“Hurry up, Boon. We’ll miss the bus!” The long-legged woman hollered over her shoulder at the short-legged creature scurrying behind her.

The cat grumbled as he tried to keep up with the human woman, “Once upon a time I could beat you in a footrace.”

“Those days are long past.” Gracie laughed at the fat gray cat. She slowed down so the creature could catch up with her. She scooped him up with visible effort. “We need to put you on a diet,” she murmured as she hoisted his twenty pound bulk onto her shoulder. She held him securely as she sped up again, racing up the hill.

“Yeah, yeah,” snarled the ill-tempered animal. “Not all of us can retain our youthful shape once we hit middle age, just ask your mother.”

Gracie ignored the cat as she dodged people on the sidewalk. People thought she was strange enough without her proving their point by being overheard talking to her cat. Boon had been in her life since she was twelve but she’d never get used to the idea that no one else could hear the perpetually grouchy cat’s comments.

They were almost at the bus stop when someone shoved Gracie from behind and she stumbled into someone. He snapped at her, “Watch it, you clumsy whore!”

Gracie stepped away from the well-dressed business man, apologizing profusely. He bared his teeth at her before whirling away and getting lost in the wave of people walking away from the bus.

“We’re in the right place,” murmured Boon as he looked around them. Everyone was bickering and picking at each other. It hadn’t erupted into violence but it was only a matter of time.

“We missed the bus. Lady bless it!” cursed Gracie as she stopped her headlong rush and watched the bus pull away. She shook her head. “We’ll never make it to the next stop in time.”

“If you’d get more reliable transportation than an ancient RV we’d have a chance.”

Gracie ignored the cat; she was busy scanning the crowd, her eyes searching for the dangerous plant they were tracking. She didn’t see anything suspicious other than the behavior of the bus passengers.

They were arguing about inconsequential things. Two girls in their tweens were screaming about whose nail polish color was the best. An elderly man with a walker was pushing an office worker out of the way so he could get in front of her despite the fact the girl was at least forty years younger and more able bodied. Two siblings were arguing about which of them loved their mother the most and what they were willing to do to show her that love.

The people who got off the bus were getting out of hand. No one seemed to be able to control their baser emotions. It was a good thing there were only a dozen or so people in the group. Any more than that and someone would be bloodied by now.

“We need to do something before it spreads,” she whispered into Boon’s fur as she hugged the cat closer.

“How can we get the pollen to disperse before these not-so-nice people track it into their homes and places of business and infect others?”

Gracie looked up at the partly cloudy sky. Boon followed her eyes. “No, please Lady, no!” he yowled at her, “Do you know how long it takes for me to dry out?”

“I don’t see any other choice,” said Gracie. “Rain will wash away most of the pollen and it’ll be harmlessly washed down the storm drains.”

Boon glared at her, squirming in her arms until she was forced to put him down on the pavement. “I’m heading home,” he grumbled. “Maybe I can make it before I’m drenched. If not, be prepared to get out the hair dryer.” He scampered off, racing toward the RV parked in the campground at the foot of the hill.

Gracie didn’t watch him; she had other things on her mind. She stepped carefully around the crowd of people. The poisonous effects of the pollen kept people from straying too far from each other. They were too busy fighting to go about their business; this was good news for Gracie.

She walked out of earshot of the bus passengers. She found a patch of grass in the cement divider between the sidewalk and the parking lot of the nearby grocery store. Usually when attempting this sort of magic she’d be somewhere away from prying eyes, within a protective circle and have the trappings of modern magic around her. That was all a luxury she couldn’t afford right now; time was the one thing she didn’t have. She slipped off her shoes, her bare toes digging into the fertile ground. She threw her head back to see the sky. She normally raised her hands up in petition as well but that wasn’t in the cards today. She was trying to maintain a low profile or at least as low as possible for her. She didn’t blend into society on the best of days and today she hadn’t made the effort.

She kept her voice quiet; volume wasn’t the key to success, power and her will were. Gracie concentrated on the fluffy white clouds overhead. She closed her eyes, imagining them pulling more water out of the air and out of the ocean. In her mind’s eye she could see the clouds gathering, growing dark and heavy with moisture. Once she was satisfied with her vision, she murmured out loud, “Hear my call, Great Father. Hear my plead, Great Mother. In your names I call upon the spirits of sky and storm. In your names I plead with the spirits of air and water. Bring your cleansing rains to wash away the heated tempers of your children.”

Before the final words left her lips a drop of rain hit her upturned face. She opened her eyes to find the clouds in her imagination were now above her, their moisture now released upon the world. She smiled and thanked the spirits silently. She slipped her shoes back on and walked away amongst the grumbles of the pedestrians now getting soaked from the rain; none of them realizing how close they came to killing each other.

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