This Katie story is just a bit different – because most of it is not even about Katie – but about her Mum. Of course Katie’s mum is a witch, and she always wanted to set up a magic shop. When she finally achieved her ambition, the other shop keepers started to get jealous – and to spread rumours about her being a bad witch. Katie’s friend Isis advises that the only solution is to go on a Charm Offensive…
The making of this story was more of a team effort than usual. Natasha really wanted Bertie to write a story about Katie’s mum, and she was keen on mentioning the persecution of witches. Along the way, there were some great suggestions from our listeners Eric and Melissa in Milford, Massachusetts, who saw an early version. They suggested the idea of the Street Festival and the intervention of Isis’s mum in the role of the head of the Chamber of Commerce. And finally our illustrator, CiaJia, thought up the idea for the storm.
There were so many great ideas that it’s a bit longer than usual. We hope you will enjoy this rather different Katie story.
Read by Natasha. Text by Bertie. Pictures for Storynory by CaiJia Eng. Duration 24 minutes.
Katie’s mother loved her job. There was nothing in the whole wide world that she would rather be than a witch. She loved the feeling of magic tingling through her fingers. The chanting of incantations was music to her ears. She always enjoyed meeting other witches and swapping spells with them. It was always satisfying to help people out with a little dose of magic, and most often, they did not even have an inkling about what she had done.
But being a witch wasn’t all hunky-dory. These days, when everyone is so into high tech gadgetry, magic is quite out of fashion. It’s really tough to earn a living out of it. And you have to be very thick skinned. In fact, if some people find out that you are a witch, or even suspect it, that can become quite nasty about you – vicious and vindictive even.
But despite all the difficulties, Katie’s mother still believed that witchery had a great future. In fact, she had a little ambition. She had always wanted to own a shop where she could sell magical things. But of course she couldn’t say that they were magical, so she would just have to present them as a bit mystical and unusual. She would stock hard-to-find ingredients like Mandrake’s Root, Star Dust, and Glastonbury Grass Seed. Of course she would absolutely NOT sell Powdered Unicorn Horn, because, although it is very powerful in spells, Unicorns are an endangered species. She would also have things for about the home, like Pillows Stuffed with Dodo Down, Sweet smelling candles, broomsticks, and cauldrons. She wold have a jewellery counter, with pendants and bangles in the shape of magical symbols. And in the back of the shop, out of view from ordinary customers, she would stock a wide range of the best books and scrolls all about magic.
One afternoon the school gate, Katie said to her mother:
“Mum, I would love to be a famous film actor when I grow up”
And her mother said:
“Well, if that’s what you want to do, you should do something positive about it: like audition for the school play.”
“Mum, I ever so want to do the auditions, but I’m afraid that people will laugh at me. Jenny said that I can never be a film star because I look way too geeky.”
“And since when was Jenny Miss know-it-all about Hollywood? Don’t listen to her opinion. I’ve learned one thing in my life, if you want something you’ve got to just go for it, or else you will spend the rest of your days living with your regrets.”
And Katie kissed her mother because she always gave her such good advice. That evening, Katie’s mum put a new spell into the dishwasher that magically collected all the dirty dishes, washed them, and then put them back in the cupboard. She was particularly proud of that spell because it improved on modern technology, and she had written it herself. And Katie thought “I must have the cleverest mum in the whole school.”
Later on, when Katie was in bed, and about to turn out her light, her mother popped into her room to wish her sweet dreams. And Katie said: “Mum, you know what you said about not going for what you want, and then regretting not doing it.”
And her mum said, “yes. What about it?”
And Katie said: “Is there anything you regret not doing?”
And Katie’s mum thought for a while, and replied: “Well you know I’ve always wanted to open a magic shop, but I’ve never got round to doing it..”
“Well why don’t you?” asked Katie.
“Because people might say it was a bit strange… ”
“Don’t listen to ‘people’,” urged Katie, “just do it. Or you will always regret not doing it. You know you will.”
And Katie’s mother said: “Time for you, my little witch, to go to sleep now.”
“Oh go on mum. Say you will.”
“Well perhaps I shall.”
In the morning, Katie’s mother woke up with fiery determination in her belly. She had already spotted that there was a little shop for rent on the high street. After shed had dropped Katie off at school, she went to speak to the landlord of the shop, who told her how much it would cost every month. First she thought that the rent was rather a lot of money, then she remembered how she would have to buy all the stock, and then she thought that going into the shop business was so terribly risky. And then at last she thought: “Well Katie’s right. If I don’t give it a try, I will always regret it.”
And so the following weekend, Katie and her mother started to decorate the shop. They painted it white, because they were white witches, but they decorated it with all sorts of wavy magical patterns. They called it, “The Magic Lantern” and inside, where nobody could see, they used just a little magic to whitewash all the walls. Katie’s mother ordered all the stock, which arrived by magic, and they were able to open it within a week.
“Magic might be a bit old fashioned,” said Katie’s mum, “But it’s still a big time-saver.”
But Katie and her mum weren’t the only people to see how quickly and easily things were getting done around the shop. From the shop next door, and from the window across the precinct, eyes were watching them. The owner of the home furnishings shop that had been there simply for ever, saw that she had a rival shop. She went to see her friend, the owner of the launderette, and said:
“You’ve go to watch these witches. They will be washing clothes by magic next, and that’s what I call unfair competition.”
And she went to see the owner of the patisserie shop and said: “She’s not exactly friendly is she? She hasn’t been over to say hello yet.”
Perhaps the ears of Katie’s mum should have been burning with all this gossip about her buzzing around the street, but she was far too excited about her new business to notice that sort of thing. On Monday morning she snapped her fingers and the sign on the door flipped from Closed to Open. She sat down with a cup of tea and waited for her first customer:
“I mustn’t be too impatient,” she said to herself, “Monday morning is bound to be slow.”
But at 9.15 her first customer came in. He was a young man, and it was so exciting watching him browse through her wares. First he looked around the home accessories, and then his eye caught the jewellery counter. She guessed that he was looking for a present for his girlfriend.
She summoned up all her courage to speak to him:
“Can I help you with anything?” she asked.
“Er yes, my girlfriend loves all this magical sort of stuff and it’s her birthday tomorrow.”
She was dying to ask if his girlfriend was a witch, but she thought that it might be tactless to ask. She didn’t want her first customer to think she was being rude.
When the young man chose a pendant and paid for it with his credit card she wanted to hug and kiss him, though of course she didn’t, she merely said, “Thank you sir. I hope your girlfriend likes the present.”
When had gone out of the shop she did a little dance and shouted “Yippee !”. By eleven o’clock there were three or four customers browsing around the shop and in the early afternoon a tourist bus broke down just outside window, and the passengers poured out onto the street. Most of them poured into her shop and were saying things like, “Oh Hank, just look at this little lantern, isn’t it adorable?”
None of this went unnoticed by the other shopkeepers.
“She’s a witch you know,” said the baker.
“She put a spell on that bus”, said the newspaper agent
“And on all her customers”, added the gift shop owner.
Just before 4.pm Katie’s mum put a sign on the door saying, “Back Soon”, and she ran down the road to pick up Katie from her school, which fortunately was not far away. As soon as katie saw her mother’s face, she knew that her first day of shop-keeping had already been a success.
“How many customers?” she asked eagerly.
“I’ve lost count”, said her mum.
And they both rushed back to the shop where they found a couple of customers peering through the window at the Wizard’s Writing Desk which was the most expensive item on view. Not long after, the credit card machine was cheerfully printing out a receipt.
Customers continued to drop into her shop, including some local witches, and even a wizard who had flown a 100 miles by broomstick just to come to it. But to even with all the customers, there were quiet times when it was quite lonely in the shop, and she longed to chat to the other shop keepers nearby. But they all gave her a cold shoulder. And things got worse. One morning when she came in, she found that somebody had spray-canned some dreaded words over her window:
“Witches Out !”
“Oh dear,” said Katie’s mother, “somebody doesn’t like me.” And without thinking she snapped her fingers, and the window was immediately clean again. And then she thought, “Oh Silly me. I hope nobody saw me do that.”
That afternoon, Katie left the school in happiest of moods. She had just been given a lead part in the school play. It was called The Witches of Salem, and was set in New England in the 1690s when women were put on trial for being witches.
“Mr. Holkham said the part was just made for me!” said Katie with a huge smile on her face.
“Oh that’s fantastic darling. You’ve done so well,” said her mother as they sat in the car. But by the time they reached the traffic lights, Katie could tell that something was troubling her mother. Later that evening, when she was making soup in the kitchen, she told Katie all about the “Witch’s Out !” graffiti.
“Oh dear,” said Katie, “I think you are being persecuted.”
And her mother had to wipe a tear from her eye as she tried to look brave.
They next day, when Katie told her best friend Isis all about what had happened, she said: “It’s just like in the school play. It’s a witch hunt. I’m just so afraid for my mum. She’s so nice. She hates fighting.”
And Isis thought and said: “If she hates fighting, she shouldn’t do it. She needs is a charm offensive.”
“What’s a charm offensive?” asked Katie.
“It’s like when you think up a plan to win over people’s hearts,” said Isis. “She mustn’t get hurt. She mustn’t hit back. She must be true to her self and be nice to everyone. That’s what I think anyway.”
Katie thought that a charm offensive sounded like a brilliant plan, and after school she told her mother what isis had said.
“Well of she’s right,” said. her mum, “I must try to win over the shop keepers. But hard not to feel paranoid when everyone’s out to get you.”
What Katie’s mum needed was a little sign to point her in the right direction, and very next day she found one quite unexpectedly. She received a visit in the shop from somebody she knew, although not very well. The visitor was dressed in a smart two piece suit, she wore a string of pearls around her neck, and carried a little briefcase. She was head of the local Chamber of Commerce, which is like a club for all the local shops and businesses, and as it happened, she as also Isis’s mum.
“I thought you might like to help us,” said Isis’s mum, “We are holding a street festival and we need lots of things.”
“Like what?” asked Katie’s mum.
“Oh like food, and balloons, and party games for the children.”
“Well I think the Magic Lantern could help with that,” she said. “And if you like, I’ll help with the organisation too.”
“Brilliant,” said Isis’s mum.
And for the next six weeks, Katie’s mum worked ever so hard at organising the street party. She made a brochure and a website which advertised all the local shops. She drew up plans showing where all the stalls would be. She cut out bunting, blew up balloons, baked cakes, and she ordered a bouncy castle, a children’s magician, and a jazz band.
On the morning of the big day, the sun was shining, and the crowds came out to mill around the open-air stalls. Women browsed through designer clothes, husbands looked for nice but not too expensive presents for their wives, Children’s faces were all messy with ice cream.
The lady from the gift shop brought her family dog with her. It was a lovely great big bouncy red setter, who liked nothing more than to jump up and lick your face. His owner unclipped his lead off whispered in his fluffy ear:
“Tiggy darling, go and find the witch,” and because he was a clever dog he understood exactly what she meant. He bounded over to the stall where Katie’s mum had set out her wares. He jumped up onto it and liked her face, sending pendants, rings, and magic charms scattering in all directions. The whole stall tipped over and Katie’s fizzy orange drink spilled all over a customer’s dress. The gift shop owner came running over and said to Katie’s mum:
“Did you just try and put a spell on my dog? He’s as good as gold except when there’s a witch around.”
And Katie’s mum was so upset that she didn’t notice that a thief was picking up rings off the ground and palming them, while his accomplice was helping herself to the upturned cash box.
“Oh Dear,” she thought, “I wish I could use a bit of magic to tidy all this up, but I can’t with so many people around.”
But Katie and Isis helped her to sort out the mess and set things right in no time, and before long the customers were buying her things again.
The lady from the flower shop whispered to the newsagent, “You just can’t keep a bad witch down.”
But around lunch time, grey clouds began to blow over the sky, and the street became darker and quite chilly. Some people went into cafes, but others started to drift away back home. Drops of rain were already starting to land on the stores.
“Now might be a good time to make the sun come out, ” said the Lady from the patisserie shop to Katie’s mum, not actually saying that she was a witch, but just making sure that they both understood what she meant.
Just then a gust of wind blew down the street and blew away all cards from the gift stall. Instead of picking them up, she ran over to Katie’s mum and screeched:”You did that on purpose didn’t you?”
“I don’t know what you mean,” protested Katie’s mum,
“Yes you do you witch. You getting your own back.”
While she was accusing Katie’s mum, the rain was soaking the clothes, and ruining the cakes. The store owners were hastily gathering up their things and taking them back inside the shops.
“Oh dear, the party is ruined,” said Isis’ mum. But the storm only lasted half an hour, and afterwards the sun came out shining in all the puddles and making the whole street look glistening and beautiful.
‘Well it’s too late for us,” said the gift-shop owner to her dog, “Because half our cards and gifts are soaked, and the other half are lost, thanks to that witch.” Then she looked up and saw Katie standing there: “What do you want?” said the angry shop keeper.
“WE want to help you,” said Katie, “Why don’t you take Tiggy for a walk down the street for fifteen minutes, and when you come back, I promise that things will be much better.
“Pah”", said the lady,” “More tricks and witchery,” but she was so fed up, that she did take Tiggy down the road to the park.
While she was a way, Katie’s mum said a little magic spell. She didn’t actually collect all the lost cards in one go, because that would be too noticeable, but it did help Katie and Isis find them all ten times as quickly as they would normally, and when they picked them up, they were all clean. All the way down the street, the stall owners were making light work of setting up everything again, and Katie’s mum, who had already reset her stall, was lending a helping hand wherever she could.
Everyone was saying how unlucky it had been that the storm had blown down the street, but as everyone was helping each other, there were cheerful smiles and jokes all round. When the gift store owner returned, she found that her store was set up as well, if not better, than before.
“Well thank you,” she said grudgingly to Katie.
“Don’t thank me, thank my mum,” replied Katie.
And although the gift store owner did not quite go as far as to thank katie’s mum, she never said a bad word against her again, and from that day on, all the other shop keepers on the street said things like
“Well she might be a witch, but she’s still a nice person”