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The Lorelei Signal


Yard Sale Witch

Written by Ray Daley / Artwork by Lee Ann Barlow


Among the list of things which will get a witch's attention quickly, a crying woman is certainly in the top five. A crying pregnant woman? Top three, for sure.


Alice had been in the bank depositing her small change, money she'd made from various charms and curses, when she heard the crying. Well, it was hard not to. Hell, you'd have to have been deaf and entirely soulless to have missed it.


That and the extremely loud and insistent male teller's voice. "Miss Wilson. I'm sorry, I simply can't help you. There really is nothing else I can do."


Alice smiled at the lady who'd been processing her deposit, which suddenly became the single most important task she'd ever performed. My Name Is Lisa didn't know she'd been influenced by magic, but she had. Nothing harmful, merely a mild hex to make her work faster. It would wear off, after she'd consumed the correct amount of tea. What? You didn't know tea was used as a potion?


If you'd blinked at that exact moment, you would have sworn magic or teleportation had been involved, because in less than a second, Alice was standing next to the crying pregnant woman, giving My Name Is George her full and undivided attention. The last thing you want when an angry witch is involved.


"Hello, George. Why can't you help this young lady?"


Normally, security and bank policy would have been George's defence, he didn't need to explain himself to anyone but the customer he was dealing with. However, he'd never spoken to a witch before. Alice could already tell, she was his first. Alice smiled. This was her way of showing him she was in control now, and whatever rules he thought applied were moot.


"She wants to withdraw money, but her name isn't on the account." George hadn't wanted to tell Alice that, but found he somehow had to.


Alice looked the pregnant woman up and down. She was wearing a partially zipped jacket, put on in a hurry if she was any judge. Pushing a plastic shopping cart, the type you didn't see anywhere but in the cheapest supermarket chains, which appeared to contain possibly everything she'd been able to grab in under ten minutes. Clothes, shoes, what vaguely passed for a life.


"Tell me everything, love. Start with your name."


"I'm Cindy Wilson. It's my boyfriend, he kicked me out when I told him I was pregnant. I thought he'd be happy? I assumed we had a joint account, half that money in here is mine, but my name isn't on there so I can't get it. This one," she pointed at George, "won't let me take what's rightfully mine. I'm having a bad day, especially after Billy tossed all my stuff in this cart and took my key then booted me out of the house."


A darted glance at George told Alice everything she needed to know. He'd use logic and bureaucracy. Which suited her fine. More reason to use magic and emotion. "Come with me, love. I'll get this sorted."


~ * ~


As they walked, Cindy sobbed. Alice had already wrangled the overcrowded plastic cart from her hands, removing the burdens she could control for now.


"I haven't got anywhere to go. I need money for a hotel, maybe? A few hundred bucks, I might be able to call my Mom in a few days."


Alice had already assessed the contents of the cart. Some clothes, a few low-grade electronic items. Nothing which was going to produce that sort of money though, but she had abilities.


Every witch has one or two specialities. Alice's main forte was as a Yard Sale Witch. I know, you've never heard of such a thing. That's because they're so good at it, you never notice them.


Anyway, Alice realised that was precisely what she needed. And when a Yard Sale Witch needs one, Yard Sales just mysteriously happen. Well, it involves a vast amount of arcane thinking and several cups of hot tea, but they generally manifest because witches need them.


They'd walked two blocks when they saw her. A woman clearly setting up a Yard Sale in her front garden.


"As if by magic..." Alice muttered. "Come on, Cindy. I just found the solution to some of your problems." And Alice pushed the cart up the garden path.


"Sale hasn't started yet, come back in about an hour."


Alice started with a smile. Always get them on the back foot, that makes it easier to throw them off balance later. "Greetings, kind stranger! Might you have room on a table for a few of my friend's items? She finds herself in desperate need of assistance, and you seem to be a friendly looking sort."


Always tell people how they are perceived, it induces them to behave in that fashion a lot more easily than you'd think.


"I'm Maggie. Sure, I could clear a little room for..."


"This is Cindy, I'm Alice." Who made sure she absolutely didn't introduce herself as a Yard Sale Witch.


~ * ~


People find themselves oddly drawn to a yard sale. They frequently can't explain why, or how they've left with fourteen silk blouses and a copy of Billy Joel's Greatest Hits.


And then there are those who can't bear to see commerce taking place, petty idiots who'd be far better off keeping their noses out of other people’s business.


The sale had been going all of twenty minutes. Somehow, Cindy had already sold most of her meagre possessions and was already well over the amount she needed for a hotel. Heck, she probably could have stayed in the best room in the city for a year.


Then the cops rolled up. "We've had a complaint!"


Most men, given time, will see reason. Men with guns are generally less inclined, and want their business concluded both promptly and in their favour. Times like those called for as much magic as you could get away with.


Alice picked up a microphone from a broken plastic container, which promised Hours of fun, every speaker becomes your own private song studio! "Calling all cars, calling all cars. Officer down, shots fired, corner of Colmar and Blake."


As with all good puppets, the cops responded to the radio playing their favourite tune, Come, Be A Hero! It trumped a mere noise complaint, every day of the week.


And gave the Yard Sale another hour. Before more cops rolled up. Again. "I'm Officer Jones. Ladies, we've had a complaint!"


Maggie had just popped inside, to make them cold drinks.


Officer Jones seemed determined to stop the sale going on any longer. "It's a noise complaint, and you're blocking the sidewalk too."


Neither of these things were remotely true. They'd had made almost no noise above light conversation in the last half hour. And Maggie's tables were set up at the top of her drive, right by the house, as far from the sidewalk as was humanly possible. Alice could already see Officer Jones wasn't going to react to reason, crying pregnant women, or even extremely talented witches.


Mostly on account of how she'd already done a little scrying in a broken Magic Eight Ball as he had rolled up. All signs pointed to no. Of the two hundred and thirty-six futures Alice had already seen, Officer Jones was successful in stopping the sale on all but two.


Then Maggie came back, carrying a tray of plastic tumblers and a jug of iced something or other. It was currently impossible to tell by either colour or smell exactly what the drink was.


"Maggie? Is that you?" Officer Jones sounded surprised. Alice was equally surprised, no magic had yet been involved. Yet. It was still an avenue to be explored, if the need arose.


"Joe? Did Old Lady Dickens complain again? Jesus H. Bicycles, that crone needs to keep her beak out of other folks’ business. I'm just having a yard sale, small, quiet, mostly helping this young woman as her boyfriend screwed her over today."


And that was where things got interesting.


Officer Jones was curious to hear how that state of affairs had come to be. So Cindy explained between sobs, and sips of what turned out to be a delicious lemon and apple cordial, iced to perfection.


"Billy Lewis? Didn't he get kicked out of Fourth Precinct for embezzling? They were still looking for him on a few charges, weren't they?"


Cindy showed them a picture on a battered ageing cell phone. "Is this him?"


Officer Jones nodded. "Yeah, that's the fella. Kicked you out and stole all your money, you say? I think we can do something about that."


~ * ~


Happy endings are reliable. A successful yard sale took place, over one thousand dollars was made. Cindy's needs were covered, but she didn't have to spend it on a hotel. Alice had room in her apartment. Not that Cindy needed it, in the end.


Officer Jones drove over to her former domicile. Where Billy Lewis was indeed still residing. Questions were asked. Proof was found. Bank accounts were duly amended. Then an unexpected arrest was made.


"Here's his key, Miss Wilson. You shouldn't have any further issues taking money out of the bank again. Oh, and I spoke to the Building Manager. It turns out this place was in your name any way. He had no legal right to kick you out in the first place. Says he'll give you a month's grace on the next rent for the inconvenience. If you get any more trouble, that's my number. Do call, any time."


Somewhere, there's a yard sale happening. They never want to happen. They simply occur, as if by magic. But we know better, right?

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R Daley.jpg

Ray Daley was born in Coventry & still lives there. He served 6 yrs in the RAF as a clerk & spent most of his time in a Hobbit hole in High Wycombe. He is a published poet & has been writing stories since he was 10. His current dream is to eventually finish the Hitch Hikers fanfic novel he's been writing since 1986.


Tweet him @RayDaleyWriter

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