I'm testing pump octane at a Shell station in St. Cloud when a warlock casts a spell over me. He's got a black goatee and his ponytail is pulled back into a green scrunchie. He comes out of the station munching on a fruit pie and then he gives me a smile and a little nod. That's all it takes. I suddenly feel compelled to follow him wherever he goes.
The warlock makes a right turn on the frontage road and so do I. He stops to pick up his dry cleaning and I pull my car right up next to his and wait.
When he comes out of the dry cleaners, I motion him over. I expect this will be the point where he explains what he has in store for me, sexually or workwise, but instead, he plays it cool.
"Lady," he asks, "are you following me?"
Truth be told, I do not have time for this. I'm on a strict work schedule. I work for Weights and Measures, drive from gas station to gas station all across our great state. I make sure that no one sells you gas that makes your car shoot blue exhaust or makes your engine knock and ping.
Usually everything checks out, but last week, I caught a guy in Shakopee selling watered down product.
"Do you understand what this does to an engine?" I asked the man. I shook my testing beaker at him, showed how the water had separated from the gas.
"Can we arrive at a compromise?" the man said as he popped open the cash register and slid a stack of twenties across the counter. "Would this smooth things out?"
I shook my head. I pushed the money back at him. I told the man there was no compromise available. I told him that sometimes you have to own up to the truth and its consequences. I told the man that sometimes a sad heart can suddenly transform back into a wide-lipped chalice and that if you don't hope for that with every fiber of your being, you are a crazy person.
"Are we still talking about octane?" the man asked me.
"We most certainly are," I said.
The warlock peels out from the dry cleaners and I trail behind him. While I drive, I take a pine tree air freshener and rub it into my cleavage. Because of my job I smell like gas. Some people like this smell, but some people cannot stand it. My dead husband Ronald, rest his soul, loved it.
When Ronald died six months ago, I burned him in the backyard. I didn't say buried, I said burned. It's not legal here either, burning someone in your backyard, but that was what Ronald told me he wanted. I built a huge bonfire and I tied Ronald onto a wood plank like he was a piece of salmon and I pushed the plank onto the fire. Then I sat in a lawn chair and watched him disappear.
The warlock turns into a Renaissance Fair and he parks his car and then he runs inside the gates. I buy a ticket and follow him. I can't find him right away when I get inside, so I purchase a bag of saltwater taffy and then I buy a big leg of turkey. Soon, I see the warlock standing behind a table of silver jewelry. I unbutton another button on my blouse and walk over and stand in front of his jewelry. I wait for him to tell me what he wants me to do.
"I think that there's been some sort of misunderstanding here," he says.
I look at his wares. Spread out before him are gothic snake rings and small ceremonial maces and tiny daggers in little leather sheaths.
"You cast your spell," I tell him. "And now you have to live with that. That's how it works, right?"
I move to unbutton another button on my blouse, but the warlock grabs my wrists, stops them.
"Just hold on," he says.
The warlock's hands are moist. He reaches down and picks up a ring from his table and he slips it onto my finger. He looks deeply into my eyes.
"This ring," he says, "sets you free."
As he says these words, my legs jelly. I grab the table to hold myself up. I feel like maybe this is what a magnet feels like when it has been pulled away from its metal—its strong pull, suddenly separate and distinct.
As I walk back to my car, I weave through the men and women dressed in their Medieval fineries. I walk through the smell of mead and honey and the sounds of simple and joyous laughter.
I find my car in the parking lot and I get in and turn the key. I hear the gas trickle from the fuel line into my engine. I hear that little spark, that tiny bit of combustion deep inside it that sets everything back into motion.