Maxine Gottwin has read every conceivable book about the paranormal. She was the proud owner of twenty-seven encyclopedias, with titles such as The Big Book of Monsters, the Occult Guide to Witchcraft, Everyday Exorcisms, and Paranormal Entities From Around the World (and How to be Rid of Them). She'd read them all religiously, cover-to-cover, and wrote meticulous notes beside them, before she then put THOSE notes into her notebook. She grew her own poisonous berries, for Christ's sake.
The council still wouldn't clear her to work as an exterminator.
Max groaned loudly at the scratched-up kitchen table before slumping forward, resting her head against the battered pages of 101 Clever Extermination Tricks (Volume III). It was nearly two am and rent was due in three days. With their combined savings, the quarters under the couch, and the grocery money for next week, they had $87.
When she was little, Max remembered wanting to be a florist/paranormal exterminator (at the same time). It would've been a small-but-charming shop full of dried flowers, and dried powders. She drew it modeled after her house- shelves lined with vials of holy water, pure salt, sticks of chalk blessed by a priest. Talismans would line the walls, small protective charms scattered around $5 necklaces, healing crystals arranged in neat boxes on a table in front of a counter, with books everywhere about exterminating entities.
It started when her grandmother would tell her ghost stories when she worked in the garden and Max would lean back and look up at the plants that towered above her when she was little, plucking off cherry tomatoes and eating them raw (Grandma would occasionally lecture her about having to wash the fruit first, but Max always caught her eating snap peas outside.) Her grandmother told her about planting a clove of garlic to get a head, about cutting up old potatoes and planting them again, and of course about growing poisons.
Maxine learned from a young age the difference between nightshade and hemlock, and how you could eat the blossom of a snap dragon but that boiling the leaves into tea could kill a grown man-- and severely incapacitate an organic specter. She learned to grow Japanese yew and Belladonna, Elderberries and and number of mushrooms, all right alongside her yellow squash and lettuce.
There was only one time she felt fear about those plants, where she nervously tugged at her grandmother's sleeve. She stopped clipping off dead leaves and put down her shears, looking down at Max.
"What if I accidentally eat one, Grandma?" She asked, and pointing at the purple poison berries. "Would it kill me too?"
"Yes, but you're my granddaughter- you're too smart to get them confused. Although, once a little boy did sneak over our fence and ate some nightshade- I caught him quick, though, and after he threw up and had charcoal he was just fine, though his parents still hate me." Max stuck out her tongue.
"Gross, you fed him charcoal?"
"Yes, it usually helps with poison."
"Like, the stuff we put on the grill?"
"No, that's different. I have a bottle in the cabinet I'll show you when we go inside."
"Oh. Okay." She seemed reluctant still, and her grandmother smiled at her.
"You'll be okay, dear-- you're so clever and good, you'll be the best exterminator in the family." At this, Maxine giggled, blushing.
"And a florist?"
"And a florist. Here, we can even plant normal flowers too-- why don't we pick up some sunflower seeds later? The big yellow ones you said you liked? We can grow as many as you like." Max grinned, thanking her and promising she could water them all by herself, worries banished from her mind as she went back to putting tomatoes into her basket.
Maxine sighed, lifting her head and blinking blearily. It was three am, and Jack was stepping out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes before jumping and yelping when he saw her.
"Oh my god! Max, you scared the shit outta me- what're you doing up still?" She blinked slowly, words taking time to form.
"I fell asleep at the table." It wasn't exactly a lie, she zoned out so much she wasn't even sure it wasn't the truth.
"Well... you gotta sleep, alright?" She nodded, and followed him as he lumbered back to bed, and she jumped up and rolled over onto the side, feeling the bed shift as Jack slipped in next to her, and the two shifted for a minute to fit on the twin.
"We need a new bed." She remarked lazily, words almost slurring in her exhaustion.
"Maybe we'll get a job tomorrow. Some ghost terrorizing the city."
"Of course, I still have to pick up more holy water- you think that Catholic Church down the block remembers my face?"
"Or should I-" Jack shushed her, brushing her hair from her face.
"We can figure it out in the morning." She hummed, nodding."
"You're right. Thanks, Jack." He grunted in reply, and she soon felt his chest rising and falling deeply before her eyes finally fell shut, and she fell asleep.