Witches on the Water

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Soon after I brought in the morning paper, a big sucker hole opened in the clouds.  I didn’t believe the sun would long shine through that hole, not with solid rain in the forecast. I baked a batch of scones, drank some coffee, and contemplated the day ahead. 

Yet the more I looked out the window, the more that the hole felt like a promise of clear skies, not rain. I put Terrapin on the roof of the car and cruised down to the river for a loop around Ross Island.

Once on the water, I rowed past athletic-looking scullers in shells and teams of dragon boaters slogging between the northern tip of the island and downtown. Continuing around the back side of the island, which tends to be quiet, I didn’t see a soul until I reached the houseboats on the south end. There I stopped to shed a layer; the sun seemed to be vanquishing the clouds, and it was starting to feel surprisingly warm for the end of October.

As I glanced towards the west side of the river, I spotted something unusual in the distance. Was it a group of people, or maybe giant ants? Whatever they were, they were numerous and dark.

“Do-gooders,” I concluded, “cleaning up that beach over there.”

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Then I saw the fire boat. It was heading towards Willamette Park, squirting jets of water skyward. This was no ordinary clean up. Maybe it was an amphibious force? It was something interesting for certain, I thought, rowing a little faster.

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As I drew closer, the tall shapes came into focus: Witches! Dozens of them emerging from the park on paddleboards.

Tall witches, short witches, witches with small children at their feet–even a warlock or two. More and more of them streamed downriver, at least two hundred by my count. And despite the myths, these witches demonstrated no fear of water.

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I rowed among them, listening to their hoots and cackles. The sky stayed clear for the rest of the morning- -certainly until the coven reached downtown.

I’ll never know if those witches magicked that sunny, sucker hole in the clouds to light their Halloween procession or not. But the people who didn’t get out on the water were the real suckers that day; because it rained cats and dogs all night.




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