Learning Curve

Willow sat on the back porch gazing out at her as-yet-unfinished back yard, soaking in the soft spring air and early morning light. She sipped her coffee and imagined what the space would look like once she was able to carry out the vision she had in her head. A ripple of movement through the tall grass and weeds drew her attention. She sat up and put her over-large coffee mug on the table beside her, never taking her eyes off the line of movement. Enough weird things had happened in the last month since she’d moved in, she was wary of everything.

The ripple continued to move toward her finally resolving itself into Rocky the raccoon. Willow had to hold back a giggle every time she thought about his name. He wasn’t aware of the song, and she hadn’t had a chance to play it for him. She resolved to do that as soon as she could.

“Good morning, Will. How are you this fine morning?” Rocky said as he waddled up the back steps. Willow smiled at the chubby raccoon. She’d surprised herself with how quickly she’d become comfortable with the idea of a talking raccoon.

“Good morning, Rocky. I was just enjoying my coffee and the morning,” Willow answered.

“Good, good. Have you seen any magpies around lately?” Rocky asked.

“Um, no. Should I?” Willow was puzzled and a little nervous. She was used to Rocky, but she hadn’t really let her mind wrap itself all the way around the idea that animals could talk. She was hopeful that Rocky was a one-off and she wouldn’t have to accept any others.

Sadly, that did not appear to be the case.

“Well, there should be. This house has the protections they need. I expect you’ll find them coming around soon enough,” Rocky said.

“What do you mean… protections? Why would magpies need protections and what do I need to know about this house?” Will cringed as her voice came out in a nervous whine. But she really didn’t know what was going on and things were getting stranger by the minute. Was it too late to back out of the purchase of this house? She shook her head. Maybe she could just convince Rocky to go elsewhere to find protection for the magpies.

“You’ll have to trade with them, but magpies are not really that hard to deal with,” Rocky said.

“Trade with the magpies? What do you mean?” Willow asked panic and severe disorientation rising in equal amounts.

Rocky looked at her, cocking his head to the side. “You really don’t know, do you?”

“Know what? I picked this town because it’s on the beach and it’s quiet. I bought this house because it’s exactly what I’ve wanted as long as I can remember. I work from home, so it all worked out. I got out of Portland and came down here. I’ve figured out which of the two coffee shops in town I like better, even though they’re both good. I’m getting better at cooking for myself. I’ve been told when tourist season will really kick in and how to survive it. What else do I need to know?” This time a note of desperation entered Will’s voice. A feeling of dread wrapped itself around her shoulders.

Sighing, Rocky hauled himself up onto the chair next to Willow. “I guess it figures that I would be the one to explain it to you. After all, you caught me in your kitchen.” He squirmed around in the chair until he was facing her. She stared back at him, damping down the still-rising panic.

“Okay. So, this house used to be owned by Matilda and Josiah Fields. They came out on the Oregon Trail with a group of uh, other people, uh, like them,” Rocky said.

Willow held up a hand. “Wait. Wait. What do you mean ‘other people like them’?”

Rocky shook his head. “Might as well cut to the chase,” he muttered. He glanced up at Will. “They were witches… mages… magic workers… whatever you want to call it. They could use power and manipulate the world around them.”

Willow laughed. “Yeah, right. Sure. Witches. Whatever. Pull the other one,”

When Rocky just stared at her, the giggles bubbling up in her throat died. Was he serious?

“Matilda and Josiah were your great-great… or maybe just great-grandparents… either way… they came here because they were witches and they helped establish this town with other witches for witches. Yeah, there are ordinary humans living here now and some of them know about magic, but most of them don’t. You said you were drawn here and that you felt comfortable as soon as you got here? And then you saw this house?” Rocky held her eyes. “Willow, did you know this house belonged to your ancestors?”

Willow felt her hands tremble. She shook her head. “No. How would I? Nobody ever said we lived out this way! I was born and raised in Boston. The only reason I wound up on the west coast was because I got a job in Portland. A job I got laid off from a year after moving out here. After that I felt like I wanted something different than more city. And the pub needed a manager, and since I’d done that before…” she trailed off.

“Welp, to paraphrase… yer a witch, Willow!” Rocky said, grinning.

Shocked out of her panic spiral, Willow laughed. “I understood that reference!” She waved one hand in a helpless gesture meant to encompass the house and the town. “But what do I do now? I don’t know anything about this… whatever this all is!”

“That’s what we’re here for,” Rocky said. He settled back in his chair as two magpies flew onto the porch and landed on the table sitting next to Willow. She quickly grabbed her coffee cup. Whatever was going on right now would require a lot more coffee.


This week at More Odds Than Ends I got She traded with magpies from Cedar Sanderson. My prompt went to ‘nother Mike. Head on over to see what he did with it and what everybody else came up with.

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