was astonished.

            “I lowered the coffins in the ground after everyone left,” Crab said. “I buried the head nurse at State Hospital North; she kept her set of keys on her till the day she died.” Crab grinned as he slipped a ring of keys into his pocket. “Even after she died.”

Melania followed Crab into his cell where he slid a bookcase away from the wall. A stairway led down into the darkness.

            “Why haven’t they found this?” Melania asked. She was astonished.

            “Because of these.” Crab pointed to mason jars that filled all the shelves.

Melania picked one up. It fell to the floor with a crash. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

Crab picked up the pieces and smirked as he laid them on the bookcase.

            “Body parts,” he said. “Fingers, ears they don’t know where I get them. It makes them all scared.”




Margie and Emma followed the crowd onto the sidewalk. Everyone was running toward their cars the sound of gunfire was coming closer. She held Emma’s hand and tried to move her down the sidewalk as fast as possible. She felt someone brush past her. The wounded soldier from Spare-a-Dime was holding Emma’s other arm. Sean O’Brien looked at Margie and smiled.

            “You look like you could use some help,” he said.

Emma beamed as she looked up at the young man. “We were just talking about you.” Her eyes darted toward Margie then back. Her gaze wandered up and down Sean’s body. “How would you like to give us your clothes?” She asked.

Margie blushed as they helped Emma into her car.

            “It’s for the scarecrow dance,” Margie stammered. “I was thinking of dressing my Tattie Bogal as a soldier.”

Sean laughed. “At least let me get home first,” he said. “It’s too cold to drive home naked.”

Margie didn’t know what to say, she was embarrassed but she also felt like she was falling with nothing to hold on to. The feeling wasn’t bad, it wasn’t bad at all.




            Dr. O’Conner and the chief of police stood in the doorway of an empty building on the end north end of main street looking toward the fighting going on south of them.

            “They are almost to Spare-a-Dime,” Dr. O’Conner said. He turned to the police chief. “Have your men start driving them back with torches, Chester here will make sure they move back.” He gestured toward a huge Hodmedod standing at attention behind them. “The judge will work up the townspeople to make sure all our opposition goes up in flames. After that we do whatever we want.”

The chief of police shuddered as he glanced at the enormous scarecrow barely visible in the darkness. It felt like standing next to a circus bear that was off its chain.

            “You sure you can control these things?” He whimpered. “I don’t want my men hurt.”

            “No-one gets hurt,” Dr. O’Conner said. “As long as you do what I say.” He looked back at the giant man made monster standing just inside the darkness and smirked. “As long as you do exactly what I say.”






Melania followed Crab down the steps and into the darkness. The tunnel was large, at least six feet tall with room for two people to walk side by side. Crab held a gas lantern high above his head. He walked slowly and held Melania’s hand as they descended the steepest part of the stairs.

“I can’t believe you created this,” Melania said. “It must have taken years.”

“I used to be a gravedigger,” Crab stopped next to a door in the wall on their right. “It’s what I know how to do.”

They entered a storage room filled with tools and equipment. It looked like the inside of a hardware store.

Crab picked up an axe and a large pair of bolt cutters. “After you get away I’ll make it look like someone broke you free from the outside. That way they will have no reason to search my cell and find all this.”

            “With such an easy way out, why haven’t you left? Why do you stay?” Melania asked the small man as they hobbled down the tunnel.

            “I have no-where to go, and I probably really do belong here.” Crab glanced at another door to their left as walked past. He hung his head as if he was ashamed of something he had done.

Melania looked at the door.

“Does this door have something to do with the fingers and ears in the jars?” She asked.

“I probably do belong here.” Crab said, as he led her to a ladder that led upward.



Judge Walker, and a group of farmers who had stayed in town, watched from in front of Spare-a-Dime as the chief of police and several of his officers drove the Hodmedod down the street. The monsters were in full retreat … it looked almost too easy. Several of the old men from inside the diner cheered.

The honeyed voices of the Mills Brothers singing You always hurt the one you love floated from the radio through the smoky air as the judge led the men back inside. “It’s not over yet boys,” he told them. “Not until we track down every one of them devils, and make sure they never bring harm to any of our families again.

“How we going to do that?” Simon Bates, a rat-faced man who ran the local granary, asked.

The judge held his hands in the air as the men all began to talk at once.

            “We’ll meet here in the morning. Everyone who has a truck should bring it. We’ll hunt them in daylight when they lay up. We’ll search every farm, every barn. We bring them to into town, throw them on a pile and burn em. We won’t stop till we get them all, but this hunt is going to be organized. No-body does anything … unless I say.”

            The men started to leave. Mrs. Yokohama stood in the doorway holding a handful of unpaid checks from the tables.

            “You pay for pie and coffee,” she sang. “I work plenty hard - make you really swell apple pie.”

Tim Fowler slapped the tickets from her hand then knocked the old lady to the floor.

            “From now on all of us eat for free,” he said. “We’re the only thing keeping this place from burning to the ground.” He kicked her with a dirty work boot. “And I don’t know how long that’s going to last.”

Several men laughed as they walked past her.

Lowell Thomas’ news broadcast crackled on the radio. General Patton's troops and tanks have just crossed the Moselle River and are ready to capture the city of Metz.

Jap Mary Yokohama lay in a pile on the floor of her café … crying.



            A rooster crowed somewhere across town. Emma built a fire in the Home Comfort wood-burning stove and Margie was filling a kettle for tea when they heard a knock on the door. Sean O’Brian stood with a bundle of clothes under his arm. He saw the flustered look on Margie’s face and grinned as he watched her hand go up to smooth her hair.

            “I’m sorry I know I’m early,” he said. “But I’ve got work today and I wanted to drop this off before I had to leave. It’s my dress uniform,” he said as he handed the package to Margie.

“Where is your Tattie Bogal?” he asked as he looked around the room.

“Oh we still need to do some sewing on him.” Margie turned her head away; she hated to lie. “He’s put away I’m afraid.”

            “Better keep him hid,” Sean said. “The judge has everyone, including me, out rounding up scarecrows, he wants them all burned because of what happened last night. I don’t think they would take the ones you girls made for the dance, but you never know. A lot of the men in town are still angry because Roosevelt beat Dewey for president they need to take their hate out on something.”

            “Do you have time to stay for some tea?” Emma asked. She was thrilled to see the handsome soldier in her house. “I’ll have eggs and biscuits in a minute too.” She pulled out two chairs so that Margie and Sean had to sit side by side.

            “Thank you Madame,” Sean said. “That does smell mighty good.”


The door of the closet was open just a crack as Brian stared out at the people eating breakfast. There was a funny feeling deep in his chest as he watched Margie and the soldier drinking tea and laughing. He knew he should be glad that someone else was showing an interest in the girl he loved. He could never become human, almost but that wasn’t good enough for a girl as fine as Margie. She needed someone like this soldier, someone who could give her children that wouldn’t be deformed every other generation. But it still caused a pain deep inside him as he saw her with someone else. He tried to remember when they had danced, when they were so blissfully happy. He wondered if he would ever feel that way again. He felt dampness just below his eye he reached up and touched it with a glove covered finger. It was strange he had never leaked water from his eyes before.



Sheriff Walker came out of the woods on the road where he had parked his car. He was wearing a cloth bag over his head. Eve and two other Mommet followed him. His car was in shambles. All the tires had been slashed and all the glass including the headlights was broken. A puddle of liquid ran from under the vehicle. They could smell gasoline.

“Looks like somebody doesn’t want me to leave,” the sheriff muttered.

“I don’t want you to either.” Eve giggled as she tugged on his head covering. “Even if you do walk around naked sometimes.”

The four looked up at the sound of crashing coming from the other side of the road. Two full grown Mommet ran from the woods, they both looked burned. One who was a female, held a child in her arms.

            “We worked on the farm for years,” she sobbed. “Now they take us and cast us into the fire. Of my three children only this one I could save.”

            “Who has done this?” the sheriff demanded.

            “Your brother the judge, and others,” the Mommet cried. “All these years … why hurt us now?”

Eve looked at the sheriff. “You fight the evil across the great sea while bad men roam your own lands.”

She put her head on his shoulder and began to cry. “Is there no love in this world for those who wish only to live and be happy?”



            It was late afternoon when a knock came on Emma’s door. Margie answered. It was Sean O’Brian. “I’m sorry to bother you again,” he said. “I left the judge’s party early. Some of the things that mob is doing are just not right. We are fighting a war over-seas to protect everyone from tyranny, not just a chosen few. I don’t know who these scarecrow people are or how they came to be alive. But I cannot go along with their slaughter, most don’t even fight back. They just cry as they are burned. Such gentle creatures, I feel ill.” He staggered and began to fall. Emma and Margie rushed forward and caught him before he hit the floor.


            Later, as evening came, Brian heard voices. He slipped back inside the shed where he had been hiding and decided to stack firewood. Margie and Sean strolled down the path through the orchard, Sean was holding her hand. The soldier was telling her a story about how he had been driving a car when he got a flat tire. He had to walk to a farm house for help. They both laughed when he told the last part of the story but Brian didn’t hear what it was. Brian shivered it was as if the ache in his chest was spreading to his whole body. He stared at the back of Margie’s head willing her to turn around with his mind. He had to see her eyes. He had to see what was there before he would know what to do. His short life of almost a week had been balanced he figured. He had known fantastic joy dancing with this girl and now he was learning about a great hurt. A sorrow that was to him more deadly than fire. Brian held his breath as Margie turned. Her blue eyes sparkled in the light from the setting sun. Brian slowly gathered some of his things from the shed and slipped out into the trees … and then he ran. The strange water poured from his eyes … and trickled down the cloth bag covering his face.



            Margie felt a pang of guilt as she walked next to Sean. She hadn’t spent much time with Brian lately … not since this young soldier had come into her life. She promised herself she would go see him later after Sean left. Maybe they could dance again. She smiled as Sean told another of his stories, yes that’s what she would do, and she would make Brian as happy … as he made her.





Judge Walker sat in the best booth at Spare-a-Dime with Ed Fowler and Dr. O’Conner. Mrs. Yokohama sat plates of eggs, bacon and biscuits on the table next to each of them. There were scratches on the old ladies face and one of her eyes was blackened and swollen so that it was almost shut. She was little more than a prisoner in her own café. Ed Fowler looked at her with contempt as she staggered away. “Damn japs,” he said.

Judge Walker looked around then leaned in toward the other two.

            “We have burnt all the Tattie Bogals and Straw Dandies we could find, there might have been a few that got away but they are probably lost in the Motha Woods by now. They won’t cause us any problems. I’ll declare martial law this afternoon and we’ll find out who’s gonna stand in our way.” He looked at the others and smiled as he forked eggs and bread into his mouth. “By tomorrow this county will be ours, by next month with all our boys fighting over-seas maybe the state, who knows after that? I think old Adolph has the right idea the only thing people respect, the only thing they are afraid of … is power!”

Ed Fowler looked at two teen-age girls giggling as they sat on stools at the counter.

            “I hope so,” he said as he licked his lips. “There are a lot of things I want to do in this town.”



            It was dark, the ground was lit only by the moon and stars when Brian reached the rocky hills that bordered Motha Woods. He was cold and getting colder as he scrambled up a worn game trail. He was freezing and was almost ready to start building a shelter when he spied a cave entrance in the face of the rock. It didn’t look warm … but it would get him out of the wind. He stood just inside the entrance and immediately felt better. There was a part of him he knew that would never be warm again, the part that longed for the girl with the long auburn hair. His not quite human heart ached for the beautiful girl he had danced with. The human girl he had held in his arms. Margie … who had whispered to him, that she would love him forever.

Brian felt warmth at his back and he turned and stared into the darkness. A tiny light like a star twinkled from deep in the cave. He walked down a long tunnel. The light from a tiny fire grew brighter as he walked into a larger chamber. A pile of chickens lay against the rock wall. Blood, feathers and bloody meat lay strewn across the floor of the cave. A tiny piece of flesh dangled from a stick over the pile of burning wood.

A shadow fell across the fire. Brian looked up to see a hunched figure blocking his escape. Strings of singed flesh hung from below the murderous eyes of the beast which had removed its burnt head covering. It was the most dangerous and terrifying Hodmedod ever created in Comanche County.

Lemont Hicks’s Chinaman loomed over Margie’s Brian.


To be continued …