WEP June 2020 – Urban Nightmare

Another story about Monette, a magic worker of modest powers, in Vancouver, Canada, in the 21st century. Monette is a paper mage. You can read about her previous adventures here:
Feb 2020 challenge – Café Terrace
April 2020 challenge – Antique Vase

This story is my entry for the WEP June 2020 challenge.
Monette gazed at the cheap four-storey apartment building. She doubted anyone living in this dump had enough money to pay her fee, but that was the address her client had given her. A bad address.

She eyed the plastic bags bulging with garbage along the sidewalk. Disgusting content spilled out of many torn bags. Fat black flies buzzed happily. She couldn’t see the dumpster in the alley behind the house, but she knew it was overflowing, like all the other dumpsters in the city. The stink was even worse here than where she lived, in a much more decent district. This poor eastern side of Vancouver stunk the worst.

The city garbage collectors had been on strike for almost a month; started as soon as the heat wave hit. Neither the muggy heat nor the garbage collectors showed any signs of relenting, and meanwhile, the city choked on garbage.

Labor negotiations, my ass, she thought angrily, as she trudged the stairs to the third floor. Even the stairwell reeked. Why couldn’t the garbage companies go on strike in winter? Why couldn’t the Magic Guild deal with the garbage while the strike lasted, for that matter? They did, for select rich people, but what about the rest of the population?

“Hi,” Monette told the pale young woman who opened the door. “Are you Tara? I’m Monette from Small Magics. You called me.”

“Yes, please, come in. Thank you for coming so quickly.”

Monette stepped inside. The apartment was small, hot, and stuffy. A boy around two years old, as thin and pale as his mother, wore nothing but diapers. He played with colorful plastic blocks in the middle of the living room. Although the large window was  firmly closed, the odor of the rotting garbage penetrated through.

Monette wrinkled her nose. “This strike is horrible,” she said. “The worst nightmare.”

“Yes,” Tara agreed. “My window looks on the alley, at the dumpster. I can’t open it because of the smell. But Tony has asthma. He needs fresh air, and I don’t know what to do. He’s been getting worse and worse. He needs his inhaler a few times a day. That’s why I called you. Could you do anything about this stench?” She lifted her hopeful eyes from her son to Monette’s face. “I can pay your fee.”

“I’m sorry,” Monette said helplessly. “I don’t think I can help you. It’s a city-wide problem, and my magic is small, confined to paper. It says so on my website.”

“I thought … maybe … if you could do it for one apartment only …” Tara winced. She started saying something else when the boy on the floor began coughing and wheezing. Tara hurried to her son.

Monette crossed the room with its second-hand furniture and looked out the closed window. The wall of another building loomed close. In the dim alley between them, the dumpster had its lid flung open, and the garbage bags piled up like a mountain, almost reaching the second floor. What didn’t fit inside formed another, equally large pile around the dumpster, its metal sides invisible beneath the heaps of bags. Small gray creatures nosed around, industrious and unafraid. The rats having a field day. A field month.

Darn it! Monette should be able to help this poor family somehow. But with her weak paper magic, she could do squat against the city-wide garbage strike. Maybe she could deal with the stink in one little apartment, as Tara suggested. She felt so sorry for the kid.

“Tara, I’ll think about it. I’ll be back in a day or two. I promise,” she said.

“Of course. Thank you,” Tara said dully. She sounded resigned. She didn’t believe Monette’s promise. “How much do I owe you for your visit?”

“Nothing,” Monette said. “We’ll talk about my fee when I come back. Bye.” She fled the depressing little apartment.

What could she do? Maybe the strike would end tomorrow, she mused without much hope.

The strike didn’t end tomorrow or the next day, but Monette found an amazing photograph of the alpine blue sky on the internet. She printed it and made a larger copy to fit Tara’s window screen. Then she spent an entire afternoon paging through her talking grimoire, Spellingra, searching for the right spell.

Finally, Spellingra deigned to make a suggestion. “Filter. Make a filter, stupid magician.” The heavy pages flipped so quickly Monette just managed to snatch her fingers away. The book stopped on the page describing the filter spell.

“Genius book!” Monette exclaimed.

“Yes!” said Spellingra. The sparkling emanating from her binding intensified.

Monette painted the complex spell on the blank side of the large sky picture. Three days later, she was back, ringing Tara’s doorbell.

“You came back?” Tara gasped.

“Yes, I’m back.” Monette marched towards the window. She removed the screen from the window and affixed the picture, the spell facing outside. Then she concentrated and touched one corner of the elaborate spell with her finger. And poured her magic into the spell, as much as she had. Even when her headache started, she didn’t stop. The more power the spell absorbed, the longer it would last.

The spell lines flashed, pulsing with magic, and the paper turned transparent, transforming whatever foul stink would come from the outside into the luminous clean air of the Alps in the picture. Monette only stopped when she was drained completely. She sagged onto the sofa.

“You’ll have to put the screen back yourself,” she said to Tara and closed her eyes. “I need a few minutes to recharge.” Of course, the complete magical recharge would probably take a whole week, but she didn’t have any new cases waiting.

“Thank you,” Tara whispered. “Are you going to be okay?”

Monette inhaled deeply and smiled. The air inside the apartment was already improving. Instead of rot, it now smelled faintly of rain and grass. “It won’t last forever, Tara,” she cautioned. “But I hope it’ll outlast this nightmarish strike. I’m going to make a similar one for my own windows. When my magic comes back.”

She opened her eyes and saw Tara fiddling with her wallet. “No,” Monette said. “Clean air shouldn’t cost money. That’s a pro bono spell. A fine name for a spell, isn’t it?”

This entry was posted in Olga Godim, WEP and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to WEP June 2020 – Urban Nightmare

  1. Oh Olga.
    I love this. On so many levels.
    Clean air shouldn’t cost money indeed. And most definitely shouldn’t be reserved for the privileged.
    Thank you.

  2. soniadogra says:

    How sweet! I loved your story Olga. Specially the end. Clean air shouldn’t cost anything. How I fear we might be actually paying for it anytime soon.

  3. Pat Garcia says:

    This story has so much compassion in it that I am still sitting here at my computer smiling. You have done an outstanding job of showing how magic can change a person’s world. In this case, Tara and her son and given them a reason to hope and to live.
    Outstanding job.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  4. Pat Garcia says:

    I don’t know what happened but my entire comment has disappeared. Your story is filled with compassion and I like how you reveal this through magic and it uses to help Tara and her son.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G

  5. Cara Hartley says:

    Beautifully written and addresses a very real problem: the fact that some people think that the poor do not deserve clean air, clean water, or any sort of decent standard of living.

    ~Cie from naughty Netherworld Press~

  6. Toi Thomas says:

    I know this may sound crazy, but I’m tearing up. Thank you for such an uplifting and magical story.

  7. Jemi Fraser says:

    Love it! I’m always happy to revisit with Monette and her paper magics! Clean air should indeed be available for all

  8. Your magical stories are just that magical! Love that she didn’t charge for it. Clean air should be free for everyone. What a unique story! Well done!

  9. Denise Covey says:

    Pro bono spell indeed. I love this personal story of a wider nightmare. What a kind thing for Monette to do. I hope her magic lasts long enough for the end of the strike.

  10. Clever way to handle the stench! I like it.

  11. rolandclarke says:

    Standalone shorts featuring the same MC work – especially with Monette. Great character and description. The problem is so real and the solution – well, imaginative? Magical? Clever whichever. I love the story and your telling. A breath of fresh alpine air in a sea of nightmares. Green life shouldn’t cost.

  12. Rebecca Douglass says:

    Wonderful story. I needed that positive tale, and I knew you and Monette would provide it!

  13. That was wonderfully positive! Clean air shouldn’t cost anything. (Neither should clean water!) What a sweet and compelling tale.

  14. Nilanjana Bose says:

    Pro bono spell – just such good energy in this phrase and the whole story, Olga. Amazing how you took garbage and asthma and made them into a compassionate, positive and uplifting flash.

  15. Kalpana says:

    What a wonderfully hopeful story Olga. I wondered if Monette was going to take on the garbage department but as she said, she can only do small magic – and she did. I loved the way the story progressed and how the idea didn’t come to her immediately. This is a great addition to the Urban Nightmare challenge.

  16. Natalie Aguirre says:

    This was a great story. And I loved the magical spell that you created to solve the problem.

  17. Carole Stolz says:

    This is a “breath of fresh (Alpine) air” amongst all the other entries! Thank you!
    Carole Stolz

  18. Karuna says:

    Yup. I’m totally hooked. This is a fantastic piece of writing and my favorite so far in the series. (This is a series of books in the makIng, right? Cause this is great stuff. Makes me wanna sit down and shut up. Except I’m too f’ing inspired!) The piece is fun, well written, polished and moving. I care about the characters and catch myself believing in the magic. Great work!
    I found one typo: “she though angrily, “
    Great stuff. Like, seriously, I am looking forward to the next post. Thanks for sharing!

  19. Karuna says:

    I, too, seem to have a disappearing comment. I will wait to see if it reappears. In case it doesn’t, just know I loved the story and think it’s great writing. I’m definitely following along.

  20. L.G. Keltner says:

    You always amaze me with how clever and creative your stories are! I’m so glad she was able to help that family. Clean air definitely shouldn’t cost anything. Well done!

  21. Wonderful Olga. So well imagined and written. Really enjoy Monette’s adventures. When are you publishing a collection ? A small tense error in first paragraph, should be present perfect ‘ the address she had given her ‘. The window painting is beautiful, miss the mountains which I last saw in March, the Pyrenees that is; the Alps, I haven’t visited in 15 years ! Except for the Alpes Maritimes, behind Nice. Happy WEP week.

  22. Sally says:

    What a lovely thing for Monette to do. Love your story.

  23. An enchanting tale, with a rather amusing ending. Well done, Olga.

  24. jlennidorner says:

    I love the breath of fresh air! If only such magic were real. Great story! Love your main character.

  25. hilarymb says:

    Hi Olga – wonderful Monette’s magic of the small spells … really clever and makes a delightful ‘fairy tale’ – albeit for an awful problem. Monette’s done her trick again … fun to read, thank you – Hilary

  26. Dixie says:

    Love the small magic aspect. Unique solution

  27. Donna Hanton says:

    I’m loving these Monette stories. They are so filled with light, especially this one. What a lovely, though thought-provoking ending. Also like the talking grimoire with a bit of an attitude!

  28. wordweiver says:

    All freshened up amidst grim stories of the season. I have some questions though. Has “Maybe the strike would end tomorrow” missed quotation marks? Should ‘tomorrow’ in “The strike didn’t end tomorrow or the next day” should be in reporting voice, ‘the very next day’ and ‘the day after’? In “it now smelled” should it be “it then smelled”?

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