Stir Things Down

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The dates to celebrate spring are close this year, within a month, and yet some religions seem far apart. They fight each other. They fight among themselves. “They are young,” Eostre said, “or maybe a bit territorial, those men.”

This ancient goddess brought them all together: old and new religions, female and male deities. The witches stirred a brew of love, the opposite of hate. They loaded it into clouds that rained tears on the land that had dried to dust. Cracked seeds opened into bulbs that bloomed lilies, all kinds, fields full. The perfume of peace filled the air.

Wildscape

Photo by Peter Kessler April 2022

There’s a bunny peeking from alyssum and rosemary where a rufous sided towhee, dressed in orange tails with black trim, dined last week. Earlier in the month, a flock of pale looking robins plucked hard blue berries from the ivy on our wooden fence. They ate what was left after cedar waxwings migrated through in February.

A cuckoo wasp, a white-lined hummingbird moth, butterflies, and two kinds of lizards populate a native meadow that grows where our thirsty grass withered away during past droughts. We leave culled weeds to compost and pruned branches to shelter wildlife. The yard has become a preserve.

Foolish Woman Not So Dumb

Baba Yaga, foolish old woman, rattler of chicken bones magicked from soup. Her elder son nurses historic delusions. In the younger one, hope persists. Hers is tough love at best. Battles rage. Forgotten, the soup gets cold.

Baba Yaga makes a cake with pears, no mushrooms. She absorbs the stove into herself, casting a spell on the forest. Her heart, a net to catch the half-cracked madness. The cake, an irresistible odor summoning the children to the table in Baba Yaga’s stilt perched house. As they eat, she turns the house upside down, shaking up what had seemed inevitable.

The Truth at Slant

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A bomb exploded. The bean stalk shook. A clear violation of fairy tale neutrality. Reaching a hand through the palace window and grabbing a Russian MIG, the giant nearly ate the pilot, but there was no salt.

The poor man shivered.

The giantess finished an aleph in her sampler. “Young idiot, you could have hit the Golden Goose.”

“That’s a fairy tale,” said the pilot.

“Poor deluded man. Hermie, call that nice rabbi in Moscow. We need a golem.”

A light broke in the pilot’s face. “Because first we came for the Ukrainians?”

Zelda smiled, though it was more complicated.

WW&Co Spells and Meals

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Dear Ms. WW:

A formerly satisfied customer, your instant meals have saved my bacon when work emergencies and toddler meltdowns prevented me from putting a nutritious dinner on the toadstool. Unfortunately, last night’s Cricket Stroganoff seems more potion than stew. This morning I woke up with a warlock.

Lest you think my husband left me, I would submit that the warlock has warts. The pattern fits my husband’s down to the T on his back. Our favorite. In addition to a refund, please send an antidote to restore the love of my life to himself and me.

Yours,

Tabitha Toad

The Ragnarök

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Líf and Lífþrasir lived in a tiny hovel on the side of a wild fjord north of the settled lands. Rippling through infinity, Thor came to them. He carried the couple to Hoddmimis holt. “From you, generations will spring.”

The gods went insane; a war of destruction, an ecological nightmare. Three winters arrived with no summers. Yggdirsil, the world tree, nurtured the couple. All the while, morning dew was their manna from heaven. Wandering, nestled in the warmth of moss, sheltered by the forest, emerging with the sun, nurtured by salt water, they rebuilt after the Ragnarök. They repopulated Earth.

Try a Different Diet

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The last knight he’d eaten gave Dragos indigestion. He spent treasure for cures that didn’t work and when he ate the charlatans who’d bamboozled him, the pain was pronounced. Poor moral fiber was the cause of his woes. He’d been eating junk food.

He pondered long and hard, reluctant to give up his old ways. Getting advice was difficult. Out of necessity, he’d eaten all the nice people he knew. Desperate, he sought advice from a wicked witch who turned him into a brontosaurus. She said the vegetarian diet was better for him. Unfortunately, sudden extinction was a side effect.

The Tide Waits for No One

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Surf pulled at mother and daughter holding tight a last goodbye. “Take care of your brother. And your father.”

“Yes, mam. You’ll be back?”

“Your grandmam’s recipes, they’re yours.”

The girl held her mother’s hand. “Tell my ocean folk grandmam, ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”

Her mam nodded, winced as the tight skin she’d found in the attic fused land legs into a powerful swimming fin. “I will, love.”

“Your eyes are the same.” The girl touched the selkie’s soft fur. “You’ll be gone a day?”

The mother strained for breath. “Days linger undersea.” She wanted to stay. But she had to go.

The Kiss

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Cupid and Psyche lay feeding each other chocolate hearts. “You haven’t changed.”

“Nor you,” Psyche said, nibbling his ear.

Cupid stroked Psyche’s bronzed thigh. “It wasn’t meant to be.”

“Your mother hated me.”

Cupid’s lips bowed into a smile. “You bested her by surviving all those quests.”

“She underestimated how much I cared for you. Sorting poppy seeds from lentils. Fearing dragons on the Styx. I had my helpers.” Psyche looked smug.

“But it was Zeus who gave us each other. He couldn’t resist my offer.”

“I can’t resist you. Though the spell wore off long ago, I simply adore you.”

The Kitchen God’s Insight

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“Welcome, friend.” The Kitchen God greeted the Tiger, a pussy cat beside his massive bulk. They ate nian gao and fresh cut fruits, presented on a red lacquered tray in the Kitchen God’s study.

They exchanged pleasantries, the Tiger looking for a way to say what was on his mind. He plucked up his courage. “So many have suffered through the years of Rat and Ox. They worked hard for change, barely rewarded for their labor. Prosperity gave way to isolation. Isolation gave way to steady resolve. What of my year?”

“Be strong, Tiger. Be strong,” said the Kitchen God.