The Magic Appreciation Tour's first flash fiction contest is to start a short story that begins with the words, "Some days, I wish I had never met that woman." I decided to add to the story of the Witch's Son. I think you'll get the gist of the back-story from reading the text below.
|Raven image courtesy Australian Rave (explow.com)|
“Some days, I wish I had never met that woman.”
His chest rose and fell in shudders that were painful to look at. His left hand fidgeted with a rubber band, and Matt knew he was wishing for a cigarette. “But then I think that I wouldn’t have had you.” He had to stop talking to catch his breath.
“Maybe you would have had me with someone else,” Matt said.
His father smiled, but the smile was marred by the tube leading from Tommy’s nose to the oxygen tank beside the chair. He coughed softly. “Then you wouldn’t have been you,” Tommy said. He took another breath. “And I wouldn’t want that.”
“How did you meet Mom, Dad?”
The old man looked out the window. In the park across the street, a girl in a pink sweater threw a ball for a black Labrador to chase. “You remember Barry Patterson?” Tommy said after the Lab dropped the ball at the girl’s feet.
“The guy with the beat-up truck?” Matt smiled.
Tommy smiled back, remembering. “Yah, that was him. We went to this party in the North End.” A coughing fit shook his body.
“Helen and me started dancin’. One thing led to another. You know how it is.” He looked out the window again. A raven landed on the nursing home’s lawn.
“Why did you marry her?”
Tommy went into a paroxysm of coughing. Matt gently rubbed his father’s back until the fit passed. Tommy took a shallow breath. “I knocked her up, o’ course.” He slapped his knee. “Not on purpose, connais-tu?”
“She caught you?”
“C’est ça. But I didn’t mind. I fell in love with her.”
“Did she put a spell on you?”
Tommy startled his son with a piercing look. “No more magic than any woman has ever done on a man since there were men and women. There was magic in her face, her walk. There was magic when she kissed me ... like in those old songs.
“Not like the magic she uses now. Just la petite magique that women use to get their way — like your pretty wife, eh? You wouldn’t call her une sorcière, a witch, would you?”
“So she wasn’t always like she is now?” Matt asked.
Tommy looked down. “When life with Helen was good, it was ... fantastique. Wonderful,” he said. “But she was always the way she is now. She wore the pants. I didn’t mind. Maybe that was her spell, maybe it was real love. Maybe there’s no difference.” The old man took another shuddering breath. He adjusted the valve on the oxygen tank and smiled at Matt again. “I bet she looks a hell of a lot better’n me, eh?”
The raven squawked. It hopped onto the window sill and peered at them.
“You know what caused the cancer? The docs say it was the cigarettes — three packs a day for 40 years. But with real magic, you don’t know if it’s magic. There’s always another explanation. Like cigarettes causing cancer.
“Your mother has always been a witch. A real sorcière. Like in the old stories. She was working on becoming the Queen of the Witches when I met her. I was part of her plan, but not the most important part.”
“What was the most important part?”
The raven squawked three times.
Tommy coughed again. He turned up the oxygen, but he could not stop coughing. He fell forward, his shoulders and back bucking until bile streamed out of his mouth.
Matt was distracted by a commotion at the window. The Labrador retriever bounded across the lawn and barked once. With a final shriek, the raven flapped away. The dog glanced in the window, then ran after the bird.
Ending the coughing fit took the last of Tommy’s strength.“Your mother has been like this for—” he wheezed. Matt lifted his father back to a sitting position. Not even 60, and he must be under a hundred pounds.
Tommy’s lips moved. Matt brought his ear next to Tommy’s mouth. “Helen ... is ... centuries ... old.”
He had to know more. “What was the most important part of Helen’s plan?”
“You.” Tommy smiled and closed his eyes for the last time.
"Some days, I wish I had never met that woman" is the latest installment in the book The Mandrake Ruse, which is the first in a projected novel series about The Witch's Son. For two more installments, click the tabs at the top of the page for Dark Clouds, which is chapter 1, and What Made Me Love You?, which is a later chapter that tells the story of how the two protagonists met.
And for more magical short fiction, don't miss the Magic Appreciation Tour!