And have a happy Halloween, blessed Samhain, and best of all, an entertaining Thursday night!
"The Girl With The Curls"
S. L. Gray
There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead.
And when she was good
She was very, very good.
But when she was bad . . .
"Aggie McCauley's at it again." Mr. Cotsworthy pulled the conservatory shutters closed and bolted them. "God only knows what's got her riled up this time, but it'll be a good blow before she's tantrumed herself out." The shutters rattled in their frame as if confirming the point. "Down to the basement now."
No one in the tidy little village of Potter's Peak could say exactly how it was that Aggie came to be such a menace. They simply knew that, when the wind began to blow on an otherwise tranquil day, something had upset Aggie McCauley and the walls of their homes might just come down.
Aggie McCauley herself wouldn't draw attention if she were shouting for it, on a good day. Her one remarkable feature was the wealth of chocolate-brown curls that draped her shoulders and back. Beneath the fringe of spiraling bangs, her eyes were a rather unremarkable shade of blue. Her nose was blunt, her mouth crooked, and her voice, when she dared to speak, was no louder than a whisper.
But when her mood went sour, or someone crossed her by mistake . . .
She was the orphaned child of the village preacher and his formerly nosy wife. They'd been killed three years earlier when the roof of the church fell in. Poor little Aggie was found silently trembling in the ruins, under the one portion of the rafters that hadn't crumbled like dust.
Those who lived closest to the church thought they'd heard Aggie in a fit of temper before the timbers started to crack, but they could hardly prove it, and no one really wanted to try. Nobody wanted to blame the girl for her parents' deaths.
But that was three years ago. At the ripe old age of twelve, Aggie McCauley had now been heaped with a world of blame. When asked about their greatest fears, no one in Potter's Peak hesitated to put Aggie at the top of the list.
After all, wasn't she the one who yanked the trestle bridge from beneath the train? A social worker was coming from the nearby town of Percy. The social worker meant to come and take Aggie McCauley away. Aggie stomped her feet and knotted her fists in her hair. She squeezed her eyes shut tightly and shrieked until she was blue in the face.
When the village turned out to pull bits and bodies from the wreckage, Aggie McCauley stood, silent and polite, and watched as they tied a bright bit of ribbon around the social worker's toe.
The Widow Miles thought the poor lonely thing just needed a mother's touch and a friendly smile or two. Despite the pleas and protestations of her friends and the village magistrate, the Widow took Aggie McCauley in and treated her as her own.
She bathed her and clothed her and dressed her like a doll. She made a new dress for Aggie with a wide blue ruffle at the hem and layers of new petticoats. She walked with her, calmly hand in hand, all over the village. Aggie never said a word to anyone on those outings, but the Widow insisted she had a natural wit, and the sweetest singing voice she'd ever heard.
Then one morning, the Widow was found wandering the streets in her tattered nightdress. She was out of her mind and quite, quite deaf; blood oozed from her ears. "The angel's hair wanted combing," she told the curious and careful Doctor George. "I was only trying to help her, but she wouldn't ket me touch a blessed curl."
Many a time, the villagers met to discuss what was to be done, but the meetings always ended when Aggie invited herself in. Not a soul was brave enough to simply ask her to leave. As for catching her unawares and simply carrying her out of Potter's Peak, it was tried and couldn't be done. No one could ever find the girl when she didn't want to be seen.
So it was that people learned to bolt their shutters and wait out the storm.
The night Mr. Cotsworthy herded his family down the stairs, he remarked on how quiet it had been, the last six months. Aggie hadn't lost her temper once in all that time.
But Potter's Peak was growing, and well-built houses were in demand. The Widow Miles' house stood open, or so it seemed from day to day. Let someone set foot on the porch, however, and Aggie would appear in a window to frighten them away.
In the morning, a man from Percy was coming to have a look at the property and decide if he wanted to buy. He'd been warned off the train already and would be arriving by other means.
"The house must be important to her," Mr. Cotsworthy surmised, as the house creaked around him and leaned decidedly to the left. "Though you couldn't tell by the way she's let the roof start to sag."
An hour and some minutes later, the world blew flat. Aggie's wails had grown so loud that even stuffing wads of cotton into the ears couldn't drown it out. The very ground trembled and groaned piteously, and just when the air got so thick and heavy that it bent Mr. Cotsworthy in half, it exploded with a sound so loud his mind couldn't comprehend.
Every building in the village toppled as if it had been made of cards. Miraculously, no one was hurt, though nerves were certainly frayed. There were whispers that some had seen Aggie walking down the center street, with her hair dancing around her shoulders like a living thing.
There was nothing left of the pretty home now. Not that anyone could find. Not even a splinter.
Nor could a bit of Aggie be found, save a simple note, written in a simpler hand. It read: I never liked Potter's Peak. Potter's Peak doesn't like me anyway. Threaded through a pinhole in the corner of the card were a few long curling hairs, every one rich chocolate brown.