Under the Sign of the Shears|
Contemplating a 50-year-old hex
by Jack Neely
The package arrived in my office on the sixth floor of the Burwell Building wrapped in brown fishmonger’s paper and rough twine. I didn’t see it arrive; I just began to notice it sitting there, in the extra chair. I didn’t think about it much, at first, but as I worked I found myself wondering about it, and at length I got up and picked it up. There was no return address. The package was soft, but with something hard and maybe sharp inside.
I pulled off the twine and tore the wrapping off, and found within a wadded bundle of old newspapers. They were all yellowed issues of The Watchdog . The paper was the old mouthpiece of Cas Walker, the Sevier County-raised grocery-store tycoon who once ran a bluegrass radio station and sat on—that’s probably the best term for it—Knoxville City Council for more than 30 years. He also sat on the office of mayor for a couple of brief spells.
For thousands of working people who had moved into Knoxville from the country, Cas was an inspiration. He was living proof that you didn’t need an education to be a big man.
I tore away the old Watchdogs , sensing there was something heavy inside. It was a pair of magic shears. Maybe they’re magic, anyway; I don’t know that they aren’t. Wrapped around them tightly was a scroll of paper, and on the scroll was a strange message. It was written in blood, or perhaps it was Vietti chili sauce, 39 cents a can.
It was entitled “My Hex, by Cas.” The date was April 1, 1956.
I laid it across my desk. It was so tightly rolled that I had to hold it down, and could only read one bit at a time. As I read it, it gave me chills.
By the blood of the coon
For a city is evil
And the man with the deals
These shears will attack;
We don’t need education
Well, that may explain a great many puzzles , I thought. I wasn’t certain it sounded like Cas Walker himself; I figured maybe his lawyer wrote it.
I put the shears in my desk drawer. I’m not sure they’ll be good luck, but I’ve been needing a good pair of scissors.
The hex I’m e-mailing to a guy I knew in college who’s making a good living as a municipal exorcist; I’ll let you know how it works out.