A stitch in whatever saves the world

According to my new old man friend, if you need silver for a spell, the best way to get it is at a coin collecting store.  Dimes minted between 1916 and 1945 are 90% silver, which is enough for magic.  They cost about 3 bucks each.  Actual silverware with enough silver in it is 80-100 bucks per fork or spoon or knife.  

He showed me how to sew because the person that casts the spell has to make a charm bag themselves.  It won’t work if someone else sews it for you.  You sew each coin into a small bag and then all the small bags are sewn together into a bigger bag.  I suck at sewing, but magic doesn’t care if it looks good.  He said that if the bag ever touched any metal besides silver its power would be ruined, so I put my finished charm bag into a plastic bag.  He didn’t like that for unspecified old man reasons but he allowed that it was a good idea.  

The spell he taught me is pretty simple.  They all are when you get down to it.  It reminds me that spells aren’t necessary.  They’re like training wheels.  If you can move beyond that mental crutch, you wouldn’t need spells.  If you had the juice you needed, things would just happen when you wanted.

But knowing something and believing it are two different things.  I can’t imagine working magic without a spell.  It’s like that scene in that dumb computer movie.  They tell the dude from John Wick that he’s in a simulation and he can jump super far if he wants to, but he still falls because knowing isn’t enough.  He didn’t believe. 

Even the most powerful mages I’ve heard of couldn’t do magic without spells though, so I won’t beat myself up about not being able to do it.  

Frank told me about a million times that the spell wouldn’t work without an immense source of power.  Laura brought out the staff so he could examine it.  She was nervous.  I don’t know if she thought I would try to steal it or the old man would try steal it or both.  She got a little teary eyed.  Milham told me that she stole it from her mother to stop her from using it for bad shit.  Given what I know about her mother, I can see that being emotional.  

Frank examined it for a long time and declared that it would be sufficient.  Then he told me it was evil and after I use it, I should destroy it.  I told him that was up to Laura because it wasn’t mine.  She agreed that it should be removed from this world.  I said I’d take care of it.  

“It may not be so easy to give up the power when the time comes” Frank said, giving me the old man judgement eyes.  

I told him it would be no problem.  I’d done it before.  I couldn’t help but think about Gary and the detective and I got a tiny bit misty myself.

Quaker Oat Magic

Laura and I went to meet her friend at an old farmhouse outside of town.  In addition to not being a phone guy, he’s apparently not a city guy either.  Laura said that the fire department wants to burn the place down so they can practice putting out fires, but it keeps getting rescheduled.  I don’t know from farms but it looks like the place is going to fall down before they can burn it up.

We saw them coming from a long ways out in a clapped-out banger of a ‘75 Mercury Montego 2-Door Hardtop that was even more of a heap than some of the cars I’ve rolled in.  I’m shocked that it made the trip from Virginia.  

The driver looked like he was around 12 and had come to life out of some old movie about a farm boy coming to the big city.  Although that effect was ruined when he got out and I saw his Wu-Tang shirt and knock-off Nike Dunks.  

The passenger was one of those big old dudes that they don’t seem to make anymore.  His head was like one of those Easter Island statues.  He looked like every guy you see named Gomer when they interview someone in a WW2 documentary.  When Wu-Tang kid helped him out of the car, I saw that he had a little bag like an old timey doctor and a hat like the Quaker Oats guy.  

Still halfway in the car like he might turn around and leave, he looked me over and said “You know old Glenmore Petticord then?”  I said “Yes sir, I met Mr. Petticord the one time” and he harrumphed “Mister nothing.  The man is a killer, no mister about it.  Are you a killer then, missy?  I don’t help killers.”  I told him I wasn’t.  I wonder if that’s true.

He harrumphed a few more times and said killer or not, Glenmore knew his wards.  I asked if there was someplace more comfortable we could go to talk but he waved that off, so we stood there in the cold wind and I told him about Eterno.  He asked a lot of questions but the one that caught me off guard was – 

“What business is it of yours?”

I told him Eterno was killing people.  He shrugged and said that happens every day, was I going to stop all the killers in the world?  I said that he killed my first master and he gave me a look – 

“Oh, revenge is it then?  Tell me I didn’t come all this way for anything as stupid as revenge, girl.”

I told him that it had started out as that, but as I learned more about what happened to Eterno, I just wanted to help him.  Set him free from the dark influence that had taken him over.  He said again –

“And what business is that of yours?”

I said that someone had to do something, might as well be me.  I don’t know if that did the trick or if he always intended to tell me and was just busting my tits, but he said that he could show me what to do but that I would need a lot more power than I had.  

Laura said “She’ll have it.”

And he raised an eyebrow and said “Oh, you think so?” like this was a movie.  Why does everyone have to be so cinematic about things?  I blame the media.

The Burn

Laura’s friend is going to visit in a couple of days.  I assumed he was coming in person because you can’t teach someone a spell over the phone but she grinned and said “he’s not really a phone guy”.  Her smile is blinding.  I can’t be mean about it though because she’s letting me stay at her apartment. Based on the lack of everything, I don’t think she spends much time there.

She didn’t ask me to help out at the shelter, she just told me when to be there.  I had terrifying visions of trying to counsel some poor woman and her kids but that’s not how that works.  They’re not stupid at these places, they don’t send untrained people to do things they can’t do.

I spent my time helping out their facilities director, fixing stuff and changing lightbulbs and cleaning, shit like that.  He was an old geezer who didn’t have much to say other than giving me orders which suited me fine.  It would have suited me better if his pants covered his ass all the time but you can’t have everything.

Laura isn’t a complete saint, she does have one vice – she loves old cars.  We went for a drive around the lake in her ‘57 Nomad.  It was a bit cool to have the windows down but she didn’t seem to mind.  She said that she likes the chilly wind, that it makes her feel alive.

She said to me “Freedom is an illusion, but it’s an easy illusion to buy when you’re rolling down Lake Shore Drive.”  

I asked her, if freedom is an illusion, how does she keep doing everything she’s doing?  If all our plotting and scheming and planning and hard work amount to nothing, if the rich and powerful make all the real decisions and we’re just along for the ride, what does it matter?  

She said that she keeps going because decisions matter.  What we do matters.  It matters to the people we help.  Or hurt.  

I asked her what had happened, why she couldn’t do magic anymore.  I know from Royale’s notes that very powerful, very, very, very powerful, mages can sever someone’s connection to magic but I had never heard of someone losing it.  

She told me that her magic skills were very minor to begin with.  She tried too hard for a spell too far outside of her ability and that was that.  The spark was snuffed.  Burnout, she called it.  

So that can happen.  Good to know.

Staffing updates

Did you know that community colleges have sports teams?  Instead of my usual maneuver, just showing up and ambushing someone, I called and made an appointment to meet Laura.  I watched basketball practice while I waited for her class to be over.  I wonder if I’m any good at sports. 

Laura is one of those minis like Kristen Bell or the blonde lady from the Office.  My first thought was to wonder how she could have survived the streets being so small.  Say what you will about old Amazing Grace but as a man told me in a bar in Texas “I like you, you’re sturdy, you look like you could take a punch”.  

She has a hippie vibe going, loose baggy top, overalls with travel patches on them and embroidered mandalas.  Plus a tattoo of a blue lady that I think is a Hindu god.  Cultural appropriation?  You be the judge.  Is she allowed a little cultural appropriation for all the good she does for the community?  What are the rules of cultural appropriation?   She has the kind of easy confidence and happy smile that makes me think that she befriends people quickly and easily.  I hate her a little for that.  

Since there was no reason to be coy, not that I would have been any good at it if there had been, I told her I wanted to use her family’s magic staff to expel an evil spirit from a Mexican hitman.  As you guys know he’s also a luchador, but I didn’t mention that.  There was enough going on without confusing the issue more.

She said that she didn’t have much to do with magic anymore since her mentor was killed and she lost her talent, but she was willing to listen to what I had to say.  I told her about Eterno and as I did so, I realized how little I really knew about what I was trying to do.  Made me feel stupid.  

That feeling wasn’t helped when she asked me what I was going to do with the staff if she let me use it and I admitted that I didn’t know.  She said that didn’t sound like a very good plan, but she wasn’t an asshole about it.  I conceded that I’m not very good at plans.  I told her Milham sent me her way and her smile got even more disgustingly warm and inviting.  She said that she was happy he was still alive.

“Not many are anymore, every year the empty ones pull down a few more of the true mages” she said.  She shook her head “They will never be full.  They think they’re alone and it makes them want.  They take and take and take until there is nothing left, and then what?  What will have been accomplished?  They’re killing the thing they want so badly.”

She was sad that it was happening but she was also sad for them.  She was legitimately concerned for the blood mages who are fucking everything up.  If feeling sorry for monsters makes you a good person, this woman really is a saint.  

I expected her to dismiss me at that point, why would she give me the staff if I had no plan, but she didn’t.  Instead, she said she had a friend that has experience in the magic of evicting malicious spirits and she’d give him a call for me, see what we could figure out.  

No matter what you might do there’s always someone out there better than you

I took Dany’s advice, let sleeping Christian witch killers lie and hit the road.  I’ll add them to the list.  Maybe I can come up with an idea of how to deal with them later.

I fibbed.  I actually haven’t been headed for Chicago.  I’ve been headed for Gary, Indiana.  The city that has been locked in a bitter decades-long death match with Flint Michigan as the worst place in the country.  

I did some online stalking beforehand.  Laura has a lot to stalk.  I don’t talk about my past.  When I do, it never feels good.  Laura goes the other way.  Her opinion is that sharing her story will help others with similar experiences.  

She was born on a military base in Italy and her early life was spent on bases in Germany, Denmark, Libya, Ethiopia, and Singapore.  She highlights positives to such a life, but also talks about the other side – introversion, depression, uncertainty, and problems with getting proper education and medical care.  I never thought about that, an army base may have a medic but probably not a pediatrician or a teacher.  She felt like she had to reinvent herself every time her father was transferred.  That’s a lot for a little kid to take on.  

Despite that, it was when they moved back to the states that things got bad.  That’s when her parents transformed from being hardcases that expected a lot from her to being physically and emotionally abusive.  She writes often wondering why that happened.  She asked her mom about it once but it didn’t go great.  She has theories but she doesn’t know.

She goes into specifics about incidences of abuse.  I find this shocking.  From the comments I see, other people appreciate her explicit candor.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I prefer for what exactly happened to remain vague.  I’m sure a psychologist would have something to say about that.

When her teenage years rolled around, the abuse was progressing.  How’s that for vague?  Accordingly, she bailed.  I listened to a book called Slouching Towards Bethlehem that had the following line “Unhappy marriages so resemble one another that we do not need to know too much about this one.”

I think you can say the same about girls that run away from home.  I’m not saying that makes it any less awful or sad, but the story usually has the same beats.

  1. Run away
  2. Drugs
  3. Need money for more drugs? Prostitution
  4. Need something to deal with reality of prostitution? Drugs
  5. Feedback loop of drugs and prostitution 

Laura doesn’t say anything about magic.  Because she’s not a lunatic.  Like me.  Reading between the lines, I think whoever helped get her out of that cycle and deal with her substance abuse issues taught her magic too. 

I sometimes think that learning magic was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I sometimes think that it was the worst thing that ever happened to me.  Sometimes I think there’s no difference between the two. Regardless, I can see how if you’re trying to get clean and you learn about magic, that could help you find purpose.  It would be like a unicorn sticking its head in the window of the rehab clinic and saying “I’m rooting for you” and winking.  

Magic or not, she moved past that.  Now she works at a youth center, teaches night class at the community college, and operates a domestic violence shelter. Oh, and also serves as a counselor at a crisis advocacy services outfit.   

I admit that reading about her makes me feel shitty.  We have similar childhoods, hers was even worse than mine maybe, not that it’s a contest, and now she’s an advocate for change and helps people for what seems like 90 hours a week.  On the other hand there’s me, pretend fighting in front of 40 people for a fistful of sweaty dollars three times a week (if I’m lucky) for a total of 25 minutes.  I spend the rest of the time driving around and looking for cheap food.  Plus I’m a convicted felon, don’t forget about that.

I have saved the entire world a couple times though, so that’s one thing I have over her.

Open scene – Awesome McCool rides up on her chopper looking totally awesome and cool

Dany rides a motorcycle.  Total good guy mode of transportation.  Between that and her cinematic scar I’m shocked she doesn’t have her own show on Fawesome 5k.  She took me to the auto garage that she owns.  A magic motorcycle witch who fixes cars?  How is there not a YA series about this woman?

There was a van parked out back that I’m pretty sure she’s living in.  I know the signs of van life.  Not very media friendly there.  In shows, even the poor characters aren’t really poor.  No one wants to see gross poor people.  Seems like someone who owns a cashmere half sweater would be doing better.  Or maybe she can only afford half a sweater.

She broke out a bottle of Prairie Fire whiskey and without any prompting told me about her parents dying when she was six and how she supports her disabled brother.  She learned to fix cars for real before she made a pact with her mentor spirit.  She brought up that mentor spirit several times and then said she couldn’t talk about it whenever I asked what that was.  Reminds me of one of those jackasses in line at Walgreens with an iguana on their shoulder that get salty if you ask about it.  If you don’t want to talk about your dumb lizard or your magic spirit in the sky that tells you what to do, don’t bring it up a hundred times.

I should be nicer since she saved my life.  I told her there must be something we could do about the god squad.  Her advice was just to move on and avoid them.  I said that it didn’t seem right for me to leave them to murder others.  She said that’s why she’s there warning people away. 

I asked her if she wanted to go Mexico with me and defeat a werewolf wizard possessed by an evil spirit.  As a joke.  Mostly.  She surprised me by asking “what kind of evil spirit”.  I admitted that I didn’t even really know but I told her everything that I did know about Eterno.  Which amounts to rumors and gossip at the end of the day. 

She said that she couldn’t be away from her brother for more than a few days but if I found the staff and tracked down Eterno and needed her help, I should pop her a text.  I told her that I really would love someone to help me out but that I was just joking.  Mostly.  She said that she wasn’t. 

“Because of your mentor spirit?” I asked. 

She sighed and poured herself some more whiskey in her Peanuts coffee mug.

Chicks dig scars

The easiest way to establish that someone is a bad guy is to slap a scar on them.  I enter into evidence Scar from the Lion King.  As the dumb animals sing of Scar, “Evil as plain as the scar on his face”. 

Good guys can have scars to show how tough they are, but there are rules.  It has to be a single straight white line, flush with the skin and in one of the following hero-approved locations –

  • Straight across one cheek
  • Straight down beneath the eye (men only)
  • Straight up from the eyebrow

The only exception to the straight scar = good guy rule is when the scar is a shape, like Harry Potter’s lightning bolt or an X or some bullshit. 

Obviously I am a sociopathic murderer because I have big raised slashes.  Not only do I not just have one single line little that accentuates my cheekbones but I have a bunch of them like a real piece of shit.  Some them aren’t even on my face!

Dany has a good guy scar on her right cheek.  It’s not totally perfect because it’s still a little reddish but that will fade over time to appropriate good guy white.  

When I met her she was wearing a cashmere belly sweater, so which of us is the real monster?  I can understand wanting to be sexy and show off your ugly belly button tattoo.  And I can understand thinking “it’s chilly, I should wear a sweater”.  But you can’t have it both ways.  You want to wear a sweater?  Cover your fucking abdomen. 

She snuck up on me good because her magic lets her step lightly and blend into the shadows.  She warned me that the rest of the god squad was waiting inside the house for me with their holy shotguns and blessed 44s.  If I went down there, what they’d do to me would make the Passion of the Christ look like no big deal.  Suffer not a witch to live.

Dany took me to a Keto restaurant.  I suggested Denny’s and she turned up her nose at Denny’s.  Sweater and all.   Once at her trendy eatery she explained that she does her best to warn off magic people passing through town before the Catholics get them.  I asked her how they get away with murder.  She said that they’re thorough about leaving no body behind and it’s hard to get the police interested without a body.  Plus she said that a lot of magic people have no one to miss them.

Sad but true.

I asked her why she didn’t do something about them.  She countered with “Like what? Kill them?”  She said they’re not bad people, they’re misguided.  I say they’re fucking murdering assholes.  Wearing a crucifix while you do evil shit doesn’t make you not evil.  We agreed to disagree on that.

I asked her if she could teach me her spell for sneaking around and she said no because she doesn’t know any spells because she’s a witch.  Her magic comes from her mentor spirit, she doesn’t actually know how to do any magic. 

I asked her about this mentor spirit and she said that it’s not something you talk about.  I asked her what she could do and she said “enough to save your life”. 

Fair point there. 

When the bill comes due and there’s no mo mo-mo in the sho-sho it’s time to go bro

When you get out of jail you get a bill.  That catches a lot of people off guard.  I was charged 60 dollars a day for the comforts of the Platte County Detention Center.  Which is the same rate that the Super 8 charged in Iowa City.   

This became an issue when Lem, the car guy, told me that it was going to cost “at least” 1500 to get the Freestyle running.  It wasn’t damaged in the shooting. Instead, before those fuckers ran off, one of them popped the hood to conduct sabotage. According to Lem, whoever did it knew his way around an engine.

Fuckers. 

Using my keen business acumen I was able to wheel and deal a swap of the Freestyle for a 2008 Toyota RAV4 with only 143,000 miles on it.  I need to watch that Glengarry movie to learn how to bargain.  After that display of financial shrewdness, I sat at Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack spending the last of my money and getting myself good and worked up.  A sixer of Backwoods Bastard and the couple Cobra Verdes I had sitting in my new POS car helped too. 

I cast my finding spell, concentrating on the face of the woman driver I saw.  It popped right away.  It’s like the universe wanted me to find her.  I drove to the Regina Catholic Education Center and then sat in my car stewing.   

Once classes were out, she came out and I followed her mustard yellow Pacifica to a couple stores and then to a squat brown ranch house surrounded by woods.  I find it unsettling when I’m in town in a wooded area.  Doesn’t seem natural.  Cities should be cities and woods should be woods.  I suppose it could also be because of the TAG incident.

I parked down the street and made my way through the trees to a spot where I could watch the house without being seen.  I had no plan.  As usual.  I should figure out how to make plans.  If she hadn’t come outside, eventually I probably would have knocked on the door and said “why did you try to kill me?”  That’s gone horribly in the past so why not continue doing it? 

But she did come out of the house.  She looked like a doughier mom-ish version of Melanie Lynskey.

She came out on the back deck and sat in a chair with a bible in her lap.  Just sat there.  I watched her for over an hour and she didn’t do anything.   

I started to head down and I heard a voice right at my side “It’s a trap you know.” 

It’s not fair that when I survive a murder attempt I end up with a bill

I need to learn a spell that persuades people or gives me an aura of authority.  I am terrible at talking my way out of things.  After the troopers some county sheriff people showed up.  And then some city cops too.  Why are there so many different kinds of cops?  I suppose because there’s so many different kinds of laws. 

I told them that a car cut me off which caused a chain reaction accident with a couple other cars and I got a bump on the head that had stopped bleeding.  Based on the no signs of collision they couldn’t figure out how the Lancer ended up on its side or how my car ended up with the windows all broken.   

When they asked me about all the bullet holes I told them that my now EX boyfriend borrowed it to go hunting and he and his idiots friends got drunk and shot it up.  I think I sold that one by trashing this fake boyfriend at length.  A woman being mad at a man is easy for people to believe. 

I don’t know if they were suspicious of me or if it’s normal procedure but they asked to search my car.

Maybe they thought I was a drug mule that got hijacked.  I told them to go ahead.  They were tickled by Royale’s trunk of magic bric-a-brac.  I told them I was a magician.  Of course then they asked me to show them a trick.  I levitated off the ground and everyone clapped.   

I wonder if that’s the first time someone did real magic pretending it was fake magic.  One of the law enforcement people remarked that it looked like I lived in my car.  I told him that magic doesn’t pay much.  Which is a lie because it doesn’t pay anything.   

They were perplexed about the Lancer but I didn’t say anything more about the supposed accident.  I don’t know much about lying but for me the key is not saying much.  Say my lie and leave it at that.  The more I talk the more I can get myself into trouble.  I don’t offer my speculation.  I don’t offer alternate theories.  If something doesn’t make sense I just say “yeah, that’s weird”.   

I was trapped there for hours.  I tried to tell them that I could drive my car into town without a windshield and they tried to tell me that you’re not supposed to do that.  That debate was ended when it wouldn’t start anyway.  So I had to shell out $185 bucks to have it towed.