Snail Slime Tea and Toad Cakes
Phee: My friends, meet Myrtle Mayhap, a direct descendent of the Gingerbread Witch, Mattie Mayhap who, it's said in tales told, used to lure innocent little children to her small sweetly embellished cottage in the Wood where she would cleverly trap them, plump them up, dip the poor dears in cream puff pastry and bake them in her oven.
Myrtle: Lies! It's all lies! That never happened! That's like one of those political dog wagger stories. Those stories were made up to put fear in the heart of the young and keep them obedient to their chores, not wanderin' off into the woods and maybe find a something truly valuable for their own selves. Those stories becloud the spirit of especially intuitive and intelligent women by calling them wicked and my dear great aunt Mattie in particular. The truth is the woman was a saint. All those wayward children she took in were just taught a few valuable lessons, that's all, and then set on their paths to creative independent lives. That's the way dear old Mattie did it, gave those kids a real future instead of the life of a poor wood cutter or dirt farmer like their daddies or a kitchen drudge like their mommies.
Phee: I hear you Myrtle, we have all suffered from those incredibly revolting stories about the Fey. Rumor is, you've had some excitement of your own with a recent visitor at the old cottage in the Wood?
Myrtle: Eh? What's that now? Oh, you mean that one. Not many neighbors thereabouts you know, 'cept those heathen that come up on the hill every full moon. Violet somethin, never got her last name. What a tangle of conflicting forces she was. Now there is a good example of a girl who has been over trained and controlled all her life and then suddenly tries to break the mold. Gets all uppity-like, puts on airs and is usually downright rude. Not a real bone in her body is all I say.
It must have been around eventide when she knocked on my door, so hard she near knocked a hole in the gingerbread and it being fresh baked too. Then she stood out there jitterin and shakin that red cell phone of hers like it would give salt. Pwft pulled the door opened quick before she could do more damage to it and she just sort of swoops right through him, all arrogant and business like and in this nasal tone of voice calls out, "Hallo there, anybody home?"
The ninny never saw old Pwft at all. I was sitting in my favorite chair by the fire with my back to her; just waiting to see what Miss Persnickety would do next. When she got to my chair I turns around and gives her one of my big friendly grins. Girl looked at me wide eyed, turned pale as a newt and fainted dead away. I just don't know why I have that effect on people.
Phee: Yes dear, lovely indeed. And certainly do have all the tea you want, just help yourself. Be sure and try my exuding chocolate-like gorp cookies with the raspberry glaze too. So then, go on with the story, what happened next?
Myrtle: What? Oh, the girl. Say, how do you like my new hat? Rememberin' that girl's costume just made me think of it. I bought this hat, at that new Abused Witch's Second Hand Shoppe; cabbage rose, that is on top, the spider was free, heh, heh.
Anyway, Pwft picked her up and propped her in the chair next to me and I fanned her with a…I think it was a National Geographic, while Pwft made up some of that snail slime tea, excellent for the vapors, you know? She was snoring just a little so I figured her lifestyle was getting the best of her and just waited quietly for her to wake up, looking over her strange clothes. Looked positively like an old costume design, except the fabric smelled new.
She finally stirred and blinked her eyes several times and then looked around, saw me and gasped. I gentled her down with a hand motion and she just sat there awhile makin guppy lips. Pwft brought the tea in and set it on the table between us, he'd made up a nice little platter of finger foods, all baked fresh too.
I could tell Violet couldn't see him by the open mouthed way she watched the tea tray float across the room and seem to arrange itself on the table. Then this stubborn set expression overcame her face and I knew she wouldn't ask. She accepted the cup I poured for her and sipped the hot liquid cautiously, made a face and gagged. Then she gulped down the whole cup and poked her face full of finger foods. I didn't tell her what the tea was made from. Figured with her proclivity to hysteria she'd probably throw up on my carpet.
When she seemed calm enough I asked her what had brought her to my door. She says she got lost on her way to a Fair and her car broke down. Then the second trouble happened between us. I asked her, in the friendliest way, what kind of Fair she was going to. Bein' as how I was already a little perturbed with the wimp for crumpling when I smiled at her, I was well prepared to take offense at the arrogant look she gave me. You know that look, she is enduring my outrageous ignorance. Then she says, feigning superiority, "The Renaissance Fair, of course."
"Oh," says I "Of course, the Renaissance Fair. How silly of me not to realize, you with that costume on and all."
"Then you must be an entertainer" says I, tryin to keep on my most interested and cordial smile. The twit was really getting on my nerves, inch by bloody inch long fingernails! Whoever heard of a fifteenth century maiden with her fingernails painted like ladybugs?
I'm not talking too much for you am I Phee? I feel like I'm talkin too much.
Phee: Don't be silly Myrt, I'm enthralled. You'd ruin my day if you stopped the story now.
Myrtle: Thanks Phee. Don't do much socializing so I get to talkin' too much some times. Let's see, where was I? Ah! It makes me smile now to think on it. I knew the girl needed a lesson in the style of my great aunt Mattie Mayhap.
So I says, "Dearie, we have a kind of tradition in our family. Usually when we put on a good meal, our guest sings a few songs or tells a good tale. You being an entertainer and all could you maybe show us a bit of what you do?"
Pwft had been leaning against the kitchen door frame looking eager. We don't get much company so he gets this big grin on his silly face, hopin' she really can sing or tell a story. Right away she looks truly embarrassed and sincerely apologetic.
Starts out with 'I wish...' then changes her mind, turns into the stone maiden again and says she can't sing a note and doesn't know any stories either. Can you imagine any human being alive two minutes in the world not havin at least one good story to tell? Pwft was, well, he just looked disgusted and disappeared into the kitchen, probably to light the oven to bake something, her, if he could get away with it.
I might have let it go, even felt a little sorry for her, except just then the third trouble happened between us. Miss Renaissance Queen suddenly jumps up, points her dead cell phone at me, and jabbin it in the air for emphasis, she says, "You don't have a telephone do you? I cannot believe, in this day and age that anyone is so far behind the times as to not have a telephone!"
She begins pacing around the room, lamenting, she has to make a phone call, for a tow truck, a taxi, a friend she's supposed to spend the night with. And then she turns on me, pointing that devil cell phone at me again like a weapon and says, "What is this crazy place anyway? Doors that open by themselves, floating food trays, tea that taste like, like snail slime, and you, look at you, I mean, get a life!"
Then she proceeds to start wailing like a banshee. Dreadful girl, she'd have made an excellent pudding. Bit too old for muffins though, they never seem to rise good and they're so chewy.
Myrtle: Oh, I sent her on up the path to the hill where the heathen was having their bonfire. Told the girl one of them was sure to have a cell phone, seeing as how they're all high tech now, heh, heh.
Phee: Tch! Myrtle, now that was wicked, sending a poor innocent to the hill. Sounds delicious. So? What happened to her?
Myrtle: (Burp!) More tea first! And I'll be trying one of those gorpy things. Um, smack, slurp, delicious Phee! What a good way to use up the roaches! Um-Um.
Phee: Myrtle, stop playing with my expectations! Either tell me what happened or I'll soon be giving this story my own ending.
Myrtle: Well now, the girl gave me a truly aggrieved look as I waved her off up the path to the hill. She disdained the lantern I prepared for her, dangling her handy pocket flashlight from a little puffy creature on a chain, and they say we're barbaric. Something short sighted about these young ones today too. She never thought to thank me. You never can tell when good courtesy will be useful to you, might do some future service. Ah well.
It was near dawn, when Violet finally returned to my garden and told me what happened. She still wasn't much of a storyteller so I've added the gingerbread, so to speak. Heh! Heh!
Seems, when Violet got to the Hill, someone had all ready laid out a campsite at its foot. A big bonfire burned bright with bedrolls around it and close by a table overflowed with delectable fruits and sweetmeats and fine drink. But there was nary a soul in sight and not a whisper of sound, except the crackle of the great fire that never seemed to need fuel. She wandered about the campsite awhile then unable to resist temptation she began to stuff her face with food and wine. Still no one appeared and exhausted she laid down on one of the bedrolls and fell asleep.
I know when and how they come although it's been many years since I saw it. Its just when the night holds its breath, when an eternity can exist in time. That's when they come up, out of the hill it seems, but I know it's an illusion. Riding those wild white steeds they are and looking, every one of them, so radiant and beautiful as to dazzle the senses.
Violet didn't see them at first. It was the thundering sound of hooves and then the laughter and shouting that woke her. She sat up trembling and pulled the bedroll under her chin, peering up the hill in terror. Ghostly apparitions appeared, formed of a golden dust mingling and swirling through a silver mist. Slowly her eyes began to see and her heart to pound as the panic rose in her. There, before her eyes was what Violet first described as a stampeding herd of deranged birds. I thought that was rather clever of her, it gave me hope that the girl could be saved yet.
She immediately ruined it by decidin these were not deranged birds but a party of people on their way to the Renaissance Fair and how relieved she was to be rescued. When she asked if any of them had a cell phone there was but an instant of silence and then rich and amused laughter. One big bird came toward her and for some reason that she could not explain to me, she again changed her perception of what and who these beings were. Demons! Violet immediately went into a crouch and called out a warning that she was trained in Self Defense.
This seemed extremely funny to everyone too and especially the big bird, who was now dancin around her in a flaming feathered cloak and a mask with a bright red beak.
Now we know that Violets nature was decidedly peevish, enough so that in spite of her panic she lunged at this demon and after flailing him uselessly for a time finally managed to grab his beak and rip off his mask.
To her great surprise and utter dismay, the creature behind the mask did not look like any demon she had ever seen in pictures. The poor girl blushed to her boots on seein his face, like an angel she said, but oh, so willing! He was, in fact, the most beautiful golden masculine creature she had ever seen. Trembling and weak in the knees Violet succumbed to the strangers touch and allowed him to lead her, mesmerized, into the swirl of merry makers. Musicians began to play a reel. For what seemed hours Violet danced, first in the strong arms of the handsome stranger, who woo'd and tantalized her, then spun into the arms of another who teased and whispered wonder in her ear and then another and another, each Being showing her some grace, giving some gift of an unknown thing. Their skin, said she, was like opalescent milk, their eyes golden as a hawk or an eagle with flashes of red, the pupils changing oddly and making her shiver with delight and anticipation. She thinks she should have been frightened of them, but the fear did not come. When they danced with her Violet forgot she was a human being, remembers something else, already forgotten, something she had been firmly holding away from her waking mind her whole life.
Time loses meaning to her until, the air begins to hum and pulse with a familiar energy. Birds stir noisily on tree branches. There is a sighing as the breath of night is exhaled stirring the earth back to life. The revelers mount their magnificent steeds and begin riding into the shadows. Violet cannot grasp the meaning of the change. She cries out to the vanishing beings, pleads with them to take her but only one looks back with a trace of regret. He smiles at her and caresses the air with a gesture that stirs into light and wafts around her being. She feels it fall over her like a silken cloak, "For freedom," he whispers and dissolves into the twilight.
Ah, but Violet is such a wretch. Instead of seeing the gift she's been given her temper flares again. Disenchanted, she began stomping down the hill, muttering to herself, mostly to kill the pain in her heart. She could not bear it, I suppose, for by the time she reached the camp below her mind had all ready closed to any possibility but one.
Out loud Violet cried to the dying moon, just as her foot would step onto the campground, "The whole thing was just some kind of a crazy dream!" Her foot had barely touched the earth when the last word left her lips. The cloak of light around her form began to waver and solidify, bewitching and transforming her limbs. Within seconds Violet had changed into a white deer.
It must have been close to dawn when she comes sprinting into my garden, that silly purse swinging around her pale white neck, probably with the dead cell phone still inside it. I knew it was Violet right off, in spite of her new body, her eyes wide and fathomless with the memory caught on her tongue. As I reached out the window and patted her little white head a big tear rolled down her cheek. Poor dumb little twit.
Phee: So? What did you do next?
Myrtle: What do you mean what did I do next? What could I do against the magic of an Elvin Prince?
Phee: Now Myrtle, I know you got the story out of her so you must of changed her back into a human being.
Myrtle: Well, yes, but it's not altogether permanent. I've given her a task you see, possibly a life-long task and a terrible difficult one at that. As long as she sticks to it diligently she only has to worry about becoming the white deer on the night of the full moon. Otherwise it could overcome her humanity altogether. It was the best I could do, considering the circumstances.
Phee: Some might see becoming a white deer as a kind of divine freedom. What will be the value of her struggling over some task when she could run free?
Myrtle: Ah, tis true but she has the choice now, which is her real freedom.
Myrtle: To recover all the wealth of knowledge and wonder given her on the hill that night and give it to the human world in stories. So there you have it, how we witches takes these ordinary simple human fools and turns them into great storytellers.
Phee: Now wait just a fine minute, Myrtle Mayhap! Are you telling me you conjured up that group of supernatural beings from under the hill?
Myrtle: Oh Phee, you know I didn't, but you have to admit I did put the girl on the right path. Especially since I could of sent her in the opposite direction.
Phee: The opposite direction! And just where would that have taken her?
Myrtle: Why, right down the road about two blocks to the new gas station on the corner. Has a nice mini mart and probably two working telephones. Now stop frettin about it Phee and pass me that plate of toad cakes.
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