It’s a pretty sad day when a kid can’t even get around. But my parents had been adamant – the old Hoover had to go. Whether it was downsizing, upscaling, whatever, the upshot was that my trusty vacuum that I’d known and worked with since I was a kid was gone, replaced by a Roomba. Now what was I supposed to do with that?
My parents continued to be unsympathetic to my plight. “You’ll figure it out, kid” was the extent of their helpful comments before ruffling my hair (I hate that.) and exiting the room, leaving me to sit there, trying to figure out what I’d do next.
I sat there for a good while, until I heard a low hum and looked up to see my familiar, my black-furred cat Max, sailing past, riding the Roomba as if he were a pro. He looked happy, which I suppose was good for him, but I was still grounded, figuratively if not literally.
I did what any teenager would do in these trying circumstances – I pulled out my phone and drowned my sorrows in the latest wave of social media. When I looked up an indeterminate time later to see Max sailing past again, I huffed in exasperation and put away my phone.
Stronger things were needed.
I pulled my phone back out and texted my circle of friends, who were also my Circle for magick and soon enough, Shari, Toby, Marianne, and Bobby were in my room, commiserating with my pain.
Or at least some of them were.
“Hey, you should be glad they got rid of that old Hoover!” blonde-haired, blue-eyed Toby said, running a covetous finger over the protesting Roomba that he’d picked up from its never-ending trail, before setting it back down and letting it travel on its way. I could have sworn I heard a grumble in its battery-powered works, but I couldn’t be sure.
“Well, I’m not,” I replied firmly. “I loved that old Hoover. Had it since I was a kid. We were used to each other.”
“We’ll help you get it back,” Marianne replied, flouncing her long spiral curls, making them shake over the dark brown skin of her bare shoulder. “It shouldn’t be too hard to track down. Your parents only gave it to the charity shop yesterday.”
“Let’s go!” Bobby said, his brown hair bouncing as he did, his equally brown eyes flashing his excitement, always up for a lark, no matter how nonsensical it was to the rest of the world. Somehow it had always felt right that he rode a sturdy sea-green canister upright when we were out flying. “Race you!”
Even quiet Shari, her of the golden-blonde hair, who somehow made an outright canister vac work for her and had a tame fox as her Familiar, as unusual as the choice of steed she rode and magickal Companion she chose, even she silently reached out and touched my hand in solidarity.
We all tumbled down the stairs and out of doors like we were eight, instead of fifteen, and headed off down the street to the shop, confident we’d find it.
And we did, but I almost wished we hadn’t. Because it was nothing like it had been before. Lifeless, it just lay there in my hands as the shopkeeper explained.
“Sorry, kid,” the round, balding man said with genuine regret, “but we strip the magick off when they come in.” He gestured towards the world outside the plate-glass window of his shop. “Don’t want people who don’t know what they’re doing to hurt themselves, ya know?”
“Yeah,” I said. I really did – I’d seen what happened when non-magickal people used tools they didn’t really know how to use – it wasn’t pretty.
“So,” he asked more softly. “Do you still want the Hoover?”
“Yes, I do.” My friends looked at me like I was crazy. “You never know – I might be able to get the spells back on it.”
“Good luck, kid,” the shopkeeper said as he took my money, giving me a steep discount on the price. “I hope you make it happen.”
“Thanks,” I said politely in return. “I hope I do too.”
We got the Hoover back to my place and upstairs without any problems. My parents were out, so they didn’t see us coming back, and didn’t need to know what we were up to.
The problems started when I was sitting there in the Circle, pleading with my Hoover to come back and be the half-transportation, half-inanimate-Familiar that it had always been. The more I tried to force the spells back on it, the more they slid and fought, until with a minor explosion, they vanished completely.
Unfortunately, the parents that appeared in my doorway a few moments later did nothing of the kind. They took one look at me, dishelved and slightly smoky from the explosion, took another at my friends sitting around me with expressions of various levels of guilt on their faces, and addressed my friends.
“You all go on home now,” they said in no uncertain terms. “We need to speak with our son.”
My friends took no time to follow my parents command. With varying expressions of support and regret, they quickly got up and exited the room, with as much haste as before, if not with as much excitement.
When the room was empty except for me and them, my parents came into the room and squatted down beside me, following the lines of the Circle out of habit.
“Why, son?” my father asked, putting his arm around me.
“You could have been severely hurt, losing control of a spell-series like that,” was my mother’s contribution, reaching out with a light-brown hand to push the hair away from my forehead. “Why would you take such a risk?”
The silence stretched out between us as I struggled to find the words. Finally, “Because I loved that Hoover. I’ve used it since I was a kid. You taught me how to fly on it. And then you just dumped it off in a charity shop, without even asking me if I’d be okay with it. You gave me this Roomba like my Hoover was nothing. Max can use it. Max IS using it. But I can’t. I won’t.” My lip started jutting out and I quickly sucked it back in. Just because I felt like throwing a tantrum right now didn’t mean that I should.
My parents sat back, looked at each other before their gazes turned back to me, as I sat there wondering what the punishment would be and what it would be for – for getting my Hoover back or for trying unauthorized spells in trying to make it come magickally alive again. “We didn’t think you cared that much,” my father said, finally.
That shocked me as much as anything else they might have said. “But I said…” I began.
“Yes, and you say a lot of things when you’re young,” my mother replied. “Goodness knows, we did back when we were your age.” She rolled her eyes at the memories. “But...” She guestured around her. “It’s pretty obvious that you care a great deal for this Hoover.” She looked at my father. “So, I think that we should help you fix it.”
I wanted to roll my eyes at how long it had taken for them to get things that I’d thought were obvious, but didn’t dare. If they would help bring my trusty Hoover back, it was worth any amount of eye-rolling parentalisms. I wouldn’t jepordize this chance for something so small, so petty.
Not that it wasn’t tempting. But part of the Rede is ‘To know’, and in this moment, I knew that silence and stillness were the way to go.
“That would be great,” I told them sincerely. “I would appreciate that a whole lot.”
“Now don’t think this is going to get you out of the conversation about what you did or the punishment for it. This is as much to keep you from doing something else stupid to get it back as anything else,” my father said sternly.
“Thanks, Dad,” I said, this time with a mix of sincerity and sarcasm.
Fortunately for me, he just smiled and patted my knee in manly confederation before turning to my mom.
“Shall we?” he said to her.
“We shall,” she replied, then gestured to me. “Come on, Son. Let’s show you how to animate a vacuum cleaner.”
As I sailed out over the streets a few weeks later – the spell-replacement had only taken a couple of hours, but my punishment lasted for three weeks – no flying of any sort, Roomba, Hoover, or any other vessel, mine or anybody else’s.
I bore it gladly, knowing what awaited me at the end of the time. And when my Mom released my Hoover from the bespelled broom closet she’d kept it in, knowing how I was when faced with temptation, and the two of us flew off to show off to my friends, it was the best feeling ever.
And Max still loved the Roomba. Took it out with me sometimes, which beat having him glue himself to the vacuum bag of my Hoover with every claw like he’d done before.
All in all, a happy ending, and one I was extremely thankful for. My Hoover was back, my parents weren’t mad at me, and Max and the Roomba had become fast magickal friends.
What else could a boy ask for?