Corey Mesler

Toad Anage

                In those days, there was a witch named Toad Anage. She was as unhandsome as her name. In the villages, her name was rarely whispered. Even at the inn, The Goat’s Pomander, among the sturdy men of the village Crankenshire, mention of her was considered bad luck. Once a traveler stopped in at the inn and had a conversation with Ole Worm.
                Ole looked the new fellow up and down. He was an outsider and Ole was suspicious of outsiders.
                “Excuse me,” he spoke to Ole. “I’m new to these parts. I’m looking for someone and I thought a tavern the best place to begin my quest.”
                Ole laughed a whiskery laugh. “Who’s that, friend?” The last word was spoken with irony lost on the newcomer.
                “A woman by the name of Toad Anage.”
                Silence fell like a black night. Many men looked into their beers or at the floor where ale and sawdust had created a scuffed, ugly paste. Only Ole Worm held the stranger’s gaze. Ole spit over his shoulder and spoke.
                “Why ye be looking for her, friend?”
                “I’ve got a bit of the misery. I was told she could help.”
                “She’ll help alright,” Ole said.
                “Can ye tell me where she be?”
                Ole looked the fellow over one more time. He was torn between compassion and crudity. Compassion never had a chance. Ole was a bitter man.
                “Left at the end of the Faircare lane. Through the unlit alley and straight on to Bluefield Woods. If ye can find the footpath with no leaves it will take ye straight to—to her.”
                “Thank ye,” the stranger spoke. He tipped his tricorn hat.
                Every man in the bar spit over his own shoulder.
                The stranger wrinkled his brow, frowned and left.
                “He’s lost his John Thomas, it’s sure,” Ole said.
                “Poor sap,” Brax the bartender grumbled.
                “No one asked him here,” Ole Worm said. Still, even bitter Ole looked somewhat disconsolately at the door through which the stranger went to meet his terrible fate.


                A few months later came another visitor by the name of Bodwyn Main. He was on foot and had walked all the way from his village, J---. He arrived at the inn asking for sustenance and a place to sleep. He was given one of the two upstairs rooms and a plate of sausages and potatoes was later delivered to his door.
                Meanwhile, downstairs, the men speculated upon the appearance of another stranger.
                “Don’t know why they come here if not to seek her,” Ole Worm said.
                “Could be they heard tell of our beds and food,” Brax said.
                The conversation was paused while the gathered men snorted and hawed.
                “He looks a bit like the other fellow,” one wag suggested. “Perhaps it’s his kin, a brother or something.”
                “Ye think all strangers look alike,” Ole said.
                The wag nodded. He knew a truth when he heard it. Fresh speculations and merriment ensued for the next half hour or so. Last call and its end-of-the-dayness saw the men leak out into the night, some unsteady, all with the smiles of the inalienable on their beery coves.
                The truth was that the stranger was the brother of the poor unfortunate wanderer who had come in search of Toad Anage. Bodwyn Main had come himself to confront the old witch, not for a cure to any ailment, and not to harm her. He had come to ask for the return of his brother’s penis. His brother, Lech, was disconsolate about the loss and his farm and his family were suffering with his darkened demeanor. More than once he had struck his jug-eared children and no one would even talk about what his wife had to endure.
                Bodwyn Main, a bachelor and a man as brave as grenadier, had seen firsthand the distresses wrought upon his in-laws and had heard his brother’s strange tale of being witched out of his willie, and he had set out to make things right. He thought, perhaps, the mistake his brother had made was seeking the witch at night, a time when her powers were most acute. He planned on a good night’s sleep and a fresh start at daybreak.
                Sunrise found Bodwyn Main lacing up his boots and leaving quietly by the backstairs. The morning was cool and misty and the sun was slipping upward, trailing a stream of weak white light. Bodwyn Main was on the road with his shillelagh before the light reached his clear, watery-blue eyes. He remembered Lech’s directions as if they were printed on a chart.
                There before him was the path without leaves leading through Bluefield Woods. In the weak morning light it was a vision bucolic and, if he had had any qualms previously, they would have now disappeared. At the edge of the wood he could hear the plaintive song of one single bird—it was like music from a wooden recorder and Bodwyn Main recalled his mother’s belief that birds once taught humans to sing—and he paused momentarily to wonder why the bird seemed so solitary, with no answering melody, only the great damp silence of the surrounding timber.
                Deeper into the trees the air was still, almost sullen, and the morning light was all but extinguished by the tree canopy, which made the understory colorless and dim. The heavenward frondescence seemed stifling, its effervescent life paradoxically oppressive. But Bodwyn Main was no ironist. He breathed deeply, and just when the willowwacks seemed most discouraging he found himself within shouting distance of the house of Toad Anage.
                The house itself did not appear particularly off-putting. It seemed to be an organic part of the woodlands as if it had grown there like a puffball. Its roof was grass-thick sod, its ligneous walls an incondite timber as if cut by the axes of a race of colossi. There were no windows and the door was of the same rough-cut logs, distinguishable only by its inscription in crudely carved lettering, Toad Hell.
                Bodwyn Main did not hesitate. He strode to the door and knocked. His fist seemed to make no sound against the thick logs so he rapped heavily with his shillelagh. The bird stopped singing. The forest itself held its fertile breath.
                As the door scrooped open a fetid air surrounded Bodwyn Main. It was the freighted smell of cemetery earth, of fresh-turned graves.
                Toad Anage stood in the doorway like a festered bride, her apple-core face screwed into a mirthless grin. She was ugly as melancholy, her small body like a twist of snakes.
                “Lost, soldier?” she said. She had a voice that reminded Bodwyn Main of a sick dog.
                “I seek ye, Toad Anage,” he said. “I have come to recover something which ye stole. I have no quarrel with ye but I shall return home with what ye have dishonestly pilfered.”
                “Come ye from the lust-house, then?” Toad Anage said.
                “I come from further than that. I have walked these past three days from J—.”
                Toad Anage showed her carious teeth. “Come in, son. Perhaps ye would like a ptisan. Or maybe a fuck with old Toad, eh?” She cackled like the chariot wheels of old Cloot.
                “I need but one thing,” Bodwyn Main said, stepping out of the light.
                The fug in the one-room house was thick as clabber. It stank like breath and sweat and entrails. There was a fire going in a pit of ancient stone, though it was as hot as Hades inside, and three chairs, a rough wood table, and a bed whose sheets seemed stained by years of childbirth.
                “Sit,” Toad said. It was more command than invitation.
                “I will not trouble ye but for one thing,” Bodwyn Main repeated, but sat nonetheless.
                “Have a drink with old Toad. As ye may imagine I get but few visitors.”
                Her eyes gleamed with mischief as she filled a cup with a dark purple liquid, syrupy as blood. Bodwyn Main took the cup but he held it in his lap. Toad Anage sat in the chair closest to his and drank from her own cup, peering over its rim like a child with a nasty secret.
                “What ye seek I can guess,” she said.
                “If ye know, say it.”
                “Ye come for thy brother’s Tim Tinkler.”
                “Ye have guessed correctly. If I may have it I shall trouble ye no further.”
                “No trouble, no trouble,” Toad Anage said and fell into a ponder. The silence stretched several minutes until she laughed her whinnying cur’s laugh. “If ye can recognize it ye can take it. God knows old Toad has plenty.”
                “Ye speak freely of God,” Bodwyn Main said, earnestly.
                Now a terrible storm passed over the unsightly features of Toad Anage. Her anger was hot; her eyes fairly burned red with it.
                “Ye know nothing,” she said at last, and the squall seeped slowly from her face.
                “I shall not leave empty handed,” Bodwyn Main spoke, solemnly because he was an impavid fellow.
                “Or empty of trouser,” Toad Anage said, closing one red-rimmed eye.
                “Ye shall have nothing of mine.”
                “Are ye that sure?”
                “I am.”
                Toad Anage sighed as if bested. She rose from her seat and pulled an outsized trunk from beneath her bed. She opened it and removed what appeared to be a large, rolled carpet. She brought the carpet with her to her chair and set it on her lap. She cast one girlish glance at her guest and slowly unrolled it. Inside were dozens of male members, some black with age, some as fresh as if plucked yesterday.
                “Take his and be gone,” Toad Anage said.
                “Ye play games with me, old woman. I know not which is my brother’s.”
                “Ah,” Toad Anage said. “Let me try to remember him.”
                Bodwyn Main stirred in his seat. He was suddenly very tired and wished to be on his way.
                “Ye know,” Toad Anage said. “I think I do recall thy brother because he gave up his cock so willingly.”
                “I assure ye, he did not,” Bodwyn Main said, heatedly.
                Toad Anage cackled again. “He came for the miseries,” she said and laughed louder. “I made him unclothe completely.” She was delighted by her own story. “I got me an eyeful.”
                “Ye know which is his. Give and I shall go.”
                “But ye would not know if I gave ye the right one.”
                “Woman, if ye be so nefarious and froward be assured that if that were the case I would return with a sterner action. I should take apart thy house from the roots up.”
                Toad Anage laughed one more time. “Ye are a cheeky one. I’ll make ye a deal. If ye unclothe as did thy brother I will only take a bit of pleasure from thy tickler and then let ye return with both.”
                “Do not cross me,” Bodwyn Main said.
                “Young one,” Toad said. “Ye are getting the best deal old Toad can offer. Be assured that I could take thine if I so wished. And ye would leave with neither.”
                “I shan’t bargain with ye.”
                “So be it. Be on your way, cocked and cocky.”
                Bodwyn Main stewed. His seat grew thorny and uncomfortable. Finally, he spoke.
                “Ye shall not take my johnnie, then what shall ye do?”
                Toad Anage closed one eye again and let the other roam the body of her guest. “Ye are a solid chunk of man, that’s sure. I’ll take my pleasure with ye and the kiss ye goodbye.”
                “Ye are cruel.”
                “Am I that horrible?” Now, Toad Anage dipped her head and, for all appearances, seemed a shy girl whose feelings had been trampled.”
                “I’ll take the deal,” Bodwyn Main said.
                “Aye, aye!” Toad Anage cackled. “I shall have thee! Strip, my bucko! I want to see what ye got!”
                Bodwyn Main rose from his chair. He jutted his jaw. He was a proud man and a vain man and he knew what he was about when it came to the pleasures of the flesh. And though this be an abomination he could soldier through for his brother’s sake. He undid the silver buttons of his coat and then the smaller gold buttons of his waistcoat.
                Toad Anage licked her lips like a viper. “Stand by the fire, damn ye. I want a good eyeful of the treats in store.”
                Bodwyn Main put his hindmost to the fire and it was hot against his backside. He kicked his boots away. He continued to strip down until he reached his loin cloth, secured with a wide calfskin belt.
                “Ye God, man, is that a codpiece or have ye the cock of a stallion?” Toad was having a fine old time, but she could not embarrass the man.
                Bodwyn Main dropped his belt. Toad’s eyes widened. As he slipped from the loin cloth she took a ragged breath. He stood before her as he was made, flesh and bone, and his chest a sweet rill of muscle and fine brown hair. His genitals hung freely, his lengthy man-bone soft and pendulous.
                “Ah, ah,” Toad Anage said. “This shall give old Toad great pleasure once she stiffens it like the stones of Dundee.”
                “Do what ye shall, woman,” Bodwyn Main said, tossing his blond mane contemptuously.
                Toad Anage rose, swaying on her bony bird feet, and began to disrobe herself. Her body was scabrous and malodorous. Bodwyn Main doubted he could pleasure her unless she knew a spell to make a man a horse. Once as naked as he she began to dance in place a bit, mumbling and drooling. She danced close to him and bile rose in his throat from the reek of her. She took one crooked claw and wrapped it around the pleasure rod, weighing it, squeezing.
                “Ye God, but thy brother be no match for thee. I shall have this thing six ways or none.” She cackled and knelt before him. Her ministrations produced no change in the texture of the thing.
                “Even soft as a bag of oats it gives great pleasure,” the old witch said, re-positioning it in her mouth. Bodwyn Main prayed for strength. He tried thinking of the parson’s wife back in J--. When suddenly, with nary a judder or preface, the crone at his feet had become a beautiful maiden, with flaxen hair. From above he could not yet espy the shapeliness of her lines but as she rose he was astounded and aroused. She stood nearly six feet tall and her body was the very shape of desire, her breasts full and red-capped. And her face was Helen’s, as comely as a newlywed of man. She smiled and moved her full lips toward his. Her eyes glistened with youth and beauty and desire. She was Everywoman and Bodwyn Main’s man-pole grew as large as his shillelagh.
                “Ah, wanderer,” Toad Anage said, spreading her silky denuded body over Bodwyn Main’s muscled denuded body. “I shall have ye now. I have opened for ye, hot as Tophet’s pyre. Thy ramrod is adamantine. But, first, my mate, kiss me deeply.”
                And she pressed her watery mouth against his. Bodwyn Main returned the kiss, wrapping his arm around her now lithe body. She briefly gave him her tongue to suck.
                And then she spoke into his mouth, “ben zi bena, bluot si bluoda…” *
                But she did not finish because Bodwyn Main bit her tongue and simultaneously picked her up in his arms—as strong as a Goliath he was—and slipped his substantial downleg into her deceitfully young quim. She groaned from the pleasure and the pain—and her body withered and shrunk—and, then—then—having silenced her—Bodwyn Main took that opportunity to speak into her mouth instead.


                It was through an empurpled gloaming that Bodwyn Main made his way back to The Goat’s Pomander. When he entered the tavern the garrulous crowd of men were silenced by his arrival.
                He was carrying a small cloth bag, along with his shillelagh, and was wearing a new headpiece. His body radiated health and humanness and the room was fairly awed by his presence. He ordered an ale and stood with his back to the room.
                Someone cleared his throat. A nervous sound. Jocularity was wanted but was far away. There was something grave about the stranger from J---.
                “Have a hike today?” Brax, the bartender spoke to the relief of the room.
                “I did, sir,” Bodwyn Main said. “I did indeed. Lovely countryside hereabouts.”
                “It is,” some men said and a general murmuring spread across the silence like oil on water.
                “How far did ye trek?” Ole Worm spoke above the throng.
                Bodwyn Main turned and a smile opened his face like a crack in glass.
                “I went as far as Bluefield Woods,” he told Ole Worm and the other attendees. “I took a look around Bluefield Woods.”
                “Ah,” Ole Worm said, and, perhaps for the first time, Ole was lost for speech.
                “Was it nice there?” asked a slender farmer, with an Adam’s apple the size of a lime.
                Bodwyn Main took a swig and held the farmer with his eyes. “Quite nice for this time of year.”
                “And did ye—,” Ole began.
                There were several unsteady moments of silence. “Were ye hunting then?” Ole changed tack.
                “In a way, I was. Yes, I was hunting.”
                The men murmured their approval of the manly pastime.
                “Say, is that a new trilby, Mr. Main?” asked Ole Worm. “I seem to remember ye were bareheaded last evening.”
                Bodwyn Main grinned, took a healthy quaff of ale and met the eyes of every man in the room, each to each. The room ticked like a clock.
                “That’s not a cap, chums,” said stately Bodwyn Main. “It’s the vagina of the witch Toad Anage.”


* “Bone to bone, blood to blood…” from The Merseburg Charms.

Corey Mesler has been published in numerous anthologies and journals including Poetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and Esquire/Narrative. He has published 9 novels, 4 short story collections, and 5 full-length poetry collections, and a dozen chapbooks. His novel, Memphis Movie, attracted kind words from Ann Beattie, Peter Coyote, and William Hjorstberg, among others. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart many times, and 2 of his poems were chosen for Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. With his wife he runs a 142 year-old bookstore in Memphis. He can be found at https://coreymesler.wordpress.com.
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