Minerva walked into the Front Street Market and in doing so, walked into the past. The little mom and pop operation opened in the early 1940’s when Jacob Bois and his wife Blanche bought the business from Andrew Flanagan, who decided to move to Boston. The business flourished in its early days and provided a small but sufficient income for the growing family. Thanks to the Boises’ good reputation and commitment to their customers, the business became a fixture of the community and did well, despite the onslaught of chain stores that invaded the small city’s outskirts.
Jacob died in the 70’s due to hardening of the arteries, leaving Blanche and four kids to run the business, which managed to stagger through the 80’s as it transitioned to a new generation. As Minerva looked at the sparse shelves, she could see that the business was waning despite its place in Woonsocket’s community. The low prices of big stores were hard to beat; at least the Front street Market had a niche. They carried fresh produce from the small farms that speckled the country that surrounded Woonsocket.
Blanche, affectionately called Memere Bois by nearly everyone that shopped in the store, sat behind the counter knitting an afghan that she seemed to have been working on since Clinton was president. Her grandson Lucas stood behind the register, thumbing through the graphic novel adaptation of Wulfsmasher and Kingston.
“Is there anything you’re looking for Mrs. Krieg?” asked Lucas, fumbling with his book. He smiled with a goofy grin and leaned on the counter casually.
“Corn and tomatoes. The small orange ones if you have them.”
“The Sun Golds? I’ll take a peek in the store room.”
Lucas tripped over himself as he hurried towards the back. Minerva couldn’t help but smile; he was a sweet boy and he was eager to do a good job. She looked at the book he left on the counter and shook her head at the graphic novel which featured the buxom blonde heroine that August’s Uncle Carl created when he retired from the newspaper business five years ago. The idea of a voluptuous woman and an intelligent gorilla fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by werewolves wasn’t half as absurd as the idea that the heroine was based on Minerva.
“You’re the witch, huh?” asked Memere Bois, looking up from her knitting. There wasn’t anything accusatory in the question, but Minerva felt put on the spot. She didn’t like to refer to herself as a witch, but there were few better words for what she was. Mage seemed pretentious and wizard sounded insane.
“Yes,” admitted Minerva, “I’m a witch.”
“But you wear a cross; I thought witches wore pentagrams.”
“I’m not that kind of witch.” explained Minerva. “I can use magic, but it has nothing to do with my religious choices.”
“Do you think that Petite Rose was a witch?” asked Memere Bois after a thoughtful pause. Her wrinkled fingers worked the yarn deftly, almost mechanically.
Petite Rose was a stigmatic that lived in Woonsocket during the 30’s. A wide array of miracles were attributed to her; despite the Church’s denial of her Sainthood, many of the Canadian-French Catholics in the city revered her as a Saint. Minerva had visited Petite Rose’s grave once and could smell the scent of roses, which was but one of the many signs locals said pointed to Petite Rose’s holiness.
Minerva considered Memere Bois’ question and wondered: where is the line drawn between Saint and sorcerer?
“I don’t think she was,” said Minerva, “but she could have been.”
“Her body showed no signs of corruption. The officials say it did, but I know people that were there. They saw that her body was untouched by decay. The Church officials lied. I don’t know why, but they did.” said Memere Bois.
“Some kind of politics,” said Lucas, as he left the store room with a shallow basket of perfectly round Sun Gold tomatoes in his hands. He put the basket on the counter and offered Minerva a plastic bag.
“Even so, they shouldn’t hide someone that did so much good. Saints encourage people to be their best. You know, when I was young, I dreamed of St. George. He was so handsome; his presence, even though it was just a dream, made me feel stronger. It was after my Father died and the bank wanted to pull the house out from under my Mother. St. George gave me the courage to fight for what was ours.” said Memere Bois.
Minerva left the Front Street Market with more than just tomatoes and corn. She left with a question: was keeping her vow not to use her magic worth it? True, she had misused it at the behest of an evil man, but that was a decade ago. She had the power to make the world a better place. Wasn’t it her duty to use that power?