A Christmas Barrel
Once upon a time there was a witch called Ebeneza. In a time where witches usually aren’t loved much, Ebeneza wasn’t helping. She was known as the most dirty and evil one of all.
Did you say something she didn’t like?
She would, depending in what mood she was in, cast a spell (‘let’s turn you into a frog, so I can feed you to my heron. The poor dear is hungry!’), feed a potion that had some evil aftermath (‘here’s some nice tea for that nasty cold of yours’) or simply slap you out of the door with her bewitched broom.
None of these suggestions were very popular.
Ebeneza also didn’t care one bit if you were family, acquaintance or just a random stranger. She didn’t like to give anyone money and she lived as cheap as she possibly could.
Ebeneza would, for instance, rather dry her just used tea leaves for another cuppa then just use new ones. She would use the same teaspoon until it looked like the devil had coughed it black himself.
Some witches said she would have washed her loo roll if it wasn’t such a dirty job to clean it. She did flush her toilet with all kinds of fluids she found in the house. She even squeezes frogs for that purpose.
This could’ve been funny, except she smelled.
Ebeneza smelled as she never washed.
‘Soap costs money and I ain’t using that for something as useless as washing!’ she once cried at her cousin Rosette, who’d come by to see her aunt and nearly fainted because of the smell her aunt was spreading. And all Ebeneza had done at the time was lift her arm to pour out a cup of tea.
Ebeneza was the dirtiest creature to be found. Not the most giving one either.
It was actually quite simple: if you didn’t, for absolutely certain, needed her, one was wise not to visit her.
Unfortunately, there were those who worked for her.
Ebeneza wasn’t just economical, she was insanely good with her potions, bewitchings and so on. She did have a lot of customers and patients, who needed her help for all kinds of things.
Wartwater, for making warts go away.
Silence-is-golden-tickets, for husbands who couldn’t keep their mouths shut whenever their spouse spoke.
Molded mushrooms, that made your farts turn purple (her cousin Edward had come up with that, it had appeared to be a massive success, oddly).
Dreamella’s Magic Curlshampoo, that could curl the world’s most straightest hair in just one washing.
And so much more.
All products that were highly desired for, cost a lot and people could nearly never completely afford it. Ebeneza was the kind of woman who loved people being in debt with her. It meant she could demand more money. So she would tell someone:
‘Oh, I’ve got the perfect solution for you! Sure, it costs a bit, but wouldn’t you want to have a greater life? You can pay me later if you don’t have the full amount now, no problem!’ and then she made them sign a paper, which said Ebeneza was allowed to take their house. And rent it. To complete strangers. If not paid by a date she picked out herself.
Since people came from here and there and everywhere, it meant Ebeneza basically had a lot of houses to put people in, if she wished. She sold it as a ‘cheap holiday’, and didn’t accept the possibility of a refund.
And that all for some shampoo, eh?
It had been one of those nights where she worked quite late, when her assistant Helga Crampit, came to see her. Ms Crampit was the one who grew the magic mushrooms for many a potion.
‘Yes, what is it now?’ Ebeneza said growling. Ms Crampit had bothered her much these days, Ebeneza thought. A few times it had been to simply ask Ebeneza if she would like to check the potion that had been made? (to which the answer was always ‘yes’, as Ebeneza didn’t like the thought of not making it herself. She would test every single one). Instead of considering Ms Crampit a very hard worker for the little money she paid her and the mushrooms she took, it made Ebeneza just very grumpy.
Ms Crampit didn’t seem to be bothered by this. She was a very loved chef at the working floor. With six interns (‘they cost less!’) it was Ms Crampit who made the business run smoothly.
‘Well’, started Ms Crampit nervously.
‘Yes?!’ Ebeneza’s impatience grew by the second when somebody didn’t state their business the very first seconds.
‘Well, Ebeneza, Ms, it’s gonna be Christmas. Usually, all businesses are closed with Christmas’, Ms Crampit looked down. Ebeneza looked at Ms Crampit very, very annoyed.
‘Fine, take the day off’, she said, nearly offering Ms Crampit some tea. Ms Crampit nearly cheered. She smiled at least. That annoyed Ebeneza.
‘Just come in early the day after!’ Ebeneza added. Ms Crampit’s smile disappeared. This pleased Ebeneza. She hated happy people.
As soon as she was no longer spoken to, Ms Crampit fled to the working floor and send everyone home for Christmas, leaving the building herself shortly after.
It was also time for Ebeneza. She went home, making herself a cup of tea and a kettle of soup. Then, she made a mistake. A small urn of ashes – of Ebeneza’s even less admired grandmother- fell in the kettle. It made a purple mist, that turned into blue, green and yellow bubbles, before her grandmother Edna’s head appeared. She had long been diseased.
‘Grandma Edna!’ Ebeneza shouted in fear, as she had just added a bit of salt to her soup, something grandma Eda had always disapproved of. Salt was too expensive to be used in vain in her opinion. She tried to hide it with her hand. Grandma Edna laughed. Like nails scratching a blackboard.
‘Oh dear, what a hassle over some salt?! I’m here to tell you something much worse’, she squeaked. Ebeneza knew that was Grandma Edna’s way of laughing. It sounded horrid. She took a sip of her soup. She liked soups, for they were cheaper to make and filled enough for an entire night.
‘You see, you will be visited by some mighty big mushrooms. You’ve mistaken their power for yours and now they will show you! It’ll start at midnight! ‘ Grandma Edna squeaked again.
Ebeneza wasn’t very happy about this message, nor was she impressed by it.
‘We’ll see’, she simply said, as she finished her soup.
She went to bed after that, blowing out the mushroomscented candle on her nightstand.
Ebeneza heard the clock turn 12. She looked around her bed. Nothing.
‘See? Nothing to worry about. That daft Grandma Edna!’ Ebeneza told herself. Then she smelled something weird.
She sniffed it. And again. And again. What was that?
‘Oh blimey, did I forget to take out the stove?’ Ebeneza wanted to get out of bed, but tripped.
Over a giant mushroom.
‘Haha! No, you didn’t forget to take out the stove, I just farted’, the mushroom said. Ebeneza waved her hand about.
‘Oh don’t be silly love, you smell much worse, I assure you!’ the mushroom gasped for air as it pulled her out of bed.
‘Now what?!’ Ebeneza shouted.
‘Well, you’re going out of here, that’s for sure!’ the mushroom just spoke, pulling her by the feet
‘To do what?’
‘Well, you’re the meat to my soup’, it said, pulling her down the stairs, into the kitchen. It seemed to know what it was doing. It very carefully chose the biggest knife Ebeneza had in there. She usually used it to cut small calves to use their marrow for puddings. In awe and full of disbelieve she just observed the mushroom. It cleared out her sink, took out all kinds of fresh vegetables from Ebeneza’s special cabinet.
‘You may want to turn it down a little?! That’s about fifty pounds worth of totally good herbs!’ she whined a bit.
‘We can’t make proper soup without proper herbs, now can we?’ the mushroom spoke. When it appeared to have everything ready on the sink (massive kettle on the fire, herbs, vegetables, salt, pepper, carrots, leeks, potatoes, all kinds of things Ebeneza never used, really, for she thought them to be far too expensive), the murshroom spoke:
‘And now my main ingredient: YOU!’ it simply threw Ebeneza on the cutting board and tied her up with ropes and belts. Then it started to sharpen the biggest knife it had just displayed. Ebeneza screamed.
‘Oh, don’t worry, you’ll taste quite lovely! I’m an expert at this, trust me!’ the mushroom spoke, walking with the knife to Ebeneza.
Ebeneza fainted from fear.
When she woke up, she was on the floor next to her bed.
No kitchen, no horrible mushroom.
She just fell out of bed, explaining why she dreamed to be on the sink, probably. Ebeneza got up and quickly layed herself back in bed.
When she woke up after a while, there was a mushroom next to her bed. It looked different from the previous one, but Ebeneza was alarmed.
‘Why are you here?’ Ebeneza asked, quite rudely.
‘Mostly because you need a bath!’ the mushroom pulled Ebeneza by her ear to the kettle that was still hanging in the fireplace, dropped her in it.
‘There’s no reason to ruin perfectly good soup!’ cried Ebeneza.
‘You see, that’s where you’re wrong’, the mushroom spoke, as it started stirring the soup.
‘I can’t feel my legs!’ Ebeneza shouted after a while.
‘Ah yes, that’s them being boiled and cooked. Soon you won’t feel anything, that’s when the soup is done and served. Don’t worry, you will be dead by then’, the mushroom spoke as if it was a cozy Nan, comforting a sewet grandchild.
‘Aaaah!’ Ebeneza shouted, waving her arms and legs about fear.
She woke up, appeared to be still in bed.
‘Whoa, what the freaking noodle was THAT?!’ she panted. She felt her clothes. She couldn’t be much wetter of all the sweat. But she was alive and not in a kettle!
Relieved she fell asleep again.
Only to be woken up what seemed only five minutes later. A humming sound this time. She looked around, heard hammering and didn’t see a thing. When she tried to reach for her candle, she noticed she was trapped. Inside what? Her arms and legs tried to sense what was going on.
‘You’re in a barrel, mate’, said the one who’d been humming.
‘In a barrel of what?’ Ebeneza enquired.
‘A burial barrel’, the whistling continued, as did the hammering.
‘You can’t bury me, I’m alive’, Ebeneza protested.
‘Well, that’s what you say. You smell pretty dead to me!’
‘Are you a mushroom?’ it did seem like an odd question, but she wanted to be sure.
‘I have a bad experience with your type’
‘Oh yeah, like what?’ it enquired.
‘Well, one of you tried to slice me up, another one to put me in the soup and now you’, she explained.
‘Ah yes, but didn’t you use all of us for your own good without giving anything in return?’
‘Well…’ Ebeneza thought for a moment.
‘Yes, well, that’s why’, it merrily carried on hammering and whistling.
‘There must be SOMETHING I can do to make it right, surely?!’ Ebeneza cried. She didn’t like small rooms and this barrel, as she noticed it was, was very moldy too.
‘Well, you could. But it’s nothing that would ever interest you’, it started hammering again.
‘Please tell me what it is, so I can decide myself’, Ebeneza yelled really loud, as the hammering wasn’t that easy to get through to.
Thankfully this mushroom appeared to be willingly.
‘OK, donate a year of your mushrooms profits to anyone who REALLY needs it. And bath, for heavens’ sake!’
‘Allright allright I will do that!’ Ebeneza said annoyed. She was sick and tired of mushrooms telling her to bath. Especially with these heavy consequences!
‘And who would be the beneficiary?’ apparently, it wasn’t enough to just say it. Ebeneza thought for a few moments. It wasn’t that easy to pick someone. And at the same time, it was.
‘Excellent choice, Ebeneza’, that voice sounded familiar.
‘Grandma Edna?!’ Ebeneza shouted.
‘Yes, dear. It was about bloody time you gave that poor woman something back in return. Do you know she has eight children to feed on that louzy salary you give her? One is about to die thanks to you!’
‘Oh wow, I had no idea, how come?’
‘Because people don’t tell you anything. You smell like shit and mushrooms. And not in a good way. Open the barrel, boys, I have a feeling things are about to change now’.
And so it did. Ebeneza started bathing and treating Ms Crampit properly and mushrooms were never taken for granted ever again.