This week’s prompt was: “Your Main character lives in a world where magic is real, but wizards don’t have powers. So, they have to buy their magic in stores. One your main character works in a Wal-Mart type store that sells magical items!” Here are the responses.
Runes of Engorgement
by Christopher Townsend
When I was in school, I thought it was going to be all about rites of divination, or about rings that could control fire….but no. This is the real world, and I deal with Runes of Engorgement.
Turns out the 80/20 rule that the suits teach you applies to everything. Eighty percent of my business comes from one single SKU (Sentara Kasting Unit)…the Rune of Engorgement, or as we call it, the Gorgie. Ostensibly created to end world hunger, the Gorgie is the answer to the lesser endowed man. Want to impress the ladies on a night out, that’s a Gorgie. Need to make sure that you’re not bullied at the gym? That’s a Gorgie. Just want to prove you have the largest magic wand in the conference room? That my friend, is a Gorgie and a half (never two though…you don’t want to know what happens with two).
All day long, the Gorgies slide by my on my conveyor belt, glistening in their aptly named blister packs. Some men (it’s always men buying them) try to sneak them in along with Scrolls of Levitation or hidden under a Dram of Invisibility. Some men buy the Gorgies in bulk–the 16 pack, a gorge of Gorgies–and proudly thump them on the conveyor belt with a smile in their eye that means they used their last rune right in the parking lot to try to impress…me? Come on bucko. Don’t kid a kidder.
The Guild requires that we track runic SKUs on each client’s MagicksCard™ and the user’s history shows up with runes in red for each purchase. Every man shows at least few Gorgies in their profile, but so many show a sea of crimson so deep it would make anyone blush. One time a fellow hit his limit of 144 per annum–a gross of Gorgies– at dawn on the Spring Solstice. It was the very first moment of the year he he could purchase them.
I saw the twinkle in his eye, bright and early as we opened on the Solstice. I checked his profile,and he was here at dawn at this time last year, and I retched inside. Two Girdles of Calming later, I was able to finish my shift, after a fleet of Gorgies left the shop. Solstice is the best day of my whole year, and also the worst.
I suppose I am a hypocrite, there are some red lines in my profile history too. I mean who hasn’t tried them? Who hasn’t reveled, if only for a little bit, in that 19 hours of runic power coursing through you? But perhaps even more humiliating than the actual application of the runes themselves on my wand was the look of disappointment coming from my partner’s eyes when she saw the ethereal sheen coming from below my waist. Oh…another one.
I will remember that resigned sigh for the rest of my days.
Nevertheless, Gorgies keep the shop open. My kids went to prep school because of Gorgies, and they paid for our vacations last year, and that nice car for Mom for her 60th birthday. So enjoy your Gorgies responsibly, pay in cash, and use them up before they expire. They only last for so long.
Glitter and Dog Hair
by Karen DeBord
After just four days on the new job, Marion grumbled, “I didn’t realize this new job would be so physical!” As she pitched the scanned items in her oversized cart, she thought, “well at least I get a perky little discount!” Her workday finally had come to an end, but there was no back-door escape. If you made a store purchase, even employees had to check-out and go through the main exits. As she pushed the cart forward, she stood in line with 10 other people standing six feet apart, each with receipts in hand waiting for them to be marked with a yellow highlighter. Facetiously thinking to herself, “Great—this is just what I need at the end after a 10-hour day!” As the exit clerk marked her receipt, she gave her a friendly smile as if she had recognized she was also an employee.
Exhausted, she unloaded the items from car. Living alone and on the second floor makes it even tougher to carry the oversized packages up the stairs to her apartment. Her apartment! What a wreck. She had overslept this morning and scurried out of bed, wiggling into her black slacks and white blouse. She had spilt coffee running out the door. The dishes were piled up by the sink and there was dog hair everywhere. She could not even sit down in her black pants without wearing the hair that Moola had left. But what a great friend this dog was!
I need a maid, I need a fairy, a sister, a godmother! Bibbidy-bobbidy-boo! With a sweep of her imaginary the wand, she thought, …if only. She left the purchased items by the door. The toilet paper, case of granola bars, paper towels, and giant-sized bin of detergent could wait until another time to be put away. She headed down the hallway thinking a nice warm bath would be heavenly! The tub! Ugh! Even the tub needed a good wipe down!
She poured the last glass of wine from the box in the fridge and sat on the hairy sofa. Sorting through the mail then tossing it aside, she began to relax. Moola nudged her hand just as she was drifting off to sleep. Just a little nap. That’s all she needed. Moola just crossed her legs and loyally laid her head down too.
Blinking her eyes, she tried to focus in on the digital clock. Could that be 2:00 am? Did I truly sleep that long? Moola was whining. She picked up the leash, without even turning on the lights, to take her out to do her business. Walking in a fog, she waited while Moola found just the right spot to proudly leave her scent. Feeling a little more rested, she thought she would tackle putting away those purchases. Opening the door, Moola dashed in, scooping up a rubber ball and asking to play. Marion turned on the light. She looked around, her eyes darting back and forth, mouth hanging open. She squinted, then shook her head. The dishes were not by the sink. She opened the dish cabinet slowly peeking inside. There were her glasses, bowls, and plates all lined up neatly. The paper towels had been stored on their side above the washing machine and the bin of detergent was placed on the shelf ready for use.
“What? Who? How? Moola who did this?” As she backed out of the kitchen, floors aglow with a shine beyond recognition, she slowly walked up the hallway to the bathroom. The bathroom was glistening clean! The fixtures were shining and the tub slick and sparkling. She could just imagine sliding into a deep bubble bath…but how did this happen? She dashed back to check her purse for the receipt. There it was. She noticed not a yellow highlighter as she had seen, but pink had been used and there was a dash of glitter! She shook her head in wonder wondering about the exit clerk’s grin then thought, “I may just like this new job after all.”
Smiling, she stripped her clothes off, drew a warm bath, added bubbles, and stepped in. “Ahhhh, I’ll take it! Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo!”
Magic for Everyone
By Anne Reynolds
“Here comes a virgin!” Geoff spoke softly, a note of surprise in his voice.
I looked up from the spell shelf I was stocking, sharing his curiosity. As the automatic doors slid closed behind the newcomer, they muted the chants of protesters from the Holy Mount Baptist Church just outside. The churchies showed up once a month like clockwork to rail against the blasphemous wares here at Hat Trick. We love them: they’re great for publicity and save us thousands in advertising.
But obviously they’re there to intimidate. The young woman stepping into the store would have had to have made her way through that throng and for that I already had to admire her fortitude. Once through the doors, though, she acted like most other virgins on their first trip to our emporium.
Virgins are easy to spot: they mosey in, wide-eyed, and more often than not, look downright scared. Maybe scared of what they’ll find, and maybe just as frightened as what brought them here to begin with.
Because who visits a store like Hat Trick? Back in the early 2000’s, it was a no-brainer. I think some young folks showed up directly from the movie theater where they’d seen that guy with the glasses and the white owl and the striped scarf, whizzing around on his Nimbus 2000 with his pals. Those were heady days; we even had an aisle of wands and could barely keep up with demand.
Now, our newbies come to us because maybe they have exhausted the dusty supply of magical goods at the candle and rock shop in the city, the one that’s all dark and cozy and spooky. Maybe they’ve skimmed through a book or two on Wicca or they’ve learned about us through a Facebook group about witches or fairies. No problem! They’re welcome here and so is their money.
We intentionally put the eye-catching crystals and Tarot decks in the middle of the store. We know that’s where the virgins will go and we want to draw them right in. Usually I have Geoff man that section. He’s got the right combination of friendly, boy-wizard-next-door charm and the ability to test the interests of a newcomer. If we can get someone we can cultivate into a regular, it’s not too difficult to move them from the sparkly knick-knacks right on over into incantations and then up to our neatly-packaged spells. Maybe, when we decide they’re ready, we can even sell them some custom spells, along with their hefty price tags. Geoff has been with the store for years and he’s one of the best at judging the interests and abilities of our new guests.
But this time, I decide to welcome our new customer. Leaving Geoff to stock spells, I called out to our guest, walking over to intercept her and make sure she found the crystals. Pepper, always part of a successful welcoming committee, trotted along at my heels. What’s a magic store without a black cat? He was left over from our brief experiment in offering familiars among our wares (mostly cats, though we had a few great-looking lizards). We had a nice selection until we began to suspect that some of our customers were possibly including animal sacrifice in their practice. That shut down that side of the house, but by then I’d taken a shine to Pepper and he stuck around.
“Greetings!” I said. “I hope our friends from Holy Mount didn’t cause you too much trouble on the way in.”
She looked quite unruffled as she smiled back at me. “No, I just walked right through them.”
I was impressed. Maybe she was a plant from one of the churches, or else she had a degree of self-possession that I don’t often see in someone new to Hat Trick. Either way, I could tell that this was someone worth learning more about.
“What brings you in?” I asked her.
She walked along our display of crystals, hovering a hand over them, one by one, and finally picking up a moonstone.
“I’m a freshman, over at Mason,” she replied, referring to the university located in our suburban community. “I’ve gone by this place a bunch of times and I was just curious.”
“I like to think we’re one of a kind,” I told her. “At Hat Trick, we have magic for everybody.”
She frowned, looking puzzled. “Isn’t magic something you’re born with?”
“Maybe,” I agreed. “But why limit it?
“Look over here.” I pointed out our performance section. “This is our section for the illusionists: your David Blaines and Penn and Tellers.”
“Just tricks?” she asked.
“Illusions,” I corrected. “It’s like music, these illusions. They take practice, and when they’re done well they’re designed to mystify. And here, where we are, are our natural elements: crystals, herbs, some candles, some books.”
“Is this like your beginner section?” she asked.
“We like to have a good collection of items for the curious,” I admitted. “You can support your chakras, for instance, with that beautiful moonstone in your hand, and you can start to feed an interest in ancient wisdom, if that’s what you want. This is our most popular section, by far. Some of our regular customers never look beyond this section.”
“What about the rest of it?” she asked, glancing around the large, store full of well-stocked shelves.
“They’re resources,” I replied. “Magic is a big world, you know. We like to think of Hat Trick as a place that’s big enough to serve the needs of all kinds of wizards.”
“So you can just pay money and work magic?” she sounded a little disappointed.
“To some extent, yes,” I admitted. “You can learn how to work any of these spells, either out of the box or with the help of our Merlin Squad.
“But every once in a while, we meet someone with a glimmer, you might say, or a unique interest. Those are our customers we really like to get to know. But here, look at me, I’ve talked enough. My name is Monica and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask me or Geoff over there. We’re making tea in a couple of minutes, too.”
“I’d like that,” she replied. “I’m Hannah,” she added. I smiled my warmest smile at her and moved to the counter where Geoff was starting the kettle.
“What’s the story?” he asked.
I nodded at him. “She’s a live one,” I replied. “Making her way right through the churchies, and that big hunk of moonstone practically jumped into her hand. I think she’s the real deal.”
Yes, Hannah was the kind of regular we really liked to see, even more than the mercantile wizards who kept Hat Trick in business. A regular like Hannah might not have the deep pockets for the performance supplies or the packaged spells, but they bring in something else. As I’d told her, you could call it aptitude, or a spark, but I prefer to think of it as a glimmer. It’s a hint that they are one of the ones who really belong here. Geoff can spot them (you might say that that’s his knack), and in fact, Geoff was one of them at one time. Our whole team was.
It would be old-fashioned to call Hat Trick a coven. But over the years, we’ve cultivated a group that learns a lot from each other, and that learns a lot of old wisdom together. When the world is ready for us, or when we decide that the world is ready for us, we’ll be ready for it.
But in the meantime, we have magic for everyone.