When Charlie Fuggs, the wizard, felt the need to replenish his supplies of all things magical and potion-like he’d go to the town pond, nowadays overgrown and emitting a smell that could send your hair grey.
As a wizard he was a bit of a failure. When he’d first come to live in the town the place was a shambles.
He’d concocted a potion to turn the town from ruin to perfect. It worked well, for a while.
Sadly, the potion wore off and all hell broke loose.
After three days hiding inside he ventured out to find the place was, as he first saw it.
Disheartened he searched for a water hyacinth as he knew it would bring some magic or if nothing else settle his nerves, mixed with some happening powder and a pinch of luck.
It was known near and far that Alice Thomas was a quiet one. That was until she spoke and then she wasn’t. Crowds were known to gather, silence pervaded the town square as she argued the issues bugging her the most.
Her voice had a strident tone to it. Many were pleased she was the quiet one as her voice grated and her manner abrupt and though she lacked many of societies graces there was always a point to what she had to say.
Today her gripe was the garbage system, or lack of it.
The council wanted to halve the size of the general waste bin. It was nothing more than a cost saving venture by them and she wasn’t standing for it. Within minutes she had warmed up her vocal chords and she was giving the counsellors everything she had.
We knew nothing was going to change and so did she but that didn’t deter her from letting fly.
It was Sunday morning, the town square was buzzing with morning groups, the cafes were full, the sun was shining and Alice Thomas was holding court in the middle of the square.
If nothing else she was a source of entertainment, she was a reason the town square was so full of a Sunday morning. People liked to be entertained and Alice did that.
It took her twenty minutes to get out her grievances and then satisfied she’d had her say, gathered up her small wooden shoebox and wandered off. She didn’t acknowledge any responses, she didn’t engage in further discussion.
She longed to get back to her quietness.
Alice shut her front door and breathed a sigh of relief that her morning was over. There were times when she questioned just what she was doing. She was the most introverted person she knew, not that she knew many people.
It was like a force greater than herself took over and she followed along as it led her to the square. Her behavior was most un-Alice like.
It took her some time to settle herself and several cups of tea.
This morning’s effort had taken it out of her and it was well into the afternoon before she felt her old self returning.
It was times like this when she felt the humiliation of standing in front of others that Alice was glad she had no phone. Therefore no one would be calling her. It was an important aspect to her maintaining her quietness. Though there would be sure, as happened each time, to be some mention of her in the paper the next day.
Realizing her fairy god-mother was standing in the corner with a smile that radiated love and understanding, Alice felt resolved to a life that was not all her own.
What happened started off so innocently. We were kids, we played, we made fun of the old neighbours, especially the weird and wacky ones.
We picked on old Mrs Kelty.
We kids thought she was a witch and so we taunted her every chance we had to cast a spell over us.
We thought it was great sport until it happened.
We must have gone a step too far because Mrs Kelty cornered us one afternoon and told us to stop before it was too late. We thought she was joining in the fun.
The next day Jack’s mum rang to say Jack was missing. His bed had been slept in but she couldn’t find Jack.
They searched high and low, police, SES the lot. No sign of him.
But I know where he is.
He’s in a shoebox in the corner of my room.
Mum thinks I’ve found him, large green frog out in the garden but I know it’s not a normal frog, it’s Jack.
I found him on the end of my bed. Sitting there with a mournful look on his face.
How do I tell his mum what’s happened to him. He gives out these pathetic scratchy croaks and I watched him devour some flies he found on my windowsill. Gross is what Jack would say.
Its been six months and as well as Jack, our mate Archie has also disappeared. I don’t know what has happened to him but Mrs Kelty is looking very smug these days.
I know Jack can’t stay in my room. He needs a pond, somewhere to be a frog. I thought of the garden but our cat eyed him and I felt it might not be such a good idea as Jack was unpleasant to the cat every chance he got.
I took him down to his place. His mum takes great pride in her garden and they have a small pond with a fountain in one corner. I placed him in the pond and he seemed to like it.
I’d taken him home, I felt better about that.
Next door to Jack’s is Mrs Kelty and every so often I see her looking over the fence. She wanted to know if Jack was happy in the pond. I told her he was and was she going to turn him into a boy again?
In time she told me, it was important, she said for us all to have learned a lesson.
I said we were sorry we picked on her.
Apparently we weren’t the first, nor were we the last she told me as she waddled away cackling to herself. Jack gave a little croak and jumped back into the pond.
Crisp, my aged companion startled me when she made the claim it reminded her of the grassy knoll.
“I was there you know,” she said, “I saw who did it but no one believed me. I was very young at the time and the world wasn’t in the mood for news of aliens or things like that. They wanted blood and so that poor man who later got shot was the one.”
By my calculation Crisp would have had to be about 8 or 9 if she did in fact see the event.
“Little greenish men they were. They shot a light then turned to me and told me to shush. I didn’t know what had happened until later and even when I told my mum she dismissed me.”
Crisp’s world was closing in on her, she confused so many things, mixed up her reality with history and I felt sad most days remembering what she used to be.
It wasn’t until Harry’s dust was cleared away that the talk turned to “Have we got a problem as a family?”
This was because we all remembered Uncle Cedric going the same way. Was there a genetic issue with us all?
Those of us who were there on the two occasions recalled the moments before both men went up in their respective balls of fire.
Harry had coughed a few times, stretched his collar and remarked that his feet felt unusually hot.
Cedric had also had the cough, he loosened his tie, as he’d just come in from Sunday Church, kicked off his shoes and then it was all over in a flash. It freaked out those of us who were there as the sermon that morning had been on the fires of hell. Reverend Repent or Burn had been in fine form. We all left the church chastened and determined not to do anything that might invoke God’s wrath.
Needless to say, attendances and plate collections boomed in the weeks that followed.
But Harry was a mystery. He was a good boy, quietly spoken, he worked diligently both at home and at his studies. It got us all wondering if there was more to Harry than met the eye. After all Cedric did have a lot to answer for. He led a precarious life in every bar for miles and there were rumours Cedric had fathered more than one child in the district. Rumours were all that were as no woman in the district wanted to admit she’d had anything to do with him.
So, as we looked down at the charred remains of Harry’s working boots we wondered if it was a genetic issue and who might be the next one of to go up in a ball of fire.