What follows is an excerpt from “The Madigan Witch” a story that’s been playing around in my brain for the last couple of days. I wrote it in the last hour. First draft – no editing. So forgive me if it’s lacking a little polish. I’m always talking about my writing and figured I’d take some time to share a little. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the character name and genre closely resemble a book I recently reviewed, but both were decided on BEFORE I’d read the book, and you know what they say about originality: it doesn’t exist anymore. So rather than fret over the name, I’m just going to let the story speak for itself and not worry about the similarity.
The Madigan Witch – Excerpt
My name is Molly Madigan. I am 24, and I don’t believe in ghosts. I repeated the words like a mantra in my head. A warm August breeze swept through the two-inch gap in my car window, lifting a russet strand of hair, and sent it sliding across the bridge of my nose. Almost absently I tucked it back behind my ear, but stubborn, it immediately slipped out and fell across my cheek again.
I could do this. I’d done it dozens of times. I glanced out the passenger side of my car towards the small suburban home that lay across a neatly-mowed lawn. It was a small one-story house. Two six-paned windows stared out across the lawn in my direction, trimmed in white and set against a deep gray background. Three short concrete steps lead the way to the brand-new screen door.
Sitting on those steps was a small boy. I grimaced. I hated working with children. With a resigned sigh, I turned away from the picture of the cozy gray house and slipped out the driver’s side door.
“Hey, Olly.” A familiar voice called from just down the sidewalk, and I turned to see Oliver Crewe as he slammed shut the door on his blue SUV. He’d called me that since grade school. He was a grown man and still thought it was funny that people called us ‘Olly and Oliver’. I didn’t have the heart to ruin his fun. Oliver was a great guy; smart, dependable, and fun to be around. He was also firmly in the ‘friend’ box.
A grin spread slowly across my face. I turned away from him as I popped open the trunk of my car and pulled out the silver hard-sided case that housed my equipment, but glanced back over my shoulder. “Who’s with us tonight?” I asked as I slammed the trunk of my car closed again and hefted the equipment a little higher.
“What, no hello? No ‘Hey Oliver, you’re looking particularly handsome today’.”
“I saw you four hours ago. You really need to talk to someone about that separation anxiety.”
Oliver reached out and plopped a black baseball cap over my hair and tapped on the brim. “What can I say? I’m trying to keep in touch with my feminine side. Not my fault she happens to be a redhead.” He grinned, jogged back to his SUV, and began to rummage around in the backseat, no doubt gathering more equipment.
I shook my head and spared a glance towards the house. The kid was still sitting on the front steps. Damnit. “So, who’s the crew?” I called to Oliver as I turned back towards the blue SUV and rounded the open door to watch him gather the equipment. He poked his head out the door and squinted against the sun over my shoulder. We had maybe two hours before sunset.
“Eric and Claire. Small house, small crew.” He shrugged in lieu of an explanation.
Shit. I didn’t mind Eric, he was a bit of a geek and got a little over-zealous at times, but he was good people. Claire, I couldn’t stand. She was one of those women who liked to be friends with everyone even if she had nothing in common with them. Most nights I’d spent with Claire consisted of listening to her talk about her dysfunctional relationship with her mother, or sitting on the floor of the bathroom trying to get her to stop bawling her eyes out after she’d quite literally scared herself snotless. It was going to be a long night.
“Who’s got lead?” I asked as I reached around Oliver’s athletic form and grabbed a few coils of cable from the backseat.
“Want to flip for it?”
“Aw, come on Olly. They get so excited when you open your mouth and words come out.” Oliver laughed and shot me a cheeky grin.
“I am not my great grandmother, and I’m getting tired of explaining that to every call we get. Nan was as much a witch as I am a brunette.” I snapped out the words in irritation, and Oliver shrugged, arms heavy with equipment, and then kicked the car door closed with a backwards tap of his boot.
“I know,” he said solemnly and shot me an apologetic smile, “but your Nan is the reason we get half the calls we do. She had a reputation around here. It doesn’t hurt to pander a bit to the customers.”
“I’m taking HQ.” I said definitively. There was no way in hell he was going to get me to run lead with a kid in the house.
“Fine, but you have to take the evidence too.”
We trudged up the curb and onto the front lawn, abandoning our equipment into a well-organized pile in the vivid grass just as the team van pulled around the corner of the block. Before Eric and Claire had even pulled up to the house, Oliver was signaling them to take care of the equipment.
“You’re with me for meet and greet.” He said, reaching out to tap on the brim of my baseball cap again.
I adjusted the cap that had ‘Grace Cape Paranormal Society’ emblazoned across the front in creepy white font, and jogged to fall into step behind him. As we came to the front door, I hung back a few paces, just out of reach of the front steps. The kid hadn’t moved an inch and stared down at his feet without a word.
Oliver punched a finger at the doorbell, and stepped down off the steps as well, waiting for the owners to answer the door.
“Cute place.” Oliver commented over his shoulder. A voice called out inside the house but I couldn’t make out the words. “You think it’s haunted?” He wiggled his eyebrows.
I glanced away from the kid on the steps just as he lifted his gaze to Oliver. “Not a chance. Building’s too new.”
“Damn. You’re usually right about these things. Guess we’ll be chasing dust specks all night.”
I snorted in reply. That was Oliver’s way of reminding me of Nan again. He was still hoping I’d step up and take lead. Fat chance. I think in a way Oliver believed the stories about the great Molly Madigan. She’d been born at the turn of the century, back when séances were first coming into popularity, and my Nan, the origin of my namesake, had frequented all sorts of ‘ghost talks’ in her twenties.
They’d called her a medium back in those days, then as the decades wore on, a sensitive, and eventually when she was long passed, a witch. People loved to romanticize those old crazy stories where people sat in rooms, ten to a table, and called upon the spirits of people long dead.
In reality, my Nan was an outgoing, independent woman fascinated with the occult. She wasn’t a psychic, medium or sensitive, and she certainly wasn’t a witch.
I was pulled out of my thoughts as the front door to the small gray suburban home opened, and a thin, nervous woman greeted us. She was young, probably around my age, and wore a pastel cardigan. Great. She was one of those. New couples were a pain in the ass. Especially if-
A little girl’s wail sounded in the background, and the young woman smiled apologetically at us. “Sorry. Hi, come on in, I’ll be right back.” Not waiting for an answer, she turned from the door and disappeared down a narrow hallway towards the back of the house.
Just what I needed. Another kid.
Oliver turned to shrug at me over his shoulder and stepped up the stairs and into the house.
“This sucks.” I muttered under my breath, and steeled myself as I walked forward, stomping up the front steps and straight through the kid sitting on the middle step.
Like I said before, my name is Molly Madigan. I am 24, and I don’t believe in ghosts. Saying you believe in ghosts is idiotic. It’s like saying you believe in gravity. It doesn’t matter what you think – they’re there every god-damned second of the day, belief or not.