Raymond Howison picked up his son and sat him down on the dining room table. His gray eyes twinkled with the smile he did not allow to show on his lips. “Listen to me, Jasper,” he said, turning the boy’s head to look him directly in the eyes. “You are not to do any workings tonight, do you understand me?” The gray and white spider monkey on his shoulder chittered and pointed one human-like finger at the boy.
“But, Daddy, Shelley and…”
“Did I not speak in a language you understand?” the man asked. The boy blushed. “What did I say?” He tossled his son’s strawberry blonde hair to take the sting out of his words.
“You said no workings.”
“And what does that mean?”
“It means I can’t do witchery while you and Mama are gone.” The boy cast his eyes downward.
Jasper stared up at his father, a calculating look in his eyes and a sly grin trying to hide on his lips. Whatever he saw there, or thought he saw, killed the grin. “And do what Danny tells us to.”
“Good. And if you don’t?”
Jasper sighed, a sigh that can only come from a precocious six-year-old who knows how precocious he is. “Then Shelley can’t come over anymore and I can only play music when you’re here to superbise me.”
“The word is ‘supervise’, and, yes.”
Moving his lips silently to repeat the word “supervise,” Jasper nodded his head.
“Do you know why you aren’t to work while we’re away?”
Raymond took a small plastic bottle from the refrigerator. “Do you know what this is?” he asked.
Jasper shook his head no, but the look on his face answered differently.
“This is the milk that was on the table at lunch. The lunch where you decided to try a working you had never done before.”
“But I had…”
“This is not a conversation, Jasper. This is a lecture.”
Jasper blushed and looked down at the floor.
His father continued. “This was sitting on the table when you tried your working. I know you were trying to make fishsticks taste like cheeseburgers, but that didn’t work, did it?” He grimaced as he unscrewed the top from the bottle. “Smell this,” he instructed. Jasper shrank away. “Smell it,” he said. The boy put his nose over the opening, sniffed once, then backed away, a look of complete disgust on his face. He felt his stomach lurch just from the smell of the putrid liquid. “That is what can happen when witchery doesn’t work right,” Raymond continued. “Witchery done improperly can curdle milk or make any food go bad. And that’s only one of the very unpleasant things that can go wrong. If it’s a major working and it goes wrong, it can actually hurt people. Sometimes even the witch. This is why you are not to do any workings unless your grandfather or I am here to watch over you.” The man smiled. “Or until your familiar finds you.” He shook his head. “And may all gods in every heaven have mercy on us all if you get the sort of familiar I fear you will.” The spider monkey chittered again. Raymond looked at the monkey and smiled indulgently. “Do you understand?”
His father smiled at Jasper. “Good. Now, Shelley is in the den; her mother dropped her off a few minutes ago. Go on in and say hi. Your mother and I are going to be leaving in a few minutes.”
Jasper jumped down from the table and ran to the den. He stopped in the hallway to greet Shelley’s mother, then sped away. With a few words of small talk, the adults left: Mrs. Tanzer to go home, and the Howisons to a long-anticipated date night.
Less than five minutes after the departure of all the adults, Daniel, the oldest of Jasper’s siblings, opened the door to the den, and walked in, a bright green cat at his feet. “Listen to me,” he said, staring daggers at both his brother and his brother’s best friend. “Mom and Dad said I have to look after you two, so you’re going to make it easy for me. Stay in here, and do not bother me. You can go to the bathroom, and you can go to the kitchen. You know where the snacks are, and you can reach anything you need. If you can’t reach it, you don’t need it, so you’re not going to bother me about it. I will be in my room; I have a test to study for so I don’t have time for you two. So if you bother me for anything that doesn’t involve someone bleeding or the house being on fire, I will kill both of you.” He glared at them. “Understand me?” His face, already showing how handsome he would be when he reached adulthood, showed an expression of anger and directed fury.
Jasper nodded mutely, while Shelley hid her face in the arm of the sofa.
With a last glare and a muttered complaint about being forced to be an unpaid babysitter, the older boy turned and left.
“What do you want to do now?” Jasper asked Shelley.
“Okay. We’ve got some snacks.”
“I want chocolate milk.”
“We don’t have any chocolate milk,” Jasper said with all the gravity a six-year-old can produce. He smiled. “But we can make chocolate milk!”
“How? Do you have chocolate powder for it?”
“I’ll sing it chocolate!”
Shelley’s eyes grew wide. “You can do that?” she asked, her voice heavy with admiration.
Jasper nodded his head vigorously. “I think so,” he said. “Daddy taught me how.” He looked around, making sure no one could hear him. “But you can’t tell anyone. It’s witchery, and Daddy said I’m not supposed to do it when he’s not here.”
Shelley nodded her head, agreeing to silence.
The two children went into the kitchen. Solemnly, Jasper got out a fresh bottle of milk from the refrigerator and two glasses from the cupboard. He poured milk into each of the glasses, then went to another cupboard. He took a box of baking chocolate from the cupboard and unwrapped it, putting a large block of the chocolate on the table between the glasses.
“Are we having candy, too?” asked Shelley. Her eyes sparkled at the thought of having both chocolate milk and large piece of candy for a snack.
“No, it’s for the working. Daddy says I have to have something with the flavor I want. No matter how skilled a witch is, even witchery can’t make something appear out of thin air.” The last sentence had the precision of sound only found in something being repeated word for word. Jasper’s puffed up chest and tilted chin showed the boy’s pride in quoting his father perfectly.
“OK.” Shelley’s enthusiasm dimmed only a little.
Jasper took a small whistle from his pocket and put it to his lips. He kept the volume low, not wanting Daniel to hear him and come to see what was going on. The tune became spritely; Shelley, taken by the music, began to dance about the kitchen, her arms thrown wide and her head tilted back with her eyes closed.
His eyes grew wide in alarm as Jasper looked at the two glasses of milk. The formerly smooth surfaces had begun to darken. The milk spun in miniature whirlpools, matching almost perfectly the spin of Shelley’s outstretched arms and the timing of Jasper’s simple tune. Small bits of chocolate were missing from the larger cube, but the color of the milk was not as it should be. Chunks of something gray and rough floated to the top of one glass. Jasper blinked rapidly. He played more intensely, willing his witchery to put more chocolate into the milk. More chocolate will cover up the curdle, his six-year-old mind reasoned. The piece of chocolate lost a bit more substance; the color of the milk grew darker, now more in line with how chocolate milk should appear.
The chunks of curdled milk grew larger and more numerous.
Finally, Jasper put down the whistle. In desperation, he tore the candy bar into the smallest pieces he could and put them in the glasses of milk. He took a spoon from the utensil drawer and vigorously stirred the drinks, trying to dissolve the chocolate into the milk, whistling and willing it to melt. Putrid milk splashed across the table, falling with thick, heavy, nearly solid thumps.
Holding back a sob, Jasper felt the witchery slip completely out of his control. One glass appeared to hold nothing but large rocks of curdled milk. The boy grabbed up both glasses. He drew the worse one to himself and thrust the other one at Shelley. “Drink it,” he said urgently. “Drink it now!”
“But it’s icky!”
Panic washed across Jasper’s face. “If Daddy finds out, he won’t let us play together anymore!”
Both children upended their glasses, draining the milk in a long drink. Their faces contorted in almost identical expressions of disgust. Struggling against the sickening taste in their mouths, they forced themselves to swallow the ruined milk. With a sigh of desperate relief, Jasper put his glass and the spoon into the dishwasher. He took Shelley’s glass from her and did the same. He wiped the spilled milk from the table, carefully burying the used paper towel deep in the trash can. He smiled weakly, relieved that he had managed to control the problem.
“Want to play a game?” Shelley asked, her voice unsteady and her expression bordering on tearful.
Jasper nodded, and the two went toward the den again. Partway down the hall, they looked at one another, both faces turning slightly green in the dim light. In unison, they clapped their hands over their mouths and rushed to the bathroom.
# # #
“I didn’t know either of them were feeling bad,” Mrs. Howison said to Shelley’s mother a few hours later, “or we wouldn’t have offered to have Shelley spend the night.”
Mrs. Tanzer smiled and shrugged her shoulders. “Schools are germ factories, and kids are going to pick up every little thing that comes along. I know this is a bad one, but if a stomach flu is the worst they get this year, I’ll be more than happy.”
Curled up with one another on the sofa, Shelley and Jasper looked at each other, fear showing on their faces. “Promise you’ll never ever, ever, ever tell anyone,” Jasper said. “You have to gross spit-swear you’ll never tell.”
Her face pale and drawn, Shelley nodded her head. She spit into her palm and held her hand out to Jasper. He did the same, their wet hands clasping in promise.
Sid says: I love this so much and am laughing so hard I can barely type. As you can see, Shelley and Jasper have a long history of mischief and secrets tying them together. This story almost makes one think Jasper deserves Ette as a familiar….
Now I need to find out from James if Jasper still dislikes fish and sings the taste different (but probably with better results these days). (Note from James: Jasper now likes fish, but still hates fishsticks as he considers them cheap and disgusting.)
Mickie says: I’m dumping the milk down the drain right now! This story gives a little insight to growing up witch, and shows the depth of the relationship between Jasper and Shelley. They’ve always had each other’s backs.