The Ritual to make Patton the Staff of the Coven was a simple one. Everybody went into the living room, which was tastefully decorated with modern furnishings, a hardwood floor and area rugs. Margaret rolled up one of the rugs to reveal a circle painted on the floor with a triangle inside it. Yvonne went over to a bookcase and pulled three candles out of a drawer. She gave one to each of the witches, and one to Patton. And Elaine went to the windows and closed the drapes.
Then all three of the witches started taking off their clothes.
“More nudity?” asked Patton. “Do you have to?”
“No,” said Margaret, “we all do. You too!”
“Most Rituals require formal robes,” explained Elaine, “but this one requires full nudity for the bond to be established correctly. Since you are being bonded with us, you have to be nude, too.” Patton reluctantly removed his clothes.
“OK, Lover Boy,” instructed Yvonne, “you get to stand right here in the middle of the circle. Hold that candle in both hands over your head.” Patton did as he was told, feeling rather stupid with the candle over his head.
The three witches stood around Patton and clasped hands so that each candle was being held by two witches. The candles lit themselves and the witches started to circle clockwise, like an X-rated version of Ring Around the Rosy. The song that they sang, however, was very different and in some language Patton didn’t understand.
As they circled they started closing in on Patton. He could also feel their auras closing in on him, strobing like an old fashioned zoetrope — Yvonne, Margaret, Elaine, again and again, faster and faster until they seemed to blend into one. From this he developed a sense of the Coven’s aura, which was included elements of each witch’s aura yet was distinct, more powerful.
And then his aura must have gotten involved, for the Coven’s aura changed. It became deeper, somehow, and with sharp edges and crystalline facets. He was still trying to understand it when suddenly he felt the girls’ bodies press against his and power flowed from them through him and the candle he was holding over his head exploded into brilliance.
And just like that it was over. Patton found himself standing in the middle of a room with three hot, sweaty, naked women pressed against his naked body, his hands over his head and covered with melted wax that was also dripping into his hair. “Wow!” he said. “Was it good for you?”
The girls all laughed, then they all started tickling him, both in the usual places and places he’d never been tickled before. “No fair!” he cried, and broke his hands free of the wax so he could tickle them back. The writhing band of laughing tickle monsters descended onto the nearby sofa where they collectively stopped to catch their breath. Elaine started picking the wax out of Patton’s hair.
“We need to get you cleaned up,” she said. “You and Margaret go take a shower while Yvonne helps me get dinner started. We expect you to spend the night.”
“Uh, I really can’t,” said Patton. “I have an early meeting tomorrow morning and I don’t want to be late. And I have to meet with the contractor beforehand, to make sure he actually gets started on the work.”
“Oh?” asked Margaret. “Why do you have to spend the night at home? You don’t have a working toilet, your yard stinks, and you can’t even take a shower. You’d do much better spending the night here.”
“And we won’t even make you sleep on the couch!” quipped Yvonne.
“Shush!” said Elaine. “You’ll just scare him off!” She untangled herself and started heading for the kitchen, leaving her clothes behind. Yvonne and Margaret got up next and grabbed Patton’s hands, pulling him to his feet.
“Come on, Lover Boy,” said Margaret. “We’ll start by getting that wax off your hands.” She dragged him off to the bathroom while Yvonne went around and collected all the clothing from the floor.
“You have got to get over your nudity issues,” said Margaret. “Especially if you’re going to be hanging around us, which, as our Staff, is guaranteed. Witches in general are not body shy, Life Witches even less so, and we aren’t self-conscious about it at all. We make sure we’re dressed when we go out in public, but around the house we’re just as likely to be naked as dressed.”
After their shower (which Patton was ashamed to admit he enjoyed immensely) Margaret had given him a silk robe instead of letting him put on his clothes. “They’re being washed,” she’d said, then dragged him out to the kitchen where Yvonne was wearing a similar robe and Elaine had on an apron and nothing else.
“This is all happening too fast for me,” complained Patton. “I’m having a hard time adjusting to all the changes. Magic, and hot young women being interested in me, and nudity — it’s just too much!”
“Hey!” said Elaine. “Don’t go thinking you’re robbing the cradle or something! Even the baby of the family, Yvonne, is twice your age, and I’m nearly twice hers.”
Patton was trying to do the mental math. “You mean …”
“Yes, Lover Boy, I’m over a hundred, and Elaine was a Civil War Widow at one time.” Yvonne gave a little curtsy, and Elaine just nodded and continued cooking.
“And I was born between the two,” said Margaret, “so if there’s anyone here who should be self-conscious about their appearance it’s us, little boy, not you.”
“But you look so, so …”
“Young? That’s one of the advantages of magic,” said Elaine. “You don’t have to look any older than you want to, for the most part. Look at us, really look at us. How old do we appear, to you?” The three witches lined up next to one another.
“When I first met you I remember thinking your ages ranged from twenty-five to forty-five, but now … twenty-one, twenty-five, and twenty-nine?”
“Thank you!” said Elaine. She continued lecturing as they worked together to set the table. “We’ve been using the energy you put in that crystal around your neck to restore our more youthful appearance, but even doing nothing we wouldn’t appear to be more than sixty or so, even though we expect to live to be 300. Now let’s stop being so serious and eat!”
Patton got back to his house bright and early the next morning. Even so, he was only minutes ahead of the Shirk Brothers. In minutes his driveway was crowded with the vacuum truck, a flatbed carrying an excavator and a port-a-potty, and several pickup trucks. It was a good thing he had his motorcycle because his car wasn’t able to leave the garage.
He stuck around just long enough for them to take up the bricks and reveal the access lid of the septic tank, then he took off for the Friday morning meeting of the Rochester Professional Consultants Network. He was late.
When he returned the pumper truck was gone, as was the pond in the back yard. He was strongly tempted to quiz Mr. Shirk immediately, but figured he should change out of his suit first. A few minutes later he was dressed in jeans and walking out to where the excavator was digging up his back yard.
“So how do things look?”
“Well, Mr. Patton, the good news is everythin’ to the distribution box looks just fine. We cleaned the tank, checked the baffle, and sucked up the water in the yard, then Fred here dug up the box and ran a probe up the pipe to the tank. Even with all the trees here the pipe was root free.”
“And the bad news?”
“See those strings? They show where the pipes run out of the box. The way the trees are overhangin’ the lines them pipes are sure to be plugged with roots, and the excavator’s gonna get snarled up in them branches. It’s not gonna be pretty!”
“But it has be done, right?”
Patton went back inside to try and write some cover letters, but the noise from the excavator and the guys yelling at one another was too much of a distraction so he packed things up and headed for the library. That was one place he could concentrate.
It was four o’clock when he returned home, to find everything quiet. The flatbed and the excavator were still there, but all the trucks were gone from the driveway. In their place was an enormous mound of rocks and dirt, and a pile of smashed-up drainage pipe. The grass in his back yard was gone, replaced by a huge, shallow hole.
There was a note stuck in his kitchen door. “Things are going well. See you Monday,” it said.
Monday! Great! Patton started thinking all sorts of unkind thoughts about the Shirk Brothers, then he had an idea. Maybe I can use this to get out of paying so much!
He gave Margaret a call. “Do you know if Rich is any good at suing people?” He explained about the situation with the Shirk Brothers.
“I don’t know. We’re going out tonight; I’ll ask him.”
“Thanks! And, uh, have a good evening!”
“Don’t worry, Scotty, I will!”
Patton grabbed a beer and started wandering around the dig, kicking at loose stones and brooding. What a mess! he thought to himself. Everywhere he looked were bills and expenses. His future looked bleak.