Most of the shops in the dingy arcade were vacant, and I’d almost given up hope when I turned the dogleg. At the very end, under a flickering fluorescent tube, a door sign stated:
“Herman Gottschalk - Cobbler Keys Cut, Shoes and Handbags Repaired and Died”
That couldn’t be right. With a shudder at the misspelling, I referred to the slip my sister had given me. “Mr Gottschalk. Shop 11, Townsend Arcade. He’ll have what you need.”
The name was right, and I guessed Mr Gottschalk couldn’t exactly go public with his other services. I still wasn’t convinced this was the right course of action, but I was desperate. I swallowed my misgivings and opened the door.
A bell jangled and an elderly man with wild grey hair burst out of the backroom, the frayed curtain swinging behind him.
“Yes?” he demanded, directing a frown at my empty hands, “Vot do you vont?”
The strong odour of leather and glue made my eyes water. The counter and shelves were piled with old shoes, spare heels, a few leather jackets. This had to be a mistake.
“Mmm?” he prompted. I jumped and glanced over my shoulder at the door. I might as well ask - then I could bolt back down that arcade.
“My sister gave me your name.” I looked down at the floor. “She heard you make a very reliable . . . potion.”
The man chuckled. “Ahh, d’Love Potion? Yah, dat is my specialty. It is for you, I see. Vot age? Twenty-nine years, nearly thirty?”
My thirtieth birthday was next week.
“How did you know?”
“Ahh, alvays de same, you girls. Vait on God for twenty-nine years, den you get desperate.”
“If you can’t help me -” My face flamed in embarrassment.
“Settle, settle. Ov course I can help you. Come through.” He held the curtain open and waved me toward the backroom.
I stared into its gloomy depths with a feeling of dread.
“Vot you vaiting for? Christmas, huh?”
The man looked older than my grandfather, and my sister's advice had always been trustworthy. I said a quick prayer and followed.
The back room was even grubbier than the shopfront; abandoned shoes and piles of old fabric covered every surface. He swept one pile onto the floor and revealed a stool, then turned to the kitchenette on one wall.
“You sit and votch, okay?” He reached down a brown bottle, “But don’t touch. Potent stuff.”
Unmarked jars lined the shelves above the sink; he opened one and poured its contents into the bottle.
“What was that?” I asked, my hands clenching the wooden stool.
“Ahh, dat is nothing. Distilled water. The rest is vot does the verk.” He retrieved a pair of half-moon glasses from the pocket of his leather apron and perched them on his nose. “You like me to tell you vot goes in?”
“Yes, please.” I would do anything to soften Simon’s heart toward me ... but I had to take some responsibility for what he’d be imbibing.
“Dis young man - he knows you?”
I snorted. “We’ve been in the same church for ten years, not that his interest goes beyond what I’ve brought for fellowship supper. I want his eyes opened so he can see how perfect I am for him.”
Mr Gottschalk nodded and selected a small jar. “Ten years, huh? Ve need something especially strong. Dis is crushed rose petals - for love.” He opened it and measured out a tablespoon. He began to replace the lid then muttered “Ten years!” and tossed in another heaped scoop.
“And dis,” he reached down a narrow necked bottle, “is olive oil - for joy. ”
Excellent, I thought as I watched him add ten drops and imagined Simon’s brilliant blue eyes softening with joy when he really saw me for the first time.
“And ve vont peace, don’t ve? For dat I got chamomile.” He took three pinches from a white canister and replaced it on the shelf.
A small vial was next. “Lavender oil. For patience.” Mr Gottschalk glanced over his shoulder, “Because all of us have faults dat need bearing with.”
True enough. I knew Simon was the only man in the world for me, but perhaps I mightn’t be perfect enough for him ...
After a few minutes scrabbling under the sink, Mr Gottschalk appeared with a mortar and pestle. In this he ground seven vanilla beans with great vigour, then made a funnel from a coffee filter and poured them into the bottle. “That vill dissolve into some goodness, kindness and gentleness.”
“Thank you!” I rubbed my hands together. Simon had a smile that made me go weak at the knees, but I wouldn’t have described his strengths as kindness, gentleness or even goodness. This was going to be great.
“And to finish vith, rosemary for faithfulness and self control.” I was relieved to see the old man add about half a cup. Simon’s sparkling personality attracted every young woman who crossed his path and he delighted in their admiration. I’d been a little worried that might be stiff competition.
Mr Gottschalk swirled the contents of the bottle for a few moments before holding it under my nose. I gasped when the strong scent hit the back of my throat.
“Um, will I be able to disguise the taste of that in Simon’s coffee?”
His bushy eyebrows raised and he looked at me over the rim of his glasses. “No! Dis potion is for you to drink.”
“Oh.” It must work with pheromones or something to attract him to me, I decided.
Mr Gottschalk handed me the bottle inside a paper bag, but waved away my attempts to pay. “Invite me to the vedding, dat vill be enough!”
~ o O o ~
That evening I parked behind the church and pulled out the bottle. Scrawled on the label were its ingredients: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. I couldn’t wait to see their effect on Simon.
The liquid was hard to swallow but after I forced it down a warm glow spread through me. I leapt from the car, keen to find him.
A car parked beside me and I waved when Pete Marsden hopped out. He was a shy, geeky guy, but I’d known him since we’d been in crèche together. He opened the passenger door for his grandmother, but she waved him off, insisting he carrying the food inside first. When he began his first trip toward the hall, Mrs Marsden eased herself onto her feet, wincing as she straightened.
“Here, let me help.” I rushed over and slid my hand under her bony arm, and took as much of her weight as I could as we hobbled toward the church. I’d never spoken much to Mrs Marsden and was surprised to discover what an enchanting lady she was. When Pete called his thanks as he passed on the return journey I said it was my pleasure, and meant it.
I settled Mrs Marsden in a circle of chairs with her cronies just in time to see Pete emerge from the kitchen and head for the door again.
“Still more?” I asked, and fell into step beside him. He laughed, a warm resonant sound that made me look up into his face.
“Yes. Nan can’t get about much,” his brown eyes twinkled, and I noticed the dimples in his cheeks as he smiled, “but she sure can cook up a storm.”
Once we had the platters on the kitchen bench, Pete started buttering scones. “Nan takes such a lot of pride in them that I want to make sure they’re done nicely,” he explained a little sheepishly. “But you go on out. It sounds like the meeting is beginning.”
I shook my head and picked up the jam spoon, and added a lavish topping to each buttered scone. Everyone else had left the kitchen but I had no desire to desert Pete - not even when I heard Simon’s voice outside the door. Slow, steady Pete who always worked behind the scenes at church was turning out to be nicer company than I could’ve thought.
There were two cans of whipped cream and we competed to see who could make the most extravagant spiral atop each of his grandmother’s scones. My can ran short with just one scone left so I shook it vigorously. Then I pressed the nozzle - and spluttered as cream exploded over my face.
There was a throaty chuckle and a firm hand tilted my chin and gentle fingers wiped the cream from my eyes. When I opened them I was staring at Pete, captivated by the dark lock of hair that fell across his forehead and by the sudden appreciation of everything I already knew about this wonderful man.
My epiphany must have shown in my expression, because as Pete used his hanky to clean off the rest of the cream he told me how he’d cared for me since we were twelve but thought I hardly knew he existed.
My heart turned over as I smiled at him. Now I knew why Mr Gottschalk had insisted I needed to drink the ingredients in that potion. And I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I could send him that wedding invitation.
~ The End ~
© R. L. Brown 2006
Okay, this is a light’n’fluffy one that’s not really intended to be taken too seriously (it is the product of another writing group exercise)but somehow I can't help myself pointing out a mild underlying meaning in there, too.
Do you recognise the ingredients of the Love Potion? They are the fruit of the Spirit as given in Galatians 5:22 & 23. “But the fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.”
If a person is a true believer in Christ, their lives will give evidence of their conversion by the “fruit” of their faith - the spiritual graces which every Christian will demonstrate in an increasing measure as they mature. Of course these things aren’t obtained by imbibing some magic potion - they come by God’s grace, through the believer dwelling in Christ by studying God’s word, seeking him in prayer and being encouraged through fellowship with other believers.
The girl in this story believed that true love would come if only she could change the other person. In the end, she does find true love - but it is she who had to be changed first.
Ahhh, romantic fluff - but good to muse on since we can be so quick to see what needs to be changed in others, and slow to recognise what needs to be changed in ourselves.
Now if only I could find some of that potion … *grin*