Little antique bottles some with gnarly hand written labels like ‘lightning’ and ‘toads wart’ sat on the shelf behind the counter at Mr. Mc Cready’s Amazing Pharmacy. Each waiting patiently to be called upon to cure an ill, induce a beguilement, or render a curse.
The most popular would be pulled down from the shelf daily. They would be polished to a shine on Mr. Mc Creadys soft white apron, and placed back in a position of prominence, as they were sure to be called upon again soon.
Such was not the good fortune of one small brown bottle that bore the handwritten label, Bastion’s Belch. It sat high on a shelf that could only be reached with a step stool, half hidden by a long abandoned spiders web.
Even Mr. Mc Cready had nearly forgotten about about that particular tiny tonic- until that is, Old Widow Nelson came in with a special request.
“It’s the Widow Henderson.” she snarled. “The old windbag never even stops talking long enough to take a breath. Mahjong has become intolerable, and don’t even get me started on the condition of the Wednesday Bridge Club since she joined in. Something must be done, Mr. Mc Cready! I tell you something must be done!”
“I have just the thing.” Mr. Mc Cready assured her without hesitation, as he drew the wooden step stool from under the counter and settled it into position just under the dusty bottle of Bastion’s Belch. “This old cure used to be one of the favorites, but in recent years, as folks gather less and indulge in technology more, it has fallen prey, shall I say, to progress?”
“I don’t care what its fallen prey to as long as it works. I am at my wits end! And I am not the only one. I’m just the only one who has the gumption to correct the matter.” Old Widow Nelson stated in a huff, punctuating the air between them with a proper ‘Humph’ to signify the extent of her displeasure.
Before Mr Mc Cready sent Old Widow Nelson on her way with a small vile of Bastion’s Belch, and explicit instructions as to how it should be used, the Widow Nelson could have sworn she saw, almost in passing, a youthful giddy-up in his step, a mischievous twinkle in his eye, and a sly crooked smile cross his lips- but this she would not even remember till much later on.
Wednesday could not come quickly enough. Old Widow Nelson was nearly beside herself with anticipation. Why surely if she could shut up that old windbag Henderson, she would be the toast of all the women’s clubs here in town.
“And wouldn’t that add the much needed nuance of notoriety to my eulogy!” She chuckled to herself as she wrapped the small vile of Bastion’s Belch in a violet scented handkerchief and tucked it in the inside pocket of the Sunday-go-meeting alligator bag she had been saving for just such an occasion.
Wednesday finally arrived, and when it came time to serve the tea and cookies, Old Widow Nelson, half pushed her hostess, Miss Irma Whitestaid, the only spinster in The Bridge Club, back onto her card table chair, and bustled past her to the kitchen.
“Now you just let me get that, for you Irma. I can tell by the way you hold your card arm against the edge of the table that your rheumatism is acting up, so you just sit right there and let me get the tea. It’ll be my pleasure.”
Once alone in the kitchen, Widow Nelson went over the instructions she had been given by Mr. Mc Cready. “Two drops,” Mr. Mc Cready had instructed her. “No more no less.”
Old Widow Nelson removed the dropper from the vile, and counted out the prerequisite two drops, and was just about to replace the stopper, when she thought it better to add just one more drop. For good measure you know, after all Mr. Mc Cready himself had said the potion hadn’t been used in a coon’s age. It could very well have lost some of it’s potency.
Armed with the sterling silver tea service that had no doubt once belonged to Miss Irma’s dear sainted mother, as never having been married, Miss Irma would have had no occasion to acquire one of her own, Old Widow Nelson nearly sashayed back into the parlor.
Had any of the ladies of the club been attentive enough to notice, they would have seen a mischievous twinkle in her eye and a sly crooked smile sprint across her lips as she poured tea and distributed the cups, but they were all too busy trying to avoid listening to that old windbag Henderson blather on about the trip she and her dear departed had taken into the wilds of Africa the year she sent her seven children to a very exclusive, and very expensive private summer camp in the Catskills.
“Drink up Ladies! There are cards to be played, and as always there will be no food or beverage allowed on the playing tables!” Old Widow Nelson nearly sang out, gathering every eye in the parlor, and cutting the Widow Henderson’s oration off at the Euphrates.
A tittering of polite conversation filled the air as the ladies sipped daintily at their tea, and nibbled on crisp buttery cookies. The Old Widow Nelson however, consumed at this point with an over-eager sense of anticipation, sat quietly behind the tea service, nonchalantly of course, watching for any tell tale sign that the potion was working on the Widow Henderson.
She didn’t have long to wait.
As the Widow Henderson bent to replace her cup on the sterling sliver tea service, a less than ladylike ‘puft’ of seemingly trapped air escaped her coral lips.
“Oh my!” The Widow Henderson exclaimed, visually embarrassed, as she quickly covered her mouth with a tatted handkerchief she had been gifted with only this past Christmas by Miss Irma herself, and made her way toward her seat at the fourth table hoping the other girls would follow suit and the games would resume in time to save what was left of her honor.
As she lowered herself gracefully into her assigned seat, a resounding, “bwafpht” exited her posterior unmentionables with such force her paisley printed skirt ruffled with the force. In a panic of sheerest horror, the Widow Henderson’s eyes darted about the room hoping to find a safe haven to rest on, even one in their number that had not heard, and was not staring at her in baited silence, awaiting some appropriately apologetic explanation.
When none was to be found, the Widow Henderson burst into tears and made a run for the door dropping her tatted hankie in her haste.
A rightful chorus of, “Well I never’s!” resounded around the room as everyone but Old Widow Nelson sat glued to their seat in utter disbelief.
“Wait! Your hankie!” a gleeful Old Widow Nelson sang out above the din as she bounded toward the door with the Widow Henderson’s handkerchief in hand, just in time to hear a raucous duet of trapped air and passing gases being played out in double time, as the Widow Henderson made her mad dash down the front walk, and over the curb, leaving in her wake, flowers wilting, and dogs panting in the shade…
- antique bottles
- flowers wilted and dogs panted in the shade