“You should go and see Mrs Preost, her who lives in the woods at the edge of the village”, said George.
“Hang on.”, said Sam. “Correct me if I’m wrong, but she ain’t no doctor as I recall.”
“Well, no, but she has remedies what are more old school, if you know what I mean.”
Sam crinkles his brow, the furrows and lines on his face making him look more walnut than human. “Well, I can’t say as I do know what you mean by old school.”
George sighs and shifts his feet a little. “You know, old school.” the latter said more slowly and with emphasis. George uses a nod of the head for good measure, as if bodily punctuation clarifies his meaning.
“ahhh, you mean she was a teacher?”
“What I mean to say, is that, well, she’s a Witch.”
“Ha, that's a good one. Stupidest thing I've heard in weeks. Her old fella was my postman for 50 years, he never said anything about his wife bein’ a witch.”
“Probably cursed.” Said George. “She would have put a spell on him so he couldn’t tell anyone in case it went bad for her. Anyway, what harm could it do to pay a visit, hmm?”.
Sam shuffles his feet, uncomfortably. “All I said was, my leg’s been playing me up something rotten, and I should go see the doctor. I didn’t expect you to start suggesting black magic remedies.”
“No, no, nothing like that at all.” George removes his hands from his pockets to make the point, spreading them palms up. “She just knows how to use old ingredients and the like to make potions that today’s doctors have forgotten all about.”
Sam pushes back his cap, scratching his bald pate; a few straggly straws of hair remain as a reminder of his younger days. “I suppose I could take a trip out that way and, if she’s in, I could mention it.” Sam takes a country pause, “I’ll pop over tomorrow, if she can stop this pain, then I shouldn’t wonder it won’t be a wasted trip.”
Early the next day, Sam finds himself outside Mrs. Preost’s cottage. Sam leans his rusty old bicycle against the fence and adjusts his attire, straightening this and that in an effort to increase his presentability. Slowly he makes his way down the path, making it appear that he thought to drop in on Mrs Preost to see that she’s alright. The door to the cottage is nothing special; wooden with a glass area to see who’s at the door. Sam notices that although ordinary in appearance, the door has a black cat for a door knocker. Odd,I ain’t never seen one like that before. Sam summons up his courage and knocks on the door. Although, he opts not to use the black cat knocker, settling for the standard knuckle-to-wood, rat-tat-tat-tat.
Moments later, the door opens to reveal a small round woman of late age, although the exact age is hard to define. She wears a flowery dress, covered by a white cotton pinafore tied at the waist. The woman’s face is pleasantly round and the colour of light pink roses. Her hair, mostly grey, is tied in a bun at the back. Sam couldn’t put his finger on how she smelled. If he was pushed to say, he would probably have said like Summer or maybe Autumn.”
“Hello”, she said. Smiling at Sam and dusting her hands on her pinafore. “Who have we got here then?”.
Sam was taken aback for a second. “Er, er…Sam”, he sputtered.
“Well, er, er, Sam. Pleased to meet you, what can I do for you?”
Sam regained his composure “I was hoping you could help with something. With, er, medicine or the like – Mrs, er, Miss…”
“You can drop the Mrs or Miss. My is Mona, Mona Preost – although, I suspect you knew something of that before you came here.” The twinkle in Mona’s eye was clearer than the best of jewels.
“Yes, well the Preost bit, but I didn’t know the Mona bit. My mate George, he says to come here for medicine on account of you being a Wiiii...”. Sam, hesitates, elongates the W, and steers himself away from uttering Witch, opting instead for woman.
“oh yes. He got that right, a wooooman, yes definitely.” Said Mona. “was that all he said?”
Sam smiled. Mona had such a disarming nature he was feeling more relaxed by the minute. “Well he said you may be able to help fix the pain in my leg.”
On hearing this, Mona opened the door and ushered Sam into her parlour, guiding him to a chair by the window. Sam spent a few minutes outlining the aches and pains in his knee, and how it came on, and when it came on. He felt like he was talking for a long time and that he should be shutting up, but Mona sat patiently opposite smiling and nodding; every so often she would ask a question. After listening to Sam for some time, Mona said. “I may have just the thing, but you will need to come back tomorrow afternoon.” She left the room and returned a few minutes later with a small bottle in her hand.
“You’ll also need to bring something with you tomorrow.” She said. “bring your gardening tools.”
Sam looked a little perplexed. “Is that for a spell or something?”
At the word spell Mona raised an eyebrow and smiled. “Oh good gracious no.” She said.
“It's payment for me treating your leg, I want you to tidy my front garden.”
“Yes, well, no problem, but wait a minute; how did you know I was a gardener?”.
Mona gave Sam a knowing look. “No one has a tan like that, wrinkles like a ploughed field, and hands rough and cut like yours without doing something outside. Gardening was as guess based on intuition mixed with educated guesswork.”
As they parted, Mona place the glass bottle she had retrieved from the kitchen and pressed it into Sam’s hand.
“Is this for my leg?”, Said Sam.
“No, no, Sam, that’s just some oil for the wheel on your bike – I could hear you coming down the lane half a mile away.” With a parting smile, she ushered Sam out of the door and down the path. Then she disappeared back inside the cottage to get to work.
The following afternoon, not a squeak came from his bike as Sam cycled down the lane. He had slept better, and his knee already felt improved without any medicine or potion being used. Sam placed his bicycle against the fence, passed through the gateway up to Mona’s door. Curious. He recalled the door knocker being a black cat, but it now seemed to be curled up sleeping, whereas yesterday it was stretched out and all, well, wary looking. Before Sam could tap at the door, it opened slowly to reveal the beaming face of Mona. No pinafore today, in its place a navy-blue cardigan with white mother of pearl buttons. Sam noticed the buttons were in the shape of the sun and moon, and set alternately down the front.
“Afternoon, Mrs. Preost.”
“It’s fine to call me Mona. Come in and sit down. I am giving you some oil to rub into the joint around your knee. You can put in on in here and the meet me in the front garden.”
When she'd left the room, Sam looked at the bottle she had given him. It was light green and glass with ribbed sides. The liquid inside was clear but looked as thick as new honey. Sam rolled up his trouser leg to apply a small amount of the mixture. A warm sensation passed through his skin and permeated into his knee. The aches subsided and he stood and bent his knee a few times to test it out. “Well I’ll be. That’s better than its been for nigh on 20 years.” With that he went outside to meet Mona.
Mona’s was sitting to the side of her porch. “Trouser leg.” She said.
Sam’s face reddened a little. They both laughed as he rolled down the trouser.
“Maybe you could make something for my memory as well.”
Sam worked on Mona’s garden for the rest of the afternoon. His knee wasn’t as good as new, but it pained him less and allowed him to move around a lot more easily.
“A beautiful job you’ve done. The garden’s been neglected. It seems our skills have found a good home these last couple of days.”
“I’ve been using the same tools for forty years. It's a dying art, the use and maintenance of hand tools.” Said Sam.
“Very true, I think your old school, like me.”
“Aye, old school indeed.” He looked across the garden and saw Mona’s cat half asleep in the evening sunlight.” He couldn’t be sure, but he could have sworn it winked.”
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Hi Micheal, You did a wonderful job with the amount of personal details and their speaking patterns. Mona with her noticing and making correct assumptions the whole story was fun to read. There might have been more detail withthe pain in his knee, like perhaps it had begun to flare up after the bike ride. I also wished there had been some more dialect with George. maybe when Sam came back the first time and George asked ow it went. All in all it was really sweet. Best of luck, Andrea itt.
Thank You Andrea. Glad you enjoyed it. I like the idea of closing the loop with Sam and George.
Hi, I got your story in the Critique Circle and am glad I did! I loved the 'making him look more walnut than human' and the wi---- to woooman bit. I spotted one or two punctuation errors ('Anyway, what harm could it do to pay a visit, hmm?”.' -- you don't need the full stop there) and in “Very true, I think your old school, like me.” it should be 'you're'. Just little things to be careful about next time. Really enjoyable, charming story. Thanks for writing it :)
Thank you for taking the time to comment and provide useful feedback. I am still finding my feet with dialogue attribution, a phrase new to me until a week ago. I now think I need to read, edit and re-read before I post. Editing after posting does not work for me - clearly.
You're very welcome :) dialogue attribution is a new one to me too. I like starting a Friday by learning a new term!
Nice read. I liked how both characters had a valuable old skill. The dialect was interesting too.