A short story that I hope you’ll share with some kids this Halloween.
by Stephanie Verni
“I want you to go outside right now and sweep the front walk and driveway!” her stepmother screamed to her. She hadn’t done anything wrong; she never did. Yet she got all the chores while her older stepbrother got away with murder. He was the golden child.
Carrie was putting on her shoes when her stepmother stood over her. “What the heck is taking you so long? Go outside and get it done!”
Carrie looked up at her stepmother, often expecting steam to shoot out of both ears and horns to grow from the top of her head. She was evil, there were no two ways about it, and Carrie wondered what her father saw in that wretched person in the first place. Luckily for her father, he traveled about seventy percent of the time, so he rarely saw her in her raw, uninhibited, malevolent form. She’d thought of telling her father, but then decided against it. They’d only been married for eight months.
“Still here?” her stepmother said as she took the parcels from the car. She had been on a tremendous shopping spree and was carrying all her purchases in to the house. Before she closed the door for good, she turned to Carrie and said, “Don’t even think about coming in this house for dinner until that walk is free of all these leaves. I hate fall. Miserable season. I wish I never had to deal with it again!”
Carrie heard the door slam behind her. Good riddance, she thought. Stay in your stupid house and put all your stupid things away.
She walked over to the shed on the side of the property where all the tools for gardening and lawn work were stored. She saw the broom there, but wondered if she needed a rake to properly do the job. She knew if she didn’t tackle it just the way her stepmother wanted her to, that she probably wouldn’t be fed until her father came home on Friday. It was only Tuesday.
Carrie had just finished reading “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” She had loved it, as she did most books she read. Books were her escape, her way to get away from this place to which she felt no connection and for which she had no affection. How lucky Harry Potter was to learn he had special powers. How great that he was able to find his way in the world. She knew it was fiction, but Harry felt real to her. His struggles felt real to her.
Carrie cocked her head, and stared at the broom. It was old, and looked like what she thought brooms with magic powers would like, whatever that meant. She even laughed to herself at her silly thoughts. Everyone knows brooms don’t have powers. So ridiculous.
Despite her doubts, she kept thinking about it. She walked over to it, examined it, but did not touch it. She kept her two-foot distance from it, but was compelled to continue looking at it.
“Hello, Broom,” she said.
The broom stood still.
“Do you have any magic powers, Broom?” she asked.
The broom did not respond.
“Oh, Broom. If only you could sweep the walkway and driveway for me. If only you could help me.”
The broom kept still and silent.
A big blustery breeze blew and stirred up the leaves on the ground and rustled those that remained on the trees. It smelled like cinnamon and ash and pumpkin. Carrie breathed in the air and remembered her dear mother, who had passed away two years ago in a tragic car accident. She missed her mother, more and more each day, more and more with each passing hour she had to spend with her stepmother. Her heart ached to hear her mother’s voice, smell her hair. She wished that she could see her again.
When Carrie turned around, the broom had left its spot. It was gone.
Carrie looked around the yard, but there was no broom anywhere.
She felt a sudden sense of sadness, as if perhaps she didn’t talk to the broom the right way. This is insane, she thought. Brooms are not human. They cannot talk.
“Think again,” the broom said.
She turned around, and out of the broom grew a head and out of the brush at the bottom grew feet; the stick of the broom grew arms. And soon, it was looking like a person with a broom as a skeleton, only the human aspects to it were transparent.
“What? You ain’t never seen a talking broom before?” the broom asked.
“Uh, can’t say that I have.”
“Well, I’m your fairy broomfather,” he said.
“My fairy broomfather?”
“Did I stutter?” asked the broom.
“No,” Carrie said.
“You get three freakin’ wishes, so make them good.”
“No,” Carrie said, “that’s Aladdin’s story. The genie comes out of the lamp and he gets three wishes.”
“Who the heck is Aladdin? Look, kid, I’m giving you the chance to make three wishes. Take it or leave it. There are a lot of people out there like you needing help. You just happened to look long enough at me to get my attention.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be a nice, supportive fairy broomfather? I mean, isn’t your whole purpose to make people happy and allow them to forget their troubles?”
“Of course, sister, now what’s the first wish?”
Carrie decided to test him.
“I’d like for you to sweep the driveway and the leaves.”
The broom obliged, and took care of it. Within a five minute time span, the leaves were swept into piles and bagged. The bags were placed neatly at the curb. Carrie smiled. It would have taken her all afternoon to accomplish that task, and she may never have been fed for it.
“Done,” the broom said, standing before her. “Now what? Got a second wish?”
“I wish I could have a great meal, full of all the foods I like, and that I could eat it.”
The broom hopped over closer to her and said: “Don’t tell me what foods you want, just think about them in your head. Picture how they look and what they are.”
Carrie closed her eyes and looked and thought. When the broom told her to open them, she did, and the most amazing spread of dinner was made. It was a real treat. Carrie ate and relaxed, and the broom, despite his outward appearance, seemed to enjoy seeing her so happy.
“Well done, Broom,” Carrie said, dabbing the corners of her mouth with the cloth napkins that Broom had provided. “I’m full.”
“Now for wish number three?” the broom asked.
“I really don’t know what to wish for,” Carrie said.
“Come on,” the broom said. “There’s got to be something.”
“Well, there might be…”
The broom got quiet. He stood still. Pretended not to talk.
“Broom?” Carrie asked. He did not respond.
Carrie was puzzled. Why had the broom become frozen standing there?
“What’s all this commotion out here,” she heard her stepmother call as she walked down the driveway toward them.
“Nothing,” Carrie said.
“Nothing?” her stepmother said, looking around. “It sounded like you were talking to someone.”
“Nope,” she said.
The broom winked at Carrie.
“How did you get these leaves done so quickly? Who did you rope into helping you with your chores?”
Her stepmother was standing there in her robe, fuzzy slippers, her hair in rollers. She was a sight to see—absolutely hysterical looking. Carrie swore she saw the broom look her stepmother up and down.
“You lazy, selfish girl. You couldn’t even do the work yourself. What did you do? Send the other kids away? There is no way you got this job done that quickly!”
The broom looked at Carrie, and then at her stepmother. Carrie heard him whisper “Third wish,” and then the broom went ballistic. He started whacking her stepmother, flying around her, whacking her knees, and sweeping her—literally—off her feet. Her stepmother landed on her rump with a thud. Carrie’s eyes grew wide and she put her hand over her mouth. She’d never seen such a sight. When her stepmother got to her feet, the broom sailed over to her stepmother and gave her one final smack on the derriere.
She looked at her stepdaughter terrified.
Carrie took the opportunity to speak. “Please don’t ever treat me badly again. You never know what might happen,” she said.
Her stepmother began to wail and ran back toward the house. The broom was chuckling, and Carrie’s mouth formed the biggest smile the broom had ever seen.