Sharon’s Note: I originally did a version of this story back in college for a creative writing class. It was horrible. This may still be horrible, but I flatter myself it’s better than my first go. Warning: Literary references that require you to have paid attention in high school English.
Why was I reading an article about how to get stains out of whites in a sixty year old magazine? Because I couldn’t find anything else to read this morning, and well . . . I did have one blouse I liked that could use a little attention.
The front bell of the shop jingled merrily. I hated that bell. The welcoming noise was a lie. This place was a death trap and it knew it. I would scream a warning to stay away, but there wasn’t really a point. If a person was supposed to come in, then in they would come. Destiny was a bitch.
“Hello?” The voice was young and female. Oh great. A kid. When she rounded the bookshelf that sometimes blocked the door from immediate view, I saw that she wasn’t precisely a kid. My best estimate put her at late high school to early college. She just had a babydoll voice. My snap judgement said here was a spoiled princess, all fashionable haircut and expensive clothes, but what do I know.
“Hey,” I brought my magazine back up, set to ignore her while she searched for whatever mischief fate had in mind for her.
“Um, yeah, could you help me?” The words were polite enough, but the tone said she was not used to people making her wait.
Maybe if I was rude she’d go away. I set down my magazine said flatly, “What?”
She blinked in surprise, but then forced a smile. “Uh, yeah. I’m looking for a birthday present for my brother. He likes old things, so I figured a pawn shop was a good place to find something.”
“We got plenty of old things, but if you want help, you are going to have to be a little more specific than ‘old’.”
“I don’t know.” She rolled her eyes. “He’s a nerd. He likes fantasy and dice games and stuff.He’s getting a degree in computers or something.”
“May I recommend getting him a gift card since you have no clue what he wants? Or, I don’t know, asking him?” This was my last shot at making her leave the store in rage. It really would be better for her, she just didn’t realize it yet.
She rolled her eyes, and played with the necklace that dangled on her shirt. It was gold and spelled out ‘Tabitha’. “We don’t talk. I’m only getting him a present because he’s coming home from college for his birthday, and Daddy insists I participate.”
“Oh, how awful.” I monotoned. “Having to attend your brother’s birthday.”
She stomped her foot like a small child. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. All everyone wants to talk about is Josh, Josh, Josh. Josh graduated as valedictorian. Josh got into one of the best technical schools in the country and oh, look, he’s working too, isn’t he a go-getter? Isn’t Josh smart, isn’t Josh handsome. Tabby, why can’t you be more like your brother? I am sick of it! I used to be Daddy’s favorite. Now all I hear about is Josh. It’s not fair.”
It was my turn to blink in surprise, then a slow grin spread over my face. Sometimes I just gave in to the evil thoughts. “Oh, I’m sorry ma’am. Let me help you find what you really need.”
“Good, now find me something all fantasy looking.” She sniffled a little. I didn’t think she was actually close to crying, but she wants me to think she was.
Finding a particular object in the shop was tricky, and was fairly useless, besides. I didn’t know what fate had in store for her anymore than she did. I led her to the jewelry counter because that seemed like a good place to start. She seemed like a jewelry kind of girl.
I liked the jewelry counter. It was shiny. Apparently, Tabby was of a similar mind. She was gazing at the precious stones and polished metal with a look that was inappropriate to give to an inanimate object. At least one that didn’t come from an adult store.
“That ring is beautiful.” She purred.
“That one with the blue stone, there.” She tapped the glass over a gaudy hunk of silver metal with a sapphire as big a corn kernel. I thought it was the ugliest piece in there, but I was not the customer.
I retrieved the box for her, setting it on the counter with a flourish of hands. Her eyes were wide and her breathing was heavy as she picked it up, moving the ring this way and that to let the light play over the stone. I picked up the slender green folder that sat on a shelf beneath the counter. It sometimes contained information about the objects in the case and, hey, today it did.
“The ring is silver and the stone is sapphire. It’s supposedly a wishing ring.” I had been browsing the sheet and when I hit that last little fact I winced. No good ever came of wishing. ‘I wish’ was one of the phrases I permanently struck from my vocabulary since working here. Not that any of the objects here worked for me.
“A wishing ring.” Tabby’s moan was positively indecent. She made to pluck the ring from the box. In a painful fit of conscious I put a hand on her’s to stop her.
“Look, kid, I know what you’re thinking. Don’t do it. It’s like the monkey’s paw. It never ends well.” I tried to take the box out of her hand, but she wasn’t letting go. I did. There was no point in forcing it.
She took several steps away from the counter, triumph on her face. “No, this is real magic. I can feel it. With this, I can make everything right again.”
“No. Wait. Stop. Don’t.” I said flatly, the number of flips I gave returning to zero.
She picked out the ring and held it up to the light. Any second now she would start laughing like a supervillain. “I wish that Daddy loved me best again! I wish to be exactly what he wants, so that he’ll never put stupid Josh above me again!”
She put on the ring, and poof, the girl was gone and a mound of clothes lay where she’d stood. Yes, there was a literal poof, complete with noise and blue smoke. From out of the close climbed the most disgruntled tabby cat I had ever seen. It shook off the blouse in visible distress, and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Well, looks like your dad is a cat person.” I said, walking around the counter to pick up the mess off the floor. The clothes and purse went into the discount bin. The ring went back into the case with her necklace. The shop could move them later, if it wanted.
This worked out. Little miss brat would learn her lesson. Maybe her father, who apparently liked cats more than his own children, would as well once he noticed his child was missing. Most likely, Tabby Cat would get herself turned back, eventually. I ignored her desperate meowing and went back to my magazine. There was a recipe for chicken pot pie I wanted to try.