Mrs. Braunswitch wasn’t really a witch.
Smallish in appearance, almost elfin in fact, Mrs. Braunswitch had a way of walking that was best described as scuttling. Habitually she wore an old-fashioned tan felt fedora from which protruded wisps of ginger colored hair. A dress the color of dried-up autumn leaves and stockings and shoes in nutmeg completed her outfit. All in all, she had a bit of the appearance of a toad-crab person as she scuttled along the brick road to the grocer.
The little brownstone she lived in had two dark windows above and on either side of an oddly massive oak door. The windows curved upward on the sides and came to a point at the top giving the house a curious jack o’lantern appearance. Every morning Mrs. Braunswitch could be seen sweeping her walk with a broom that was taller than her.
All this led us school kids to call her a witch, though we had no call to do such. We were certain that the packages she carried home from the grocer had herbs and such for the concoction of magic potions and spells. There certainly were intriguing aromas that wafted up her chimney. She was often seen scuttling off of an afternoon through a little wood that was nearby her house.
Of course it was Larry Berry who decided to follow her one afternoon.
“T’was a little way into the woods; I was following kinda’ close and kinda’ far back, so’s not to be seen. All of a sudden there was this little dip in the path and just right there past it was a stream I’d never seen afore. Next thing I was tumblin’ topsy turvy into the water, splashin’ an’ sputterin’ around like I was a fish or somethin’. For a minute I thought Mrs. Braunswitch turned me into a fish!”
We listened, spellbound, furtively spying for new fins on Larry.
“Next thing I know, I’m bein’ pulled out ‘a the water and Mrs. Braunswitch is lookin’ me right in the face. I was terrified. She set me down on a nearby stone, an’ pulled somethin’ that looked like a potion or somethin’ in a bottle out of her pack. Before I could do anythin’ she’s pourin’ somethin’ down my throat that tastes sweet. The more I tasted it the more I wanted.”
Our eyes were bugging out of our heads now. We held our breaths waiting for him to finish.
“Before I could say anythin’ or protest, she’s draggin’ me along with her. I’d no idea where we were goin’. Then a little clearin’ opened up and there was this tiny hut right in the middle. I thought this was it; this was where she was gonna’ turn me into a toad.”
We wondered where his warts were hidden.
“All of a sudden there’s all these kids – one had no arms an’ another had just one leg. Others looked normal but didn’t seem quite right in there heads. I was scared – were they her experiments?”
We noted Larry had all his appendages; was he any less right in his head than ever?
“Then I heard what they were sayin’. ’Mrs. M’lasses, Mrs. M’lasses!’ they were callin’ out. They ran right up to Mrs. Braunswitch an’ she was openin’ her pack an’ handin’ out little cakes an’ cookies, and little bottles like the one she gave me. An’ they were laughin’ an’ smilin’ an’ sayin’ ‘Thank you, Mrs. M’lasses!’ Then she turned ‘roun’ an’ I saw her smilin’ for the first time, an’ she handed me a little cake too.”
“An’ did you eat it?” Annie licked her lips like she was hungry.
“Do you have any warts or anythin’ like that, Larry?” Joey piped up a little more boldly.
“No warts; nothin’ fallin’ off neither. That cake, it sure was good too. I think it was soaked in m’lasses an’ was full of nuts an’ berries. The ‘potion’ was the best hot chocolate I ever tasted. Then she sat down an’ pulled out a Bible an’ started readin’ the gospel of John.”
From that day forward, Mrs. Braunswitch was the most popular grown-up in town with all the kids.
Mrs. M’lasses kept up her ministry to the orphanage in the woods until she grew grey haired and arthritic and couldn’t make the trip any more. By that time though, she’d taught us here recipes and she had lots of willing hands and feet to take up that part of her work.
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