Beyond the ads, beyond the sales, lies the truth.
"Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble." Kathryn Ferguson cackled and swirled a crooked finger, casting a fake spell.
"Rubbish." Lori brushed the invisible hex aside.
"But that was how witches did it, according to Shakespeare." Kathryn protested. "What's more, I saw the movie Hocus Pocus."
"Well, Shakespeare is dead and the sisterhood of witches is still alive and I can prove it." Lori spotted her contact entering the coffee shop. "Quick, hide."
Lori Razzo was investigating modern witchcraft and had found a woman who agreed to take her to a secret meeting of a real coven nearby but only after she agreed to an oath of silence. Under no circumstances was Lori to expose the locale or she would forever pay the price of her tongue wagging.
The professed witch glanced furtively around the coffee shop, swayed over to the table and drew up a chair. Leaning forward, she spoke definitely, "I'll pick you up on the corner of Seventh and Wicker at 5:45am tomorrow. Don't be late."
"And remember, if you violate our agreement there will be harsh consequences to pay." Gabriella's stare bore through Lori like a termite to wood. The message understood.
"This should be a hoot," she whispered to herself when Gabriella, the self-proclaimed priestess of the coven, strode out of the shop. "Witchcraft, boo-pucky. I'm so scared."
"Well?" Kathryn poked her head around the coffee bean rack. "Did she cast a spell on you? Wait. Let me look into your eyes. Okay, pupils normal and reactive."
Kathryn plopped down in the chair and Lori chuckled, "The meeting's tomorrow."
"Are they going to put a mask over your head?" Kathryn drank down the rest of Lori's tepid coffee. "Can I come?"
"And get me bewitched?" Lori feathered her short, reddish hair behind her ears. "Stay at least two cars behind in the slow lane, okay?"
The plan set, the two said good night and went their separate ways until the early morning hour.
The sun crested over the hills while Lori stood shivering on the street corner. What is the matter with these women anyway? Don’t they know any self-respecting Witch meets in the darkened shadows under the glow of candlelight and incense?
An Exhibition pulled to the curb and Lori hopped into the front seat. The vehicle, packed with ordinary women, jerked away from the roadside. The voices escalated as Gabriella maneuvered through a series of continuous green lights on target to the prescribed destination.
"Why this is--" Lori gasped.
The Exhibition screeched to a halt and the women quickly scooted out and marched towards the glass doors. Standing in a single line, they extended arms in front of their bosoms and repeatedly flexed both hands open and shut while chanting, "Open, open, open."
Slowly the locked doors opened and the coven welcomed the witches. With purpose, the witches entered with a new incantation under tongue, "Charge it."
Lori stumbled onto the linoleum floor just as the doors closed tightly behind the one-way spell. Just like Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves she thought. Turning backwards, she read the word “desolC”.
"This is the secret coven?" She said, glaring at Gabriella. “The major department store…”
With the wink of a long lash and the crinkle of her nose, Gabriella tugged her by the elbow. "Hurry, the best deals are gone in the first ten minutes and remember mum's the word."
"What to wear, what to wear?" The witches chanted as they ran up and down the aisles, checking price tags and trying on shoes, looking for the perfect price an hour before the store opened.
"A bargain hunt? This is modern witchcraft?"
Gabriella shrugged, "Witches have budgets, too."
"But isn't this Super Saturday?" Lori looked at a store sign.
"Who do you think started that idea?" Gabriella sighed, sarcastically. "Come on, the racks are already getting bare."
Lori grabbed a leather jacket and draped it over her arm. The witches scrambled and fought over sale items and carried armloads to the cash register. Sale after sale rang up at the register, absent of electricity and a sales clerk. Tiny charge slips printed out and faithfully the members of the sisterhood scribbled signatures of credit agreement, interest-free and triple bonus points.
Lori laid her purchase onto the counter and watched the magical forces fold and package her selection. Cool. She could get the hang of this witchcraft.
Suddenly, a figure appeared at the glass door, peering in, shocked at the private sale in action. Kathryn.
"You!" A witch cursed towards Lori and pointed a rigid finger. "You told someone of our secret coven."
"No…" Lori retreated on her left foot, looking for an escape.
The witches encircled her, grasped hands and slowly started to cast a spell. The cash register clanged, the drawers flung open and shut violently. Dollar signs flashed by in a blur. The sisterhood sang louder and swayed as one. Voices deepened and a lone cackle erupted as the women chanted a few choice mumble-jumbles.
Lori trembled and hugged her purchase. The machine grew hotter, shuddered and spewed out the charge slip. Eyes focused on the intruder and silence overpowered the room as Lori's hand unwillingly signed the charge slip.
"What? $5,031 for a jacket at 34.9% interest. That's outrageous." Lori protested as her pen zagged the "z" in Razzo. "I'll be paying this off forever."
Gabriella spoke with a wicked laugh, "Month after month after month….pay back's a witch."