The toothless lady wandered here and there on a regular circuit each day. She was unfriendly, and sometimes said mean things. After her walks, she’d go back to her house, a cement block building with no windows and thick cold walls. Some secretly called her a witch. On the many occasions for BBQ, such as on national days and Chinese New Year, she would travel around the village, following her nose for BBQ until she found its source. The celebrants would fall silent at her sight. She’d go straight to the grill and take a rib, gobbling it down quickly and eating another, and another, the bloody juice running down her chin, and you could almost hear her bony jaws gnashing together, without teeth. When she had eaten all of the ribs, she would wander away, on to the next BBQ.
The toothless lady had always been old. These were poor times. Parents, grandparents, and great grandparents told of growing up with her cursing them. And, it was rumored that the Japanese soldiers gave her a wide berth. Stray cats stayed clear. On some occasions one might chance to see a scattering of little ribs along paths and roadsides. Then one year, the villagers bought a pig, and placed it whole outside of the temple to appease the gods. It was a shocking matter that during the night, someone or something completely stripped the bones of the pig, leaving nothing but the skeleton. All eyes were on the toothless lady.
Fearing disapproval of the gods, the villagers met to consider what might be done with the toothless lady. Yet within a day, people’s fortune began to change. Crops immediately grew more healthily, and businesses blossomed like never before. It must have been the favor of the toothless lady, the BBQ Witch! The decision was made to offer tribute to her regularly. Famed for her love of BBQ ribs, this became the staple offering. Packages of them were left at her door. The increased wealth of the community brought frequent celebration. Ribs were always set aside for her to enjoy when she would arrive.
But in a generation, the townspeople thought it was their own effort that had brought them prosperity. The gifts to the BBQ Witch discontinued, as did the celebratory offering to her at BBQs. This was very unfortunate. Life returned to struggling, and people wondered what they had done wrong, yet a few living elders remembered.
Worse followed. A young boy in his bed cried out. He said a wind outside of his window was calling his name in a horrible cackling voice. Inconsolable, his parents let him sleep between them that night. And in the morning, he was gone. After a week, a lone thin bone was paraded about the town by a black dog that was never seen again. Other disappearances followed. A child walking to school, a mere kilometer stroll, never arrived. Twins riding their bicycles together down a lane never emerge from a wooded grove. And all this while, it seemed, black smoke seeped in little puffs from beneath the BBQ witch’s front door.
The village returned to offerings to the BBQ Witch. The black smoke filled the air, and the village became famously known as Black Sky Township. The abductions ceased.
Today, our restless children squirm themselves to sleep at night under the threat of being snatched away by the hungry BBQ Witch who hears the sounds of noisy children. “Beware” they are warned, “or the BBQ Witch will hear you, and come to steal you away. She’ll BBQ your ribs and spit out your bones in the street!”