The witch waved her wand in the direction of her victim, whispering the ancient incantations under her breath. The words snaked out from between her lips, like a worm out of an apple. Her opponent began to expand — growing, widening, fattening. Mavis knew that it wouldn’t be long until the object of her spellcasting finally bid adieu to this mortal world and exploded, insides splattering in every direction.
But Mavis wasn’t going to let them give up that easily, oh no. She had much more in store for the half a dozen targets. There would be quite a bit more magic they’d suffer before they could taste the sweet relief of death.
Ping! Her little timer went off. It was shaped like the face of a black cat with green eyes, the twisty dial in place of the nose. Mavis thought it was cute, but Jasper had been severely unimpressed when she had shown it to him, cooing. He had turned his nose up at it and trotted away, tail swishing indignantly in the air. He still wasn’t a fan of his plastic counterpart, and eyed it cautiously as he approached, the call of his mechanical, time-keeping brethren informing him that treats would soon be available — if his keen nose hadn’t told him that already, of course.
“Oh, they’re ready!” Mavis sang, dropping her wand onto the flour-coated countertop; next to the rolling pin and a dough-covered wooden spoon. She slipped her hands into the soft cushion of the oven gloves and pulled open the door, basking in the heat and glow that radiated from within, nostrils soaking up the delicious perfume of baked dough. The witch slid the tray out of the oven and carefully plopped it onto the heat-proof mat on the side, gently shutting the door behind her with a deft kick of her leg. Mavis had barely let go of the tray before Jasper was winding his way around her ankles, purring affection and begging for something good to eat.
I’m starving, those pleas seemed to say. I haven’t eaten in days. Look at me — I’m wasting away!
“Get away, you chubby cat! You’ve had enough cakes to last a lifetime.”
Jasper meowed at her. What a rude thing to say! It’s the fur, I tell you. I’ve got big fur.
“I need to put you on a diet, Jasper. Your belly’s almost touching the floor!” She shooed him away — not unkindly. “These aren’t for you, Mummy’s got to sell something for this shop to stay in business, hasn’t she?”
Jasper grumbled as he trotted off, most likely in search of a sunbeam in which he could lounge and nap. You never give me any food. I’m nothing but skin and bones… Mavis grinned as she watched him go, shaking her head with affection. Once the hunter of biscuits and predator of treats was gone, she returned to her cupcakes.
Time for her favourite part of baking — the icing! (Although, it wasn’t strictly true to say it was her favourite part; every part was her favourite part. Mavis’ preferred element of baking was whatever she was currently preoccupied with.) In Mavis’ opinion, icing was so much more than simply an extra sweetness to the flavour, it was an art. She took great pride in the wonderful pieces she daubed across the tops of the glowing cakes, and many people came from miles around simply because they’d heard about Mavis’ incredible-looking treats by word of mouth.
As she often did when she got into a contemplative rhythm during her work, Mavis began to sing the crooked rhyme of her elders. Albeit, with a culinary twist.
“Double, double taste and flavour,
Kitchen full of scents to savour.
Filling of a fruity cake,
In the oven rise and bake.
Pot of tea or warm eggnog,
Oft go well with chocolate log.
“Grab a fork!” your taste buds sing,
At the thought of pink frosting
On a cake of powerful colour,
Filled to brim with sugared butter.
Double, double taste and flavour,
Kitchen full of scents to savour.
Wait ‘til smells call back childhood,
Then the muffin’s firm and good.”
Once finished, Mavis began bringing her fresh wares to the glass case at the shop’s front, where passers-by could glimpse them. One look, that was all it took, and then they’d hover for a moment, gazing at the array of cakes, all-but drooling down the front of their shirts. Once or twice, Mavis had heard a growling tummy in spite of the pane of glass that separated her shop from the street outside.
And then they’d come in, powerless to resist her magics. She reeled them in, like a fisherman and his catch, a hook in their mouths. Often, they’d be unable to form full sentences. “How much?” they’d stammer, gesticulating madly at the smorgasbord of treats. “How much for the… the…” and then they’d trail off, eyes glazing over as they gazed at the glazed cakes. Mavis would smile and tell them the (frankly minuscule) price, then the customer would hand over the change — not once taking their eyes off the cakes, wholly unaware when their coins occasionally bounced from the till and clattered to the floor — and would snatch the brown paper bag that she gave to them, gushing their thanks and appraisals. If you’d have overheard their praise, you’d have thought that Mavis had saved a loved one from a burning building, not sold them a baked good at a low price.
Mavis undercharged for her wares; it was true. But, somehow, she just couldn’t bring herself to raise her prices. She wanted the world to know what good cakes tasted like — everyone deserved something warm and tasty to bite into. Besides, the popularity of her shop alone was enough to keep her going. Between the hours of nine in the morning and five in the evening on any given weekday, Mavis’ little bakery was never empty. Ever. There was always at least one customer inside (and often a great deal more than that), perusing the goodies on offer.
The early morning sun was now shining in through the shop window, and the smell of freshly baked cakes was in the air, coupled with the irresistible aroma of brewing coffee. Mavis the witch wrapped her hands around her mug and took a sip, sighing contentedly at the rightness of everything. Life was good.
A smile on her face, a song in her heart, a cup o’ joe in her hands (and a few cakes in her tummy — you know, for quality control), the witch strolled over to her shop door and turned the key. Click! Next, she flipped the sign around (Come on in, we’re open!) and opened the door, bell jingling delightfully overhead. The perfumes of her shop spilled out onto the street, where they would entice people strolling past to come into her bakery. The bouquet of crisp spring aromas came rushing into her store, intermingling with her sweet-smelling delights.
The witch stood in the open doorway of her shop, sipping at her morning coffee, feeling the soft brushes against her feet as Jasper purred about her, tail swishing haughtily and lovingly. She closed her eyes and let the warming rays of sunshine fall across her upturned face. The sign above the door said MAVIS’ MALEDICTIONS AND MUFFINS, and beneath that: We’ll put a spell on chew!
12th March 2020
Written for Reedsy’s weekly Short Story Contest