In the early weeks of April, Mary Trembles walks a muddy path. Each step punctuated with her cane placed gingerly on the wet ground. A cane as crooked as her back. Her steps are dainty on leather-wrapped, wooden-soled shoes.
She wears a black wool dress and a shawl over her wispy white hair. She sniffs the air smiles a near-toothless grin.
“After a rain is the best time to forage, Suzy.” The hand not resting on the cane grips her young companion’s shoulder. “Sniff deep. Do you smell that sweet pepperiness?”
“Yes, Mary,” Suzy says because that’s what Suzy always says, because Suzy is a bit simple. Her eyes are dull. She walks with heavy feet. Her mouth is a serene smirk, never exposing the rotten teeth beneath.
Mary reaches out with her cane and taps at an ancient oak tree. “Chanterelles, around this tree. Gather the ones with yellow funnels.
“An old woman deserves to make a living, don’t she?” the constable says to the shopkeep,
Thomas Eastchurch, a skinny man in the custom of wearing long purple robes and avoiding his wife’s mouth.
They watch Mary Trembles, her white eyes staring off into the ether of wherever the blind stare off to. Her companion sets up their blanket. Mary corrects her every mistake.
“Gave my wife the fits, is typhlotic as a bat and yet still knows the basil isn’t where she wants it, hows all that work?.
The constable eyes the wooden bowl filled with yellow chanterelles. Coupled with some of those bright green herbs, his mouth begins watering for a stew.
“God provides, constable, but look, she plies black magic also,” Eastchurch says pointing to the Arabian-style astrology cards Mary pulls out of her pocket and hands to Suzy.
The cards would have been enough, but coupled with the other rumors and her obvious magick over the simple Suzy, he has no choice.
Arresting Mary Tremble is like arresting a brittle twig. Every hand the constable places on her flesh seems to do damage. He can hear tendons creaking and bones feebly protesting as he strips her.
Naked she is a pitiful thing.
With a satchel filled with mushrooms and herbs, the constable feels little remorse as he shoves her in front of a magistrate the same day.
“Your honor, Mary Trembles uses black magic!” The tarot cards are placed in front of the judge as proof.
“She’s also in control of the girl!” The constable orders Suzy removed from Mary’s side.
Suzy screams and thrashes to return.
To cap it all off, three women watching the trial collapse in epileptic fits.
“Burn her,” the judge declares.
Water drips. The cell smells of mold and a shallow privy hole. Mary sits on the freezing, cold, slimy stone floor, Suzy sits close. Her warmth is comforting.
Mary sees only black fuzz until death, then gets to see whatever she wants and finds herself young, walking midsommer in a field of wheat.
Art by Suzume Yu