Contest #176 shortlist ⭐️

Opening Geraldine's

Submitted into Contest #176 in response to: Set your story in a magical bookshop.... view prompt


Funny Drama Fantasy

Carla inserted her skeleton key into the keyhole, turned it, and heard the unlocking of the bookshop’s door. When she pushed it open, the bell on the other side of it jingled its welcome tune into the stillness of Geraldine’s Books and Bits Bookshop.

Carla inhaled the shop’s sleepy aroma, a mixture of must and ambrosia, her mascaraed eyes gleaming excitedly through her bright red cat-eye-framed glasses. “Hello, my dears! Good morning, good morning!” she sang her dark crimson lips into a wide smile. “How was your weekend?”

A quiet creak weakly answered her amidst the silence.

“Oh, come now, you dreary books! Wake up! Wake up!” Carla clapped her hands into the air. A slightly louder tap from a few of the books rustling on their shelves was her only reply. “Oh, no, no, no, this will not do! Looks like we need a little energetic injection this morning, now, don’t we?”

Shutting the door behind her, Carla wiggled her fingers towards the stereo sitting on a shelf in the backroom of the store. Instantly, there was a distinct click, followed by muffled static; then inaudibly quiet voices crescendo’d through the speakers. Perfectly on cue and in sync with Montell Jordan, Carla opened her arms wide and belted out: “This is how we do it!

As the loud R&B song blared into the shop, the lights flickered on and off like eyes fluttering open after a deep sleep; once settled, its radiant rays illuminated the shop, enlivening the walls of bookshelves that encased the room. In each corner of the shop, books wriggled and jiggled, stretching their hard spines awake. The wooden shelves groaned against their movements. The crystal chandelier above the round table, the shop’s center display, began swinging in rhythm to the music, while the bookshop’s “bits” slowly came to life around the room: large bull toads jumped in their water tanks; feathery quills and wooden wands bounced in their vessels like the hammers of a piano; crystals slid across their mantles like synchronized swimmers; books not restricted to shelves fanned open their pages, exposing their enchantedly blank pages.

“The humans haven’t gotten much right, but their 90’s music is just catchy!” Carla beamed, bouncing her shoulders to the pulsing beat. A tink-tink-tink resounded from the apothecary cabinet where tincture bottles full with last week’s prepared potions and glass jars containing a variety of poison herbs and other potion-making ingredients were tapping against one another. “Ah, ah, gentle, gentle, my dears! Last time the dragon’s blood spilt, it reeked in here for weeks!” Obediently, the glassware settled into a slower tempo, softly clinking to the song’s macro beat.

“Geraldine! Oh, Geraldine, where are you? Yoo-hoo!” Carla’s tightly curled, bright copper hair bobbed as she swished her head left to right, searching. A wooden nub poked its head out from the open doorway that connected the front of the shop to the back. “Geraldine, there you are!” At the sound of her voice, the nub quickly retreated behind the doorframe. Geraldine extended her hand, opening and closing her palm, instructing the wary wood to make its appearance and come to her. “Don’t be shy, come on out, dear! Come dance with me!” The wooden nub hesitantly peeked out again, and then slowly waddled out into full view, revealing the full length of its wooden shaft and assembly of yellow straw bristles. Swaying rhythmically to the music, it hovered over to Carla who grabbed its handle and brought it directly to her mouth.

Again, in perfect synchronicity, Carla sang, “It’s Monday morning, and I feel all right, the party’s here at Geraldine’s!” Thrashing and threshing, the corn broom squirmed in Carla’s hand, and she released it with a playful laugh. “Oh, I know you hate it when I use you as a microphone! I’m sorry, Geraldine, but I just can’t resist! You know if I were the one whose soul was infused into a broom, you would do the same thing.” Geraldine offered a broom’s equivalent of a shrug. “You’re still as coy as you were in your human form, but at least you haven’t grown bitter in your sweeping years – HA! Now, what do you say? Shall we get this place open for business?” Shaking her bristles, the broom lowered to the hardwood and began her work, twirling in circles around the room.

“Thank you, dear friend! And where is Max? Max! Come on out and join the – “

Before Carla could finish, a small feather duster darted out from the back room right into Carla’s hand. “Ah, there you are my dear friend, and how was your weekend?” Like a dog shaking its tail, Max whipped his feathers frenziedly. “Oh, I’m happy to see you, too,” Carla cooed. “Now, won’t you help me get this place in tip-top shape and ready to open?” As quickly as it had arrived, the duster zoomed out of Carla’s grasp and began its flurry flutter around the room, flitting over the shop’s array of exhibitions.

Delighted by the lively scene before her, Carla danced with a 1-2-step around her bookshop, swiping her hand across the spines of books as she passed them, singing along: It feels so good, in my hood, tonight… When she reached the locked glass encasement which held the shop’s most valuable books, she stopped for a closer inspection. Her eyes scanned the golden spines of the books on the top shelf – her nearly complete assortment of The Maps to the Future – checking to see if they were still organized in their correct order, by dimension. Satisfied, she bent down to scan the lower shelves, containing the most powerful books in her inventory, a collection of strong spell-casting books that only the most wicked and wieldy witches could execute. Sliding her finger across the glass, Carla ensured their presence as she listed them off one by one: “Book of the Dead, Book of the Living, Book of the Undead, Book of the Unborn, Book of the Non-Magical, Book of the In-Laws – so glad someone finally wrote that one – Book of Magical Creatures, Book of Non-Magical Creatures, and…” Carla paused a moment, pressing her finger into the glass where an empty space loomed behind it. “The Book of Undoing… where have you gone?” Curiosity, concern, and worry furrowed between her eyebrows as she brought her finger to her lips, still bobbing her head to the 90’s rap song that continued to play loudly throughout the small space.

“Geraldine! Max!” Carla hollered above the music. “Where is the Book of Undoing?”

When Carla stood up and turned away from the case, she was met with the unmoving broomstick and feather duster, whose feathers were now hung limp, hovering side by side like dutiful soldiers awaiting their commands. “Well, where is it? You were here all weekend, you must know what’s happened to it. It’s not as if it could sprout legs and wander off, now, could it?” Carla chuckled lightheartedly, but the cleaning tools remained still, without an answer.

"You don’t know, do you? Huh?” Like a mother scolding her children, Carla prepared to unleash, planting her hands on her hips. “Now, one of you had better tell me what’s happened to it! Do you have any idea what could happen if that book got into the wrong hands? It would be –”

“It would be what, Carla?” A voice coming from the front door of the bookshop interrupted her.

Carla jumped, her hand flinging to her chest. When she saw her employee standing in the entryway, she laughed at her reaction. “Oh, James! You scared me!”

James stood confidently in the doorway with his hands gripping the straps of a backpack slung over his shoulders. Grinning at his boss, James asked, “What would happen if someone got their hands on the Book of Undoing?”

Carla raised an eyebrow at James, questions surfacing within her eyes. “Well, of course, it depends on who had their hands on it, but as you know, James, if a person with the wrong intentions found it within their possession, well, the results could be… unpredictable.”

James guffawed. Sliding his backpack towards his front body, he unzipped it and pulled out a large book with a gold swirly design along its spine that resembled the decorated spines of the books inside the glass encasement. “And what if someone like me got their hands on it?”

Like a sheer gasp, Geraldine and Max fled to the back room. Showing no reaction to their swift departure, Carla snapped her fingers sharply beside her ear, and just as Montell sang, Sell a million records and we’re making the dash, the music ceased and all the elements of the bookstore stilled, leaving her and James in a silent stand-off. Narrowing her darkening eyes at James, Carla spat, “And what exactly do you intend to do with that, James?”

James flipped through the pages of the ancient and powerful book as he spoke. “You know, Carla, you’re one powerful witch, but you are entirely blinded by your own vanity, you know that?”

Carla rolled her eyes and sighed impatiently. “Hand the book over, now, James, before you regret it. It’s not as if you could do anything useful with it, anyways.”

Ignoring her comment, James continued, “It never struck you as odd that I knew so much about Geraldine’s when you hired me?”

“What does that –”

“That I knew all of the nooks and crannies of this place; how things were organized and displayed; how I knew my way around the cabinets and storage areas… how I knew everything about this place before you even told me any of it. It never concerned you just how comfortable I was here… never even crossed your mind..." His fingers slowed, now thumbing through the pages with intention. When he reached the page he was searching for, he traced his finger down the center of it.

“Are you going to get to the point, James, or are we going to diddle dally our way – “

“Geraldine. Max.” He said their names firmly and with pause. “They were like family to me, and you took them away.” Pointing towards the back of the shop, his voice grew louder, “You turned them into…into…into your slaves, your own personal utility closet!”

Realization took shape in the form of a mock smile on Carla’s face. “Oh, James, dear, is that what this whole thing is about? This bookshop’s lousy old owner and her fleabag of a dog, are you serious?”

James glared at her, his stare a growl. His lips quivered, but no words left them.

Patronizingly, Carla wafted her hand at James. “They’re fine, James; they’re happy here. You know that; you’ve seen me. I’m good to them! You should have seen the party we were having just minutes before you stormed in here like a dragon waking up on the wrong side of its cave! Now, come on, darling, don’t be silly. Give me the book back, and let’s get on with it.” Carla extended her arm towards James, her hand waiting. When James showed no sign of compliance, Carla matched his blazing scowl and added, “You really don’t want to do this, James.”

James reached back into his backpack and pulled out his wand. Carla, looking bored, rolled her eyes, shrugged her shoulders. “Well, I hate to have to find a new employee, but I guess I could use a new mop.”

Pointing his wand directly at Carla, James closed the Book of Undoing, tucked it against his side, and roared: “Frigidus!” Carla froze, her mouth agape and eyes wide with her hand reaching into her cloak. Relieved and a little surprised by his swift success, James lowered his wand and took a step forward.

Carla erupted into laughter and now James was the one to freeze. “You really thought that would work, you worthless wizard? An elementary incantation like that hasn’t worked on me in decades! And while I must thank you for granting me a decent laugh, what kind of boss would I be if I let you get away with such defiance?” Her wand in her hand, Carla’s eyes focused in on James. “Hoc trans—"

Before Carla could finish her spell, Geraldine and Max bolted back into the room and swarmed around Carla. The feather duster whipped up in front of her face and began shaking furiously about her nose, while the broom turned its bristles upwards and began whacking Carla on the head. Carla wailed, flailing her arms in all directions, giving James enough time to open back up the Book of Undoing. Quickly finding the right page again, James struck his wand towards Carla and the thrashing tools and recited:

Acarmine factum est quod

vis fieri cape istas animas

es iterum totum

solve magicam quae fiebet illis!”

A stream of blue light beamed out from James’ wand, immersing the scene in a blinding gleam. This being the strongest magic James had ever used, he was not accustomed to the brilliant spark and averted his eyes. Once the light dispersed, James looked back towards Carla, but he no longer saw the corn broom and the feather duster.

A portly blonde woman stood in front of Carla, whose face was now more frozen than she had pretended to be by James’ spell. At the women’s feet, a scruffy brown dog sat staring up at them both, tail sliding across the hardwood.

“Geraldine! Max!” James exclaimed in both disbelief and relief.

Geraldine smiled briefly at James, “Hello, sweetie,” and then spoke directly to Carla: “James might not be as powerful a wizard as you, Carla, but I certainly am. And as you very well know, you wretched wench, revenge is a witch’s most powerful ally. You fooled me once into trusting you, but that will never happen again. ” Geraldine lifted her now-human hand up in the air; a wand wiggled from a cup on one of the shelves and flew across the room into her hand. In an instant, it was pointed at Carla, just inches from her nose. Max rose to all fours and growled next to her.

Laughing nervously, Carla put her hands up in defense. “Now, Geraldine, dear, let’s talk about this… We can work something out… Please, Geraldine.”

Without speaking a single word, red light flashed out of Geraldine’s wand, and instantaneously a small buzzing fly filled the space where Carla once stood. Smiling victoriously, Geraldine said, “You know, Carla, you always did bug me. And you were wrong: I have grown bitter, but only towards you!" Max barked his agreement, and Geraldine giggled and patted him on the head. “Good boy, Max. It’s so wonderful to be able to touch you with my own hands again!”

“Geraldine!” James exclaimed, running into her arms, and she welcomed him into the warm hug he’d missed for decades. “I can’t believe it’s really you!” Max jumped up on his hind legs, tapping his front paws on James' hips. “Max! It’s so good to see you and your floppy ears!” he said, scratching behind his ears fervently. Max wagged his tail and leaned his head into the overdue affection before plopping down on all fours again.

Geraldine cupped James’ cheeks in her hands. “Oh, James, you've grown into such a wonderful young wizard. Thank you for saving us! Thank you, thank you!” She kissed him firmly on each cheek.

A buzzing sound grew louder around James’s ear. He swatted aggressively at the small bug flying around his head. “Ugh! I can’t wait to squash you, Carla!”

Geraldine caught his arm. “Oh, now, hold on James.” She waved her hand in the air, and instantly the front door of the shop swung open; then a gust of wind from within the room whirled to life and pushed the fly right out of the store. “Best to let a human handle that one,” Geraldine added with a wink.

Chuckling, James beamed at Geraldine with pure delight. “I’ve missed you so much Geraldine; I’m so sorry it took me so long to change you back.”

Squeezing his hand gently, Geraldine gazed at James as if he were her own son. “That’s all right, dear. All that matters is you’ve done it now. I’m forever grateful to you.” Inhaling deeply, Geraldine scanned around the bookshop. “Well, I’ll have to do some rearranging in here, but we can save that for another day. Before all that drama, Max and I had done a pretty good job tidying this place up, so what do you say: shall we open up Geraldine’s Books and Bits Bookshop now that the real Geraldine is back? I’d really love to catch up with some of my old friends!" She clapped her hands excitedly and bounced like an eager child.

“Absolutely,” James nodded and walked over to the front door. Flipping the sign on the door over to the side that says Open, he started to add, “I know everyone will be so happy – ”

Holding up a finger, Geraldine interjected. “Oh, oh! Before you do that, James, dear, there is just one more thing I’d like to do before we officially open…”

James tilted his head at Geraldine, confused. Grinning, she snapped her fingers and a distinct clicking sound came from the back of the shop. “Of all the horrible things Carla did, she did get one thing right…”

When Montell Jordan’s voice belted through the speaker once again, Geraldine, James, Max, and all the animated elements of the bookshop were in perfect rhythmic synchronicity together as they sang, “This is how we do it!”

December 16, 2022 06:57

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Tommy Goround
16:35 Dec 23, 2022



AnneMarie Miles
16:50 Dec 23, 2022

Thanks, Tommy!


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