Baker’s Wizard

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Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots. Check out her facebook page!

Beside the bakery squatted a dilapidated cottage the color of plums. A rounded woman knelt in the garden out front pulling daisies and tossing them over her shoulder into an ever-growing pile of white and green. As the sun began to set, the woman pushed to her feet and gazed at her work of bright yellow dandelions. She grinned  and, humming off key, wiped her hands on her apron before shuffling inside.

The baker, a Master Gustafson, noticed a man a few minutes later striding down the cobbled road. Ducking around the corner of the bakery, Master Gustafson peeked just in time to see Wizard Whittlestrom pause over the pile of plucked daisies in his yard. With bushy brows raised, the wizard glanced at the house before fluttering his fingers at the flowers. They vanished with a poof. Then Whittlestrom strode inside.

Master Gustafson waited.

“What is that?” Came a shrill voice that, even at a distance, hurt the baker’s ears. “It will not do. Go fix it!”

A muffled, “yes, my dear,” followed.

Whittlestrom appeared from the plum cottage, striding out the gate.

“Master Gus,” he called. Gustafson cringed. “Come, Master Gus! I have a mission to accomplish.”

Master Gustafson imagined himself running away but then he’d probably get turned into a toad. One never refused a wizard. So he joined Whittlestrom on the cobbled road.

“What mission tonight?” he finally asked as he trotted along to keep up with the long strides of the wizard.

Unlike Wizard Whittlestrom, Master Gustafson was a short man who rarely left his shop. The longest walks he endured were at the wizard’s side on nights such as this. The lack of exercise, however, did not make him a fat man. Quite the contrary, even eating his own baked treats failed to put meat on his bones.

“I’m out of date,” Whittlestrom announced, “a new robe must be found.”

Master Gustafsom stammered for a moment before spitting out, “Master Robbin’s shop closed hours ago.”

Whittlestrom stopped mid-stride, “closed?”

Master Gustafson swallowed. Oops! It was never wise to question a wizard. But he’d opened his mouth and now he was stuck with Whittlestrom waiting for an answer.

“At five, Master Robbin’s closes at five.” He mumbled, edging away from the twitching fingers of Whittlestrom’s right hand.

The wizard pulled at his beard with his left hand and Master Gustafson caught a muttered “can’t return” and “don’t know” and then, much louder, “Master Gus, what is the new style for a gov-ment,” Whittlestrom cleared his throat, “government wizard? Can’t live in the capital in old rags.”

Relief flooded Master Gustafson. He’d seen Wizard Randle, the apothecary’s wizard, just that day in his shop and knew from the wizard’s flared sleeves and ivory trim that the solid colors of yesterday were out.

“Flared sleeves…” he started but before he could explain, Whittlestrom’s fingers sparked and the sleeves on  his robes billowed.

This was not Master Gustafson’s first excursion with Whittlestrom. Thank the heavens! He sidestepped to avoid the excess of sparks and watched as the street lamp blazed and turned into a shiny brass bell. As the lamp post took the new weight, it bowed and bowed and snapped. With a clang, the bell thumped through the cobblestones and held, suspended on edge.

“What else?” Whittlestrom demanded without noticing.

“Trim,” Master Gustafson stammered.

“Wide or narrow? Solid or patterned? Lace or satin?” Whittlestrom snapped his fingers and Master Gustafson flinched but nothing happened. “Come, Master Gus, I need details!”

“Narrow, velvet, patterned with ivy leaves,” Master Gustafson listed and dove behind a near by bench.

With a flash, the wizard added purple satin trim with ivy to his sleeves and hem. The bench in front of the baker suddenly sprouted ivy, oddly veined with purple, all down the legs and back. Master Gustafson hiccuped. He wasn’t sure if he would have become the ivy or just been covered in it but he figured it was best not to find out.

“What now?” Whittlestrom held out his arms for inspection, “stop sitting around, Master Gus, what have I forgotten.”

Reluctantly Master Gustafson came out from hiding, racking his brain for more details of Wizard Randle’s robes. Remembering, he bit his tongue, not wanting to say it.

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Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots. Thanks to Cindy for all the help!

“What now?” Whittlestrom held out his arms for inspection, “stop sitting around, Master Gus, what have I forgotten.”

Reluctantly Master Gustafson came out from hiding, racking his brain for more details of Wizard Randle’s robes. Remembering, he bit his tongue, not wanting to say it.

Whittlestrom snapped his fingers. “I see your hesitation, what have I missed? The missis won’t accept anything less than total style.”

“Trellis design across the back,” Master Gustafson muttered, barely loud enough to be heard.

Wizard Whittlestrom pursed his chapped lips and raised his hands.

Master Gustafson darted for the nearest alley. He didn’t quite make it as sparks flared before his eyes. In seconds, all was dark but Master Gustafson had seen the wizard waving and twitching, turning and flailing as he changed his attire.

Reaching up, the baker found his face different and with a cry, he realized his beard and brows and hair were shaved in a trellised design. Seeing his arms, the same design patterned his arms and where the hair was missing, his skin was as black as ink. He refused to check his chest and back. Being a hairy man, he had no desire to see the design etched out of his usually thick mat of hair.

Brave due to his recent loss, Master Gustafson shouted, “Whittlestrom! Why do you do such things? How can you stand such a shrill wife?”

A flame jumped to life from the tips of Whittlestrom’s fingers, revealing his raised bushy brows and pinched lips but the look was not angry. No, it was simply surprised.

“What wizard,” he asked, “do you know, beside yours truly, has a wife?”

Master Gustafson twitched. It was not a question he expected.

“Why, none!” he realized.

“Exactly!” Whittlestrom exclaimed. “No woman’s brave enough to be wife to a wizard. Except my missis! And she’s my missis! Unafraid and proud!”

Turning to walk home, Whittlestrom seemed to forget about Master Gustafson but the baker had just opened a door and found new insight, he wasn’t about to let it go.

Rushing to catch up to Whittlestom’s long stride, he asked, “If she’s so unafraid, why didn’t you change your robe at home?”

Whittlestrom snorted. “No magic allowed in the house. Missis’ rules. I can’t imagine why.”

Smart woman! Master Gustafson praised her silently, imagining the bell and bench and, ruefully, the lines shaved in his own hair.

“Imagine what would have happened inside the house with that bell,” the baker tried.

Whittlestrom’s head snapped up. “What bell?”

Master Gustafson wilted. The wizard, like all wizards, was oblivious.

“Never mind,” he muttered, stepping closer to Whittlestrom as they passed a street that seconds before flared with a loud resonating boom.

Elsewhere in the capital other loud snaps and booms could be heard. It was a hazard of living around so many wizards, Master Gustafson mused, at least his neighbor tended to be harmless compared to the tanner’s Wizard Lentem, who’d turned the tanner into a cow a week before, or the smithy’s Wizard Zorban who burned the smithy to the ground three times this last year.

As long as he stayed with Wizard Whittlestrom the others would leave his bakery alone. It was a trade he was willing to make.

“The missis sure has a way with color,” he complimented as they arrived at the plum cottage with its yellow garden.

“Think so?” Whittlesrom puffed with pride. “I’ll send her over tomorrow. She’ll turn the bakery into a real looker.”

Master Gustafson suppressed a groan. Harmless, he reminded himself, harmless.

The End.

Blessings,

Jennifer

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