Ol’ Miss Kate Wattins

She didn’t want to confess to her grandchildren that her house was actually haunted, but things were starting to get out of control. She, therefore, invited them over to spend the night again tonight so she could tell them the God’s honest truth

Last week, they were all bundled up in a pillow fort as high as the living room ceiling. They were all laughing and having fun until they all heard a sharp, hardnosed cackle from outside the living room window, and then the fort ripped open from the top down.

This scared them so much that they almost didn’t want to come back, but they still loved their grandmother too much to refuse her invitation.

Tonight is the night, the grandmother reasoned within herself, as the children built another pillow fort around her, that these babies learn about our curse.

“You see, kids,” she started, “my papa wasn’t exactly a pillar of society.” One of the little ones asked why society needed a pillow, and an older one snarked back by hitting the first child with a pillow. Grandmother snapped her fingers, shushed them both, and continued with her story. “He was the best and only blacksmith in Beauregard County, but he was an awful drunk.”

She then had to pause to explain what “an awful drunk” meant, but only because her teetotaling daughter-in-law refused to let the kids know anything about alcohol. The grandmother didn’t think the kids, no matter how small they were, needed to be shielded from the truth, and they thankfully understood how dangerous such intoxication could be. Believing, then, that she had successfully deterred them from imbibing until at least their legal age, she continued her tale by introducing the figure that haunted them presently.

“Ol’ Miss Kate Wattins,” she sighed as the sunset beamed its way into the house through the oakwood muntins. She briefly paused in tremulous thought before continuing. People around town said she was a witch, and she didn’t give them any reason not to believe it.”

“She almost always stayed in her two-story Victorian house with all the windows boarded twice over, even in the summer before we had air conditioning. And whenever she did come out, she emerged from her porch in a heavy black dress with dusty sleeves. She would scrounge around the square, digging through the trash cans and waste piles, looking for Lord knows what, and then scurry back home before the sun went down.”

She noticed the kids glance momentarily out the window at the setting sun, probably wondering what was wrong with this woman (Ol’ Miss Kate Wattins, not the grandmother, of course).

“Well, one afternoon,” she continued, “Ol’ Miss Kate Wattins came into my papa’s shop; one of the legs on her cast iron Dutch oven had chipped off, and…well, she needed that night for something.” She felt the need to explain to the kids that Dutch ovens are only used with the coals from a fire that had already been burning for a while, but she was getting to the good part, so she pressed on.

“Papa took the pot right then and there and got to work because he didn’t want her to be in his shop any longer than necessary. The only problem, though, was that Papa had already been drinking that morning, and he was already in rare form, so as he rushed around his shop with the pot in his hands, he accidentally tripped over a wrench that he had left in the floor from another job.”

“The pot flew out of his hands and landed right on the nose of his anvil, which caused it to crack even more.” She could see that the kids were biting their nails at this moment. Being the great storyteller that she was, she did not want to let them down now.

“Ol’ Miss Kate Wattins let out a sharp, hardnosed cackle and cursed my papa while he was still laying on the ground, saying that she would never forgive him and he and his family would never forget her.”

The children stirred on the floor now mesmerized by their grandmother’s horrific yarn.

“Now, I don’t know if this part is true or not, but Papa said that she then started whispering some foreign tongue, and the broken pot, clear over on the other side of the shop, levitated over him to get back to her. He said it even smelled like sulfur as it floated by him. She then took her pot and the lid and left him where he lay.” Her own heart raced then, because, by this time, it was completely black outside and in the house, except for the pale orange hall light.

“So build your fort, children, and take comfort in it, because tonight, Ol’ Miss Kate Wattins will probably return.”

The grandmother then got up from her chair, walked down the hall and into her room, and closed the door behind her. But not before the children heard that familiar sharp, hardnosed cackle from outside.

This story has been edited from the original first published in the October 21, 2015 edition of the Shelbyville Times-Gazette. You can read that version by clicking here.

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