[This scene is part of a new story line I’m exploring to see if it might fit in the world of Patton and the Wizards War. I’m interested in hearing your reactions.]
The chimes on the door tinkled brightly as Sabrina stepped in from the bright sunshine and looked around while clutching a small box tight to her chest. She’d heard that the owner was a crazy lady, but was willing to pawn just about anything, which was good, because “just about anything” pretty well described all she had left. She didn’t want to be here, really didn’t want to be here, but her babies were hungry! Damn food stamps didn’t go nearly far enough, certainly not when Eric came around. When he came around he slapped her around and accused her of turning tricks again, worse when he was drunk or high. Couldn’t he see her babies were his? But no, he had to go getting all jealous and suspicious and mean, and the only way she could keep him from beating her to death was to give him money, and maybe, maybe buy a little peace.
Until the next time.
Inside the box was all she had left, except her babies, of course. Most of it was trinkets she’d found in attics or basements of apartments she’d stayed in, shiny baubles that she knew weren’t worth much, else why’d they been left behind by their former owners? She only kept them because they’d caught her eye for some inexplicable reason. This one had been clean in a puddle of mud. That one had been hanging on a nail in an otherwise empty room. Another had felt warm the first time she’d touched it. Whatever the reason, she’d picked them up and put them in her box, and now, when she had nothing else left, she was here to see if they were worth anything. Maybe, hope against hope, enough to feed her babies tonight.
“Good morning, sweetie! Whatcha got in the box?”
The girl jumped as the voice came from close behind her. She turned to see a tiny woman close at hand, dressed like a gypsy with full skirts and a peasant blouse and lots of necklaces and bracelets. No bells, though. The woman needed bells to keep her from sneaking up on customers that way!
“Uh, I heard you’ll take just about anything. Is that true?” Now that she was here, on the verge of selling her knickknacks, Sabrina was having second thoughts and clutched the box even tighter.
The strange woman tipped her head first to one side, then the other. “Just about, yes. We have rules and regulations to follow, of course, but I always try to help out the good people.” She tilted her head and looked up at the frightened young woman. “You are good people, yes?”
“Uh, I guess so.”
“And you want to keep your babies fed, don’t cha?” She was studying the girl up and down, looking at her but not looking at her at the same time. The examination gave Sabrina the creeps.
“How did you know?”
“You can learn a lot about people if you just make the effort to look at them,” she said, then she suddenly turned and scurried to the counter at the back of the shop. “Bring your goodies and I’ll see what I can do for you,” she said as she ducked behind the counter. She popped up seeming taller than she had been a moment ago. Standing on a box, maybe? “Come on, dear, your babies are only getting hungrier!”
Sabrina followed her more slowly, looking around as she went deeper into the shop. The first thing that caught her eye was a large tapestry on the back wall — a dragon whose eyes seemed to glow and follow her. She managed to wrench her eyes away and looked instead at the floor to ceiling shelves full of bric-a-brac that gave the shop a claustrophobic feel. Further in were glass cases containing items that seemed to have more conventional value — jewelry, guns, and so on. The cases were away from the wall so the shopkeeper could get behind them, and the walls behind that were completely lined with even more shelves, covered with junk of every conceivable kind. It was like someone had thrown a bomb into an estate sale and then brought the pieces here.
“Let’s see whatcha got,” the strange lady said as Sabrina finally set her box on the counter. Eager hands reached into the box and started pulling out her treasures. “My, my, my! You have quite the eye!” the woman muttered as she laid the items one by one on the counter. She closed her eyes and passed her hands slowly over them, then did some counting on her fingers. “I’ll give you a hundred bucks for the lot.”
“A hundred bucks!”
“And I’ll throw in this good luck charm,” she said as she reached behind her and picked a bead on a leather thong off a shelf.
“Now there’s two conditions. One, use this to feed your babies, and don’t give any of it to that nasty boyfriend of yours. He’s bad news, and the further you can get away from him the better! You might want to think about going to one of them shelters for battered women.”
“The other condition is the next time you find something like one of these, bring it directly to me.”
“Oh, dear, you don’t realize it, but you have a talent. These things caught your eye for a reason, and that’s cause they’re full of magic! You find something else that catches your eye the same way and I’ll bet it’s got magic, too. Bring it here and we’ll both benefit.”
“But … I don’t know what to say!”
“Thank you will do.”
“Oh, thank you! Thank you!” She accepted the money and the bead, shook the strange lady’s hand, and fairly raced out the door. A hundred bucks! Wow!
“No, thank you, my dear,” said the tiny witch as the door closed behind her latest finder.