Only a Witch by Steven Hage

I opened the door to get the morning paper and found another mouse. Dead. An offering from the cat, as if to say, “Spare me! I find things too, and don’t hide them!” She knows the curse is tearing us apart. I’m cursed to know the whereabouts of every small lost thing, even the things I never touch, like your toothbrush.

I used the horoscope page to scrape up the rodent’s remains and tossed both together into the trash can outside the garage. I wondered if the proper place for each ought to be the compost, and recycling bins, respectively. But that would be gross. Also, I’m the only one who cares about proper places. If it woke you when I slammed the lid, I’m a little bit sorry.

Unless a savior, a scapegoat, or some magic intervened, the curse was about to end our marriage. They say magpies steal shiny treasures and hoard them away like dragons, and what a mercy, my dearest, if such a creature lived in your office and fed on bric-a-brac. A ravenous sprite; a faerie pilferer; or a dog like your sister’s—the bigger one that eats socks—would have been perfect villains to blame. We could have fought a monster a day and searched the house for its cache, united in our mission until dust claimed our happy bones. A magpie—or a dragon!—could easily hide a lair among the tangled vines of our belladonna wallpaper. It could hunt the house at night, sipping dregs from abandoned coffee cups, and hoarding extra batteries, receipts, and left-handed gloves. 

The awkward fact is that a thief had to be real to save us and put us in our right places, and I couldn’t wait any longer for fictions. Something important was already missing. Far more important than whatever you were ransacking the upstairs bathroom drawers for—probably the tweezers hiding on the table beside your stamp collection—and I knew only a witch could save us. 

While the coffee brewed, I thought about putting the beans away in the microwave to see what would happen. But I’d still know where they were, and you’d ask me without searching. That’s when you came down to make breakfast and discovered that the good spatula was gone. The end had come. I left you frying bacon, and went outside to dig a grave. 

When I’m asked where your Volvo keys are, I’ll say I don’t know, and it will be true. No one except the cat will remember the exact spot where I buried them. She watched my ritual from the herb garden. Robe secure, trowel in hand, I trampled wet grass to the center of the lawn and scrunched my eyes up tight. I spun around thrice and dizzy-walked five long paces, arms wide for balance. Cicadas and toads trilled a dark hymn. My cheeks flushed hot in the fire-orange light of morning, and I felt the stretched-out shadows cast west from my fingers claw holes in the night for new stars. I dropped to my knees, whispered the end of the incantation and—by feel alone—interred the keys beneath manicured grass. 

I screech in the language of the harpies, triumphant from the damp toes of my slippers to the dirt under my fingernails. I leap for joy. I open my eyes and the spell is complete. When you ask, I won’t know where something is, and we will have to search to the ends of the earth together. Forever. Exactly where we belong. 

Steven Hage is an author, artist, and photographer living in Northern Indiana. He is a huge fan of flash fiction, and his most recent work appears in Milk Candy Review. To say hello and find out more, visit

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