Luanda was always late, even when whatever event she was attending was in her own home. She was always stopping on the way, distracted by something like a feather under the couch, then getting the dust mop out and dusting the room, then on to something else and before you knew it, she was lost again. This time her sister, Eloise, in the kitchen slowly stirring the contents of the old black and warped cast iron pot, was more than usually irritated at Luanda’s tardiness. She needed to add that fourth ingredient at just the right time or the recipe would fail and Luanda said she knew where she could find it.
It was almost the first of October and the leaves outside were turning and falling from the trees. It was much cooler in the evenings now, and Luanda loved to sit on the porch, swinging in the old creaky swing, just watching the day go by. That was where she was right now, having forgotten all about Eloise in the kitchen with her pot. Something dashed out of the trees just at the edge of their property, catching Luanda’s eye but disappearing before she actually saw it. For some reason, the motion in the trees reminded Luanda that she was supposed to be looking for something for Eloise. She jumped up from the swing, setting it to thrash wildly on the rusty chains holding it to the porch roof, and scurried into the house.
“For gosh sakes, Luanda,” Eloise scolded as her sister came into the kitchen through the pass-through pantry from the dining room. “You know I need that stuff at exactly the right time, or this recipe will fail!” She turned, taking the long wooden spoon out of the pot, dripping over the top of the wood burning stove the drips sizzling and popping from the heat. “Now look what you made me do! I just cleaned the stove, too!” She was looking at the mess she was making and she did not see that Luanda had her hand out, a small jar in it, a smile on her face.
“Here it is, and just in time, too.” Luanda shook the tiny jar, rattling the contents to get Eloise’s attention.
“Humph! I don’t know how you do it, but you always do come through in the end.” Eloise smiled indulgently and took the jar from Luanda, opened it and carefully sprinkled the contents into the pot. There was a faint hissing sound as she slid the spoon back into the pot and started stirring again. “Thanks, honey. I am sorry I yelled at you. It is just that this is so important right now and you do tend to get distracted very easily, especially this time of the year.”
“I think I saw Skink out there just this side of the trees.” Luanda changed the subject, “It looked like he was running from something, or maybe just running because it is a beautiful evening for running,” she grinned, the thought of dashing about in the trees on a cool evening delighting her. “I’m going to go see if I can find him.”
Eloise shook her head, smiling quietly into the pot. She loved her younger sister so much, even if she was a scatter-brain. Satisfied with the cooking progress to this point, she took the spoon out, this time carefully putting it in the spoon rest so she did not drip on the stove top again. The big cookbook with the pages yellowed and curling in places was on the counter next to the stove and she consulted it, running her long, green, pointed fingernail down the list of ingredients to make sure she had all of them in order.
As Luanda came back into the kitchen, cradling a large black cat in her arms, Eloise gave the pot one final stir, turned and said, “I am so glad we decided to use crushed newt eggshells instead of eye of newt, aren’t you, sister? They work just as well and we didn’t have to boil the newts first.” Eloise smiled at Skink and rubbed his head, which was tucked into Luanda’s elbow. “Well, let’s get going, we have to get in at least four trial runs before the big night!”
The girls hurried out of the kitchen, swirling their long, black skirts behind them. Once they had their pointed black hats settled on their heads, they turned to the two long broomsticks leaning against the door jam. Eloise picked them up, went back to the kitchen and, first dipping the brushy ends in the pot of flying potion and swirling them around, handed one to her sister. They settled themselves on the dusty brown broom shafts, Skink behind Luanda, and waddled out the back door onto the porch. As the sun sank below the tree level, they shot off the porch, flying low at first, then, a bit wobbly, up toward the darkening sky, shouting and laughing. “I love the first trial run every season!”