Patton turned into his driveway and was immediately forced to ride on the lawn by a truck that was on its way out. The truck never even slowed down, it just threw gravel all over the yard, the street, and everything in between as it turned into the street and hauled ass to its next destination. Patton didn’t even get a chance to stare after it for his route across the yard was blocked by the large red roll-off container that the truck had left behind. He had to pick his way around it to his usual parking spot, where he found Rich’s car parked. He shut off the motorcycle and parked next to the convertible, one BMW beside another.
He found Rich sitting in a lawn chair on the patio, drinking a beer. There was a cooler full of ice and beer next to him, with another lawn chair on the other side. Rich dug out a beer and held it out as Patton came and sat in the empty chair.
“Thanks,” said Patton as he opened it and took a swig. “Isn’t it kind of early in the day for this?”
“Nonsense!” Rich took a pull from his own bottle. “I guess you’ve discovered my present.”
“So I have you to thank for my newest lawn decoration?” Rich nodded. “Gee! You shouldn’t have!” Rich smiled at the sarcasm.
“Don’t worry about any complaints from the neighbors. I even got the necessary permits for it, so we can begin rebuilding your kitchen without any legal hassles.” Rich took another drink, and Patton did the same. Then he set his bottle on the ground and leaned toward Patton. “While I was at the permit office I picked up this.” He opened up the briefcase that was on the ground next to his chair and pulled out a document, which he handed to Patton.
“What’s this?” asked Patton as he took the document.
“It’s a citation. It seems the Shirk Brothers neglected to get a permit for the septic work.” Patton looked crestfallen, but a big smile appeared on Rich’s face. “We’ve got ‘em! That’s how you’re gonna get out of paying for the septic system!”
“You think that will work?”
“I know it will! Heck, we may be able to get them to pay for your kitchen, too!”
“Yeah, well how long is that gonna take? The bills aren’t gonna wait for a court date!”
“You just worry about your usual bills and let me worry about court. This is going to be fun!” Rich rubbed his hands together with glee, and Patton was surprised at the power he sensed behind the fire in Rich’s eyes. Here’s a guy who really loves his job!
Patton got up to put the citation in the house and Rich followed him inside. “There’s another reason I got that dumpster for you, besides getting rid of the destruction. I’m going to teach you some magic.”
“Dumpster magic? I never heard of it!”
“Not dumpster magic, levitation! I’m going to teach you levitation, and you’re going to practice by levitating all that junk out of your basement and into the dumpster. It’ll be good for you — build your magical muscles!”
Patton was doubtful but game. “OK, where do we start?”
“Let’s start by going down into the basement.” Patton led him to the cellar doors outside, which he threw open wide. The door at the bottom of the steep steps stuck, as usual, but Patton was able to force it open and let air and light into the dank space. There were a lot fewer spiderwebs down her than he remembered, and Patton figured it must be the brownies’ influence.
They made their way to the heap that used to be his kitchen floor, and looked up into the room above. Things looked very different from this angle, familiar but distorted by the unusual perspective. Patton had mental maps of the different floors of the house, but this connected the basement and first floor maps in a new way inside his head. It was a little disconcerting at first.
“We’re going to start with something small at first. I don’t see any feathers down here, but you’ve got lots of bits of gravel. Let’s start with one of those.” Rich levitated a small stone onto the palm of his outstretched hand.
“Now, Grasshopper, when you can take the pebble from my hand you will be ready.” Rich took one of Patton’s hands in his free one and started teaching him the magic. It was similar to the fire starting training they’d done before, but the forces were different and applied differently. The application of force took longer, also, causing Patton to tire.
“You’re not used to drawing energy from you chi, that’s why you’re tiring. You actually have an enormous reserve of energy there — probably enough to lift this entire pile all at once — but the channel you’re using to draw it out has the size of a soda straw. You need to stretch it, expand it to allow more energy to flow. That will take practice. Try again.”
Patton tried again, and suddenly a half-remembered vision of a garden claw digging through his brain popped into his mind, and the pebble flew out of Rich’s hand and embedded itself in the sub-flooring overhead.
“What was that?” Rich stared at the gravel stuck in the wood over their head, and then tried to pull it out of the wood. It took a few moments and quite a bit of effort before it finally came free and fell back into his palm.
“What happened? How did you do that?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I guess I found a wider channel.”
“I think it’s time for a break. Let’s go have another beer.”
They went back to the patio and sat down. Rich tossed the pebble on the bricks in front of them and opened another bottle. “Looks like we need to work on your control, too. Why don’t you try to levitate that again, only this time see if you can get it to hover in the air in front of you. You’ll need to balance the lifting force with the pull of gravity. You go ahead and try while I drink this.”
Patton took a drink from his own beer, then sat back and looked down at the rock near his feet. He tried to remember what he’d done in the basement, breaking it down in his mind into a sequence of steps which he then tried exercising slowly, in effect single-stepping through the program in his head. He got to the part where the channel opened up and the rock popped into the air, shooting into the branches overhead only to come falling back down as he shut off the flow of energy.
He took another drink and tried again, going through the initial steps more quickly until he got to the energy part, then carefully trying to ramp up the energy rather than turning it all on at once. The rock again flew into the air, only not quite so quickly or as high. This time when it came back to earth it took a bounce that hit Rich in the foot.
“Ouch! You’re getting better, but still dangerous. Hit me again and I’ll leave you to practice on your own!” He opened up the ice chest and pulled out two beers, handing one to Patton. “This seems to be helping, so have another.”
“Thanks!” Patton gulped down the rest of his first beer and opened the second, then tried levitating the pebble again.
An hour later the witches came around the corner of the house to find the two wizards sitting laughing in their chairs surrounded by empty beer bottles, with a dozen stones of assorted sizes floating in the air in front of them.
“We stopped by to take you boys out to lunch, but it looks like we may have gotten here too late!” said Elaine.
Margaret added, “What are you guys up to?”
“Teachin’ Scotty ‘ere to jugg-guggle,” slurred Rich. “Why doan you show ‘em?”
“Sure!” With a look of concentration Patton started bobbing the rocks up and down. Eventually they formed a nice circle spinning vertically in the air. “Not bad, if I do say so myself!” When he spoke the stones faltered, and he renewed his concentration on the unfamiliar task.
“Impressive, sure, but what good is it?” asked Yvonne.
“Prac’ice, m’dear! ‘E’s prac’icing ‘is control!”
“You, Richie Baby, are drunk!” said Margaret.
“’M not drunk! I hain’t staggered atoll!”
“That’s because you haven’t tried getting up! Don’t you have to pee, or something?”
A look of distress suddenly crossed Rich’s face, and he lurched out of his chair. He would have fallen flat on his face except the witches braved the whirling rocks to catch him. Patton controlled the rocks back to the ground, and then stood up to help.
While the witches helped Rich inside to the bathroom Patton went back into the basement to try and turn on the water without having it spray all over the kitchen. A few minutes later he found the right valves and was rewarded by the sound of a toilet flushing. He couldn’t do that too many times or the septic tank would refill and start dumping into the yard, but for an emergency like this he figured it was OK.
He came back upstairs to find Margaret nearly carrying Rich out to the minivan with Yvonne right there with them, rubbing Rich’s temples to magically sober him up. Rich wasn’t looking too good.
Elaine turned to Patton. “What do you want to do for lunch? Tully’s?”
“Why not? At least Rich will fit in there.”
After lunch they returned to the house and Patton made his way down to the basement again. Elaine and Yvonne went to the kitchen window nearest the dumpster to remove the plywood. They picked their way carefully through the garden to the window, working hard to not stomp on the hyacinths, daffodils and tulips that were blooming there or the day lilies that were just starting to come up. The were Life Witches, after all.
After a few minutes they successfully removed the plywood, and daylight streamed into the basement where Patton stood. “Are you ready down there?” Yvonne called.
In response Patton levitated one of the smaller pieces of debris off the top of the pile. As it rose he angled its path to go out the window and over the dumpster, where he released it. It gave a satisfying crash as it fell in.
“You know, if you control the descent into the dumpster you can recover some of the energy used to lift it out of the basement,” called Elaine.
“What fun is that?” replied Patton. He turned his attention to another small piece. And another. Both his speed and control improved as he worked. After about half an hour he felt like he was making progress, as well as getting tired.
He went back up to the patio to find Yvonne and Elaine doing their best to soak up the sunlight that was being filtered by the leaves that were coming out on the chestnut tree. Margaret was still in the back of the van with Rich. It was a rockin’, so Patton put any thoughts of knockin’ out of his mind. “Is there any more beer?” he asked.