Just So Potions

A writing exercise using the first three lines, courtesy of Samara Wright

“Wait, wait, wait! What are you doing?”

“What? I need to heat up the potion.”

“In the microwave?”

I took a step back from the patiently-waiting microwave and its yawning door, glass cauldron nestled between my festive oven mitts. My mentor/boss/roommate kept telling me my impulsiveness was going to send something up in smoke, but how was I supposed to know the microwave was bad? “It makes things hot.”

She tapped her head against the taped-up target on the refrigerator door. “How do microwaves work?”

“Well, there’s this big electromagnet–”

“That makes…” She waved her hands, encouraging me to keep going.

“That makes things hot.”

She slammed her head on the target again. “That makes electromagnetic waves–radiation. You’re irradiating your potion. That starts this big cascade of photons all throughout the suspension.”

I blinked. “What do you think heat is?”

She rolled her eyes. “Look, trust me. It degrades the magic.”

Plopping the cauldron on the stove burner, I slammed the microwave door closed and put my cheery autumn-leaves fists on my hips. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Trust me.” She pulled out one of her BBQ-length matches and lit the back burner, where the ignitor had given up. Then she extinguished the match with a heart-shaped flourish and re-settled the cauldron over the tiny flames. “Don’t try to physics this.”

“Physics is our best understanding of the mechanisms defining how things work.”

“And magic is our best application. Look, microwaves are sterile. They reach into this empty box and excite water molecules, and they’re reliable and repeatable and lifeless. Magic is all about the life of the thing. It’s all about that swatch of sulfur and methane that alight on your surface tension or whatever. It’s all about how the ash and the dust of the match settle into the brew. If we could just get that damned trash panda out of the chimney, I’d show you what we could do with a real wood fire. Or the fire of burning planner pages and expensive shoes that break on the first wear. Now, that’s magic!”

I threw the cute oven mitts onto the counter. “So, you want something just-so, but not repeatable?”

“Yup.” She winked and swung back out of the kitchen door.

That witch.

Pretending this was all supposed to make sense. Pretending to teach me anything. How was I supposed to learn potion-making if it could never turn out the same twice?