A Dem Bones Fairytale
To my knowledge, no one in The Valley has ever seen her, though many had imagined her variously as 6 feet tall, 5 feet wide, or 1 foot tall and 3 feet wide, and all measurements in-between. Some described her hair as glowing corn tassel yellow, red as a rooster’s raucous tail, or dead white as an egg laid at the stroke of midnight.
The crone, or more specifically, the Chocolate-Covered Crone lives holed-up under the west Hwy. 13 viaduct, the preferred lair for bums and tramps and suspects of all kinds, none of whom have seen her, or at least not clearly. If they have, they aren’t saying. A few were unexpectedly turned into pillars of salt.
So I guess I was mighty lucky to have been sitting in the town square round about midnight when the big clock on the corner bank bonged the hour. Black was the sky. Cool was the wind, the coolness being why I was privy to seeing her standing across the way, gazing at the display of chocolates in the window where Swede Sweet’s Shoppe of Sweets once stood.
From where I sat on the park bench, she looked to be neither short nor tall, and her hair was the color of nothing much. It hung down her crone’s hunched back, barely brushing the cobblestones on which she stood.
She never ventured out by light of day, fearing (I surmise) that she’d melt on the spot. And of course, she never ever ventured forth in the heat of summer. Likewise, she avoided ant-hills and greedy children.
Her face was turned away from me, but Valley myth has it that she once was a lovely young maid, and so perhaps she still was lovely, albeit not young. In her youth (or at least until she was seven years of age) she worked alongside her father,helping him make melt-in-your-mouth delights to display in the window of SSS of S.
Forgive me for abbreviating the aforementioned Swede Sweet’s Shoppe of Sweets, but frankly few in The Valley, including me, find it unwilling to roll off the tongue. Some even take to fashioning it into a long sound, an SSSSSSS, more of a hiss than not, though even that is impossible if your front teeth are missing. Or you had no teeth at all, though in that case, you’d not be eating the chocolate caramels dipped in uber-caramel, or the Rock-Of-Ages Chocolate Whips that come in 20’ lengths.
But beneath the crust of chocolate (hardening ever faster) her heart beat on.
So abashed was Swede Sweet that he covered his darling with a flour-sack cloth and secreted her out of his Shoppe and home to her mother, who vowed to keep her hidden from the prying eyes of Valley citizens. It’s lucky I can write that the Valley folks have extremely short-term memories, so short that some even forget to put their pants on for church, so they quickly forgot to remember there ever was once a rosy maid working in the Shoppe. Life rolled on.
In the dark of the night when the clock bonged bonged, the once fair lass was shuttled off to dwell beneath the viaduct with the bums and tramps and no-accounts. She was mostly ignored, except for those with a taste for sweets. Sad to say, but more than one tried to bite off her nose and/or nibble on her ear. That aside, her life wasn’t all that bad and now and then her mother and father would slip her a mac & cheese casserole. They never gifted her with chocolate of any kind, though. I mean, why rub it in?
The years rolled by. Shortly after Swede Sweet died, the Sweet Shoppe closed and everyone went on listening to the bong bong of the big clock on the corner bank. People still neglected to put their pants on for church and no one whispered SSSSSS anymore.
The departed dead Swede left behind a widow who promptly ran off with the Reverend Jeremiah J. Jones’ corpulent wife. Who could blame her? When last heard from, the two were busy selling handmade tea bags filled with pure crap trucked in from Ole Ole Ole’s hog farm. Each bag contained a Polaroid of a popular pundit plus a message, to wit: Separation of Church & Hate, but no one around could quite remember just what that meant.
The big clock on the corner finally ground to a stop, and yes, only two (me and the now ancient Chocolate-Covered Crone) were left in the Valley, and as I mentioned earlier, the Crone never ever comes out into the light and most certainly never emerges in the good old summertime.
Some claim she’s been spotted swimming in the West Branch of the Nodaway river, but that was never confirmed, besides which, who would swallow such a silly fabrication? A female, described in the local paper as a “hysteric given to guzzling Lydia Pinkham’s Tonic,” swore on a stack of NickOTime Bibles that on a winter night in ’06, a chocolate-covered figure riding a spotted mare was seen on the Old Bridge Road north of Ole Ole Ole’s hog farm acreage. An investigation involving bloodhounds did track traces of chocolate in the muddy road, but nothing came of that either. Anyone could have covered themselves in chocolate and saddled up just to scare folks. I mean, just for kicks.
Around 1950, the candy store (Ajax Candies) that replaced Swede’s Sweets featured Chocolate Crone On A Stick, a wee treat that when sucked on, turned into the very figure of a young maiden fair. Eventually though, that fad was shot down by the arrival of the Shmoo Bar, an ice-cream novelty dripping with sprinkles. Fads come and go, and the fickle masses soon switched over to chocolate-covered cheese curds rolled in pickle skins.
Me? I’m not the sweet-tooth type, but I do like a good tale, so it’s here I intend to sit, just in case the crone comes round again later this week. With only we two, there’s not much else to do. Besides, it’s cool and dark here beneath the towering elms.
I dare you to call me a Liar Liar Pants On Fire Nose As Long As A Telephone Wire.
Stick around. I think she’s coming.