John was up late. He had taken the flashlight and a heavy burlap bag out to the woods. He told his wife he was looking for nightcrawlers and always brought back a few just for cover. He had gone out to a special clearing deep in a thicket of trees where he let the brush grow high in a protective fence. Here he had planted a special crop, and the harvest was plentiful.
He filled the bag with the tender shoots. They would dry nicely. He dug up a few worms and headed home, the moon silver overhead. When he emerged from the trees, he shut off the flashlight because the moon lit up the pasture and bathed the farm in blue light.
A shadow crawled up the rose trellis to JoAnn’s bedroom window. John scowled. He angrily and stealthily plodded toward the house. Either he was going to attack both his daughter and some boy, or just his daughter for breaking curfew. It was going to be a bad night. He paused briefly to deposit his sack of shoots inside the hot house door. Then he quietly made his way to the sleeping farmhouse. He soundlessly closed the front door behind him.
JoAnn’s room was eerily silent behind the door, so he turned the knob and pushed. She was lying in bed alone, but her boots were muddy beside the dust ruffle. He flipped on the light.
“WHAT WERE YOU DOING OUT SO LATE?!” John yelled at his teenage daughter.
“Dad!” she startled, sitting up in bed.
“That’s right, I saw you climb the trellis. You have a boy in here?” John flung the closet door wide and looked under the bed.
“Dad, you’re INSANE! Get out of my room!”
“Not until you tell me what you were doing out so late!” John’s face had relaxed from purple to red as he realized there wasn’t a boy in his daughter’s room, but he didn’t let her off the hook.
“I was with Cal, his car broke down over on Hickory, and he walked me home from there.”
“Why didn’t you call?”
“From where Dad? You won’t buy me one of those cell phones! Was I supposed to go wake up one of our neighbors? That wouldn’t look good, your eldest daughter out wandering the night with a BOY. Besides, what were YOU doing out so late, huh? Nightcrawlers again? It didn’t rain dad.”
“Don’t change the subject, young lady. You’re grounded!”
“You broke curfew.”
“It was an accident!”
“Don’t care!” John slammed the door behind him.
John was glad that his daughter hadn’t seen him, however he couldn’t have her compromising his secret dealings. That was too close. He could not risk any exposure. His clientele relied on his secure business operations. He shrugged off his wife’s pleas to go back to bed and left the house. He had nervous energy to burn.
He went to work in the hot house, hanging up the harvested plants. Then as he took out the last full gallon sized storage bag of the previous harvest to separate it into smaller bags for sale, he heard a familiar rap on the door. Tap, ta-tap, Tap.
“How much?” he asked. The stooped old hag shoved an envelope at John. John counted the bills. The witch of the woods didn't scare him like she did the kids, but he could never shake the odd feeling he got when she never met his eyes, nor spoke. He retrieved one of his larger baggies. “Only the best for Big Mama.”
She took the bag, opened it, and sniffed at the contents. Satisfied, she hid it under her cloak somewhere. John never could figure out where.
He felt overwhelming relief that she didn’t suspect anything amiss tonight. This business deal was as quiet as ever. He closed up and went to bed, exhausted, now that his fears were quelled, knowing he’d have to keep a closer eye on JoAnn.
Cal’s house was completely dark when he finally reached it. His feet ached. His head throbbed. He let himself in the back door of the garage, which was never locked, and went straight to his room.
It felt good to take off his shoes and lie back on the bed. His body relaxed. He thought about all the promises he’d made to himself to be close to JoAnn, to be there for her, hoping the day would come when she fell in love with him. What was her future going to be, now? Would JoAnn terminate the pregnancy?
Was she really carrying a demon child? JoAnn hadn’t kept the paternity of the child a secret from him, but he’d promised never to tell. He didn’t think it would come out a demon. The father was a jerk, but not Satan. He thought about their little adventure tonight. The witch really wasn’t that scary in hindsight. Her prophecy could have been an elaborate act, something she’d done a million times before to other confused teens.
He heard his mother’s keys in the front door. It must be very late. He’d never heard her come home from work before. He was suddenly very sleepy.
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