“I don’t really know.”
“What’s it for?”
“Then who’s gonna buy the feckin thing?”
Calliope finally looked up from the strange carving on her workbench to carefully observe the man in front of her. Todd was slightly more than his usual disheveled. He had the standard indented rings around his eyes, proving he was taking a break from his soldering tasks and accompanying goggles. He was one of the older artists in the shop, had joined back when the housed artists could be counted on one hand. She actually liked the slow talker, with his growing streak of gray among his black beard, but she didn’t like how often he enjoyed a chat between work.
“What can I do for ya, Todd?”
“Oh you know, just strutting through the shop. Just seeing if any kiddos like you need any help. Which it looks like you might- you get that thing approved?”
She sighed inwardly, trying not to purse her lips. She would like to mutter something snarky, force him away from her corner haven. But then she noticed he’d taken off his gloves, was fiddling with his wedding ring. His wife was about to leave him. She set down her hook-knife.
Forcing her eyes to brighten, she smiled up at him.
“Leo said I could give it a go, see how it turned out. Since my little side tables did so well, I’ve got a bit more leash to try something new. What do ya think of it?”
“That’s exciting!” Todd smiled, circling the piece. Calliope couldn’t help but be pleased with the obvious pride he had for her. “I’m assuming something so complex- you’ll give it a basic color?”
“Yeah,” Calliope answered, standing to circle with him, “I was thinking black.”
“Think I should go brown?”
“No no,” Todd leaned in to study the side she’d begun to detail, “I think black will be great.”
Then he fell into a weighted quiet.
The ever-present buzz of the warehouse continued around them: Saws on redwood for benches, glassworkers tapping on blowpipes, an undistinguishable metal-on-metal clink, the occasional string of curses. Calliope loved the sounds of Sunrise Workshop. It quieted the ones in her head. This large space had become her home away from home- where she could bring the shapes in her sketchbooks to life, and people actually bought them! No more hunting commissions for her; the people of L.A. knew where to get their fancy wares (and so did anyone willing to pay a limb for shipping). The companionship of fellow big-piece artists was a huge plus. Though she’d been wary to befriend them, there was simply an involuntary kinship built when you occasionally had to help lift a twenty-foot fountain, or tighten a hinge while three people hold a cabinet aloft.
But she could tell, these sounds were not soothing her friend today.
“What do you really want to talk about, Todd?”
He began to fidget with his ring again.
“Well, I uh, I don’t want to bother you, hun.”
You’ve already kinda bothered me. But instead, “It’s alright, tell me what’s up.”
Well. It was always this way. They couldn’t ever get it out of their mouths with the first try. When she first started her work, she would finish the sentence for them. But through experience and a bit of mentorship, Calliope now knew better.
“Well?” she echoed.
“I’ve heard some… some rumors.”
Calliope nodded, but a little bit of ice rode with her tone. “Rumors can be either good or bad. I’ve heard lots of both. Which ones are you referring to?”
“The, um.. the good ones. All the ones I’ve heard are good ones…” His eyes darted towards her odd construction. But when he met her eyes again, they were full of confidence, completely absent of doubt or fear.
Then it all came pouring out of him. “I know you can do things, Cali. I know you’ve seen outside our little… scope I guess. The others talk all the time about your mini-miracles, your saving graces. Now I’m a good Christian- church every Sunday, faith supper every Wednesday. But I also know the Lord let Lilith go- and He had His reasons. So if the Lord can risk it, so can I. I know we’re friends, and so it’s rude to put you on the spot, but at this point… any help I can get is more than plenty.”
Calliope was quiet for a long moment, considering. She never took even the smallest tasking on lightly, which was in honor to her sister.
Because of course, Calliope was born a twin. Twins were naturally gifted in odd ways. Pair that with a female’s natural connection to Mother Earth, and one can hardly blame the stereotypes.
And for good reason- most female twins, are born witches.
Not all were practicing. In fact, Calliope’s own sister had given up the study to pursue other careers. She did offer for Calliope to draw power from their connection whenever it was needed, as she would not be using it herself. All she’d asked in return was a warning before anything too draining.
Which was all well in good, but did leave Calliope on her own for the deeper research. And it left her here, with lost sinners drawn towards her for desperate answers.
She sighed. Todd was a good friend. He’d helped her lots of times. She should honor that, too.
“Do you… do you want you wife to feel the pain you’re feeling?”
“No!” Todd shook his head, violently upset by the inclination, “no Shelly’s a good woman! I didn’t mean to-”
“Alright, alright,” Caroline took off her gloves, hiding a satisfied smile as she set them down. She’d need bare hands to better navigate the field around her and to comfort Todd with true touch.
“I just,” Todd started, “I just want a few answers. Like why. What do I do now. Could I have done any better.”
A good friend indeed, a good man.
It was any easy brew for her. The only part that was difficult, was who she handed it to. There was a short stab of cold in her throat telling her this was just the beginning of Todd’s worries.
It was her job to lesson such a blow. The age-old cursing the earth while begging it for more.
She searched her bag’s hidden pockets for lavender, chamomile, and a dried lemon. Then she pulled a small thin candle from her bag, already painted silver with markings of hope and guidance around the wick.
“You’ve got a outdoor grill, Todd?”
“Yes ma’am. What’s that do with-”
“Charcoal or gas?”
“Well I did love my little charcoal one, but you know for my birthday last year the kids got me one of those big fancy things with the-”
“With the gas.”
“Yeah, yeah, just flip a switch.”
“Alright, tea with these, drink a cup tonight” she shook the herbs, “And cook y’all’s next family dinner on the grill. Turn the gas on, DON’T flip the switch, use this,” she held up the candle, “to light the burners. Be careful.”
He nodded vigorously. She reached to her regular work bench for a wool tie, and pulled the pieces together.
“This will not heal your wounds,” she muttered to her friend, brushing her palm against his as she gave him the bundle, “but it will provide a bit of direction, and ease your passing along the next leg in your journey.”
She held him still for just a moment, let the reverence seep into her breath. The tools were useful, but just as in her other trade, it was more the wielder that created. In the shifting of the spell from her hand to his, she felt her sister. Thanked her. Prayed for her. Promised to call again soon. Then she pulled back, blinking away the glittering lights in her vision.
“Th-thank you,” Todd stuttered, “how much do I owe you?”
Calliope could not bear to put payments on her calling. Her other, more practical, creations covered all her expenses, and then some. So if Moses could part the Red Sea for free, she felt she could do a few favors at-cost.
“Just… just tell me what you think about this,” she gestured to the work bench. The piece they’d discussed earlier still waiting for her returned attention.
“No, really, hun I want to-”
“It feels like I’m missing something. What is it?” She offered, “perhaps some ornamentation for the top, or more color?”
Finally, Todd mumbled.
“What was that?” Calliope grinned.
“Seems like you’d want a small contrast somewhere.”
“Sure, sure. Maybe the feet? Or the tusks?”
“The tusks,” he nodded, shifting from the laid back father of four to the artist, “white, true white like real tusks.”
Calliope liked the idea, had considered it herself, but “do you think there will be any pushback from the animal-rights people?”
“Nope- not if you do it right. If you can make it as close to looking like real ivory as possible, you’ll help prove the aesthetic can be done without the damn hunting.”
“I like that idea, Todd. Thank you.”
“Sure thing, doll!” and the father figure was back, “Back to my station- making those custom light fixtures Leo talked the hotel into.”
He trundled away, and Calliope hoped his coming woes wouldn’t dent his spirit too much.
Then she made a note to herself. When she got home, she’d light another candle. This one for her sweet sister, all the way on the other coast. Then she’d call, see how The Swan was treating her, if there were any new fun bar stories.
And with that, the strange woodworker went back to her tools.
Create (verb): 1. Bring (something) into existence. 2. Cause (something) to happen as a result of one’s actions. 3. (of an actor) originate (a role) by playing a character for the first time.
Create. It’s a scary word. It seems simple enough- just 6 letters, and mostly phonetic. But it can get lots of people up in arms, real quick.
I like playing with it. Most artist do, really. Creating is not only what we produce on a page or canvas, but the birth of what has inspired us.
But it doesn’t have to be so heavy! Sometimes it’s just a simple spell! Or a simple shelf!* I recently was listening to a podcast that was discussing an interesting idea: we are losing our hobbies, because as a society we are attempting to monetize our passions. Do you make awesome stew? Drop that 9-to-5, be a chef! Awesome origami? To Etsy with you! And this can be awesome and perfect for so many people. But for others, it’s okay to create to just… do it, you know?
That’s the thought I started with. And I wondered who the most unlikely type of person to do just for the sake of doing would be. What if a witch gave up the sacrificial payment? What if, instead of a first born, or your soul, or a two-faced trade, she was something else by trade, and a witch by hobby?
So meet Calliope. She’s been around a while, so I thought it was finally time to introduce her 😉
*I’m trying to build a shelf, it is not actually simple, but you get my point