“What, ‘Oops!’? There are no ‘oops!’ allowed!” Maude set the apple down and hurried over to the table, peering at the beaker.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine, ma’am. I’ll just pour it out and make a new batch,” her assistant said.
“Great spirits, what did you do, Anna?”
“Do-hooo. Do-hooo,” the owl hooted from its corner perch.
“I meant to add a pinch of talspittle, but I’m afraid I added the polgoggle instead,” Anna said. Her chagrined look did not deflect Maude’s worry.
“Why is it turning orange? Anna, is that smoke?”
“Spirits Above, Miss Maude, of course it isn’t smoke. I didn’t put any muckly in there!”
Maude put her face an inch from the beaker, examining the orange liquid with a practiced eye. “You’re sure? Look at that swirl,” she said, pointing to the center. “Isn’t that a red swirl?”
“Um. Maybe.” Anna turned to the collection of bottles and jars on the table. “I started with witchbriar,” she said, holding up a brown bottle. “Then I added the talspittle — well, what I thought was talspittle, but it was the polgoggle instead,” she said, pointing to a round green bottle.
“Hm. Nothing else, Anna? Think now, girl. Had you added milksgloo?”
“Gloo-hooo. Gloo-hooo,” hooted the owl.
Anna pursed her lips. Her eyes alit on a tiny blue jar. “Oh! Yes, I had.”
Maude nodded. “I thought so. Do you know what you’ve made?”
Anna’s eyes widened with a look of alarm. “Nooo.”
Really, the girl was much too pretty to ever make a proper witch. A mole with a thick black hair on her chin might do the trick. As soon as this crisis was over, Maude would gather deadnettle for an ugly potion.
“Damn it, Basil, be quiet!” Maude yelled. Damn bird was getting senile. Why did he have to hoot his two pence worth every time she opened her mouth?
“Miss Maude, what have I done?” The poor girl wrung her hands, fairly stepping on her own feet with anxiety.
Maude tucked a stray strand of hair back into her bun. The liquid in the beaker was definitely starting to smoke now. Damn! The poisoned apple would have to wait while she fixed this mess. “You’ve made a love potion,” she said.
Anna jumped away from Maude’s look of displeasure.
“Really, Anna, calm down. It doesn’t help to leap around like a hooligan.” Maude glared at the beaker. Her reputation would be ruined if word got out that a love potion had been mixed in her workroom.
The girl chewed on a fingernail. “Shall I dump it out?”
“And just where would you put it?”
“In the pond?”
“And have lovesick fish multiplying until they fouled the water?”
“Oh! Well, I’d pour it out in the forest then.”
“Right. And it would sink into the soil and we’d have a wriggling worm carpet. The birds’d gobble the worms up. And then there’d be so many birds around, we’d have to carry umbrellas to keep the white spatters off our clothes.”
“Ah, what a mess I’ve made,” Anna wailed. “I’m sorry, ma’am.”
She looked so forlorn, even Maude’s tiny heart melted a bit. “Now now, Anna. We’ll think of a way out.”
“Ou-hooo! Ou-hooo!” hooted Basil.
Maude looked around for something to throw. Why did the damn bird hang around here at all now that his wing was mended? He should be out and about with his own kind.
Ah hah! Never let it be said that Maude couldn’t add a catastrophe and a coincidence together and make a sweet smell.
“Basil, come here,” she said, pouring all of her charm into the command. “Anna, hand me that beaker.”
The liquid was a bright heart-red now. No mistaking, it was definitely a love potion. Basil swooped down, landing on the table. He shook his wings and settled into a myopic stare. Maude poured the liquid into a saucer.
“Miss Maude?” Anna said.
“Cover his eyes, Anna,” Maude said. “Basil is going to go out and make himself a family.”
“Ooh, Miss Maude,” Anna giggled, her eyes light with mischief.
Maude added another ingredient to her ugly potion list. Blackspot.
Soon enough, despite a threatened finger amputation by Basil’s wicked beak that necessitated a calming spell from Maude, Anna had a blindfold tied around the bird’s head.
Getting him to drink the potion was another matter, however. In the end, Maude had to knock the bird out with a spell and pour the potion down his throat bit by little bit so he didn’t choke himself to death. It wasn’t near as easy as it seemed to handle a large bird.
Maude was a sweaty mess by the time they were done. Anna, however, looked charming with her moistened brow. Double the deadnettle.
Together they carried Basil to the door and deposited him outside.
Maude fumbled through her memory for a waking spell. Hmm. She couldn’t recall ever trying to wake something up. “Oh, yes. Now I remember: Bubble, bubble, toil and spittle, give this owl a wake-a-gittle!”
Anna untied the blindfold.
“Anna, not yet!”
But it was too late. Basil turned a rheumy eye Maude’s way.
“No-hoooo! No-hoooo!” Basil sidled over and rubbed his beak on Maude’s dress.
Damn! With a sigh, she gestured Basil inside. First an antidote for a love-sick owl. Then Anna’s ugly potion. The poisoned apple would have to wait.
Pam L. Wallace lives in California with her husband of 30 years. She has two grown sons and a one grandson, who is — in her impartial, grandma-eyes — the most handsome, smart, engaging child ever born. When she’s not baby-sitting or writing, she enjoys working in her garden. Like most writers, she has the resident muse cat. Like most cats, he refuses to get involved in her musings.