A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 29 – Catskin

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty-nine – Catskin, by Kelly Link

Read it online here:

Catskin

I have been a big fan of Kelly Link for most of this century after discovering a glowing review of her collection Stranger Things Happen in Salon Magazine.

She writes in a style of updated, modern fairy tales – swimming in tides of shifting reality. These are not children’s stories, however, they are unremittingly shocking, violent, and sometimes surprisingly sexually explicit.

But like all the best fairy tales and ancient folk stories they are emotionally true and tell of longing and loss that we all feel, even if we aren’t aware of it (until we read the story).

Today’s story, Catskin, is from her second collection Magic for Beginners. It is a long tale of what happens when you poison a witch (which, by the way, you should never do).

Go out right now and buy her books. And while you are looking or waiting for them to come to you in the mail, you can go and download Stranger Things Happen (and some other stuff) for your device. I love the fact that she does this – and love even more that it doesn’t seem to hurt her sales.

Now, since witches cannot have children in the usual way — their wombs are full of straw or bricks or stones, and when they give birth, they give birth to rabbits, kittens, tadpoles, houses, silk dresses, and yet even witches must have heirs, even witches wish to be mothers — the witch had acquired her children by other means: she had stolen or bought or made them.

She’d had a passion for children with a certain color of red hair. Twins she had never been able to abide (they were the wrong kind of magic) although she’d sometimes attempted to match up sets of children, as though she had been putting together a chess set, and not a family. If you were to say a witch’s chess set, instead of a witch’s family, there would be some truth in that. Perhaps this is true of other families as well.

One girl she had grown like a cyst, upon her thigh. Other children she had made out of things in her garden, or bits of trash that the cats brought her: aluminum foil with strings of chicken fat still crusted to it, broken television sets, cardboard boxes that the neighbors had thrown out. She had always been a thrifty witch.

Some of these children had run away and others had died. Some of them she had simply misplaced, or accidentally left behind on buses. It is to be hoped that these children were later adopted into good homes, or reunited with their natural parents. If you are looking for a happy ending in this story, then perhaps you should stop reading here and picture these children, these parents, their reunions.

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