Practice Makes Perfect
Practice Makes Perfect
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“Being a vampire really sucks,” Willow thought biting into the postman. Mr. Lightfoot’s neck was sunburned and rather leathery.
“What will happen to our post? If the Royal Mail’s replacement can’t find our address, I’ll never find out who won the children’s poetry competition! This year I stand a really good chance of being in the top three!”
Willow complained to her mother Alice. It was most inconsiderate dishing up Mr. Lightfoot.
“Poetry? By all that is sinister and evil, please tell me you’re not writing poetry? I blame you for this!”
Alice shot an angry glance at her husband Dylan.
“Darling, being married to a musician has advantages and disadvantages. I warned you this might happen when we got engaged. Who won last year’s competition, my princess?” Mr. Band ran his fingers through his daughter’s soft brown hair.
Henderson, who else? The school swot is bound to walk away with this year’s first prize, too. She wins everything in sight, thanks to her dad being best friends with the headmaster.”
Willow helped herself to a slice of cured meat, which her mother held out to her on a silver platter. “Hmmm, smells great, Mum.”
“Go on, take another slice. I used sandalwood, cinnamon and cloves. Left him in the smokehouse for 72 hours. The vicar’s absolutely delicious, don’t you think?”
Alice heaped more cured vicar and lettuce onto her daughter’s plate.
Willow contemplated the remains of Mr. Wilberforce, late vicar of the parish Stinkforth-upon-Avon. Being a vampire really sucked sometimes. The vicar had cycled past their house on his way to church every week.
Willow had liked the young man, even though he had tried to lure her into his Sunday school once. She forgave him for this tasteless joke, however, when he introduced her to a local reading group giving out free children’s books. Now she’d have to use Stinkforth village library again. The librarian always tried to fondle her cheek or pull her pigtails when she handed him her books and library card.
Willow helped herself to another slice from the silver platter. She might as well show reverence where it was due.
“No daughter of mine writes poetry! You should be out practicing your hunting skills instead of brooding in your stuffy room. Go out, enjoy your summer holidays.”
Alice was still grumbling when she cleared the dinner table half an hour later.
“Let her be, babe! Who knows, she might start writing song lyrics one of these days. We could be a singer-songwriter duo. Perhaps we’ll record a CD at the local studio! I don’t think they’d play our songs on Radio Two somehow, do you princess?” Dylan giggled reaching for his guitar.
“They might play our songs on MTV, Dad!”
Willow burst out laughing. Her mother threw a tea towel at her and
Willow escaped through the backdoor into the garden.
“Practice stalking your prey whilst you’re out there! It’s about time you made your first kill.” Her mother shouted after her.
“Being an evil demon really stinks,”
Willow thought and trudged along the muddy path leading away from their isolated house. The moon lit up the fields surrounding their home. She reached the lane and stopped, wondering which direction she should choose for her evening stroll. The fields would be too soggy after this afternoon’s rainstorm. The path was bad enough. She had nearly slipped and fallen by the garden gate. In the distance her sharp eyes caught a glimpse of a flock of geese resting on Mr. Edwards’ meadow. She turned left into the lane and headed for the old hunting lodge.
She liked Mr. Edwards the farmer. In spring he had let her play with the lambs and this summer his wife had shown her the piglets in the barn. Would her parents dish up Mr. Edwards one day, served with new potatoes and parsley sauce?
Willow hoped the Royal Mail would supply them with regular deliveries of meaty postmen. Mr. Edwards could remain safely in his farmhouse instead of staring at her from her mother’s silver platter.
The old hunting lodge was her favourite spot. Rising up before her was a tumbledown house on a hill. Uninhabited for thirty years the house stood forlorn among fruit trees in an overgrown garden. Overlooking the valley and the river the lodge had once been a desirable property. Now the broken windows stared blindly into the darkness, the trees no longer bore fruit and the flowerbeds contained weeds instead of roses.
Willow sat down on a rickety garden bench and listened into the night.
Drip…drip…drip. Raindrops slid of leaves and hit the ground. All around her small furry hunters went about their business catching worms and insects.
Willow’s acute hearing caught a mole digging a new tunnel, an adder heading for a bird’s nest and …approaching footsteps. A rustling noise not ten feet away betrayed an intruder standing by the apple tree.
Willow was on her guard. She sniffed. The man reeked of cigarette smoke and beer.
“Who’s there? State your business!”
Willow jumped up, her claws drawn. Her sudden movement caught the man by surprise and he took a couple of steps backwards.
“Used to live here. My name’s Eddie, I’m seventy-years-old. I’m a released convict. But don’t let that alarm you. Quite harmless these days.” Eddie said pointing at his walking stick. “Got my leg broken when I was inside. Who are you and what are you doin’ in my garden?”
“I live near by. My name’s
Willow, I’m eleven-years-old and I’m a bloodthirsty fiend.”
Willow said and straightened her pigtails. “Why were you in prison?”
“Cause I’m evil or so they said at the time. Killed my wife, see. Long time ago now. A whole lifetime in fact. Only came out of prison this mornin’. Nowhere else to go, see.” Eddie pointed at the bench. “May I sit down? The leg’s causin’ me a bit of bother.”
“You killed your wife? Why? Did she make you jealous or did you want to inherit her money?”
Willow said making room for Eddie on the bench. He sat down heavily. She took in his thinning white hair, shabby coat and second hand trainers.
“Nah, nothin’ so romantic. Always pushin’ me around she was. Always choppin’ up things in the kitchen, busy makin’ her pies for the local pubs she was. Eddie fetch me this…fetch me that. Eddie feed the chickens. Eddie sharpen the knives, clear the feathers off the table, boil them chicken wings so we can have a nice broth for the vicar on Sunday.”
“We had the vicar for dinner tonight.”
Willow said and smiled at Eddie. “So you killed your wife ‘cause she was a nagging old cow?”
“Nah, I killed her ‘cause she was evil. She made me feed those chickens every day, clean out their hen house, sing them to sleep. I nursed them from when they were tiny chicks, all fluffy and yellow. Warm to your skin, when you hold them in your hand. She could have had all the other chickens, just not my Henrietta. Genuine
Leghorn. Used to read Kipling’s poems to her...” Eddie sniffed and wiped his eyes.
“She killed your pet chicken? That’s horrible!”
“I remember it as if it was yesterday! Came home from makin’ a delivery to the Boar’s Head and found Hetty’s feathers all over the kitchen floor. My wife stood there wieldin’ her rollin’ pin, crushin’ the life out of some innocent pastry. Laughin’ her head off, she was. Boastin’ how she’d get at least fifteen pies out of my beloved Hetty. I saw red. Just snapped, I guess. Picked up the meat cleaver and chopped my wife to bits.”
“Well, she deserved it, if you ask me. I can’t abide cruelty to animals. What happened next?”
Willow reached into her pocket and found a couple of toffees. She handed one to Eddie.
“I made use of the pastry. No point lettin’ it go to waste. Sealed the meat in the fryin’ pan, slow cooked it in the oven with onions, mushrooms, white wine and herbs. Meat turned out ever so tender. Rather a surprise if you think about it. She was never tender durin’ her lifetime. Filled up 150 individual meat pies with her. The best day’s business the Boar’s Head has ever seen, I’d wager. The entire village had lunch in the pub that day. Pity the local GP had to find that finger bone in his portion.” Eddie said thoughtfully unwrapping his toffee.
“What a shame, you nearly got away with it. You did the right thing, though. People who kill other people’s pets deserve to die, I reckon.”
“I got the maximum sentence ‘cause I showed no remorse. Evil through and through they said I was. Who’s that judge and jury tellin’ good folks from bad? They’d never lived with my wife. They’d never held those chicks in their hands on a cold winter’s mornin’-”
“It sucks being evil,”
Willow interrupted. “I mean one gets such bad press. I’ve tried becoming a good person, honest. Only last month I resisted shredding Felicity’s gym kit. Even tried to become a vegetarian once.”
Willow shuddered at the memory of biting into a turnip, sucking out its sickly sweet juice. “I just can’t do it.”
“In prison I had a lot of time to think things through. Reckon you’re only evil if you kill good things. Wilhelmina was poison. How could killin’ her be an evil deed? She’d even tried to cheat the old vicar once at a jumble sale. Trustin’ like a child he was. She put grizzle and fat into her pies to boost the meat contents, greedy cow. Made a fortune out of that nice couple runnin’ the White Hart down by the river.”
“The new vicar was just as trusting…”
Willow’s tongue dislodged a morsel of meat, which had got stuck between her long teeth. A picture of Felicity Henderson and her dad flashed up in
Willow’s mind. “Perhaps I could practice being good by eating only bad things?”
“ I reckon you’ve got somethin’ there. Shouldn’t have served my wife as delicious veal pie to the local pub. That was unforgivable. I should have fed that piece of poison to those evil swine runnin’ the laboratory at the bottom of the lane. Testin’ on dogs and cats they are, read it in the paper.”
“They torture defenceless pets at that lab? How disgusting! That’s truly…EVIL.”
Willow shifted in her seat. A thought had struck her. “My mother asked me to practice after dinner…I wonder…you’re not very mobile with that broken leg…but there’s a wheelbarrow by the old shed. Do you think we could make it to the end of the lane in that thing?”
“Reckon we could. What’s on your mind, bloodthirsty little fiend?” Eddie was intrigued.
Willow helped Eddie to hobble to the shed and he let himself fall into the wheelbarrow. Not for the first time
Willow was glad her vampire strength allowed her to carry heavy loads. Usually this meant carrying home a backpack full of books or hurling the school bully over a hedge. On the way back the wheelbarrow would be twice as heavy…
She lifted up the wheelbarrow’s handles and they trundled down the lane. Her gumboots squelched in the mud. The air was cool and fresh after all that rain. A bat flew over their heads. They could feel her wings almost brushing their hair. An owl hooted.
They had reached the end of the lane. The Stinkforth Cosmetics Testing Facility stood brooding in the darkness. A wire fence reared up in front of them. The CCTV camera whirred into action.
“They’ll see us on that thing. There’ll be a guard running out any minute now! The police will be called.” Eddie said nervously.
“No - they won’t be. The guard will look at his monitor and see an old man sitting in a wheelbarrow. An old man with a broken leg…alone…harmless…stuck in the muddy lane.”
A door slammed across the yard. A torchlight and heavy footsteps headed towards them.
“But they’ll see you. They’re scum, they won’t stop at hurtin’ a little girl.”
“I won’t show up on their monitor. Speciality of my family, not having a reflection in mirrors and on monitors.”
“Oh, you mean…you really are a bloodthirsty fiend?” Eddie gasped. “What are you goin’ to do?”
“Being a good person by eating only bad things. Practicing my hunting skills, just as Mum asked. Saving the Royal Mail from training lots of different postmen. By the way Eddie, did you say you liked poetry?”
“Yeah, why? You don’t think you’re goin’ to stop that guard with a recital of Betjeman’s finest, do you?”
“Nah, I’m just going to dish out some poetic justice. Good practice for next year’s poetry competition!”
Willow said without wasting another thought on Felicity Henderson.
Willow’s teeth glinted in the torchlight. She jumped across the fence and hurled herself at the guard. His screams filled the night air. Then there was silence. Drip…drip…drip. Blood drops slid off the guard’s throat and hit the ground.
Eddie had said there were seventy people working at the laboratory. Plenty of hunting practice during the autumn term. Mum will be so pleased,
Willow thought as she deposited the guard into the wheelbarrow. Eddie perched himself on top and they trundled back to the lodge.
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Maria Thermann.
Published on e-Stories.org on 10.11.2009.