The Midwest Witch, Midwest Magic Chronicles Book 1
By Flint Maxwell & Martha Carr
Chapter 2 Cont. & Chapter 3
“What the heck was that? You totally chickened out!” Claire said. “Joe is so into you. How can you not see that?”
Maria had taken off the stupid hat. Her brown hair blew in the rushing wind. Swirling around Claire’s car was the smell of popcorn and the Ohio summer air — fresh cut grass, hot asphalt, and gasoline.
“No, he’s not into me,” Maria replied. “Joe’s into that Kay Jewelers girl, you know the one who always wears that tight pencil skirt.”
“Alice? No, she’s a lesbian. She hits on me about four times a week. Quit making excuses. If you don’t ask him out or at least give him your number, I’m gonna do it for you like we’re back in third grad on the school playground.” Claire laughed. “Remember when I asked Danny Belasé out for you.”
“And he said no! Yeah, I remember.” Maria clutched her chest, above the heart. “My first heartbreak.”
They drove through residential neighborhoods. The sun was going down in the distance, the temperature with it.
“Hey, you mind if we stop at my house? I wanna change my clothes and check on Gramps.”
“You’re the birthday girl…happy birthdaaaaayyyyy to youuuuuuu!”
“Cut it out,” Maria said, but she was smiling.
They arrived at Maria’s house a couple minutes later. “Just wait in the car. I’ll only be a few.”
“I know. You’re idea of freshening up is running a comb through your hair and making sure you’re wearing a clean pair of sweatpants.”
“Hey, you can’t beat comfort. I’d walk around in my underwear wherever I went if it was socially acceptable.”
“You’d get way too much attention,” Claire said. “If you can hardly handle one nerdy surfer boy security guard’s passes at you, imagine what it would be like if you served popcorn with your ass hanging out.”
Maria shuddered. “Good point. Imagine what it would do for business, though. We’d really be rolling in dough.”
“Meh, think about Ted in his underwear.” Claire’s face went pale.
“Oh, God! Okay, convo over.”
She went up the front porch steps and unlocked the door. The smell of her grandfather’s weirdness hit her. It was a comforting smell, the smell of home. “Gramps?”
No answer beside the clicking toenails of Sherlock bounding across the kitchen linoleum from his usual resting spot near the refrigerator. He always waited around for Gramps to drop a piece of his sandwich or some chips or cookies.
Sherlock barked. He was an older dog, but he was as spry as a puppy. Next thing Maria knew, she was on her butt in the front door foyer from the Bloodhound knocking her down. Her face was slimy with his slobber as his super-nose found the scent of buttery popcorn.
“Oh, yuck! Yuck! Quit it, Sherlock!” Maria said, laughing. After the licking was over, Sherlock rolled over on his back, his legs up in the air, waiting for a belly-rub. Maria gave it to him.
She got up and headed for her room.
“Gramps? You up here?” she said.
Again, no answer.
“Must be down at the ice cream shop again. Poor guy.”
Before Salem’s Ice Cream moved in, it was a sub sandwich shop called Submerge, and Gramps had spent a lot of time there, too. Maria guessed he never really got over when Submerge went out of business.
She went into her room, opened her closet, pulled out a Black Sabbath t-shirt and pair of jeans that were a little too tight in the butt. “You got it, flaunt it,” she said.
Sherlock barked at her feet.
“What the fuck?” Maria said, turning around to glare at the Bloodhound. Sherlock sat on the carpet near the end of the bed. The music box was open on the dresser, playing the weird tunes of her grandfather’s rich imagination softly. “Did you just talk?”
The dog wagged his tail, beating the floor, panting. His breath was bad. Maria waved a hand in front of her face.
“Holy shit, I’m losing it. I really am. It’s no question now that Gramps is actually my grandfather and I wasn’t switched at birth into some weird circus family.” She went back to the closet.
I don’t want to be here all alone again, Maria!
The air from the room seemed to be sucked away. “No way,” Maria said. “Dogs don’t talk.” The Bloodhound’s eyes were hopeful, like he was expecting a treat. “Say something again, Sherlock.”
She waited for the dog to speak. And he did, except it wasn’t words that came from his mouth, but a deep, rumbling bark instead.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
In the bathroom she decided to prove Claire wrong. Not only did she run a brush through her wiry brown hair, but she also sprayed it with hairspray, teasing it up a bit, and washed her face. Twice. All that popcorn oil was difficult to get off.
Then, she went down the steps, Sherlock following at her heels. His collar jingled. At the front foyer, she slipped on her shoes. Sherlock stared at her and whenever she stared back, the dog wagged his tail furiously.
“Ah, what the hell. You wanna go play putt-putt?”
“Well, c’mon.” She patted the her thigh. Sherlock moved even faster than before.
Outside, Claire’s voice wailed, “Aww, not the damn dog again!”
Maria shrugged and pulled the door closed.
“If he farts just one time, then you two are both walking home. I don’t care if he’s old and it’s your birthday.”
“You heard the driver, no farting!”
Sherlock whined and looked up at Maria. She could’ve sworn he said, I can’t make any promises. Stomach has a mind of its own.
But that would just be crazy.
Tabitha lived in a townhouse with three other girls. Maria didn’t know the names of those girls, nor did she care to. Tabby’s other friends were, for lack of a better word, bitches.
Claire pulled into the driveway. A couple frat boys were in the front yard, their shirts off, muscles glistening and flexed, tossing a Frisbee back and forth. When Claire put the car in park, the boys hooted and hollered toward them. Maria curled her lip up in disgust. She always thought one would be hard pressed to find something scummier than frat boys.
Claire soaked up the attention, grinning and waving at the boys, then she honked the horn, making one of the shirtless blonde guys jump.
Maria laughed. “Way to go, Claire. Really scoring the brownie points.”
Tabby came out. She bounded down the steps, her strawberry blonde ponytail swaying back and forth. One of the boys whistled at her and she gave him the finger. Maria appreciated the gesture, but Maria didn’t appreciate the fact that Tabby clutched a wrapped box to her chest.
“Happy birthday!” Tabby said.
“Thanks,” Maria answered.
Tabby crawled into the backseat much to Sherlock’s pleasure — he barked and breathed his hot breath all over her face.
“Sherlock,” Maria said from the front seat. Sherlock whined.
She smells like bacon and eggs!
Maria’s heart stuttered. “Did you hear that?”
“Huh?” Tabby and Claire said at the same time.
“Someone said Tabby smells like bacon and eggs,” Maria said. Her eyes were wide and she looked around the Kia suspiciously.
Tabby arched her eyebrow. “You feeling okay, Maria?”
“So no one heard that?” Maria said.
“No,” Claire said.
“But I did make bacon and eggs this morning, but that was hours ago. I showered before you got here.”
Maria couldn’t smell it. Now she looked at Sherlock. He was sitting on the backseat almost like a human. Maria could’ve swore that his droopy lips were turned up in the slightest smile.
“Okay…” Claire said. “Let’s just ignore the fact Maria is slowly turning into her kooky grandpa.”
Maria didn’t respond. Usually she would. She was stunned. That voice. She heard it back at her house, and then in the car. It was Sherlock. Sherlock was somehow…talking to her.
“Bound to happen,” Tabby said. “No big deal. There’s medicine for it, I’m sure.” She thrusted the box out to Maria. “Here, got you this.”
Maria took it absentmindedly.
“Open it!” Tabby said.
Barked. Didn’t talk. Let it go, Maria. You aren’t going crazy, she thought.
Claire backed out of the driveway, the frat boys watching the entire time.
Maria unwrapped the package. Inside, was a push-up bra from Victoria’s Secret. “Uh…” Maria said.
“Do you absolutely love it?” Tabby said.
Claire burst out into laughter.
“This looks like something a stripper would wear before…you know, she strips,” Maria said.
I think you’d look lovely in that, that voice said again.
And Maria snapped around to look at Sherlock. He sat there, eyeing her, wagging his tail.
“Okay, weird. Super weird,” Maria mumbled.
“The bra?” Tabby asked. “I think it’s perfect. You need something to attract the fellas. Not ratty old band t-shirts. Show a little skin, Maria! You’re nineteen and you’ve never even kissed a guy!”
“Not true,” Maria said, defensive.
“Who?” Claire said.
“Well…” Maria began.
“Yeah, exactly!” Tabby said, leaning forward.
Claire turned left down Britain Road, heading for the Barney’s Busy Corners, where Downview Sports was located.
“No!” Maria said. “Last I checked Sherlock was a guy! I kiss him all the time.”
Neither Claire or Tabby laughed. Tabby grabbed the bra out of Maria’s hands and held it up. “Seriously, Maria, that’s just sad. Put this on. We’re gonna find you a cute boy to kiss on your birthday.”
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