Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Love Potion Number 9, the Little Shop, West State Street, Boise, Idaho

Randy emptied the love potion #9 into Belle’s coffee cup while she cut the pie in the kitchen. He sat back smiling. Of course, the shop’s owner was cuckoo, but no harm to try. Belle returned with the pie plates and took a bite, sipping her coffee.
          She looked at him with inflexible eyes. “I like you as a friend, Randy. Always have. But I can’t force my feelings. No one can do that.”
          Spying the coffee hopefully as Belle took another sip, Randy could only hope. Who knew…maybe the potion would work, and then a haunting refrain floated through his mind. Be careful what you wish for.

Previously Randy had been despondent by Belle’s continuous rejections. One night he ended up in the Basque Center on Grove Street. He sat at the bar sipping an Idaho red recommended by the  bartender, a thin, young man of Basque descent who listened patiently to Randy’s lament about Belle’s rebuff. “I’d try anything.” Randy said, waving his right arm and tipping his wine glass, which the bartender adroitly steadied.
          The bartender leaned forward and spoke in a low voice, telling Randy about an antiquities shop on State Street. In the shop there was an herb and spice section managed by an old Basque woman. Rumor had it she sold under-the-counter potions. There was even something for the heartbroken, or so people said.
          Waking the next morning with a vicious hangover, Randy nursed a cup of coffee, recalling the Basque bartender who spoke of herbs and potions. On a whim, Randy decided to visit the shop on State Street and see what the old lady had to offer.
As Randy approached the antique store he saw a tall woman in pink, hesitating in the doorway. Suddenly she turned and almost bumped into Randy. “I’m having second thoughts,” the lady muttered and then hurried away. He entered the shop and to the right in the corner was the Little Shop, offering herbs and spices. Behind the counter was an old, hunched woman in black. She smiled unctuously and before he could speak, she reached under the counter and produced a small vial. “Love Potion Number 9 will do nicely.” She said in a crone’s voice. “Your darling will not be able to resist you.”
          Much to Randy’s surprise, the potion had worked and Belle had fallen in love with him. But over time Belle’s adoration became obsessive and cloying. After two years Randy could take no more of her.  She was driving him crazy and in desperation he returned to State Street, curious to see if the old lady at the Little Shop had a remedy to reverse the curse.
          It was if time had stood still when Randy entered the dusty shop. The woman was exactly the same and looked at him with rheumy eyes. “Ahh,” she croaked, “you’re back.”
          Surprised the old hag recognized him; Randy started to relate the history of his experience, but the woman held up her hand. ”Skip the sad story. How much did you give her?”
          Explaining that he feared failure, Randy admitted he emptied the vial into Belle’s coffee. The shopkeeper exhaled and shook her head; reminding that she had instructed just two drops of Number 9.
          Apologizing for not following instructions, Randy related how possessive and clinging Belle had become, worse his wife now stalked him. The old woman reached under the counter, pulling out a black vial. “This should dim her ardor.” She explained. “Four drops into her coffee, or better yet, into a glass of wine.  Not to worry, I’m always here if anything goes awry.”
 Days passed and Randy was conflicted as he stared at the black vial. But finally he decided to proceed. As he opened the evening wine, Randy mused about Belle’s recent inheritance from her father. As Belle’s husband, the money would pass to him if anything happened to her. The possibility of two birds with one stone was enticing. Gathering his courage, Randy poured the potion into his wife’s wine.  At first four drops, and then with a smile he emptied the entire vial into her glass.
Later that evening, Randy heard Belle calling out from her bedroom and he went to the foot of the staircase. His wife was standing at the top of the stairs, weaving as she gripped the rail.
          “You poisoned me!” She called hysterically. “I called my sister…she’s on the way.”
          Holding up his hands to calm her as his heart sank. Randy explained she had gotten woozy after dinner and he had put her to bed, perhaps too much wine.
          “But I feel like I’ve been asleep forever. Did you kidnap me?” Belle demanded, panic in her voice.
Before Randy could respond, Belle put her hand to her forehead, swooned, and then pitched headfirst down the steep steps. He carried his wife to the couch and covered her with a tartan throw. He had to save Belle as the sister from hell was on the way. The answer was the crone’s anecdote so Randy raced outside and drove back to State Street.
He parked in front of the antiquities shop, and walked quickly to the door. In the dim light, he could see a tall figure in pink hovering in the doorway. It was the same woman who had been there two years ago. She turned as Randy approached her face stricken, eyes wide in dismay. “I can’t get the potion.”She said, pointing to the sign on the door, which announced the shop was closed and out of business.
“I am truly star struck.” She added in disappointment.
          “Consider yourself lucky.” Randy said and walked into the night.

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