Lynda Cowles

The Wise Woman

A wise woman isn’t born wise. Her wisdom comes from making mistakes.

Clara’s mistake was loving a goat farmer with a clot hidden in his skull. When he fell, so did she.

She stopped brushing her teeth.

Her hair grew wild and matted.

She moved into the goat shed and scattered acorns from her pockets – one for every day they were together.

A forest of oaks grew around her, thickening and hardening as year wound on year wound on year, like yarn on a spindle.

She let the youth fall from her body. At some point, she misplaced her name. There was no need for it without anyone else to say it. In town, some called her the Wise Woman; to everyone else she was a witch.

Sometimes, someone – usually a girl – would brave the gloom of the forest: pick her way nervously between the ridged trunks of the ancient oaks, clutching a single unbroken streamer of apple peel and a lock of hair that wasn’t her own.

They always came seeking love.

The wise woman was old now, older than she had any right to be. She opened the door naked and bald and toothless, startling the girl who still had her hair, her teeth, her heart.

A name.

The wise woman, in her wisdom, was the only one who could see the danger the girl was in. How innocent she was, how foolish.

She welcomed her in. Removed her heavy cloak. Took the peel and lock of hair and threw them in the fire. It was only then the girl noticed three jars in the corner: one containing teeth; one stuffed with hair; and one holding a heart.

She bolted like a doe into the dark night; cloakless, hopeless, loveless, no wiser than before. Not seeing, in the leafy gloom, the scarred bark of a hundred oaks, a heart cut out of every one.

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Biography

Lynda Cowles is a writer of best-selling murder mystery dinner party games and award-winning Full Motion Video games, as well as a book about how to keep tarot cards happy. 

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