This story is dedicated to Patti Digh, whose work challenges me to keep going when I feel like I just can’t. Life is, indeed, a verb.
The witch regarded the boy who so suddenly burst into her cottage, upsetting the cats and scaring the birds. His face flushed, eyes wide with fear, words tumbling out so fast she could make no sense of them.
“Slow down, boy,” she said, placing a hand on his shaking shoulder.
The boy gulped for air but found only tears.
The witch sighed, bothered by this interruption. She struggled with the desire to boot this kid and his woes out of her little house, but her heart wasn’t that cold.
She pushed the boy into a chair and handed him a mug of water. He sipped between sobs and gradually they subsided.
“It’s my mama,” he whispered. “She’s terrible sick and she’s gonna die. We need your help.”
The witch’s heart iced over a little more. Her eyes involuntarily flicked in the direction of her long abandoned bookshelf, barely visible now under the spiders’ webs and dust. Her cats, sensing the storm, made themselves scarce. The birds stop their singing.
The very earth appeared to hold its breath.
“No.” The witch watched the boy’s heart break.
“But you are our only hope!” The little boy cried.
“Then you are out of hope.” The witch walked to her door, holding it open for the boy.
But the boy didn’t move. “Why?”
The witch shook her head.
Still the boy didn’t move. “We need you.”
The witch crossed her arms. Her gaze flew around the small cottage. Her neglected cauldron, her abandoned books, the jars of herbs long unused, the dusty altar. She bit her lip to keep the tears back.
The little boy stood. He walked over to the witch. He put his tiny hand on her scratchy elbow. He looked up into her face.
“Magick is a verb,” he whispered.
The witch looked down into his bright eyes. Fear engulfed her like flames. She hadn’t had any magick work for her in so long, she’d grown sure she’d never make it happen again. It had become so much easier to give up than to fail.
But suddenly, she had to try.