|Creative Writing By Alice|
I never wanted the paper round in the first place. Dad made me do it because, he said, it'd save employing some spotty teenager who'd dawdle and deliver things to the wrong address. Since I'm only two years off being a spotty teenager myself, I sort of wonder about his logic.
So I got the paper round. Without pay, because, Dad said, I'm expensive enough as it is and I'd better start pulling my weight. This, as I pointed out, was slave labour. Dad didn't seem to care.
So as well as being the family shop slave on the weekends, I'm the paper slave in the mornings. When I complained to Mum, she said it was teaching me that I should study hard so I don't have to work in the shop for the rest of my life. I asked how I was meant to study when I was spending all my free time working in the shop. Mum went quiet for a moment and then told me not to be silly.
Anyway, I got the paper round, which means getting up at half past six every morning, eating a few bites of breakfast, then trailing round town with a heavy bag before school. Not your idea of fun? Mine neither. Especially when, like that morning, it was raining.
"A little bit of rain never hurt anyone," said Dad, handing me the bag.
"This isn't just a little bit of rain."
"Yes it is."
"It's a flood."
"I don't care if it's hailing golf balls, you're going," He threw a bundle of magazines at me. "Don't forget these. They're for the new people at 53 Morgan Crescent. Off you go."
Off I went. I was soaked through five seconds after I'd left the shop. By the time I'd got halfway round my route, I was shivering and seriously worried that my fingers were about to fall off. The rain was getting heavier, and the street ahead was just a sodden grey splat of houses and tarmac, and I was fed up.
Then I saw the bus shelter. I've never been so pleased to see it before in my life. (I'd never really been pleased to see it you wouldn't be, would you? It's just a plastic box that smells of fag ends, but today, it was the only shelter I could see, and it looked like heaven.) I shot inside just as the rain started to turn to sleet. Okay, I was already wet through, but I thought I'd sit for a while and see if it stopped.
I looked in the bag to see if there was anything good to read. There isn't usually - just newspapers and fishing magazines and stuff - but it was worth a try.
Then I found the magazines Dad had given me. The address label was soggy and peeling, but I could just about make out the names: Fay, Mab and Maggie Salem, 53 Morgan Crescent.
Strange names. Then again, strange magazines. I'd never seen them before, and I've seen plenty of magazines in my time.
I picked up the first one. Coven, the title announced, while underneath the smiling cover girl a splash of letters shouted "Magic away that cellulite!" and "Charm your way to promotion!"
I've read hundreds of those magazines while I've been bored at the shop, and I haven't got rich, beautiful or promoted yet. Mind you, I haven't exactly followed their advice to the letter.
I flicked to the horoscopes. They're always good for a laugh. 'Jupiter's in the helix of Mercury, so by the end of this week you'll be rolling in money'. You'd be amazed how often that one comes true. But then, I would say that - I'm a typical Libran sceptic.
So, what did Mystic Morrigan have to say about me today? I found Libra, and paused.
Well, it was unusual. Refreshing, I'll give it that, but very unusual.
Libra: Life may seem to be getting a little repetitive - but really, what can you expect? Don't be such a pushover! If you don't like your job, don't do it. It's as simple as that. Tell your dad you need to concentrate on your schoolwork - which you do, by the way. You've forgotten all about that science test, haven't you?
The answer to question seven is monozygotic. You should manage to scrape by without a detention, but make time to study from now on. Okay?
I slapped the magazine shut, stuffed it back into the bag and stared blankly ahead for a moment. Science test! I'd totally forgotten about it. But how come
Coincidence? the typical Libran sceptic side of my mind offered.
The rest of me snorted dismissively. Yeah. Right.
Maggie Salem had ordered Good Hexing. After the slightly disturbing horoscope, I didn't want to look at it.
Of course, that decision lasted all of about five seconds. I tore open the packet, dropped it and whatever cheap free gift they'd stuck in with the magazine, and started to skim through the articles like a scholar who'd just discovered a new Shakespeare play.
'This season's cauldrons Make the most of winter days with our tried-and-tested sun spells 10 nutritious newt recipes '
Okay, I was probably being a little slow, but I was half-frozen and totally confused. It took me a couple of minutes before I stopped and went back. Sun spells?
Reading them, they weren't exactly helpful.
Take a handful of ground ivy and a bowl of salt Just before dawn, light three candles Draw a pentagram and
Of course, if you're an eleven-year-old Libran sceptic who's been caught in a rainstorm in the middle of your paper round you might want to remember that witchcraft takes practice, dedication and, most of all, belief. If you tried any of these, you might dodge a few raindrops, but you'd be much better off with an umbrella. Take the one that came with the magazine.
You can understand how I felt. Actually, unless something like this has happened to you, you probably can't. I'll tell you how I felt. Weird. Very, very weird and more than a little scared.
I didn't want to take the umbrella. I didn't even want to touch it at first. But it was still raining, and I was running late, and it looked like an ordinary enough umbrella.
I picked up the plastic bag the magazine had come in, and started at the umbrella. Then, very carefully, I poked it.
No bright lights, no explosions, no turning into a frog. Nothing.
Slowly, I pulled it out and opened it. Still nothing. It actually seemed to be a perfectly normal umbrella. Maybe that made it a novelty for the readers of Good Hexing.
Or not, I thought, as I looked at the handle and saw a button labelled 'Poppins Mode'.
Still, being surprisingly big, sturdy and black, it would probably be a decent umbrella, and the rain didn't seem to be easing off much. I picked up my bag.
Then the third magazine caught my eye. Crone, for Mab Salem; on the cover - I shouldn't have been surprised - 'The top 100 holidays for the over 365s!'
For a second, I thought about opening it. If the others were anything to go by, I'd get some good advice or a helping hand, as well as a bit of a scare.
Then I thought, maybe I shouldn't. The other two magazines had told me to start doing things for myself. This one probably wouldn't appreciate it if I didn't listen to them.
That was probably the strangest thing I'd think all week, I told myself, as I packed the last magazine away and stepped out into the rain. But then again, it had been a strange morning. The Salems were going to be interesting people to have around. Unusual, but interesting. I wondered how the town was going to cope.
Anyway, I decided, I'd better get on. Mr Zeus at number 42 always complained
if he didn't get his copy of Olympus Daily on time.