Tall Tales: De Molen

In the center of remote Bodegraven sat an old, retired windmill. And like everything else in that tiny Dutch town, the mill and its house were crooked. Inside the mill was an apothecary shop, owned by the elderly spinster Brouwer, who frightened local children with her milky eyes and mysterious potions.

Townsfolk often whispered “witch” behind the old woman’s back, yet they came to her when an illness lingered, a crop failed, or a couple remained childless for too many seasons.

Along with assorted medicinal wares, Brouwer maintained a collection of junk that she marketed to tourists seeking regional antiques. One day, a sad-looking man arrived at the mill and spent hours digging through Brouwer’s shop without making a single purchase.

“What are you looking for?” asked the old woman.

“Something special,” the man replied. “Something I could bring back home to remind me of your beautiful gardens.”

Brouwer pitied this lonely man, enamored of her blossoming tulips. Her flowers were indeed unique—larger, brighter, and more delicate than any others in the land.

She stared at him for a long moment, making a private evaluation. Then she tottered off to one of the rooms and returned with a watering can. The man watched, puzzled, as she assembled a bundle of curious herbs and brewed a pungent tea in the vessel. She hummed and chanted, waved with a flourish, and presented the can to her guest. It was empty.

The man examined the plain old can, wishing it was painted with windmills or tulips, or at least decorated in blue.

The woman growled. “I see you dislike my gift,” she said, reaching under the counter. He shook his head rapidly, aware of the etiquette blunder. But it was too late, she had taken offense and opened a small, black jar. The smell of its contents made his head reel, a thick, foul sweetness he did not trust. Just a pinch in the pot, an extra word, and she returned the can with a smile.

The man accepted his souvenir, fearing what she had done. And when he got home, he buried the thing and never told a soul.

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Writing: Mary Kalin-Casey
Drawing: John Casey


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