1 Apr

“One thing I never had,” mused Griselda, “was a baby, and I’m a woman! Women have babies, don’t they? I reckon I should have had one and I never did! I wonder how I’d set about it?”
Let me explain. Griselda was a witch – of that there could be no doubt, and like all witches she could fly on broomsticks and perform magic under the guidance of some unknown satanic power. She didn’t know how any of it happened, just that it did. And she was old, very old, having passed her hundredth birthday whilst remaining almost unnaturally hale and hearty.
Any normal person would assume that by the time a person reaches her age they’d have some sort of inkling about the facts of life, but somehow information regarding reproduction and pregnancy had completely passed her by, possibly because she ‘d been more interested in searching for blind frogs in the undergrowth when other young women were courting boys and, let’s be honest, participating in sexual congress with them.
Griselda had never contemplated sexual congress, possibly because she had virtually no idea what it might be. To her the mysteries of reproduction were a closed book, which was just as well, I suppose, because this troubled world of ours doesn’t want too many little Griseldas littering the place up.
And now, rather belatedly, she had started wondering where babies came from.
She could have turned to her friend Henrietta Blackboil, the local intensely drunken alcoholic, to explain the intricacies of coitus to her, but the truth was she was a little ashamed of her own ignorance and didn’t want to risk becoming any sort of laughing stock.
“I might Google it, but I don’t know what googling is,” she muttered to herself.
Old ladies, even old witches, can hear about modern things like googling and think they ought to know what the terms mean and so they pretend they do know in order to save their faces rather than search out real information. And this old witch was no different from any other old witch in this respect and allowed ignorance to dominate her daily life when that ignorance had to do with googling.
And reproduction.
“I’ll nip to the pub and see if a few glasses of Thomas’s weak beer will help,” she mused.
Thomas wasn’t Greek but he called himself Thomas the Greek because he believed it added mystery to his reputation as a scruffy old skinflint. He paraded behind the bar of the Crown and Anchor and spent most of his time wiping glasses with filthy rags when he wasn’t diluting the beer in his barrels prior to serving it to a thirsty clientèle. But besides being a publican (or because of it) he had picked up snippets of real information over the years and might, just might, be able to fill in gaps in Griselda’s usually vast personal knowledge.
Getting to the Crown and Anchor was no problem because Griselda had an assortment of broomsticks, and she selected her second-best one for the ride. Her best broomstick was faster but more knobbly and those knobbles played all sorts of tricks on her bony backside as she clenched its shaft between buttocks that were almost bereft of flesh and altogether bony.
“I need a private little chat,” she whispered to Thomas the Greek as she sipped her first glass of tasteless beer.
“Ask on,” grinned Thomas. He had a soft spot for Griselda because he was only too aware of some of the things she might do to him or his pub if he didn’t stay on the right side of her. He was wary of witches.
“Babies,” said Griselda out of the corner of her mouth. “Do you know where they come from?”
“Of course I do!” he replied. “Doesn’t everybody?”
“Well,” murmured Griselda guardedly, “some might have the wrong idea. I’ve heard about storks bringing them…”
“A story for kiddies!” laughed Thomas. “It saves having to mention body parts before they know they’ve got ’em!”
“And being discovered under gooseberry bushes,” muttered Griselda, more cautiously than a very cautious witch at a caution party.
Thomas laughed out loud and called across the bar to Janine Stretchmark who was sitting in an alcove. “Did you hear that? Is that where you found your nipper?” he asked her. “Under a gooseberry bush,” he added, as clarification.
“I wasn’t serious…” stammered a shamefaced Griselda. “I’ve never had any babies, you know. Been too busy putting spells on ignorant publicans who like to show their best customer up!”
“So you want to know how to go about it?” asked Thomas, whispering for fear of enraging her and being turned into something truly unpleasant. “You want to know the facts of life?”
“If that’s about babies, yes. I’ve forgotten some of the stuff,” gabbled a Griselda who’d never felt so awkward in her entire life.
Thomas beckoned her to the end of the bar as far from potential eavesdroppers as he could get. Then he went on to explain his understanding of the process, which was well nigh precisely correct in just about every respect, and part of his explanation necessitated him undoing his trousers and exposing himself to her as an example of this or that.
“There’s no need to go so far!” snapped Griselda, “I’ve seen things like that in the men’s toilets at the supermarket!”
“Isn’t it sweet, though?” crooned Thomas.
“It’s the least sweet thing I’ve ever had the misfortune to see and if you’re not careful I’ll make it sweeter!”
“You could?” asked Thomas, his eyes open wide. “You really could?”
“Just you watch me!” hissed Griselda, and in the quietest of whispers she murmured “The devil turn that floppy thing into a stick of rock!”
People in some parts of the world might not be familiar with the British obsession with sugary confections, and sticks of rock are among the most sugary of them, sold in great quantities at holiday towns on the strength that they have the name of those towns (usually in red) down the often white length of them, and that length can be as much as a foot (or, in the metric measurement favoured by some, thirty centimetres).
Thomas was blessed with the full foot in stark contrast to what nature had provided him with and the expression on his face turned from horror to immense gratitude as he murmured “well I never” in the kind of voice a flautist might use at Christmas when he discovers that Santa has left him a shiny full-sized concert flute.
Go on – Google it: Griselda doesn’t know how to!
© Peter Rogerson 01.04.16


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