The Promptuary: The Good Witch Anaïs Blue Book 2Part 1
Morris the Minor
They had been cruising for some time before Immaculate Phlox spoke up. She flicked her head towards the rear of the vehicle.
‘So who’s your new friend?’
Anaïs cleared her throat, ‘She’s not new, she’s an old friend.’
‘I see you’re still keeping nice company. Where did you pick her up?’
Anaïs turned in her seat and faced the shade in the backseat. ‘I didn’t ask for her, she actually picked me up.’
‘Oh will you stop doing that, it’s rude,’ said Immi. ‘Can’t you just think back at it instead of forcing me to listen to half a conversation.’
Anaïs swung round in her seat and sneered at the librarian. ‘She can’t read minds.’
She sat back in her seat and looked out her side window at the trees whizzing by. ‘Or, at least I don’t think she can.’
The little witch closed her eyes. ‘Nan? Can you hear me?’
‘ Always, child,’ said Nan softly. ‘It was the only thing which kept me going out there in the dark. I followed your voice and it brought me to you.’
Anais smiled to herself. ‘That’s good to know. Nan, I missed you so much. I honestly thought I’d lost you. I’m so very sorry about what happened.’
‘You don’t have to be sorry, Anaïs. You’re safe now. That’s all I care about.’
‘It’s so good you’re here. I thought I was alone. Ok, maybe I’m not completely alone. I do have this waste of space to keep me company.’
She opened her eyes and looked directly at the woman sitting next to her. ‘What a douchebag!’
Immi looked hurt and pulled away from Anaïs. Furrowing her brow she measured her response. ‘What is wrong with the youth of today? No respect at all.’
Anaïs shot back at her. ‘I’m sure you were young once, although I have my doubts.’
‘Nice, keep the insults coming. I’m all up for them,’ said the librarian sneering at her.
‘Ok, ok, enough. Can the two of you stop bickering for a moment?’
The Morris Minor soared over a hump in the road and became airborne. They all floated up off their seats and came crashing back down as the vehicle connected with the tarmac again. Its springs bottomed out on the chassis producing a loud grating sound as all four wheels connected with the car’s body. The impact silenced its occupants.
The librarian and Anaïs looked at one another. Was the car aware of their altercations?
‘How did you come into possession of this thing?’ Asked Anaïs, pointing at the dashboard.
The librarian struggled with making room for herself. Her oversized coat rode up on her, almost choking her. She grunted, wrenched it down and settled back in her seat. She stared out the windscreen. ‘It was just waiting outside the airport when I arrived in England.’
‘How did you know it was for you?’
‘I was given an envelope containing a ticket and a set of keys. In the envelope was a note with instructions. It said a car would be waiting for me. Well, a car was waiting for me.’
The librarian scratched her head, using the tip of the slender, polished fingernail of her index finger in order to avoid messing up her hair. It was filed to a sharp point.
‘Only, I expected a driver,’ she said looking down at Anaïs.
‘How did you know which car?’
‘It was kind of obvious, the car was parked at the entrance to the terminal and there was this,’ said Immi. She reached across to the centre of the dashboard and lifted a cardboard tag which was attached to the car keys. She showed it to Anaïs. Written on the tag in immaculate calligraphy were two words: Morris Minor.
Anaïs smiled and nodded. ‘Yeah, I guess that is kind of obvious. Were there any other instructions?’
‘Well, then, I don’t get it. How did you find me?’
‘I just got in the car and started driving. Whenever I had to make a turn it told me which way to go by switching on its indicators.’ The librarian screwed up her nose. ‘Honestly, I assumed the keys they gave me were magic and not the car itself.’
‘Seems logical. I just have one more question,’ said Anaïs.
The librarian sighed. ‘What is it with small children and questions? You never seem to run out of them.’ She looked down at the little witch huddled in the seat beside her.
Anaïs folded her arms and huffed, ‘I’m not a small child!’
‘Fine, one more question and then I’m going to have a nap.’ She pulled her coat shut, hugged herself and stared at the road. ‘This could be a long ride and I’m kind of thankful I don’t have to do the driving.’
Anaïs shuffled in her seat. ‘Who gave you the envelope?’
‘My mum of course,’ said Immi matter-of-factly. ‘Didn’t you meet her in the library? Or at least someone who said she was her. Her name is Sojourner Pink.’
Witches can’t do it all alone. As previously mentioned, they need the help of normal everyday human beings to get things done. There are thousands of wannabe witches out there, but they can only really be considered as a sort of fan club. Fans of any kind are great and who doesn’t love a bit of adulation? However, not if they aspire to be something they’re not—which is quite often the case once a fan becomes a confidante. People who desire something they can’t possibly have, usually screw up the system.
Experience has taught witches that, in order to be left to do what it is they do best, they don’t need competition getting in the way. Unless of course the competition makes a useful diversion. True assistance will only come from someone you can trust.
This is not to say that fans cannot be trusted. It is more that, once they really get a peek behind the scenes, they are usually in for a shock. More than likely, they are also in for a huge disappointment. Most people cannot cope with the reality hidden behind what props something extraordinary up. Generally it is a lot more mundane and boring than expected. Maintaining a magical facade requires an inordinate amount of hard work. For most fans, this is not fun. They prefer to see results, and quickly. Otherwise, they will find something better to fill their time with. Or they will move onto the next available icon to worship.
The day-to-day life of a witch is not particularly exciting. They are the same as you and I. They have to do their daily ablutions. Not to mention, going grocery shopping, cleaning, washing and other menial tasks. Then there’s also the decision to be made about what to wear for the day.
Witches tend to have an extensive wardrobe and deciding on the appropriate clothing for a day of witching can be quite tedious. This is especially so when you are unsure of what you will be up against. All manner of supernatural and physical obstacles are likely to confront you. Choosing suitable attire is made all the more complicated when everything you own is stuffed into a hat. By the time you’ve rummaged through its contents, and laid it out on your bed—if you have one—you still have to decide what matches with what. For this reason witches tend to go for basic black. Although, in the case of Anaïs, purple was her preference. But then, Anaïs liked to be different.
These things, the basics, all have to be attended to before any work can get done. The average fan would get bored senseless waiting for anything magical to occur. Not that a witch’s assistant is expected to do most of these things. They are primarily enlisted to smooth over the inadequacies of physical witch communication. And occasionally do their taxes.
One major requirement is that an assistant needs to be on-call day and night. This is quite a stretch for an admirer, especially if the pay is not good. So, if a fan or supporter is of no use, then you need to find someone more reliable. Preferably someone close to home. Someone who won’t run off at a moment’s notice. Someone who feels bound to the task they are given and who is trained to be fully aware of their responsibilities and duties. Someone who is mutually invested in the cause. Someone who feels morally obligated. Someone who can be held accountable. Specifically, someone who is family.
Some find it a curse, others an honour, but whenever possible, the task of being a witch’s assistant usually falls to their offspring.
‘Sojourner Pink is your mother!’ Anaïs snickered to herself.
‘Yes, of course. What’s wrong with that?’
‘Oh, nothing,’ said Anaïs. ‘Perhaps a little odd.’
‘Odd?’ Squeaked the librarian. ‘We all have to come from somewhere.’
‘I know that. I’m sorry. I suppose I’m just surprised.’
‘Probably not as surprised as she was when I popped out,’ said the librarian with a smirk.
‘Oh, so you were a mistake?’
The librarian’s smile melted. ‘I wouldn’t know. I certainly hope not.’ A trouble look clouded her face. ‘I never thought to ask.’
Anaïs sensed she had insulted her. She reached across to pat her arm. The librarian retracted it. ‘What are you doing?’
‘I was trying to comfort you. I thought I’d said the wrong thing.’
’Why would you think that?’
‘Oh, just because—.’ Anaïs was confused. ‘Never mind.’
The librarian looked at her with consternation. ‘Even for a witch, you’re a little strange.’
Anaïs breathed out slowly. ‘Maybe it’s better if we don’t discuss mothers?’
‘Yes, maybe,’ said Immi. ‘Let’s change the subject.’ She nodded at the hat on the witch’s head. ‘Could you check your promptuary? I’d like to know where we’re going.’
Anaïs brightened. ‘Yes, good idea, so would I.’
She took off her beret and rummaged around inside.
‘That’s something I will never get used to,’ said Immi.
‘What?’ Anaïs stopped what she was doing and looked at the librarian.
Immi pointed at the witch’s arm which had disappeared up to the elbow into her beret. ‘Your stump.’
‘Oh this? Stump? Now who’s the one with the strange sense of humour?’
‘Peas in a pod,’ said the librarian and grinned at her.
Anaïs found her promptuary and pulled it out. She placed it on her lap and set the beret back on her head. She opened the handbook.
‘Map,’ she commanded.
Nothing happened. The pages of the promptuary did not transform. They looked like the leaves of any ordinary book. Anaïs closed the handbook. She turned it over in her hands and scrutinised it. She opened it once more.
‘Map,’ she said forcefully.
Again there was no response. She slammed it shut and slapped the back cover. She opened the handbook and bent it back, cracking its spine. She flipped through its pages and stopped at the centre. She closed her eyes and concentrated. Clearing her mind she focussed on the book.
‘Map,’ she pleaded softly.
She opened her eyes. The pages transformed momentarily and a blue screen appeared. Anaïs’s eyes widened. There was an electrical crackle and then the screen dematerialised. Once again she was left staring at ordinary sheets of paper.
She was distraught. What was going on?
She held the book in front of her with both hands. She shook it. She yelled at it in frustration, ‘Oh c’mon, work!’
There was no reaction from the promptuary. Anaïs closed the handbook and jammed her thumb down hard on the star in the centre of the front cover. It barely illuminated. It flickered sporadically on and off before emitting a slow pulsing light. Anaïs set the book down on the point of her knees and glared at it.
‘I thought that thing could tell us where we’re going,’ said Immi.
‘So did I,’ said Anaïs. ‘It wasn’t the only thing it could do. Obviously there’s something wrong with its supernatural circuitry, like it’s locked in some form of sleep-mode. It was working fine before.’
‘In the town, before you-know-what happened.’
The librarian dipped her chin and looked over her sunglasses at Anaïs. ‘Uh huh, do you think that had something to do with it?’
‘How would I know? I just use the thing, I didn’t make it. They didn’t give me a manual with it. It is the manual.’
‘Who is them?’
‘The Organisation,’ said Anaïs. ‘They gave it to me a few years back. At least I think they did.’ She pointed at the beret upon her head. ‘They actually gave me this for a birthday. The promptuary was in it. I have no idea where it came from.’
Anaïs paused for a moment. ‘Your mum’s a member, didn’t she tell you anything about this sort of stuff?’
The librarian shook her head. ‘No, she never tells me anything. Most of the time I wonder why I’m sworn to secrecy when nobody tells me any secrets.’
Anais picked up the promptuary and ran her finger around the contours of the star. ‘There was a heap of energy running wild last night. Maybe it short circuited?’
‘You mean like some kind of supernatural glitch has sent it haywire?’
Anaïs leaned back in her seat, rested her head on the backrest and stared at the roof of the Morris Minor. ‘What do I know?’
The librarian sighed. ‘Where does that leave us then?’
‘We have the car,’ said Anaïs.
‘Yes, you have a point, but that’s not exactly very reassuring. At least, as far as I’m concerned. It’s fine if it knows where it’s going but I would kind of like to know as well.’
‘I agree but maybe we should just trust it?’
‘Maybe, but I have to say there’s not a lot things I’m prepared to blindly trust anymore.’
‘Well, have you got any better ideas?’
‘Nope,’ said Immi.
‘Why don’t we all just sit back and enjoy the ride?’
‘Did you say something?’
‘No, Nan did.’ Anaïs furrowed her brow. ‘Did you hear it?’
‘I heard someone whispering,’ said Immi.
‘Wow, weird. Maybe hanging around with a witch is starting to rub off on you.’
‘Don’t say that. I could do without the complications. What did she say anyway?’
‘She told us to calm down.’
‘Calm down? I am calm.’ She squirmed in her seat. ‘I’d just like to know what’s going on.’
‘Wouldn’t we all? Try being dead for a change and see how you like it,’ said the caretaker dryly.
Anaïs burst into laughter.
‘It’s not funny,’ said the librarian.
Anais covered her mouth and tried to stifle her giggling.
‘Oh, yes it is.’ She mumbled through her fingers. ‘It’s very funny.’