We’ve had some really great short stories in our Halloween Flash Fiction blog event so far. Today’s short from Kiernan Kelly is a super fun twist, and fits the inspiration picture perfectly. I hope you love all our stories this week, and be sure to check at the end of each one for the contests/giveaways!!
A FAMILIAR CONVERSATION
“Phyllis? Oh, you don’t want her. She’s terribly scatterbrained.” Cleo watched a fly buzz lazily in circles. She batted it out of the air. “Besides, they suspended her license just last week because she added belladonna to a liniment instead of basil and nearly wiped out the entire junior varsity football team.”
“Well, I need somebody, and my choices are limited.” Sam sighed. “What about Nathan?”
Cleo widened her eyes. “The pizza delivery guy?”
“Why not? He has his warlock certificate.”
“He’s forty-two and lives at home in his mother’s basement.”
“I know, I know. And if he gets a familiar and becomes a practicing warlock, who’ll deliver our pizzas? But I need to find someone quickly or I’m going to end up in a shelter.”
Cleo huffed. “Fine. Not Nathan, though. He always smells like wet dog. What about Lucretia? I hear she’s hiring.”
Sam cocked her head. and closed her eyes. “Lucretia, Lucretia… Remind me again who she is?”
“You know, Lucretia. The youngest of the Borgia sisters?”
Sam’s eyes flashed open. “The one with the wart?”
Cleo nodded. “That’s her.”
Sam hissed and looked at Cleo. “I couldn’t possibly. Imagine spending all day looked at that thing hanging off the end of her nose.“
Cleo scratched her ear. “For someone in dire straits, you’re awfully picky.”
Sam yawned. “I do have standards, you know.”
“Well then, that leaves Charity Adams. She’s the only one left in town who has some talent and doesn’t cause anyone to spontaneously combust. At least, not recently.”
“I didn’t know she was hiring. What happened to her last familiar?”
“I said recently.”
Sam flinched. “Ohhh. Ouch. Do you think it’s worth the risk?”
“I don’t see that you have any other choice.”
Sam jumped down from the low wall on which they’d been sitting, and Cleo followed. They strolled up Derby Street toward the three story, pink clapboard home of Charity Adams.
“I suppose I need to interview you.” Charity poured some milk into a bowl and offered it to Sam. “Is Sam short for something?”
“Samantha. I detest my full name, though, and prefer the derivative.”
“Would you mind speaking aloud? Telepathy always gives me such a headache,” Charity said as she poured herself some tea. A plate of biscuits sat untouched on the table.
“That would be most difficult since I don’t possess lips,” Sam replied inside Charity’s head.
Charity winced. “Oh, of course. I forgot. Cat. My last familiar was a chimpanzee, Mr. Bubbles. He had the most remarkably flexible lips.”
“I don’t believe I want to hear about anyone’s remarkably flexible anything, if you don’t mind,” Sam replied as a small shiver raced across her spine.
Charity blushed and nodded. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I have verbal diarrhea. “
“Very descriptive. Disgusting, but descriptive.”
“Are you always like this?”
Charity sighed and took a sip of tea. “Snooty and sarcastic.”
Sam eyed her bowl of milk. It was such a very stereotypical offering that she could have yowled. Instead, she dipped her head and lapped delicately at the liquid. “Always. I’m a cat, after all.”
“I understand completely. My mother’s familiar was a cat. Mrs. Bootsie. Did you know her?”
“Do you know how many cats there are in Salem? I’m afraid I don’t know any Mrs. Bootley.”
“Bootsie. She’s dead now.”
“No wonder I don’t know her. I avoid speaking with the dead whenever possible. I find them all quite dreary. Always going on and on about how they miss this, and miss that, and can you give so-and-so a message? It’s all positively tiresome.”
“I don’t deal with the dead as a rule. I do mostly hexes and spells for the living.”
“Very good. I can tolerate the living. Usually.” Sam drank more milk, then daintily washed her face with a paw.
Charity drank her tea and reached for a biscuit. “Might I ask for your qualifications as a familiar?”
“Besides the fact that I can speak to you telepathically?”
“Well, I mean… Do you have any other powers? Can you fly, for example?”
“Certainly, although I need to be in a plane in order to do it.”
“Oh. That’s disappointing. I always wanted a flying cat.” Charity sighed. “What about other abilities?”
“I can make mice disappear. Unless you’ve been particularly nice to me, in which case I might give you one as a present. Or half of one, anyway.”
“Um, ew. I’ll pass on the half-mice gifts, if you don’t mind, although I appreciate the sentiment.”
Sam blinked lazily. “No worries. I’m afraid my only talent is telepathy, but I can communicate with anyone, which means I can get into the heads of any of your clients and hear what they’re thinking. Information like that can be vital.”
“Oh, yes, I can certainly see how that could be an invaluable asset.” Charity glanced toward the back of the room. “Tell me something, Sam. Do you see another black cat in the corner over there?”
Sam looked in that direction. “Why, yes. That’s my friend, Cleo. She’s Eldridge Peabody’s familiar. She came with me for moral support.”
“Oh, good! I was afraid I was hallucinating again. I ate a mushroom a while ago and ever since then I sometimes see things that aren’t there. It’s so annoying.”
“I can understand why.”
Charity smiled. “Cleo, you’re very lucky. Eldridge is quite a warlock. I hear he’s going to run for the Magic Council this year.”
Cleo nodded, but flicked her tail as if irritated. “It’s true. He’s moving up the political ladder and dragging me with him. I detest all the boring dinner parties and soirees he makes me attend, but that’s all part and parcel of running for office.”
“Well, you can always come here to hang out and get away from all of that, if you’d like,” Charity offered.
Cleo purred. “Thank you. I appreciate it.”
“Excuse me,” Sam said. “I believe this is my interview…”
Charity blushed again. “Of course, of course! I think you’ll do wonderfully as a familiar. You can start any time.”
Sam stared at Charity with wide eyes, her tail swishing back and forth. “I’m afraid you don’t understand. I wasn’t interviewing for you. You were interviewing for me. “ Sam yawned, then stood up, arched her back and stretched. “While I find you remarkably underwhelming, you’re the only game in town. So, you’re hired.” She looked at Charity. “On a trial basis, you understand. The first time you set me on fire, I’m out of here.”
“Oh, I understand. That only happened once. I really, really need a familiar. I’m practically the only witch in town who doesn’t have one now that Mr. Bubbles is gone.”
“There’s still Phyllis, Nathan and Lucretia,” Sam reminded her.
“Yes, but Phyllis is so scatterbrained. And if Nathan gets a familiar, who’ll deliver our pizzas? And poor Lucretia… She should really do something about that wart. I can’t imagine spending all day staring at it hanging off the end of her nose.”
Sam sat up straight, wrapped her tail around herself and purred. “You know, I think we may get along just fine.”
Cleo rolled her eyes, spotted a mouse and gave chase. After a moment, Sam joined her, leaving Charity alone to probably ponder what one did with half a mouse.
Kiernan’s sweet short today is just a taste of all the stories she has to offer.
Our contest/giveaway today is for one random person who comments about what kind of familiar THEY would want, if they were a witch or warlock in the market for one.
One person will win their choice of one ebook from Kiernan’s catalog.
Contest starts today, and our winner will be chosen from all eligible commenters at the end of our event. Winner will be chosen, then announced in our wrap-up post on November 1st.
Check out the Kick-off post HERE to see the full list of authors participating in our 2022 Halloween Flash Fiction Blog Event. Links will be added to the main post each day when that author’s story goes live. Each post will include the inspiration image from a DeviantArt creator, the story, and the contest/giveaway info.