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Fiction Fantasy Middle School

“Hand me that Buchner, will you Ren?”

Ren didn’t reply. Her dad snapped his fingers at her. “Hmm?” she said dreamily.

“Phone down, Ren,” he said sharply, not even having to look at her to know she was once again distracted by her phone. He was trying to teach her real, actual magic over here and she couldn’t stop staring at that tiny screen.

“Oh, right, sorry. I was just… it’s not important,” Ren said, cramming the phone into her pocket. She just stood then, staring at her dad.

“The Buchner, Ren,” he reminded her.

“Oh, sure. Got it!” Ren turned to the counter of glassware behind them. She was immediately overwhelmed. Which one was the Buchner again? Was it this round-bottomed thingy? No, no, no. It has an arm on it. She made her best guess and presented her dad with a flask.

“Wrong one,” he said, barely glancing at it.

“Ugh,” Ren groaned in frustration. She snatched the flask up and turned back to the counter and stared, having no clue which one her dad needed.

“I’ll give you a clue,” her dad said and her shoulders slumped even farther, if that was possible. His clues were never actually helpful to her. “We’re doing a vacuum filtration to separate the liquid from the pulp of the starfruit we just juiced.”

“Dad, I’m sorry, but I don’t know,” Ren was exasperated but sounded meek. She didn’t want to admit her shortcomings to her dad. “Can you please just tell me which one it is?”

He sighed and turned to grab the Buchner flask off the table of glassware. The one with the flat bottom and the tiny arm near the neck. He opened his mouth to ask Ren to get him the funnel and tubing they would need for the process, but thought better of it and took those out of the cabinet above them.

They both moved back to the main work table, Ren unable to hear her dad explaining, probably for the millionth time, this Bunchner vacuum whatever set-up. Even now when she knew she should really be paying attention, she just wasn’t interested and couldn’t force herself to be.

She caught the tail end of his explanation, as per usual. “See? That’s not too complicated, right?” Ren looked up and gave him a weak smile, betraying the fact that she had not listened at all and had no idea how this set-up worked or what it would accomplish.

“Ren, I know potions aren’t your thing, but this is the family business. And you’re all I have left. Who else am I going to teach this to?”

“Can’t you just get an apprentice or something?” Ren asked hopefully, though she knew the answer.

“It doesn't work that way, unfortunately,” her dad said, returning the weak smile.

“Unfortunate for me. I hate this and I’m crap at it. Why couldn’t our family business be video gaming? I’m good at that. And it’s way cooler than this.”

“It was unfortunate for me, too, when I was your age,” her dad mumbled in response.

“Nu-uh,” Ren said in disbelief. She’d only ever known her father as a potions master and couldn’t imagine him any other way.

“Yeah-huh,” her dad replied. “I hated potions growing up, too. I wanted to play quark for a living.”

Ren barked out a laugh. “You? A pro quark player? No way.”

“I know that seems crazy now. But that’s where my heart was when I was a kid. Then grandma dragged me into the kitchen and said… well, she basically said what I’m saying to you today. ‘Tough luck, kiddo. We’re a potions family so you gotta learn.’”

Ren was stunned but still thought there was a way for her to get out of this fate. “But that was then. Things have changed, right?”

“Not enough, sweetie.”

“Ok, but you’re good at potions and I’m terrible at them. I don’t get it. I never understand what we’re doing or why.”

“I wasn’t always good at potions,” her dad said. “You remember that weird looking tree stump right outside Grandma’s kitchen window?”

“Yeah…” Ren said, not sure where this was going.

“I messed up a potion so bad one day. It was burping and bubbling so much all the glass on the counter around it started shaking. Grandma snatched it up and threw it out the open window and the whole thing exploded against the tree that was there. She saved our lives but the tree had to be cut down and all that was left was that stump with the weird burn marks from my potion-gone-wrong.”

Ren didn’t know what to say. She’d never heard that story before. She just always assumed her dad loved potions all along. Like he’d just followed her grandma around, watching her, taking it all in like a little scientific chef.

“And maybe you not understanding things is partly my fault too,” her dad continued.

“No, Dad,” Ren interrupted. “I know I’m always distracted, looking at my phone and stuff. I’ll try harder.”

“Well, I’ll try harder too. No one ever taught me how to be a good teacher. It just seemed so natural to grandma. She would tell me what we were making and then explain why we were making it - like who it was for and how it would help them. I don’t really do that, do I?”

Ren shook her head. “You kind of just order me around,” she said.

Her dad nodded. “Right,” he said. “Well, let’s start again with today’s work. From the top!”

Ren pulled up a stool and got herself comfortable. She was ready to try. If her dad could go from a would-be pro-qwark player to a potions master, she could go from a gaming fanatic to, well, at least a potions apprentice.

“So, we’re making a brain health potion called NeuroJuv for Mrs. Winslowe today.”

“That’s Kelby’s grandma. She told me her grandma doesn't remember things very well any more,” Ren chimed in.

“Right. So were making her a potion to try to restore some of her brain function to improve her memory.” Ren nodded, doing her best to follow along. “Now, people used to think that starfruit was toxic, and in some cases, it actually can be.”

As her dad continued to explain the properties of starfruit, a Buchner filtration set-up and how all of this would help Mrs. Winslowe, Ren felt herself falling into a comfortable place with her dad. Something she could really get used to.

June 24, 2022 14:57

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