Witch Question Was That?

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The shelter director took in the kitchen situation. “Will lunch be ready on time?”

The problem was Elspath. She stood beside a metal bowel swimming with chicken livers. With a spatula, Elspath turned onions in butter for a pâtè. Next to the skillet, a saucepan boiled.

The woman at the front of the line, her wrinkled face rivaling Elspath’s for age not wisdom, always had the same question. “When will my daughter visit?” She offered up a liver.

Slimey, it roiled in broth. Elspath said, “Remember, she called.”

The woman’s face brightened. “Yes.”

Elspath said. “She’ll be here for lunch.”

Werewolves of the Prairie

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They were headed for the south pasture. Turning hairy faces to each other, they rode horses alongside the herd.

Eyes searching, one pointed a claw. “He’s over there, my boy. I can smell him. See that movement. At the edge of the trees.”

“He’s left?” A concerned look.

“Didn’t come back from the last prowl.”

 “Like so many of ‘em.”

They both looked down. They remembered staying home from school when the moon turned full. They tasted fear at the thought of werewolf hunters.

“Wolf packs, they’re more accepting.”

“Probably. But who’s going to take over when we’re gone?”

“Dunno.”

Let Him Catch a Wink

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Willie seemed embarrassed. “Mrs. Winkie’s suggestion. Some kaffeeklatsch nonsense.”

Several curious dads shifted on their barstools. “The neon yellow nightgown? Their idea?”

“Yeah. Said the kids would pay attention. I came up with the lantern and stopping in here afterwards.”

“So you don’t go all through the town.” The guy speaking had bags under his eyes.

“ Nah, that’s an exaggeration. Just my street.” Willie took a sip from his beer.

“Do the kids get into bed by eight?” Same guy. Seemed hopeful.

“Yeah, absolutely. Everything’s quiet when I get home.” Willie warmed to his subject. “And it’s cured my insomnia.”

A Girl Named Mädchen

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With minutes left, Mädchen found the crook’s password. “Bingo, Rumplestiltskin.” Using his name, she cast a cheater’s spell to bind his Alchemist Account.

Once she had access to his vault, she could see his transactions. Straw to silver, straw to gold, gold to straw; all typed in neat rows alongside the names of infamous drug lords and traffickers.

Mädchen sniffed brimstone in the air.

The wizard stood in front of her, hand outstretched. “The gold.”

“I don’t have it.”

He grabbed her. Once they touched, she ensnared him and worked a shrinking spell. His soul evaporated until nothing was left.

Okra Wisdom

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I’m very picky about my okra. So when my daughter tells me to keep what I touch at the Farmer’s Market, I tell her she’s crazy. I will stay picky. The only way to know okra’s good is to touch. Some big ones have the velvety feel of tender youth. Some small ones are hard and almost prickly on the fingers. They are okay in soup or gumbo. But not dipped in batter and fried in the wok.

People look, pull up masks, move. I know, virus. But nobody eats okra raw.

College educated daughter. They don’t teach cooking there.

Barbie’s Dream House

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Barbie is pacing the beach, contemplating a lawsuit against Mattel. It’s hurricane season. The Dream House needs repair and Ken has never been good with tools. Money is tight, so they can’t hire anyone. So unfair. Products really should get pensions.

Barbie’s attention span has never been great. The sight of an oystercatcher on the beach reminds her she wanted to find Ken an oyster drill for Father’s Day. Sifting through a pile of shells, she spots something. Science Barbie knows the name. Wentle trap. Using an oyster to drill seems impractical. Can wentles be trapped? Now she can’t decide.

Adulting

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Since the virus started, Lolly made her own decisions. Even hard ones, like, could she go across the street for a physically distant chat with her best friend, whom she’d known since first grade. Tempting fate, maybe.

Her parents worked at the hospital. They self quarantined. She missed seeing them and arguing about the silly things that had seemed important three months ago.

She said, “I love you.” Made omelets and sausage plated with sprigs of parsley which everyone ate alone. So grown up. So post high school. So very responsible and thinking about others more often now. Real adulting.

Magical Thinking

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“Drying up. Inspiration drying up. You bury ideas.” A creature not much taller than a toadstool, warty and fobbish…

Gnawing a pencil, I looked and saw a gnome pointing to a well-thumbed dictionary. “Warty I’ll give you, but fobbish. Nae a proper word.”

“Sorry. Am I awake?” I rubbed my eyes and erased fobbish. “So what’s this about?”

Fob settled himself on a nightstand saucer. “What with worry-warting about now, we miss what else. Poets can’t poem. Mathematicians can’t math. Reality can’t real. Every day like the last.”

“I thought it was me.”

“No, us. Together, we grieve it all.”

The Staff of Life

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After a harrowing journey over steep gravel roads, after morning meditation sessions and before soaking in natural hot springs, you devoured Tassajara bread for breakfast. The cookbook made its way to your kitchen, instructing you in the art of turning gloppy sponge into sweet wheat loaves. Mmm… scrumptious with butter, jam and dark roast coffee.

It’s been a long journey enriched by frequent meanderings and yeasty experiences. Learning that satisfaction lies in a perfect translucent stretch of the dough that proves the kneading is done. Bread has secrets. It takes time. Like a good friend, bread must be patiently tended

Remind Him to Laugh

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Dash had slept with countless women. His old friend, Anne, called it trying to prove something. He became himself with Grayson. They’d been together forever.

Their big empty house had a “For Sale” sign in the front. Not for long. San Francisco real estate moves fast and Dash was motivated. Dash’s retirement party was tomorrow. Anne would call him “queen” at the airport. She was the only one left who could. She’d help him grieve, find another life. Sell the house, tie up loose ends, deliver him to the ashram to reinvent himself. Most important, she’d make him laugh.

……..

Find “The Vow” which features Dash, Anne and Grayson at https://www.paloaltoonline.com/short_story/short_story_33/adult2.php

The story took second place in the 2019 Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest.