The youngest Johnson boy had started dabbling in magic and the news traveled fast. Everyone in the neighborhood was most aghast, most of all Mrs. Johnson, who burst into tears when, upon hearing the rumors, searched her son's room when he'd left for a track meet and found a book of spells and some sage stuffed between his socks.
Well, as soon as Marcus Johnson got home from that track meet - where, by the way, he beat his own personal record for the 400-meter, even though he still didn't place - his mother cornered him in the kitchen and rounded on him.
"Marcus Henry Johnson, explain to me how these," she slammed the spell book and the sage on the counter beside the bread box, "got into my house."
Marcus paled. "Wow, did you find those in Jerry's room?"
His mother crossed her arms. "No, mister. I found them in your room."
Marcus stomped his foot on the floor in a pretty poor attempt at acting angry. "I can't believe he would plant that stuff in my room," he said.
Mrs. Johnson groaned. "I know this is yours, Marcus. That's your handwriting in the margins. Why are you getting into all this? Is there something going on at school you're not telling me about?"
Marcus leaned against the counter so he could unlace his tennis shoes. "No, Mom. Nothing's going on. I don't know. I just..."
"You better be glad it wasn't your father that found this," Mrs. Johnson said. "But did you know the rumors are flying around the neighborhood. People say you've been visiting crossroads at midnight, that you've been cutting twigs from the forest when the moon is full."
Marcus sighed. "I don't know. It's interesting. It's kind of cool."
Mrs. Johnson gasped. "You know what else is cool? Heroin."
"Oh my god, Mom."
Marcus pulled of his shoes and set them by the door. "You can't go to jail for practicing magic. You just don't get invited to dinner parties anymore."
Mrs. Johnson pointed a finger at him. "Because it's wrong, Marcus. It's unnatural. Have you actually done any magic?" "No!"
Mrs. Johnson crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow.
Marcus turned to the sink so he could wash his hands and turn his back on his mother. "Just a few illusion spells. And a levitation spell. But that's it. I definitely didn't try a growth spell on my muscles." He mumbled that last part, but his mother heard it anyway.
Mrs. Johnson's eyes flashed. "You are grounded, young man. We're going through every inch of your room and pulling out every magic book and herb jar and crystal. And it's all going in the trash. Then you're not to leave that room for anything but school and family dinners."
Marcus whirled around, his still-wet hands flinging water. "Mom! It's just floating pencils and stuff. Come on!"
Mrs. Johnson pinched the bridge of her nose. "No, Marcus. I've heard enough. That is my final word. Unless you'd like to continue arguing and then we can talk about if you need to continue track for the rest of the semester."
But when she raised her eyebrows, Marcus decided he'd better keep his mouth shut. Head hanging, he trudged behind his mother to his bedroom, thinking of all the talismans and catching charts she'd find under his bed, how many paychecks from Big Frank's Burgers he'd saved to buy all that stuff. No, it was definitely not looking good for Marcus.
The only thing that kept his spirits up was the thoughts of his hidden staff of stuff beneath the loose floorboards in Jerry's room.