Swagger and Sway

I didn’t know I was bagging a sorceress’s groceries. First of all, I didn’t know sorceresses bought groceries. I mean, I guess they had to eat, too. Second, the groceries looked normal. Eggs, celery, cucumbers, mayonnaise, one gossip magazine, and twelve boxes of anise tea. Well mostly normal. But the real reason I didn’t know they were for a sorceress was that the person paying for them was powerfully built bald man in a light grey suit.

Thing really changed for me when the man’s cellular rang.

“Madam?” he said into the small flip phone. How old was that thing? But he just said “Yes madam.” Pause “Yes madam.” And then he hung up and looked right at me. I don’t really feel comfortable with being visible, so I hunched.

“You’re to follow me.” He said.

“Umm. I’m working.” I gestured at my apron and nametag and tried to make myself even smaller. I’m small to begin with. Ectomorph. This man could crumble my bones into his salad for croutons.

“Manager!” He called. His voice wasn’t loud, but it carried. Doug, my paunchy, bearded manager headed straight for my line. He was frowning at me, already certain I must be at fault for whatever this nicely-dressed customer was upset about. Typical Doug.

“I must abscond with your young sacker, here,” the big, suit-wearing man said. As if I were nothing more than Doug’s ‘sacker’ to dismiss or retain at will.  I made small, outraged noises, but neither man noticed.

“Chae’s on the clock right now,” Doug explained holding his hands out indicating he’d like to comply with the customer and send me off to who-knows-what with this who-knows-who. But there’s important grocery store policy, you see?

The big man cleared his throat and pulled a small business card out of…nowhere. It just appeared in his hand. He gave it to Doug. It flashed as he handed it over.

“My name,” said the stranger, “Is Orlando Miranda.” Unfortunate name, I thought. “I represent Amalthea Prunewater, SRC. My patron requires the girl.”

Doug’s eyes popped at the card.

“Go with the man, Chae. I’ll clock you out.” Only an emergency would make Doug let me out early. And he would never clock me out himself.

“But…you can’t just…”

“S.R.C., Chae. She’s a Sorceress.”


“Yeah. See you sometime,” Doug took a step back from me as if he was afraid the interest of a sorceress might be infectious.

“Oh.” I guess I have to go with him. I gather the sorceress’s bagged groceries and follow the giant. Orlando Mirando or whatever.

“No, no,” he says, gracefully scooping the bag of groceries that I’d been straining to carry with two arms into a single, bulging arm. “Madam. You need do no heavy lifting from here on out. Come. I will take you to Amalthea.”

“Oh.” I say. I follow him out with the awkward sway walk that my scoliosis brace was supposed to have fixed.


I blink in the bright sunlight. Orlando is walking toward an old car that’s parked right in front of the store quite in everyone’s way. It looks like a Duesenberg from the 1920’s. Periwinkle and cream with a tan fabric top. The stylish old petrol-hog looks anachronistic parked here among Priuses and Fiats. Taking up more gas than others. Taking up more room than others. Well, that was sorcerers for you.

Orlando opened the back door and motioned me in. The sorceress was seated comfortably on the other side of the leather car seat holding a pair of dainty silver birdwatching binoculars. She was wearing a pale green skirt and blazer with a light pink blouse and a flowery, fruity, false-birdy hat.

“Euphasia!” She cried joyfully and drew me into a sudden hug, heedless of my back brace. “I saw you through the window, dear, and knew it was you after all!”

“Mmmph.” I said into her cushy armpit. She wore a perfume that screamed ‘Gardenias!’ at me.

“Oh my long lost niece!” She broke the hug and looked at me fondly. I was horrified.

I was not her long lost niece. Despite that my parents, God rest their souls, had never mentioned magical relatives, I looked nothing like this comfortably large, healthy, white woman. I am thin, fragile, bent, and Korean. And I already have an aunt who would certainly never hug me or call me ‘dear.’

“No, no.” I said. “You’re mistaken.”

The sorceress gasped. A shadow passed over the sun and the world seemed to darken. Her face looked hurt and shocked, but her eyes became predatory. Her pupils narrowed to vertical slits like a cat’s or a snake’s. I stared into them, frozen like prey.  I had forgotten that contradicting a sorceress was unwise.

Suddenly Orlando dropped the bag of groceries.

“Oh! The eggs!” He cried. “They’ll all be broken.”

The sorceress’s eyes darted away from mine and I could breathe again.

“No matter, dear Orlando! I’ll repair them once we’re at home!” Her voice was cheerful and when she turned back to me her pupils were round and friendly once again. She’d composed herself from my impropriety. Stupid! I hissed at myself.

“Orlando will fret so over small things, if you let him,” She said.

Orlando glanced back at us from the front seat where he settled.

“Yes, Madame.” He said and then smiled meaningfully at me. He’d dropped the eggs on purpose to distract her. I nodded in acknowledgement. I must be more careful from here on.

“Now, Euphasia,” she continued at me as if I hadn’t just broken the cardinal rule of speaking with magic folks, “We’ll have to have a grand party to celebrate your reappearance! You have almost certainly come into your power by now and you were foretold to be the most gifted of us all! You relax and I’ll make all the arrangements.”

The sorceress drew a small flip phone from her purse and began dialing. Did magical people ever update their technology? She called sorceress after sorceress, collecting them all in one massive group phone call and informed them of her long lost niece’s reappearance and the welcome party to be held tonight.

I leaned against the seat, and tried to make myself smaller. I hoped I looked relaxed, but I was not relaxed. I was not magical at all, let alone the most powerful member of a magical family. What would she do to me when they found out she’d been mistaken? Magical-types couldn’t stand being wrong.


By the time I was ushered into Amalthea Prunewater’s great stone mansion, I was feeling sick.

But then the sorceress said, “Orlando, be a dear and bring the groceries with me to the kitchen. I want to fix those eggs.” And I was completely interested. Real magic! Not many people get a chance to see a sorcerer do something magical.

I hadn’t been invited. But after only a moment’s hesitation, I sway-walked after them toward the kitchen. Both Orlando and the Sorceress glanced at me over their shoulders and smiled. It looked like approval.

The kitchen staff jumped at Amalthea’s entrance, but they didn’t look overly alarmed. Perhaps the sorceress didn’t keep an impenetrable social barrier between herself and her servants like so many magical upper-classers were said to.

“I’ll need things!” She said.

“Bowl!” She barked. A kitchen girl got her a bowl. I got excited. I was going to watch a real sorceress mix up a real spell!

“Scallions! Diced!” Another kitchen girl started chopping.

“Tomatoes, minced!” The sorceress pulled the dripping egg container from the bottom of the grocery bag and frowned slightly.

“Mushrooms, Sautéed!” She commanded.

“Grated Cheese! Swiss!” As she commanded ingredients, the kitchen staff put them in her bowl. One by one, the sorceress peeled the eggs and dropped what she could of each raw egg into the bowl as well. Then she stirred. Disappointment must have crept onto my face because the sorceress smiled at me.

“I do so love cooking!” she said. “What better way to fix the eggs than to fix a mushroom and Swiss scramble?”

“I thought you were going to mend the shells?” I asked, hoping I wasn’t breaking any unknown sorcerer rules with the question.

“Psh. Why? They’d only be broken again later. No point, Dear! Now you’d better go and get dressed for your party. I’ll have some of the scramble sent up to your rooms.”

“Rooms?” I gulped as a maid escorted me out of the kitchen and up a sweeping staircase. I lived in a studio apartment that fit a twin bed, a mini fridge/microwave combo, and a few bookshelves. There was a shared bathroom down the hall.

The rooms were glorious. I not only had my own bathroom with a claw-footed tub, but I had a vast sitting room connected to my dressing room and bedroom. Everything was decorated in opulent red and cream and gold and crystal chandeliers graced each room. There was no mini fridge, but I expect that the bell for room service would take care of those needs.

My stomach turned over when I saw the dressing room, though. A glittering gold dress  was laid out for me. It had a full skirt, petticoats, and poufy mutton chop shoulders. This was not a dress I could disappear in. Even in my extraordinary dressing room, the dress stood out like, well, like a Duesenberg among Fiats.

I turned to the maid who’d pointed it out. “I can’t!” I cried. “I’m not the long-lost niece. I’m not magical!”

The maid’s eyes widened and she shook her head. “Mustn’t say that! Mustn’t! You are Euphasia Prunewater, Madame. And I will help you into your gown, now!”

“No! I can’t wear this!”

“Please, Madame!” the maid was close to begging. “Be reasonable.”

“I am the only one here who is being reasonable!” I shouted. The maid crouched on the floor and hyperventilated.

“Um. Are you okay?”

“Mustn’t say that. Mustn’t,” she repeated softly between panting breaths.

“Um, then I suppose, could you help me into the dress?”

The maid looked so relieved and pleased that I had to admit defeat. She helped me into the dress and I tried not to look at myself as she layered me in mountains of ballgown. Before I knew it, she’d piled my long, black hair high on my head in an elaborate two-foot high updo held fast with industrial strength hairspray and sparkly barrettes.

“Oh no!” I cried.

The maid fled the room, frightened by my outburst. I chased her, desperate for some information about what I would face tonight. But my gown slowed me down and once I’d reached the hallway outside my rooms, I couldn’t tell which corner she’d scurried around.

I chose the one on the right and ran smack into Orlando. I bounced off him like a June bug off a brick wall and landed flat on my back. My fall was cushioned by an ample bustle. A real damned bustle!

“Madame!” He cried and stooped to pick me up. “My most abject apologies!”

“No! Don’t call me that!” I said. “You must have noticed that your patron made a mistake. I’m not a Prunewater at all. I’m not magical!”

Orlando shook his head. “Of course you’re family,” he said. He led me to a grand mirror and pointed. “Look at your bearing!” he said.

I looked. In that dress I did look a bit…expansive. With my hair piled up on top of my head like it was, I looked taller. I took up more room, and I looked natural doing it. That felt odd.  I straightened up a bit and uncrossed my arms. They dangled in the way that my real Aunt says is unattractive. She says I look less weird when I hunch.

I look at the mirror and take a couple of steps back. With my arms uncrossed my sway is more noticeable. But maybe…maybe it’s not a sway. I put a hand on my hip and suddenly it’s a swagger.

“There!” Orlando says, smiling. “The resemblance is remarkable, Madame.”

“But what about magic?” I ask Orlando.

“Who dares question a sorceress?” He asked, his mouth quirked up in a smile.

I think of the egg scramble the sorceress made rather than mend the eggshells. I think of all the rules and the mystique surrounding magical people. I think of my own grumpy Aunt and my grocery store job and my studio apartment and I smile.

“Well, who am I to contradict Amalthea Prunewater?”

“Who indeed,” says Orlando, nodding.




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