1. The Witch, the Angel and Yours Truly
I was sorting out the stockroom to make space for JJ’s merchandise when I heard my name.
“Martin,” she called, right at the top of her very strong lungs. “Martin, where are you?”
Now, I could make my life easy and just go and see what she wants.
But that would also make for a boring life and, if you remember correctly, my new wife doesn’t like boring stuff. She wants to live. Somewhat surprisingly, she wants to do this alongside me. Me, the boring one. Me, the vegetable, the blade of grass swaying in the wind, doing nothing, achieving nothing. Going nowhere… To be fair, there was a time when all these descriptions applied to me, I’ll admit. Vee threw it all in my face, somewhere in a corridor that I struggled to forget, and then she threw me into life, head first, without warning. It was a sink or swim situation, and she stayed faithfully by my side.
Not a day goes by without me thanking my lucky stars for having her in my life. Not a night passes without me wishing and praying – but mostly wishing – that she would continue to be happy and I could be allowed to facilitate this status quo in any way possible, preferably alive.
How else would I be able to help, if not alive, I hear you ask? Well… A long story, really, and I don’t have time here to tell it all. Let’s just say that in the last few months of my life I have been given the chance to change a lot of my pre-established views on people, society and the general make-up of our world in particular. Through experiences impossible to imagine, let alone fudge, I managed to deduce that the human race coexists in close proximity to a prosperous realm of beings that are designed to help us develop into better human beings.
It is not our fault, or theirs, that some have been created with a dominant mischievous gene and a recessive one when it comes to correctly identifying the degree of human discomfort.
I shifted aside a smaller replica of the Leaning Tower of Pisa – made up of some cheap energy drink, by the looks of it – and picked up a pile of grubby white canvas destined for the wash. There was a lot of fabric, quite hard to carry in one go. So could you blame me, really, when I threw the largest over my head, where it came to rest, and hugged the others close to my body?
I could hear Vee’s hurried footsteps the other side of the door just as I shifted the weight to my left arm so I could grab the door handle.
“Aaaarghhh!” She screamed, and promptly kicked me in the gut. The pile of material cushioned me some, and her gladiator sandal caught in the numerous folds of my garment. This pulled her out of balance, and she twisted as she fell flat on her face.
I doubled up in fits of laughter and then dropped to my knees next to her. I could feel her pulling at the canvas as she tried to get through to me.
“Just you wait until I get to you,” she threatened, breathless from fighting the grey mass of fabric. “Stay still, will you?”
I was still laughing when daylight came through. As soon as my arms were free, I pulled her close and pressed my lips tightly to hers. I kept her there until her frown began to smooth and her hands locked around my neck. I knew then that I would be forgiven.
“What did you think I was – a ghost?” I asked after a moment, unable to contain my amusement.
She frowned again. “You gave me such a scare, Martin Little. That’s three times this week. Don’t do that again.” But then she sighed and smiled, looking a little embarrassed. I gave her another little kiss, to wipe the last of the discomfort off her face.
Of all people, Vee should not be scared of ghosts. One, she sees them regularly. Two, she believed in such things even before they became her close friends. Three, she was intent on selling the idea to all and sundry; our new business was clear proof of that.
‘Vee’s Bazaar’ was what I would have called a ‘new age dump’ before. Well, I would have called it that now, too, if I was prepared to deal with the wrath of my new wife. She claims she is psychic, or something to that effect. I think she is sweet, a little eccentric and in touch with nature, most of which could be found around us, wherever you look. It would take a lot of skill to make it across from one side of the shop floor to the other and not trip over some twisted lump of old wood stained with a linseed oil and beeswax mixture from an old Celtic recipe, or a bunch of reeds from some sacred mud pool dipped in pine resin to freshen the air, or some misshapen wicker ornament that apparently brings luck and good tidings.
All sorts of carvings, shells and chunks of coral wrangle for pride of place on the shelves across the back wall with every colour candle you could imagine, lumps of roughly-melt silver and hunks of gems still half-enclosed in stone. Feathery dream catchers, hand-made strings of beads, braided leather cords, wild bird feeders and wind chimes dangle from hooks all over the place and the glass counter could easily be mistaken for a massive do-it-yourself jewellery kit, with the emphasis on crystals and colourful rocks in diverse hues and of different shapes and sizes.
Every now and then Vee attempts to explain them all to me, which is, as always, a total waste of time. It took a huge amount of effort on my part to allow even the mere thought of the supernatural into my brain; I am not about to trade my neat, logical, scientific disposition for some soppy shamanic crankiness any time soon. The things that happened to us before we were married, and still do to some extent now, I am quite happy to treat as simply odd and unexplainable. And since they cannot be explained, I see no need to clutter my mind with trying to make the two notions coexist. Like dream world and wakeful reality, so long as neither of them cause me pain or upset, I am prepared to just go on with both without complaint.
Just as I was contemplating whether or not I should give the odd things in my life a little more attention, the shop door ground open and swiped a hefty blow to the bamboo wind chimes Vee had me hang by way of a doorbell, sending them into loud, yet temporary, clattering chaos.
Vee was the first one off the floor, managing to run her fingers through her mass of ginger curls to tame them and catch a sharp kick to my shin as she stepped on the fingers of my left hand in one swift movement. She always has to have the last word, my wife, I thought, gritting my teeth against the pain as I tried to take it like a man. I wondered if she would consider us ‘even’ now.
“Madam Morel,” Vee chirped in the direction of the shop front at the same time as I allowed myself a quiet groan.
Oh, no. I pushed myself to my knees, wrestling the mass of fabric into a knot more suitable for dragging over to the laundry shed.
Madam Morel is our resident witch. She lurks in the background, as much a part of village life as the vicar, the doctor and the owner of The Thirsty Friar down the road. She can often be seen haunting the very old part of the cemetery, which is said to have been, originally, the site of a well-revered, ancient, Celtic burial ground. She drifts distractedly over the grass ignoring the dirt paths, leaning over tombstones here and there, cupping her hand around her ear as if she is listening intently to something only she can hear.
You couldn’t miss her if you tried; her long, loose, multicoloured tunics, mostly orange and purple in their colouring, are hardly appropriate camouflage in such stark surroundings as rural Cornwall. Displayed on such a vast expanse of flesh, her clothes are even more eye-catching. She scrapes a living by giving simple folk around the village readings and contacting their long lost relatives over steaming cauldrons and bonfires to reassure them that everything is fine in the afterlife.
If you ignore our opinion of each other, we have nothing in common.
I don’t ever dress in orange, or purple, or in floaty, silly tunics. I am an upstanding member of the community and work hard for my living by being nice to people from dawn till dusk, even self-proclaimed witches and touring buses full of folk who believe you are deaf and therefore their insulting comments, uttered loudly and shamelessly, cannot possibly hurt you. And moreover, I never, ever lurk around tombstones, though I must confess, I often fantasize about sneaking up to the cemetery and jumping up at Madam Morel shouting ‘Boo’.
“Terrible news, dear,” Madam Morel’s deep voice gave me goose bumps and raised the hair on the back of my head.
“Oh!” Vee exclaimed. “Is this something that came out during last night’s session?”
Madam Morel must have nodded, because I heard Vee gasp. I heard a bag rustle, and then it was quiet for a full two minutes.
“Oh, no,” Vee murmured. “This is a bad omen.”
“The worst,” Madam Morel enunciated slowly, her voice crackling with the thrill of her revelation.
Thank you for taking the time to read this sample of my novel Martin Little Takes Epic Action, a sequel to Martin Little, Resurrected. Any thoughts? I would love to read your comments.