The Skullbroom family has lived in these parts for neigh on two thousand years. We survived, plagues and droughts, wars and floods, but no one knows if we’ll survive this younger generation. They just don’t seem to care as much as us old folks do. We, that is the heads of the Skullbroom family and Flowerdream family, spend most of our time worrying about the future of our little valley. If these kids don’t shape up and learn the family trade, then where would the world be then?
We’ve had conversations like this before. I remember one particularly bad period about six hundred years ago when things were lousy for so long that we didn’t think we’d survive, but we did. People eventually started remembering we were here and what we did for them. All that book learning and fancy artwork didn’t do for them what we could. Eventually the younger generation came around and joined the family business. But I tell you, I just don’t know anymore.
Why just last week, Cacklescreech, came to me and said, “Elder Skullbroom, I’d prefer to be called John Broom now.” Imagine that! Giving up your family name. Well, I put a stop to that! Once a Skullbroom, always a Skullbroom! It’s not just us that’s having problems. Lily Flowerdream was telling me last week that three children from her family ran away to that city down the road. Said they wanted a ‘normal’ life. Hah! Normal! What makes them think our life isn’t normal? We’re here, they’re there, and that’s normal. No, we may not survive if we rely on our younger generation. Which is why Lily and I have decided to take a lesson from the old ways and bring in apprentices.
Two months ago, Lily and I put an advertisement in the local newspaper in the city and had a surprising number of interested people. It’s odd that our children want to move to the city, but the city children want to move here. Not just young people though. No, we had quite a few adults interested too. Although we both decided that training an older person would be far too difficult, so we narrowed it down to five young people each. Last week, we interviewed all ten finalists and picked two of them. One for Lily and one for me. Hopefully, this will show our young people that they are very much wanted by their family, but the family will continue on without them, just as we have for centuries.
Our two families are so entwined, that we decided to kill two birds with one stone and train the apprentices together. The Flowerdream’s work is vital to our success, and normally, I wouldn’t be out there with Lily and her family, but desperate times call for desperate measures and so all four of us were out in the back field where our magic keeps things hidden from the public.
“We grow all the flowers, plants, herbs, and trees for the Skullbrooms,” Lily told the group. “No offense, Blooddancer, but without us they wouldn’t know what to do.”
I snorted so loud I thought my lung had popped out my nose again. Everyone just glared at me with a mixture of disgust, fright, and impatience. I couldn’t help but laugh and shrug my shoulders.
“These are my personal favorites,” Lily said, pointing to a fifteen-row section of purple iron weeds. The two apprentices jotted the name, description, and little picture in their notebook.
“And I,” I said, clearing my throat, “despise those flowers, but they are a key ingredient in the fortuna venereum potion we sell to young men, well young ladies buy it too now and then, but they don’t seem to have problems in that area.
Lily chuckled and blushed.
“What else goes in that potion?” my apprentice asked.
Very smart of him to think about asking. “Well, after crushing up three of the flowers—not the stem, just the flower—I add five toad’s eyes, tongue of a bat—ladies love the tongue if you know how to use it right, spit of a large male grizzly bear, and fresh, warm, yak sperm.”
Lily went bright red and laughed as the two apprentices’ faces contorted with disgust as I read off the list of ingredients. Guess they should be happy one didn’t ask how we make the potion or collect the yak sperm. It can get quite messy.
“Moving on?” Lily asked as soon as she stopped laughing.
We moved on to the next section where the wild grasses grew that went into our famous Skullbroom Personal Safety Formula. No one will bother you after two drops behind the ear. The young ladies just love that one. Probably because all the men buying our luck potion. I don’t know why the two apprentices turned green when I said that potion included fresh turkey vulture vomit. Guess it is an acquired taste.
Section by section, our apprentices reacted the same. Happily jotting things down when Lily would tell them all about the flower and how her family prepares the dirt in that section, how they water it, and feed it, and blah, blah, blah. By the time we reached the fifth section, I remembered why I love Lily, but hate spending time in the field. I was very happy when Cacklescreech, or sorry, John, joined us for the last bit of the tour in the fields. I was anxious to get my apprentice in the lab and show him how to properly create the potions. Even non-magical folk can make them, but we don’t like that to get out. We’d be out of business if it did.
Apparently, the apprentices had had enough by the time we reached the last section. I had just started explaining how we combined blue bells, leprechaun hearts and … I didn’t get any further than that before both apprentices began vomiting everywhere.
“NOT ON THE FLOWERS!” Lily screamed.
“LET ME COLLECT IT!” I screamed, but they just ran off. Well, it was more like leap, leap, hurl, than running.
Lily and I sighed and shook out heads. What were we to do now?
“Looks like the city kids don’t want to help either, John. Maybe our time has come.”
John grinned. He hugged me, then Lily. “Call me Cacklescreech. Sorry, Dad.”
“What changed your mind?” Lily asked.
Cacklescreech laughed, shaking his head. “The city’s nuts, Dad. All they want is money, sex, video games, and no one there knows how to fix a good fried brain or bile soup.”
Lily and I stared at each other in disbelief. Could it really be that bad in the city? What ever happened to the good old days?
This was written for the Worth A Thousand Words #2 photo prompt.