If you asked Abigail Sprocket who her favorite dog-walking client was, she’d say “the probably witch”. Abigail, at the too-young age of nine, walked people’s dogs. It’s all she ever wanted to do. And she was almost certain that one of them was a witch; one of the clients, not one of the dogs.
You’re probably wondering why Abigail thought this about her client, whose name was Ms. Francis Broom.
Her name alone was a sign of Ms. Broom’s witch-hood, but that was not Abigail’s first suspicion.
Her initial suspicion came when Abigail first attempted to walk Ms. Broom’s dog, named Cat. The dog’s name was Cat.
“Hello, Ms. Broom?” Abigail called out after knocking a few times on Ms. Broom’s front door. “I’m here to walk your dog?”
When Abigail realized she said this in question form, she questioned it herself, so she tried again.
“I mean, I am most certainly here to walk your dog!”
And just as she finished, the door flung open, seemingly on its own until Abigail realized that a very small, very beautiful woman stood in the shadows.
“Well, now that we’ve got that settled,” said the woman dryly, “Cat’s in the kitchen and the leash is on the banister”.
“Hi, Ms. Broom,” she said. “I’m Abigail...wait…did you say cat? I’m a dog walker. I’m here to walk your dog.”
“I know that. Cat is in the kitchen. And step to it because you’re already late and I need to stretch my legs.”
“You’re coming on the walk? Also, I’m not late,” said Abigail.
“I’m on moon time, dear,” said Ms. Broom, “and according to the moon you are late. Enough of this! Cat’s in the kitchen.”
“But I’m not here to walk your cat,” said Abigail.
“Yes, you are! Don’t play dumb with me,” said Ms. Broom.
“I’m not dumb!” said Abigail.
“I never said you were dumb, little lady. I said not to play dumb. And the fact that you think those two things are one and the same means you just might be dumb, because the dumb ones are incapable of playing dumb. It’s like a lion.”
“What is?” Abigail asked.
“A lion,” continued Ms. Broom, “cannot play lion because it is already a lion. So it must be a lion. A lion can play tiger, but that is a silly game for a lion to play since they are so similar.”
“Ok,” Abigail said, “but those are still cats and—“
“And yes, you’re here to walk the dog!” finished Ms. Broom.
A series of events took place next that gave Abigail her first suspicion that Ms. Broom was a witch. It’s hard to say what specifically led to the suspicion because they happened almost simultaneously.
Abigail opened her mouth to ask another question but her breath was literally swept from her tongue and she stood in the doorway speechless, with her mouth agape, while Ms. Broom gave her an icy stare. The stare made her shiver as if she had been dunked in cold water, and the yard gate behind her swung open even though it had been latched closed.
“I’m afraid you’ve spoiled my appetite, young lady,” said Ms. Broom and Abigail’s ability to speak returned.
“Your appetite for what?” asked Abigail.
“My appetite for a walk.”
“I’m sorry,” said Abigail.
“Now, if you’ll please come back tomorrow, we can try again. And tomorrow, try not to embarrass my dog.”
“How did I embarrass your dog?” asked Abigail.
“Today you refused to walk him because his name happens to be Cat.”
And Ms. Broom spun around quickly, not giving Abigail a chance to respond as the door to the house closed itself.
Abigail was shocked by the whole experience. And even more than the supernatural events that took place, she was bothered by how rude Ms. Broom had been.
All that Abigail could say as she exited the yard was, “What a witch!”
The next day, and in turn the next few weeks and months went much smoother with Ms. Broom. After getting around the whole dog-named-Cat thing, there wasn’t much trouble. The two of them actually became friends, which made Abigail think that her initial rudeness had been a façade.
Every day Abigail, Ms. Broom, and Cat went for a long walk. Cat turned out to be a very friendly sheep dog that actually behaved more like a squirrel.
And every day Ms. Broom revealed something new about herself that gave Abigail reason to believe she was a witch.
For example, one day on their walk, Abigail asked a question that she had been wanting to ask since day two with Ms. Broom, but hadn’t yet worked up the courage.
“Ms. Broom, why is your dog named Cat?”
“Well,” said Ms. Broom, “the others like me all have cats. They say it is unfitting for one of us to have a dog. But I am a dog person! I don’t like cats and so, as a loophole, I named my dog Cat so they couldn’t say anything.”
“The others?” asked Abigail.
“Yes. The other wi…the other women who are my sisters.”
“How many sisters do you have?” asked Abigail.
“Oh, a few thousand,” answered Ms. Broom.
Abigail never found out with certainty whether or not Ms. Broom was a real witch or not. If she was, she certainly didn’t like being a witch. Ms. Broom often complained that her “sisters” wanted her to dislike children more, or that they didn’t think she was aging properly.
“But, Ms. Broom, I think you’re very pretty.”
“I know!” said Ms. Broom, “I never hear the end of it from my sisters. ‘Inappropriate’, they say, for a woman my age to look the way I do”.
“But how old are you?” asked Abigail.
“One-hundred and twelve. I’m still young! What do they expect?”
Eventually Abigail worked up the courage to ask her friend the big question. She did it, though, with some care.
“Ms. Broom, you seem to have special powers, is that true?”
“Yes, I suppose,” Ms. Broom replied.
“And you don’t have any sort of job or profession that I can tell, right?”
“I choose not to, but yes that’s true,” said Ms. Broom.
“Are you a witch?” asked Abigail abruptly, and as she did, Ms. Broom and Cat both stopped walking and looked at her silently for a few moments.
“Well, Abigail,” said Ms. Broom, “since we have become good friends over the past few months, I think it is only fair that I tell you the truth.” Abigail’s eyes widened. “And the truth is, I’m not allowed to tell you.”
Yes. If you asked Abigail Sprocket who her favorite dog-walking client was, she’d definitely say “the probably witch”.