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Story 4

Libby A. Smith

Libby A. Smith is a two-time winner of the Little Rock Free Press' Literary Contest. Besides writing, she is also a stage actor in the Little Rock area, including two appearances with The Weekend Theater productions of "The Rocky Horror Show."

By day, she is an administrative assistant for the state of Arkansas. She lives in Little Rock with her three cats, where she's a member of the Central Arkansas Speculative Fiction Writers Group.

Other stories have appeared in Caliber Comic's "Negative Burn" and "Dominique: Protect and Serve," Hanthercraft Publications' "Tandra" and "Dragonroc" universe comics and website, and Shanda Fantasy Art's "Atomic Mouse."

She also adapted The Rainbow Bridge story to poetry form for counted cross stitch designer Sue Hillis' design "The Story of the Rainbow Bridge."

I originally wrote Miss Ollie's Cow for a college fiction writing course in 1985. It has been previously published in an issue of DragonRoc for Hanthercraft Publications.

-- Libby A. Smith

Miss Olllie's Cow is a classic example of the old adage "Be careful what you wish for...."

So sit back, relax and enjoy Miss Ollie's Cow.

 

 

MISS OLLIEíS COW

By Libby A. Smith

 

Sister Roseís "Preparation School for Young Ladies Awaiting Marriage" ranked among the very finest. Some ill-advised individuals claimed the designation didnít mean much considering it was the only boarding school for young ladies in the region. Nevertheless, when a girlís behavior broached the limits of societal acceptability or, even worse, a girl seemed doomed to become an old maid, sheíd find herself enrolled at Sister Roseís to learn housekeeping and religion. After all, the locals as well as Sister Rose believed, those two subjects covered all a woman needed to know for a happy, rewarding life.

All the young ladies at Sister Roseís school were of marrying age except for Susie whoíd seen eight years, more or less. No one knew exactly how old Susie was or much about her origins. Sister Rose simply appeared in Plattsville one day carrying a baby wrapped in a faded pink blanket. She explained she planned on raising the poor orphan as any decent Christian would. Over the years, she made sure the child remained clean, nicely but sensibly clothed, and well fed. Now that Susie had been taught to read by Sister Rose, thereíd be no public schooling confusing the childís mind. Instead, Sister Rose sent her to Pastor Richard several days a week for private instruction.

Never were two equally religious individuals so different from each other. Yet, as long as Susie could remember, Sister Rose and Pastor Richards fought against a common foe Ė the local brothel. Only the customers seemed to know the location, and they werenít talking. Even the sheriff and all his deputies hit nothing but dead ends investigating the case.

Susie knew that Pastor Richards helped all he could. Whenever a wife or girlfriend approached him with suspicions of her husbandís or boyfriendís activities, he suggested they send their beaus straight to Sister Roseís evening menís Bible study. The men usually cooperated, though the number of sinners grew every day. Of course Susie didnít even know what "brothel" meant, and the men sheíd met seemed nice enough. Still, if a man found himself corrupted by sin of any kind, Susie had faith Sister Rose would purge him clean.

Although Susie, by her inborn nature, normally tried to be an honest and obedient child, thankful for Sister Roseís kind care, there were days she dallied on her way to Pastor Richardsí country home. Such was a fine spring day after a long, hard winter when Susie decided that visiting a lonely, old neighbor woman would be as Christian an act as studying the Good Book. Besides, Miss Ollie did always seem to have cookies or a piece of cake waiting for young visitors.

When Susie arrived at the farm, she found herself more than a bit concerned to see Miss Ollieís plow standing in the field unattended. All the other farmers were taking advantage of the lovely weather by preparing the ground for planting. The townspeople called Miss Ollie many names, but Susie had never heard her called "lazy."

The rather chubby Ė to even think "fat" would be impolite Ė gray-haired woman soon waved at her from the barn. Susie felt the knot of fear wash away from her tummy. Wasting no time, she broke into an unladylike run. "Miss Ollie!" Susie called. "Whereís your cow?"

"Now thatís a sad story child," Miss Ollie said leisurely, no hint of trouble in her voice. She placed a black robe colorfully printed with multicolored stars a rusty nail attached to the wall. "One day last winter I set out to do my chores. I reckon I can tolerate skipping a meal or two, but I canít abide by my critter doing the same. Anyways, let me tell you, the cold bit through a body so fiercely that every time I tried to speak to my poor old cow, the words just froze and fell right to the ground. You know how I like to rattle on. Made quite a mess. Well child, curiosity got the best of me so I brought a bunch of them frozen words right inside my home to thaw by the fire. They thawed alright, like a snowman on a summerís day, and you ainít never heard such a racket! Such a loud calamity of words that even clear out in the barn the cow got spooked and tried to jump her stall. Never being exactly a graceful creature, bless her heart, she broke her neck. Poor thing, reckon she was just trying to find some peace and quiet. Sad, thatís the truth of it, but I sure had me some mighty fine roast beef that week!"

Susie grieved for the womanís loss even if roast beef did sound like a fine meal for the dead of winter. "How are you going to plow without a cow?"

"To be truthful with you, child," Miss Ollie said, placing a work roughen-hand on top of Susieís head, "Iím fixiní to go call up Barthy and see if heís of a notion to locate me another one. Thatís all I can do, with cash money being scarcer than a good-natured rattlesnake."

Susie pulled away, involuntarily hugging her Bible. Everyone everywhere knew Miss Ollie came from a long line of conjurors, but Sister Rose always made a big to-do about warning Susie such practices were of the Devil himself. Strangely, though, Pastor Richards, who constantly praised Sister Roseís work, said that Miss Ollie was harmless. He argued that God chose to gift Miss Ollie with special powers.

"Would you like to watch?" Miss Ollie asked, pulling open the trap door that led to the barnís cellar.

The offer put Susie in one fine bind. She shuddered with fear at the very thought of witnessing such a questionable activity. Still, itíd be rude to leave so soon after arriving. Besides, Susie decided, what harm would merely watching do? "Yes, maíam, seeing as youíre so nice to invite me. But I gotta be honest," she uttered, staring down at her bare, dirt-browned feet. "Sister Roseíll have my hide proper if she finds out."

Miss Ollie snorted. "Now I donít see how what Sister Rose donít know will hurt you."

Susie shrugged and followed the woman down the steep, stone stairs after slipping the Bible into the big pocket of her apron. Maybe thatíd hide the sinful act to come from God. Settling down on a small stool in the corner, she watched while Miss Ollie lit the half-used-up candles in the cobweb-covered holders mounted on the wall. Then the woman stood in the center of the room, waving her hands and muttering some mutterings Susie couldnít understand no matter how hard she studied on them. A puff of dark, thick smoke filled the far wall. When it cleared, there floated Barthy.

Barthy had to be the ugliest thing Susie ever hoped to lay eyes on. The candle light reflected off his shiny, slimy, purple skin. Little piggy-type yellow eyes stared out on each side of a nose that looked like a bumpy sweet potato. To top it all off, green warts of various sizes covered his entire, naked body.

"What the hell do you want?" he snapped. Susie gasped at the curse word, fighting the urge to cover her ears since she really didnít want to miss anything. Quite obviously, demons did not like to be bothered.

"Iím needing me a good, strong cow," Miss Ollie stated matter-of-factly, as if she was merely ordering a sack of flour from the grocer.

"I donít do Ö cows. Conjure it yourself."

"You know Great Uncle Peter died before he got around to learning me anything but calling you up," she answered in a tone as sharp as Barthyís. Susie knew from past experience nothing riled Miss Ollie more than mention of her uncle whoíd raised her from a baby. Plattsville old-timers said Peter had been a first rate conjuror, one of the best. Although heíd left Miss Ollie shelves and shelves of books on spells along with hundreds of jars of potions and herbs, heíd never gotten around to teaching her to read. Miss Ollieís entire inheritance turned out to be useless since no one had the gumption to touch the books in order to read them to her.

"Truth is, a cowís a bit much," Barthy said. A dark line of tobacco-colored drool began slithering from his mouth.

"And just why in my bloomers is that?" Miss Ollie snapped.

"Because Iíve never heard of them."

Miss Ollieís mouth fell open. She stammered and stuttered, snorted and even stomped a little. "Wwwwwell, I guess they ainít much use where you come from," she finally murmured.

"Excuse me," Susie said hesitantly. She waited until Miss Ollie acknowledged her with a glance before continuing, to make sure her advice was welcome.

"Speak up, child!"

"Maybe he could be of help if you told him what a cow looked like," Susie suggested.

"Now thatís a practical idea," Miss Ollie agreed, slapping her knee in joy. "Letís see Ė theyíve got horns, tails with a tuft of hair at the very tip andÖ andÖ andÖ"

"Split-type hooves," Susie added eagerly.

Barthy drew in a deep breath, taking some of the remaining smoke in with the air. "Iíll see what I can cook up," he said. He disappeared in a splattering of sparks that lit the room up like a bunch of fireworks dropped into an outhouse.

Miss Ollie turned, smiling at Susie. She clasped her hands in front of her ample belly. "What do you think of that?"

"Not to be rude or nothing like that, but I think you need a brighter demon," Susie answered as gently as the remark let her. "He doesnít have the sense of a hungry hog in a corn crib."

"I agree with you there child. There, ainít much I can do about it though."

Before Susie could continue the conversation, another puff of smoke appeared against the wall. This time when the haze started clearing, there stood a critter of unbelievable beauty, as if sent from Heaven. The animalís silvery mane flowed in waves against pure white fur and just like Miss Ollie had described to her demon, it had split hooves. Its back barely reached to Susieís waist despite her being considered small. Most remarkably of all, a single golden horn that sparkled in the candlelight grew from the middle of its forehead. Susie signed as she reassessed her opinion of Barthy. Surely Devilís spawn could not have brought forth such a masterpiece.

"That stupid demon!" Miss Ollie screamed like a rabbit with a beagle-dog holding on to its back leg. "He sent me a jackass! A useless, puny little albino jackass!"

"Not to be disrespectful," Susie said, "but I donít think thatís a donkey, Miss Ollie. Looks like a unicorn such as Iíve seen in a book over to the preacherís house."

Miss Ollie glared at her as if she thought Susie had gone tetched in the head. "Do you need spectacles, child? That critterís got nothing to do with corn Ďcept perhaps cottoning to stealing an ear now and again."

Susie shook her head, beginning to wonder if Miss Ollie had a few issues. "A unicornís a critter from the time of knights and the Holy Crusades and fair maidens! Or leastwise thatís what the preacher says. Thereís even a mention of them in the Good Book."

"That so?"

Susie nodded. "Or so I recollect."

Miss Ollie scratched between her double chins, looking thoughtfully at the unicorn. "Well, you know the Bible betterín I ever will, so Iíll take your word on it." As she spoke, the unicorn took a few tentative steps toward Miss Ollie. It, or rather "he," Susie noted, sniffed the air, then put his head against Miss Ollieís belly. He seemed to be taking special care not to let his horn stab her. Susie got up and hesitantly went over to pet the unicorn herself. She didnít quite want to touch an animal that, despite his angelic appearance, allegedly came from the place of fire and brimstone.

"Snowbritches here is certainly too puny to plow with," Miss Ollie commented. "Did them ancient people in Bible-times ever eat this sort of critter?"

"You canít eat him!" Susie cried, all intentions of good manners forgotten. She wrapped her arms around the unicornís neck.

Miss Ollie sighed, shaking her head slowly. "Canít rightly keep an animal less he can do some sort of work. I guess I could try to sell him in town. Hmmm, not a bad idea cause I could use the money to buy a proper cow. Always been partial to cows over jackasses. Easier to milk. ĎSides, this here critter is a boy."

As much as Susie was beginning to think Miss Ollie should keep the unicorn, she stayed silent. Being a practical woman by nature, Miss Ollie didnít like frivolous things, and she would be needing an animal large enough to pull her plow. Otherwise, sheíd go hungry.

"Now hand me that rope hanging on the wall over there," Miss Ollie said, pointing to a spot behind Susie. "Weíll have to drag his sorry rump-end up the stairs. I reckon I shouldíve had Barthy poof him up there in the first place. Hindsight isnít foresight, thatís for sure."

After Susie handed Miss Ollie the rope, the woman held it up to Snowybritches. He sniffed it while eyeing it like he was giving it a good studying. His eyes crossed as he started nibbling on one end while Miss Ollie tied the other into a loop. When she tried to put the rope over his head, he reared, making a noise that sounded like air escaping from a balloon or something even ruder.

Susie hadnít seen Barthy conjure up any other animal, but common sense led her to reason that an animal might be a mite confused after being popped to life suddenly. Locals told a story that Great Uncle Pete once conjured up a cat to rid his barn of rats. The cat did his job as cats are prone to do, then met his end when he took a porcupine as a girlfriend. Even that memorable tale didnít prepare her for Snowybritchesí little tricks.

She helped Miss Ollie chase the unicorn around the cellar for nigh on one hour. Before they were through, dust was nearly as thick as Barthyís putrid smoke. Several times Susie managed to get her arms around his neck, but he worked up such a sweat he was slicker than a greased pig wallowing through an oil pit. They even tried hiding the rope in hopes heíd calm himself down. This worked to an extent. Heíd stop and let them pet him before the sight of the rope being retrieved would begin the chase anew.

Finally Miss Ollie stopped. Leaning against the wall, her breathing sounded like a steam locomotive chugging up a steep mountain. "Child, run up to the house and fetch a towel from my linen chest," she managed to say between gulps of air. "Maybe if we blindfold him, we can get that rope around his no-good-for-nothing neck!"

Eager to be of help, Susie ran up the stairs two steps at a time. Snowybritches trotted up after her.

****

Susie knew that going into town with Miss Ollie risked her tender backside. Sister Roseís followers were a loyal bunch, especially the men who often went to the school for Bible Study in the evenings. Theyíd feel it their duty to report Susieís doings, not-to-mention her choice of companion. But Susie didnít care about her fate, she simply wanted to make sure her unicorn found a decent, happy home.

When the two first walked into town with the unicorn tagging alongside, there werenít many people about. The few who noticed them stopped and stared at the single-horned critter, no doubt struck by Snowybritchesí beauty, Susie decided, holding her head up proudly. She quickly learned the truth of the adage "pride goeth before a fall" when she tripped over a rock. Only Miss Ollie grabbing her arm prevented Susie from getting a pair of skinned knees.

"Weíll be needing a bigger crowd than this iffen Iím to get a decent price," Miss Ollie grumbled.

Keeping her nose out of the air and stepping more carefully, Susie followed Miss Ollie to a small stage near the town school. She knew the platform well, since Sister Rose often preached from it on Saturday mornings. Other times, traveling medicine men and merchants used it to sell their wares. The town folk were conditioned to gather round when anyone took the stage, and this time the schoolchildren led the rush. Many of them carried their sandwiches and apples, willing to miss their lunchtime games for a bit of entertainment.

A tall, gangly boy by the name of Tommy Wilkens reached the stage first. "Sure is a funny looking burro, Miss Ollie."

"Ainít no burro, stupid," snapped a red-haired girl Susie didnít know. "Thatís a goat ever Iíve seen one."

"Then you ainít never seen one," Tommy retorted.

"Now, now," Pastor Richards said. He stood among the growing number of adults. "I came to town seeking my young pupil and find, if Iím not mistaken, a unicorn!" He stepped up on stage next to Miss Ollie. "I sure hope you havenít been conjuring again. Donít you recall what happened the last time you delved into your magic? Plattsville was overrun with horseflies!"

"Well, now, as I remember it, Mr. Hawthorne asked me to do something about his lack of luck breeding horses over to his ranch. Horseflies, horses Ė how was I to know a little slipup and things would go afoul?"

Pastor Richards laughed good-naturedly, patting Miss Ollie on the back. "All I got to add is that youíre lucky he chose molasses instead of tar. A might stickier, but less likely to burn, when you get right down to it."

"Reckon youíre right," Miss Ollie agreed. "Still, it took me nigh on a month to get the feathers out of my hair."

Susie laughed along with everyone else, although such jolly-notions at anotherís misfortune struck her as a bit naughty. She also didnít understand the preacherís tolerance of Miss Ollie while still maintaining such a friendship with Sister Rose. Miss Ollie she could almost understand, as they both laughed easily and were downright friendly to one and all. Sister Rose, though, was a minnow in a goldfish pond. Although Susie loved her guardian, the woman could be a bit strict at times, unlike the preacher.

"Say, whatís going on?" an acne-faced adolescent boy said over the crowdís laughter. He pushed himself through the still-growing mass of people with pretty Tammy Smithers in tow. "Thatís sure a strange looking creature."

"Heís for sale," Miss Ollie mentioned.

Susie bit her lower lip to keep from shouting, "but not to the likes of you!"

"I think heís pretty!" Tammy exclaimed, reaching out to pet him.

Susie watched with wide eyes as Snowybritches sniffed the air, snorted, pawed the wooden platform and finally jumped at Tammy.

Tammy and the boy were already running when the unicorn hit the ground. Almost everyone in the crowd screamed until they realized that Snowybritches targeted only the teenagers. As chaos erupted around her, Susie stood her ground. Squeezing her eyes shut, she said a silent prayer to have her sins forgiven, since she found the whole scene terribly funny.

"The legend must be true!" she heard Pastor Richards say. "Iíve heard tell that unicorns only like the pure of heart, the virgins."

"Then why in my great-uncleís trousers didnít he charge all them adults standing in the back?" Miss Ollie asked.

"They didnít try to touch him I guess. Or maybe because theyíre married and thus not fornicating in sin. The Lord works in mysterious ways."

"Humph," Miss Ollie grunted. "Iíd like Him to be a little less mysterious and let demons know what a proper cow looks like. This critter ainít nothing but a pretty-as-a-picture piece of four-legged, horny-headed trouble."

After chasing the two lovers up a nearby tree, Snowybritches came back to Susie. She petted the unicorn, glancing at Miss Ollie. A scowl wrinkled the womanís face. Susie feared Miss Ollie was about to decide the unicorn was too mean for anything but a thick, medium-rare steak.

"Iíve got an idea creeping into my noggin," Pastor Richards said, slapping his right thigh. Then he whispered so the lingering crowd couldnít hear. "We might be able to use this animal to find the house of sinners. I could take him around to every dwelling in town letting people pet him. Weíre bound to get a few false alarms, but it sure wouldnít hurt to try."

"Well, seeing as that whorehouse ainít bothering me in the least, Iíll still have to ask you for a price," Miss Ollie said. "Letís sayÖ one good cow. Big enough for plowing, gentle enough for my morning cream."

"Done! Iíll bring it around tonight. Let me discuss my plan with the sheriff, so he can get ready to house some, uhr, ladies."

Susie lowered herself onto the stage. There she sat cross-legged, the unicornís head on her lap. Being only around eight years old, she didnít try to fathom the Pastorís plan. However, one thing she knew for certain, she didnít like the idea of a whole lot of strangers getting Snowybritches all riled and out of sorts. She sighed, knowing nothing could be done about it now except to enjoy the critter while she could. "Please, can I take him home with me?" she asked meekly. "Just Ďtil you come for him, mind you. Thereís a Bible study tonight, so Sister Roseíll be in the dormís gathering room and I ainít allowed to help yet."

"Poor child," the preacher said, smiling sympathetically. "I know how you feel. She made me promise never to disturb a study either. Claims Iíd make her nervous, seeing how Iíve been to a proper seminary. Take heart, youíll soon be old enough to serve refreshments with the other young women. Go ahead, take the critter with you. Just donít let Sister Rose see him, or sheíll have a willow branch to both of our backsides.

"Iíll be careful," Susie promised. "Iím rather partial to sitting down now and again."

Because she lingered with Miss Ollie after the preacher left, the setting sun threatened to darken Susieís path. Even though she knew the way well and trusted God to bring no harm to her, she broke into a run with Snowybritches racing along with her. By the time she arrived home, Sister Roseís Bible Study was already underway.

"Shhhh," she told Snowybritches.

The unicorn snorted, nodding his head in the direction of his hooves.

"Got a point there," Susie whispered. "Hooves are going to make quite a racket on wooden floors." Looking around, her eyes fell on the coat rack. Since spring weather was always iffy, several people had brought wraps of one kind or another. Susie dug through the pockets until she located four handkerchiefs, which she tied around Snowybritchesí hooves. The plan didnít totally muffle the sound, but luckily a long passageway separated the dorm area, where the study was held, from her room.

As usual, Susieís supper waited for her on a little wooden chair. The cold food plus a tepid glass of milk hardly satisfied her. However, with the kitchen being located near the dormitory, she wasnít allowed in there unless Sister Rose accompanied her. Sister Rose claimed that young ladies didnít want a little girl underfoot all the time. Susie figured sheíd hardly be a bother since the young ladies needed to get ready for motherhood anyway; however, she never argued with Sister Rose as itíd certainly be deemed disrespectful.

Sitting in front of the large window, she split a biscuit with Snowybritches as she watched for the preacher. It seemed like forever before she saw him coming up the trail with the sheriff. She raced to the front door, trying to reach it before he knocked so the noise wouldnít disturb the study.

"Hello," she said, curtsying as perfect a curtsy as sheíd ever managed.

"How do you do?" the preacher said, nodding. "The sheriff here wanted to see the unicorn. I donít think he believes me."

As if in answer, Snowbritches stuck his head out the door and snorted. Unicorn spit flew from his mouth.

"Well, Iíll beÖ" the sheriff said, rubbing spit off his arm. "Whoíd have thought? Whoíd have ever thought such a thing?"

"Did you find a boarding place for him?" Susie asked before the sheriff had a chance to remark that the unicorn was a strange looking creature. "One with fresh hay and oats and a carrot every day? Maybe a place where I can come visit him sometimes, even if it is in town?"

"Susie!" a sharp voice cried from behind her. "Iíve told you to be staying away from town with all them Ö despicable, un-honorable, fornicating ladies running around!" Susie turned to find Sister Rose stomping down the hall. "And where did you get that beast and what on Godís Good Earth is it doing in theÖ" Sister Rose froze. Her expression changed from one of pure anger to a welcoming smile. "Pastor Richards! Sheriff! I didnít see you standing there. Surely Susie hasnít done anything wrong."

"Oh, no," the Sheriff assured her. "Quite the contrary. As for this animal, itís hardly a beast in the sense you meant. Weíre reckoning it must be a unicorn."

"Goodness! Iíve read about them. Must admit Iíve never heard tell of anyone actually seeing one."

The Sheriff drew in a deep breath and exchanged glances with Pastor Richards. "Well, admittedly this one comes from what you might callÖ questionable origins. Still, who are we to look a gift horse in the mouth?"

"Whatever do you mean?" Sister Rose asked.

Pastor Richards cleared his throat. "Supposedly, they only approach virgins. Weíre kind of hoping this one will help find the brothel."

Sister Roseís forehead wrinkled oddly. "Itís hearsay, Iím sure. Iím surprised at you for believing such a thing. Though I got to say it is a right pretty animal." She reached out to pet him. Snowybritches had other ideas.

Letting out a high-pitched cry, the unicorn reared and charged. Sister Rose immediately turned tail and started running back towards the dorm. Young ladies and men, in various stages of dress, streamed out into the hallway to find the origin of the scream. None of the men were wearing shirts, and most of the women were wrapped only in blankets.

Susie brought her hands up to her eyes, peeking through slightly parted fingers as Snowybritches seemed to go totally, full-moon crazy. He started to charge one person, then turned to charge another. When the people saw he wasnít going to complete any of his threats, they formed a large circle around him. Susie pushed her way between two men, revealing all of how they differed from women. She found the unicorn turning in circles, barely keeping on his feet. Finally, Snowybritches fell.

"How about that, preacher man?" Susie heard Miss Ollie comment from the doorway. "I came to see if youíd brought my cow here and got quite a show. Feel like I snuck into the moving picture house without buying a ticket. Sure looks like you got your hussies."

"Yep, canít argue with that," he agreed softly. "Sheriff, I reckon youíll be needing my help handling all this."

Susie finally found the nerve to go to the unicornís side. She placed her hand on his chest. He wasnít breathing. She couldnít even feel veins pumping blood. His heart didnít beat. Feeling Miss Ollieís gentle touch on her shoulder, Susie turned and hugged her, sobbing. "I think heís dead."

"Fraid so. Itís okay, child." Miss Ollie rubbed Susieís back soothingly. "Old Barthy can probably poof us up another one. Maybe a herd of them if we ask nicely. Who knows, maybe if I actually ask for one of these convoluted unicorns, I might get a cow."

"Wonít be the same," Susie whispered. "Wonít be Snowybritches."

"No, but itíll be a critter that needs caring for and petting and loving. Speaking of which, I seem to be looking at someone whoís going to be needing a home, a place to lay your head and say your goodnight prayers. Seeing as Iím getting a might lonely myself, why not come live with me? Save you from having to sneak over all the time."

Susie looked up into Miss Ollieís pale green eyes. "IÖIíd like that. Only, itís just that Sister Rose claims you practice the black arts."

Miss Ollie laughed heartily, the sound echoing through the building. "Not anymore than she does. Fact is, Iíd like to show you just how far from the truth that is. Iím counting on teaching you just as Great Uncle Pete taught me, only better. Shoot, if you can read to me from some of his books, maybe I can conjure up a smarter demon."

Wiping tears on the hem of Miss Ollieís dress, Susie nodded. "MaybeÖ maybe we can try for a dragon. You know, like the one St. George killed, only friendlier."

"Goodness sake and snakes, child!" Miss Ollie exclaimed. "You got to start simple, especially when dealing with the simple-sort like Barthy. Weíll ask for alligator luggage!"

Susie jumped up and into Miss Ollieís waiting arms. "Then weíll be bound to get a dragon!"

-end

 

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