5 Apr

The man from the council had the sort of eyes that Griselda disliked more than she disliked rice pudding, and she hated that. He had slate grey eyes and they seemed to penetrate every corner of her little parlour.
“It’s not good enough,” he said with a sharp, rather angular, voice. “We’ve had complaints after complaints going back for ever and it’s got to stop.”
“I should think it has,” responded Griselda in her best sweet-little-old-lady voice, which put quite a strain on her self-awareness. “People shouldn’t have to live in fear and trembling now, should they? So how can I help?”
“There’s silly talk of a broomstick…” began the man from the council, frowning. “I know it’s silly because the only good thing that a broomstick can do is sweep back yards and front passages. But when there’s talk of them flying…”
“What? Broomsticks flying?” gasped Griselda. “Are you trying to tell me there are people round here with enough gall to actually report their hallucinations to the council?”
“And they all come back to this very address!” snapped the council man. “Every last one of them! They say that an old lady, and if you’ll forgive me I must say that you yourself seem to be an old lady, has taken to swooping off perched on a broomstick with her underskirts floating and her knickers showing, and they’re sore offended!
“By my underwear?” gaped Griselda. “I want you to know it’s always pristine and clean, even when I’ve had a nasty shock like a visit by a man from the council! And anyway, they shouldn’t be looking! It’s not a nice thing for a person to do, spy up an old lady’s skirts and then make obscene complaints to the council! Who’s said all these dreadful things, that’s what I want to know!”
“That’s neither here nor there…” he began. “Now, I don’t know how you do it and why all these people have got the idea that you’re a … you know what they say you are…”
“Jealousy. That’s what it is!” snapped Griselda, “calling me a witch just because I can fly and they can’t! And if they could I wouldn’t so much as peep more than once up their skirts and snigger at their underwear, even though I could if I wanted to. But they can’t fly and that’s that!”
“Are you trying to say…” spluttered the man from the council, his angular voice breaking down and becoming a spitty kind of splutter, “are you trying to suggest that this sheaf of complaints I’ve got…” he wafted a wad of papers in front of her nose … “is true and not some hallucinated imagination gone wild? Are you, could it be, is it remotely possible, that you can fly a broomstick?”
“Broomsticks? Phooey to them! Who needs actual broomsticks, that’s what I want to know!” asked Griselda, using both of her eyes to penetrate into the man’s brain. “I can fly on anything properly proportioned, and don’t you forget it! But for your information and as something for you to enter into your report when you make it, come out here.”
She grabbed her visitor by one arm and he couldn’t help but notice the power in her grip as she dragged him our through the back door to a small shed she’d inherited from a former resident of the cottage about a century earlier. It was untold years old and looked as if it might fall to bits in a pile of splinters at any moment, but she opened its door with the same grip that she’d used on the man’s arm and pushed him in.
“What do you think of them?” she asked, proudly.
There were broomsticks, besoms with twigs for sweeping with, of every size and broomstick-shape. They were all stored tidily, leaning against the wall of the shed as if they’d been there for ever, and some of them might have been: it’s been well documented that Griselda only ever used her best or second-best broomsticks.
She grabbed hold of her second-best brush and pulled it out into the light of day and gazed at it lovingly.
“This is a little miracle,” she almost crooned, “just you feel that willow! Cast your hand over every knot and knobble and tell me it’s the second best broomstick that you might ever see!”
“Miss Entwhistle…!” began the council man, trying to pull away from her ferocious grip. “I can see you have a few interesting yard brushes and there’s no harm in any of them…”
Griselda, though, had no intention of concluding her unwanted interview with an official just yet. He had come to her, she thought, and should be able to take a sensible riposte from a law-abiding citizen like herself..
“Just a moment,” she almost squawked, and she thrust the handle of her second-best broomstick between the man’s legs and yanked it upwards until he came out with a sudden yelp of what had to be pain.
“Mind my balls!” he shouted, and Griselda’s neighbour, who had sneaked into her own back yard to see what all the fuss might be about, couldn’t help but start giggling.
“You poor man,” grinned Griselda, and she climbed onto the broomstick in front of him so that the arrangement was her, a council official and the sweeping end of the besom. Then she muttered something darkly under her breath and the combination rose at a huge velocity into the air.
“You’ll like this,” called Griselda, turning to face the man briefly and grinning wickedly at the sudden green tinge that was spreading across his face.
“Let me down!” he begged her, “I’ve no head for heights…”
“I’ll take you back to your office,” decided Griselda. “It is in Brumpton, isn’t it?”
Brumpton was the nearest town big enough to harbour a council office and anyway she knew exactly where the man worked because she’d once been in politics herself.
The man yelped something that may have been affirmative and Griselda cackled again. He was gripping her as tightly as he could for fear of being dislodged and dropping like a stone back to earth.
“We’ll have to go high,” she told him, “because when we fly high there’s not much chance of being seen by scumbags and spies who like to report elderly ladies to the council!”
“I promise…” he begged her, but lacked the ability to say what he promised.
“You promise to be a good boy…?” queried Griselda.
He nodded. She couldn’t see but knew, from a vast experience of taking novices for rides on bright summer days what a nod felt like when it was being done by somebody hanging on to her like grim death.
“Then off we go!” she laughed, and with a further dark-sounding mutter they zoomed off, she just about managing to stop herself from doing a loop-the-loop during which she might have lost one very confused and panicking town official.
© Peter Rogerson 05.04.16


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