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Nov 21

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“Fish out of Water” by Deborah Fitchett

Saturday, June 26, 2pm

I spent the morning on the computer and found three websites the wizard might be interested in. He asked me why I’d only found three and what else I’d been doing, and what sort of a witch will I turn out to be if I can’t remember what I’ve done just a couple of hours ago? So now I’ve got to keep a diary and write up what I do each day.

Made sandwiches for lunch. Ran out of margarine. Went to the library to get the books the wizard wanted and got margarine on the way back. Also found a cat, but the wizard says it’s just superstition about witches having cats. Besides, it’d try to eat the goldfish and it’s not black.

The dryer’s beeping. (I did the laundry too.) I’d better get it out quickly or it’ll get crumpled. I hate ironing robes.

#

4:15pm

Checked the e-mail—another fourteen requests for spells. Also a spam from someone selling v1agra. I almost feel sorry for whoever sent it, but it’s their own fault for not weeding out e-mail addresses with the word ”wizard” in them.

The wizard didn’t like any of the books—it’s a good thing the library’s close by. Saw the cat again.

There was a Closed notice on the door when I got home, and a note from the wizard not to disturb him until dinner time. He’s being a goldfish again. I’d better study until then . . . as soon as I’ve tidied my rock collection.

There’s an odd noise in the sitting room, though. I don’t suppose it could possibly be a burglar, unless they can’t read and wouldn’t recognise a wizard’s house if it fell on top of them. There are some very stupid people in the world.

It’s probably just a side effect of his spell, anyway.

I’ll just go and peek through the door, just in case.

#

11:30pm

The wizard’s still a goldfish. And the real goldfish is still . . . well, a person, I suppose. Not a very bright person. Luckily she got hypnotised by the TV, or she’d be causing all sorts of havoc in the sitting room.

I think he must have said the spell wrong. Unless he wanted the goldfish to become human, but that’d be strange. Stranger than usual for him, I mean. Of course, I only think she’s a goldfish because she nodded when I asked her, and she nods when the TV ads ask her if she wants more air in her hair. (Her hair is gorgeous, long and wavy and ginger, and doesn’t need more air in it.) But if she’s not a goldfish I don’t see why else she’d be flopping about on the sitting room couch. Besides, she keeps opening and closing her mouth to breathe.

Maybe he did do it on purpose, and lost track of time. That’s probably quite easy to do when you’re a fish.

Anyway, I spent all evening looking for the fish spell in Transformation: an introduction, and even in Dragulescu and Perkins. I tried searching the databases, but I couldn’t remember our password for SorcText. All the others came up with stupid technical articles, talking about differences between freshwater and saltwater trout but no actual spells. I ended up Googling, but that just turned up links to porn and religious magic.

If I can’t find the spell, how do I figure out what the recall is? I’m not even meant to be studying recalls yet, just the normal sort of magic that doesn’t turn back into pumpkins when it’s finished. Even the wizard doesn’t do spells with recalls for customers—or at least only for the really rich ones.

I guess I’d better go feed the goldfish. And the wizard.

#

Sunday, June 27, 1:10pm

The wizard’s still in the fishbowl. The fish is still watching TV. We got three spam this morning—that’s what happens if you don’t turn them into frogs soon enough. It’s a pity I haven’t learnt that spell yet, but I gave them all very nasty green rashes. I think I did, anyway.

I also sent a letter to everyone else who’d e-mailed, telling them that the wizard’s very busy at the moment and will get back to them as soon as possible. It’s partly true, anyway. The fish assures me that it’s hard work swimming around in circles all day. That’s why she’s resting in front of the TV now, instead of learning how to vacuum. I thought about finding a spell to do all the cleaning, but remembered The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and decided it’d be too dangerous.

Went to buy more bread—the fish has a bag sitting next to her and keeps nibbling at it—and the Hag (who keeps trying to steal the wizard’s customers) came up and trapped me at the checkout. She wanted to know in a very sweet voice if he was sick, because that would be such a pity, but she hadn’t seen him since the day before yesterday. I told her he was researching for a very important project at the moment, and he couldn’t be bothered for such petty tasks as cleaning stains off his neighbour’s driveway. She looked like she was about to look daggers at me, but there were far too many people around for that. I came home quickly.

The cat was meowling around the doorstep. I gave it a dish of milk and stroked it. It’s really very cute. Too cute to be a witch’s cat, I suppose.

I vacuumed up the crumbs around the fish. She liked the air blowing out the end of the vacuum, so I left it on for her while I went to look through my textbooks again.

Found the SorcText password on a Post-it while I was tidying my wardrobe, but still couldn’t find any useful articles. I thought of looking in the wizard’s study, but then I remembered “Bluebeard” and went to make a sandwich instead.

The fish had found the bread-bag I’d hidden behind the fridge, but I managed to find an apple. It was old and wrinkled, so I used a freshening spell on it, because the wizard isn’t around to tell me it’s a waste of energy. I’m beginning to think it’s not so bad being alone.

#

10:45pm

I suppose the wizard not being here could be awkward after all. At about six o’clock someone knocked at the door, even though it says we’re closed, wanting a spell to make his wife better, because she was in hospital after a car crash and they were operating on her, and so no, it couldn’t really wait a few hours or days.

He was awfully polite about it, despite being understandably distressed. Also he offered an awful lot of money, in cash.

So I told him I’d get a spell from the wizard and recite it to him myself, if that was okay. It was okay, just as long as he heard it (because of course he trusts me, but one of his brother-in-law’s co-workers got ripped off once), so I went and quickly wrote one and checked it for grammar mistakes and ambiguities. It was awfully crude, and I’ll probably be in big trouble when the wizard gets back, but it was either that or send him to the Hag. Besides, the man hasn’t come back to tell me it went wrong and she’s turned into a cabbage. So far.

It was also pretty tiring, and I slept on the couch next to the fish until halfway through Oyster Bay Masterpiece Theatre. Woke up sneezing, because her hair was tickling my nose. I’ve got to teach her to plait it.

I’ve decided I’d better go to the wizard’s study after all, because if I keep doing spells for him I’ll mess one up and no-one will ever come back, and if I don’t do spells for him everyone’ll go to the Hag, and if I ask the Wizardry Council for help, everyone will find out and laugh at him. And either way his reputation’ll be ruined and I’ll never get a job, except maybe as a checkout chick at the supermarket.

But I kept remembering “Bluebeard” so I decided to tidy the house first to maybe put him in a good mood, and now it’s time to go to bed. At least I remembered to feed him.

#

Monday, June 28

Had breakfast, bought more bread, and brought the cat inside out of the rain.

No spam today; six more e-mail messages. I did a few easy spells and told the rest to wait a day or so.

I thought of trying a spell to make the wizard able to talk so he could tell me what to do, but then I remembered that chapter in Dragulescu and Perkins about how you can’t turn things back into themselves because they already are. I never understood that chapter but I think this is the sort of thing they’re talking about.

So I finally went up to the wizard’s study. Found out why he didn’t want me in there. I managed to ignore the posters (yuck!) while I looked through his notebooks. It’d be so much easier if he’d use a computer for that sort of thing. I spent hours looking around without finding anything anywhere, except a couple of magazines as bad as the posters. And he complains about my room being messy!

I had sandwiches for lunch. The fish hadn’t eaten my bread this time, probably because she has trouble balancing on chairs to get to the top cupboard where I hid it.

I was about to go back up to the study when the treasurer from the Wizardry Council came around. I told him that the wizard was away on a business trip at the moment, and he wouldn’t be able to come to the Council meeting tonight, and it was my fault that the treasurer didn’t know, because I was supposed to send letters to everyone on Friday but forgot.

Then the fish came wobbling out looking for more bread. Completely naked. (I tried to put a T-shirt and jeans on her when she arrived, but she kept flopping all over the couch and she’s heavier than most fish. And the blanket kept falling off. And besides, we were supposed to be alone in the house.) Luckily the treasurer didn’t say anything, he just stared at her for a while, then went home in a hurry. I hope this doesn’t get the wizard in some sort of trouble.

The posters had all changed when I went back to the study. At least the details had, not the general subject matter. (I wonder if all wizards are like that. And what the wizard would say if it had been him meeting the fish instead of the treasurer.

(Um. I wonder if that’s why he practises being a goldfish so often. Yuck.)

I found some more notebooks under the desk, with more messy handwriting. I was in the middle of reading sci.geo.mineralogy when the fish started shrieking from downstairs, “Cat! Cat!” I found the cat crouched on the CD stand looking at the fishbowl. Chased it out of the room, put Dragulescu and Perkins on top of the fishbowl (that should be heavy enough!), shut the door, and fed the poor cat. I spent the next hour trying to stop the fish from kicking it. I reminded her how exhausted she was supposed to be from swimming around in circles in her fishbowl, but she ignored me.

Finally I took the cat with me to the wizard’s study. It explored the room while I was reading, and knocked a book off the top of the wardrobe. Then it sat on the book I was reading, so I decided to look at the one it had knocked down instead. Then it kept watching me and yawning, and then it came over and pushed at the pages with its paws until I found the spell.

I think it’s the right spell, anyway. It’s really hard to read his writing and some of the words are a bit smudged where the cat licked the page. It probably smells of fish. Anyway, I’m tired and my eyes are sore. I’d better have some sleep first so I can think properly and do it right. I wouldn’t want him to turn out like that kiwi fruit I was practising on last year.

#

Tuesday, June 29, 9:05am

No spam today. I didn’t want to do the recall on an empty stomach, so I had breakfast. I went to buy more bread for the fish and milk for the cat. Also a lock for my door. Not that he’d—but an apprentice witch needs her privacy.

I guess I’m procrastinating a little, but I am a bit nervous. Especially since even the wizard’s already messed up the spell. What if the recall doesn’t work?

#

10:20am

The wizard said “Thank goodness you—”, then coughed and said it was about time I’d found the spell, and what sort of witch would I make if I couldn’t pass a simple test like that, and he’d been about to give up on me and sell me to the Hag. He also told me off for all the crumbs on the floor, and for leaving the TV and vacuum cleaner on.

I suspect he was a bit relieved, though. It must be awfully boring swimming around in circles all day. Particularly when there’s no other fish to . . . keep you company.

But he was going to make me get rid of the cat, until I pointed out that it helped me find the spell. Then I lied and told him that it used to be the Hag’s until she threw it out because it wasn’t black. So he hmmphed and said that was just like her, and he supposes I can keep the cat as long as I feed it and look after it and keep it out of his study and the goldfish bowl. I was going to name it Fish, but the wizard sent me up to my room to study when I said that, so maybe I’d better not.

Or at least not where he can hear me.


Deborah lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with a couple of sand volcanoes, an adoptive cat, and no goldfish. She has previously pushed “Coming Home” in Abyss and Apex and her website is at http://www.deborahfitchett.com

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