Witch's Brew

Witch's Brew

A Story by Debbie Barry
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A high school Halloween Ball story, sort of.

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Witch’s Brew

 

Jack, Rick, and I stared at each other in disbelief.

“Whadda y’mean, make witch’s brew?” Jack blurted, staring disbelievingly at Mr. Rosinski, our senior English teacher, and faculty advisor for the school’s Halloween Ball.

“I mean, Mr. Etheridge, that I expect you three to come up with a beverage we can serve at the Halloween Ball, and I expect you to make it a passable Witch’s Brew, without poisoning the student body.”  Mr. R.’s neat, black goatee twitched as he spoke.

I groaned.  Rick’s face became expressionless, which was never good.

Mr. Rosinski surveyed out faces for several moments.  Then, he raised his voice, without turning his head.  “Miss Farmer!  Mr. Toscani!”

Cassie and Eddie quickly joined us.  Eddie looked curious.  Cassie looked worried.  She reached over and squeezed my hand, and her eyes were questioning, when I glanced at her.  I shrugged slightly, and barely shoot my head.

“Since they’ll probably ask for your help, anyway,” Mr. R. said, “you two might as well join these three on the Witch’s Brew Committee.”

“Oh, cool!” Cassie squealed in excited surprise.  “What’s Witch’s Brew?”

Jack groaned.

“I think Miss Farrar can explain,” the teacher replied, drily.  “She will serve as the head of this committee.”

I gulped.

Mr. Rosinski turned to walk away, but, before any of us could speak, he paused.  Over his shoulder, he added, “You will be graded.”

We couldn’t discuss it then, because Mr. Rosinski started the class.  I tried to concentrate, as I scribbled down notes about Macbeth, the chanting witches just reminded me that I was now the head of the Witch’s Brew Committee. 

I was doodling a cauldron beside my notes, when Mr. R. announced a five page research paper about the influence of witches on popular literature, including film, due on Halloween.  “Except Miss Farrar, Miss Farmer, Mr. Toscani, Mr. Etheridge, and Mr. Barton, who have a special group project.”

All eyes turned to look at us, flicking from one of our group to another.  I wanted to sink into the floor.

English was the last class of the day for all five of us, even though there was still one more period before the buses came.  As seniors, we were exempt from assigned study halls during unscheduled periods, so we moved, as a body, to a grouping of wide, wooden benches in the sunny Senior Court Yard.

“Guess yer in charge, Deb,” Jack grumbled, dropping his backpack on the ground, and throwing himself flat on his back on the nearest bench, his arms flopping off the sides of the worn bench.

“Whatcha gonna do, Debbers,” Cassie asked, as we both sat down on the middle of the three benches that formed a U in the quietest corner of the courtyard.

“Dunno,” I admitted, slumping on the bench.

“Sounds too easy,” Rick muttered, ominously.  “It’s a trick.”  He sat on the third bench, dropped his bag on the growing pile in our midst, caught up a few pebbles from the ground, and started pelting Jack’s chest with them.

“Probly is,” Eddie agreed, dropping onto the bench, next to Rick, and adding his bag to the other four on the ground.

We all sighed.

“Okay,” I said.  “Normal punch is easy.  My mom makes it with cranberry juice, pineapple juice, an’ ginger ale.”

Cassie looked up, a flicker of home in her eyes.  “My mom does that, ’cept she puts in a can o’ frozen orange juice.”

“Not bad,” said Eddie, bending to dig a notebook and pen out of his tan, leather backpack.  He flipped to a blank page, and started making notes.

“Still gotta make it look like some kinda potion,” Rick muttered.

“How ’bout getting’ rid o’ the pink stuff, an’ makin’ it green somehow?” Jack said, lying motionless, his eyes closed, the front of his green, wool sweater littered with pebbles.

“Okay,” I agreed, “how do we get it green?”

“Bug juice,” Jack replied, deadpan.

“’Scuse me?” Cassie yelped.

Jack opened his left eye to look at her, a grin spreading across his round, broad face.  “Bug juice.”

Cassie’s blond curls bounced around her face as she shuddered, looking repulsed.

“Green Hi-C,” Rick said, shooting Jack a disgusted look.

“Yeah,” Jack conceded, chuckling, “but Mum calls it bug juice.”

“Bug Juice is good for a Witch’s Brew,” Eddie commented, approvingly, making a not. 

“Eddie’s right,” I said.  “Jack’s Bug Juice’ll make it green.”

“How ’bout lime sherbet?” Cassie asked, cheerful once again.

“Tha’s a good idea,” Jack said, sounding impressed.  He rolled to his left side, propping his head on his hand.  A shower of pebbles rattled between the slats of the bench, clicking on the concrete pavement.

“Still gotta make it like magic,” Rick said, flatly.  “Won’t get much of a grade if we don’t.”

Jack swung his legs off the bench, and sat up.  “Let’s eat while we think,” he proposed.

It was a popular decision, so we all packed up our stuff, slung our backpacks over our shoulders, and set off walking.  By cutting through the woods, on a well-worn path between the high school and the shopping plaza, the nearest burger place was only half a mile away.  It was an easy walk, but we walked without talking. 

I slid into the corner booth with my tray of food, and scooted around to the middle.  I set the plastic tray on the table, as Cassie followed me in.  Jack was already unwrapping a cheeseburger to my right; Rick slid in beside Jack a moment later, and then Eddie took the last open place, next to Cassie.  I unwrapped my crispy chicken sandwich.  Cassie, a cheerleader, popped the plastic top off a container of almost-fresh garden salad.  Rick and Eddie each had a plain burger.  Cassie reached out and shook salt over all four containers of fries; she hadn’t ordered any.

“Hey!” Rick objected, swatting her hand away.

Cassie giggled, and moved on to Jack’s tray.

When the sandwiches and salad were gone, and we were all working on our fries and Cokes " Diet Coke for Cassie and me " Eddie dug into the mound of backpacks on the floor beside him, and pulled out the notebook and pen. 

Cassie put her salad container on Eddie’s tray, then slid hers under it, and put it in the middle of the table.  I shoveled my trash on top of the salad dish, and slid my try under the pile.  Rick dumped his trash on Jack’s tray, and stacked their trays.  He slid off the end of the bench, stood up, and picked up the two piles.

“I’ll dump the trash,” he said.  We went to the garbage can, two booths away, and clattered the trash into the barrel, and the trays onto the shelf above it.  It only took a minute or two, and then he returned.

“Oh, that smells good,” Cassie said wistfully, as a group of football players, all with bacon cheeseburgers and double onion rights jostle into the booth behind her.  The aroma of bacon and onions was really tempting, even after a sandwich; I knew her cheerleader diet made it especially hard on her.

“Been thinkin,’” Rick said, making thinking sound dangerous.

“Whatcha come up with?” I asked, glancing toward the football players.

“How t’ make the stuff real special,” Rick said.  “We’re gonna need Eye of Newt,” he went on, also glancing at the other table.

The football players, none of them in our English class, got quiet.

Rick nudged Jack.

“Oh, yeah!” Jack agreed, following Rick’s gaze as Eddie passed the notebook and pen silently to Rick.  “Yeah, an’ snail slime,” Jack winced as he said it, but Rick and Eddie noddle.

Rick wrote something, and then passed the notebook silently to Jack, whose eyes widened in delighted approval.

“Debs,” Eddie said, still focused on the table behind him, which was perfectly silent now, “can you come up with some bat’s wings?”

“Yeah, o’course!” I said, adding some false bluster to my voice, as though bat wings were the most obvious thing in the world.

Cassie looked ill, but I pushed the notebook in front of her, and taped the page with my finger.  Her expression cleared when she read what was there.

“I can get the swamp water,” she volunteered, immediately catching on.

“Excellent!” said Eddie.  “I think we’re gonna need some zombie flesh to make it really work, though,” he added, adding an item to the growing list.  “Up for a trip to the graveyard?” he asked.

Rick and Jack both made loud, inarticulate sounds of approval and agreement.

We all looked at the notebook.  Below the recipe we’d come up with in the courtyard, a list read:

Eye of Newt " peeled grapes

Snail Slime " mashed lime Jell-O

Bat Wings " rubber bats

Swamp Water " ginger ale

Zombie Flesh " lime sherbet

Eddie put the notebook in his backpack.  We all piled out of the booth, put out bags over our shoulders, and grabbed our sodas.  As we filed past the football players, Cassie said, in her best cheerleader voice, “Seeya at the Halloween Ball, boys.  Go, team!” 

When I glanced back from the exit, the four players were still staring after us, slack-jawed.  Outside, as soon as we were out of sight of the dining room, we all dissolved in peals of laughter, startling a nearby flock of seagulls into flight, adding their hoarse cries to our ruckus.

On Saturday, Mom took me to Woolworth’s, to buy a dozen black, rubber bats.  We found them in the party novelties aisle, where they were plentiful just a week before Halloween.  She grumbled about the cost, at fifty cents apiece, but I had brought my own money, so she didn’t resist much.

“Besides,” I told her, “it’s for a class project.”

Back at home, I used scissors to cut the wings from the rubber bodies, and tossed the wingless carcasses in the trash.

On Monday, Rick, Jack, Cassie, Eddie, and I gathered around a table in the lunch room.  Cassie had brought a salad from home.  The rest of us had greying slabs of breaded mystery meat and ice-cream scoops of reconstituted mashed potatoes, swimming is greasy, viscous, brownish-green gravy.  In another compartment of the sectioned lunch tray, we each had a scoop of badly over-cooked canned peas.  Another section held a pile of diced peaches, which were probably okay, but had been known to be sour.  Another section held a half-pint carton of not-quite-cold whole milk.  The prize of the day, a brownie covered with fudge frosting, was in the final section.  The dessert baker was the only one in the kitchen who produced good food, even including the one old woman who just scooped fruit from number ten cans all day.  We all eye’s Cassie’s can of Diet Coke, packed with a blue, plastic ice pack, as we opened our cardboard milk cartons, and dropped in our straws.

“How’d everybody do?” I asked, when half the vile mean and potatoes, with the inedible odor of sweaty work boots and old bacon grease, had been eaten, along with about half the tasteless peas.

“This crud is Witch’s Brew,” Rick muttered, poking at a floating globule of grease in his gravy, and sheeting a disgusted look toward the kitchen.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed.  Even Jack couldn’t actually enjoy the school’s lunches.

“Got the Swamp Water,” Cassie said, cheerily munching a slice of cucumber.

Jack glared at her Tupperware salad container.

“Had to talk Mom outa getting’ diet, though,” Cassie added.

“Great!” I said, glad this group of friends could be counted on for group projects.

“Four half-gallons of lime sherbet in the deep freeze,” Eddie said.  Mama doesn’t speak English, and Witch’s Brew sounds a lot worse in Russian.  Pop talked ’er into it.”  Eddie’s mother was Russian, and his father was Italian.  He and his siblings didn’t speak English at home; calling his house was a challenge, since his mother didn’t understand English.

“Mom’s got the grapes, but we gotta peel ’em,” Rick said.  “I do mean we.

We all laughed.

“Okay, Rick’s house after school on Friday,” I said.  Everyone nodded and grunted assent.

“Snail slime?” I asked Jack.

“Yeah, I’ll make the stuff Thursday night.  How’re we s’posta mash it?”

“Tater masher,” I replied.

“Okay,” he agreed.

“I got the bat wings,” I said.

“Dad’s got a huge apple butter cauldron,” Cassie said. 

We all gaped at her. 

“What she asked.  His uncle usta have an orchard, an’  Dad got the cauldron when Uncle Lew died.”

“Those things are huge,” I exclaimed.

“Vast,” Rick agreed, awed.

“We’re gonna need more ingredients,” Eddie said, dubiously.

The next day, we again met in the lunch room, this time for goulash, which was squishy, and hardly had any hamburger or tomatoes, but was more edible than mystery mean.  Everyone’s families had grudgingly agreed to buy more ingredients.  Since the rubber bat wings were only for looks, Mom said she’d get a bunch of cans of pineapple juice.

We were all busy the rest of the week, making costumes, and getting ready for Saturday night’s Halloween Ball.  Friday afternoon, Cassie’s dad delivered the cauldron to the door of the gym.  The football players the coach wrangled into carrying the monstrous, metal cauldron to where the food table would be set up, all looked a bit spooked.  Cassie overheard them talking about Snail Slime and Eye of Newt; she told us about it while we sat around Rick’s kitchen table, peeling a literal bushel of red grapes, and dropping the peeled orbs into a big, old-fashioned, enameled-steel dishpan at the center of the table.  We all got a good laugh out of it.

Saturday afternoon, we all showed up at Jack’s house, each armed with a potato masher. 

“Mum made a lot of Jell-O,” Jack said, worriedly.

His mom put a big, foil turkey roasting pan, filled with jiggly, green, lime gelatin in front of each of us, and I felt my eyes goggle.

“Let’s do it,” I said, swallowing hand.  “Don’t mash it too small, ’re it’ll dissolve.”

We were sticky to the elbows when the Snail Slime was ready.  We all washed as well as we could in the kitchen sink.  Jack’s mom good-naturedly said she’d mop up the mess, while Jack’s dad drove us all to school.

We all had our costumes with us.  Our parents were all supposed to drop off the ingredients for the Witch’s Brew at the school.  Mr. Etheridge loaded the grocery bags full of gallon freezer bags of Snail Slime into the back of the station wagon, and we all squeezed in, Jack and Rick in front, and Eddie, Cassie, and me in the back, buried under all the costumes.  We’d told Cassie she couldn’t just wear her cheerleader uniform as her costume.

All of our parents came through with the ingredients.  While other committees hung decorations, set up the food, and organized a row of childish carnival games along one wall, the Witch’s Brew Committee got to work around the huge, black cauldron.  First, we dumped in the Eye of Newt.  Cassie tried out a very witchy cackle, startling two girls from the Home Ec Club, who were setting out orange-frosted cupcakes.  They giggled self-consciously, and we all laughed, not unkindly.  Next, we poured in can after can of pineapple juice, until the cauldron was half full.  That was a lot of cans!  After that, we poured in a dozen thawed cans of frozen limeade concentrate.  The sweet and tangy aroma of the Witches Brew was really strong.  Bottle after bottle of fizzy ginger ale glugged into the cauldron next: Swamp Water.  Finally, with only half an hour before the Halloween Ball, Cassie and I scooped lime sherbet into the cauldron from one side, for Dissolving Zombie Flesh, and Rick, Jack, and Eddie dumped in gallon bags of Snail Slime from the other side.

We were cleaning up our mess, so we could go to the locker rooms to put on our costumes, when Rick’s and Cassie’s dads came into the gym, and made their way over to us, each carrying something.

“Hey, Daddy!” Cassie exclaimed in surprise.

“Hi, Dad,” Rick said, uncertainly.

“Hi, Sweetie,” said Dr. Farmer, kissing Cassie on the forehead, making her flush bright red.  “Forgot to give you kids the butter paddles, he added.”  He unwrapped a pair of huge, wooden spoons from a sheet of brown paper, and handing her one.

“Cool!” Jack enthused, eagerly accepting the other spoon.  He and Cassie started stirring the Witches Brew, making the Eye of Newt and Snail Slime rise to the surface, amid the clumps of Zombie Flesh.

“Thought this might help you kids make an impression,” Mr. Barton said, adding, “for a better grade.”  He opened a large, Styrofoam cooler, and produced four plastic containers, wrapped in burlap.  Taking off the lids, he arranged them close around the back of the cauldron, on the floor.  In a few moments, a mist began rising around the cauldron.  From the front, it looked like the mist was coming from the Witch’s Brew itself.

“Excellent!” said Rick, pleasantly surprised.  Thanks, Dad.”

“Have fun.  Be back at eleven,” Mr. Barton replied.

The dads left, and we headed for the gym locker rooms.  Fifteen minutes later, we were back at the cauldron.  The gym lighting was much lower, and red, blue, green, and black-light strobes played across the floor, refracted into shards of light by a pair of mirrored disco walls.  A red spotlight was aimed at the base of the cauldron, and a weak white light shone on the surface of the Witch’s Brew, to make serving easier.

Cassie and I wore almost perfectly matched witch costumes, with matching, pointy hats.  Rick and Eddie both wore Merlin costumes, with reflective, white stars and moons on long, blue robes, and tall, conical, blue hats.  Jack, taller and broader than the others, after a summer growth spurt, wore a witch’s hat with a long, black robe.

“What?!” he exclaimed, when Rick and Eddie, in front of the cauldron, burst into laughter.

“Three witches,” Mr. Rosinski commented drily, walking up, dressed as a very sharp Satan, in a black suit, black shirt, red tie, and red devil horns, a plastic pitchfork in his left hand.

“Hey, Mr. R.!” we all chorused.

Eddie propped a two-by-three sheet of foam-core poster board against the front of the cauldron.  In bold, black letters, it read:

Witch’s Brew

~*~

Swamp Water

Eye of Newt

Snail Slime

Bat Wings

Dissolving Zombie Flesh

Secret Magic Ingredients

Mr. Rosinski read the sign aloud.

“Oops!” I gasped.  “Wings of Bats,” I said in my best hoarse, cackly, witchy voice, scattering the two dozen wings into the cauldron.  Jack grabbed my spoon, and he and Cassie slowly stirred, cackling loudly.

Mr. Rosinski picked up a red Solo cup, and the punch ladle that lay on a paper plate at the end of the table that was pulled up tight against the side of the cauldron.  He filled his cup.  We all froze, holding our breath, as he drank.

“A plus,” he said, smiling above his twitchy, black goatee.  He walked away.  Our group cheer dissolved into witchy and wizardly cackling, as the Halloween Ball of our Senior Year got underway.


© 2017 Debbie Barry



Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Ignore typos and grammar. Initial reactions and constructive criticism welcome.

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Added on November 4, 2017
Last Updated on November 4, 2017
Tags: story, halloween, high school, group project, recipe, witch, party

Author

Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI



About
I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..

Writing



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