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Halloween Cawse: Halloween Mystery Short Story

IN THE October 9 ISSUE

FROM THE 2021 Articles,
andMysteryrat's Maze,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Joan Leotta

This story was published (in a slightly different version) by Spillwords in December 2020.

The toy crow I bought at the Halloween jumble sale at my middle school quickly became my favorite stuffed animal. Having just read Poe’s “Raven’ poem, I almost named him “Nevermore.” But after I got an A on the essay I wrote on the poem, I thought of my crow, as a lucky charm that would both inspire my writing and lead me to success. So, his name became “Cawse,” a pun on the cry of a crow and on the stuffed animals as the Cause of my success.

Not everyone appreciated his lifelike appearance. “Why are you keeping that ugly thing?” was the question my mother most often asked me. “He seems like he is watching me,” she complained, and turned him toward the wall when she brought in laundry. I rather liked his lifelike appearance and thought he had a charming, knowing look about him.

Cawse became my talisman. Before I started any homework assignment or journaling, I brought him over to my desk. I thought I heard him softly cawing as I constructed stories and poems that released onto paper the anguish of my middle school soul. Live crows discovered my “pet” and began to tap on my window. I often perched Cawse on the windowsill, to watch his live cousins. Those crows began to leave me trinkets at the back door of the house. Shiny objects.

To the relief of my parents, I left Cawse at home when I went to college. My academic papers didn’t suffer, but I found it hard to write in my journal or express myself in poems. My first weekend at home from college revealed Mom had covered Cawse with a cloth, as one covers a birdcage at night. “I didn’t want him to get cold,” she lamely explained.

She was happy when, after graduating, I took Cawse away to my first apartment. My creativity bloomed. And a group of live crows began to visit. Writing daily before going to work, I had published two books of poetry, and my first novel had an interested agent.

All was on track until Rob entered my life. At first, he ignored Cawse. He disdained my habit of keeping it close when I journaled and vocalized displeasure. “Why do you keep that ugly thing around? You’re a talented writer—you don’t need a lucky charm.”

My live crow visitors shrieked when Rob leaned over my desk to give me a kiss and brushed Cawse onto the floor, “accidentally.” After our romance became marriage, I made Rob happy and banished Cawse into attic storage. However, marital happiness turned into horror. After displacing Cawse, Rob convinced me to give up teaching and to see my family less often. Then verbal abuse that quickly escalated to physical abuse.

Last year he began locking me in our bedroom, windows covered with blackout paper, whenever he left the house. My mind became scrambled. I could not journal or write poetry.

The attic access was through the bedroom closet. Last Halloween Eve, after Rob had locked me in so he could go to a poker night, I climbed up on a chair, into the attic, and pulled down the box containing Cawse and some of my old journals.

I perched Cawse on the bed, sat on the floor under his watchful glass eye and began to read one of my old journals. I was so caught up in my reading I didn’t hear Rob return early. He began to shout. I looked up. His face was as red as his hair.

“That thing! I told you to throw that thing out!”

He came at me, fists balled up, at the ready.

I grabbed Cawse, screamed, and threw Cawse at his face. Rob stumbled back, tripped over my box of journals, and hit his head on the floor. Hard. I stood over him for a minute, picked up Cawse and walked downstairs. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. What I should do.

I stroked Cawse for a while. Hours really. As the sun came up, I opened the window to let in a little fresh air, then returned upstairs. Rob was still lying there. I touched his wrist. Then his neck. No pulse.

I returned to the kitchen, called my mother, then 911. I explained what happened. The imprisonment in the room, throwing Cawse at Rob, how Rob tripped and that I ran and stayed downstairs, unable to do anything until it was light. A kind policewoman photographed my bruises and Cawse as my mother sobbed softly. Upstairs the police photographed the locks on the outside of the bedroom door, the box of journals. I heard the policewoman whisper to the photographer, “I think she’s still in shock. She grabbed the toy to comfort herself and left her abuser until she felt strong enough to call us.”

The police finally called me upstairs. Rob’s body was gone. I repeated what had happened.

“Throwing my crow at him is what made him fall.”

“That toy animal’s claws are sharp,” one of the officers noted.

I nodded. “Soft on top, but realistic claws.” They photographed my fingers, documenting my short blunt fingernails.

We went back down to the kitchen. Just as we entered, two crows flew in through the open window, picked up Cawse, and flew out. As I watched it seemed all three were flying.

I sold that house as soon as I could and moved back with my mother. In my old bedroom, I began to write again.

Rob was right about one thing. I realize now I don’t need Cawse by my side to write. Cawse is in my heart. My book, Crows I Have Known, just sold and my agent says it is a shoe-in for the New York Times Best Seller List.

I’m now caring for my mother, who is extremely ill. Crows still visit me daily. I leave treats. They repay with trinkets. I study my visitors closely, wondering if Cawse himself is one of them. Especially on Halloween.

Watch for several more Halloween short stories this month!

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode just went up.

Joan Leotta writes mysteries, poems, articles and essays from her home in Calabash, NC. She is also a story performer and travels about telling tales of food, family and strong women. She also offers a one woman show featuring Louisa May Alcott as a Civil War Nurse. Her blog, joanleottarecipes.com features recipes for food mentioned in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series and her own reflections of many trips to Sicily. She is putting together an ebook of mystery stories under the title Just Leave Out the Poison. Watch for it.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Donna
Twitter: @Donna
October 9, 2021 at 11:39am

I’m fascinated with crows. Ehich I could find more stories with crows in the story line.

Reply

2 Linda Reilly October 10, 2021 at 8:39am

A delicious tale of revenge. Loved it. Crows are very intelligent creatures and you portrayed them perfectly.

Reply

3 Lisbeth Mizula October 11, 2021 at 7:47am

A perfect Halloween read — thank you!

Reply

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