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They say Babbette’s Waffle Place is where the magic happens. Perhaps this is because of the way the tiny restaurant, barely the size of a small storage room appears to expand when new customers arrive. Or could it be something they put in their hot chocolate that makes it by far the best in the city?
One night these rumors reached a young man’s ears and he decided to try it out. He sat at the bar and waited his turn to order. His mouth watered as he watched the waffle lady fill the pockets with butterscotch and sliced fruit. Waiting impatiently, he glanced at the menu and something caught his attention.
The menu at Babbette’s looks like this, written in colored chalk:
“Has anyone ever ordered the love potion?” he asked the waffle maker, half serious, as she prepared his order.
“As a matter of fact, yes,” she replied, her eyes following the swirl of hot fudge she was drawing with precision.
He sipped the hot chocolate too quickly and burned his tongue. “Really?”
“What does it do?” he asked. “What’s it made of?”
She smiled mysteriously. “That’s for me to know, and you to pay to find out.”
He leaned back, disappointed. “Perhaps just the story then?”
She shrugged. “At your own risk.”
“I’ll buy you a waffle.”
She gave him an incredulous look, then considered it, and said, “Sure.” She coiled a layer of whipped cream onto a waffle and placed it in front of him. “I get off shift in five minutes. Wait right here.”
He watched her work while he ate, each bite stickier than the last. Although he was anxious to hear the story, he was quickly distracted by the list of “Frequent Answers” scrawled on a chalk board on the wall. Some of the answers were obvious, like “Twelve pm to One am,” “No, there is no bathroom upstairs,” “With your hands, like pizza” and “No, but there are wipes.” Some were vague such as “Yes,” “No,” “Only on Mondays” and “Maybe, in a zombie apocalypse.”
He was still wondering what question had received that answer when the waffle lady took the barstool next to him. “Are you ready for this?” she asked, grinning widely.
“Definitely,” he replied.
“It’s not for the faint of heart.”
“You have nothing to worry about,” he declared.
“You brought it on yourself,” she said. “I’ll have the banana cream.”
“You still eat these –”
“Did you not read the board? What do you think ‘Yes, we still eat chocolate’ was an answer to?”
He shrugged. “So, the love potion.”
“As you can see,” she began, “Not just anyone can order the love potion.”
“It’s far out of my price range,” he agreed.
“Do not interrupt with redundant comments, please,” she said. “Anyway, most people think it’s a joke. But there are a few individuals out there who are desperate enough to believe anything.
“One night a fellow a bit younger than you came in here and asked for the love potion. Inside his coat he had ten thousand shekels in cash. He was having trouble finding love because of a twitch above his left eye which made people feel uncomfortable.
‘Are you sure about this?’ I had asked him, because love potions are not to be taken lightly. He nodded and handed me the pile of bills. I took it directly to the safe and then led him upstairs.
‘Is there a –’
‘No, there’s no bathroom upstairs,’ I groaned. I’d been asked that eighteen times over the past hour. It was before we had the frequent answers board.
“The secret love potion starter is brewed in a cast iron cauldron which we keep over the fire behind a curtain. Don’t worry, it’s an electric fire. I prepared him a batch by adding some fudge, butterscotch, sugar powder and vanilla to the starter, bringing the cauldron to a boil and then pouring it into a small glass bottle. By law all love potions must be sold in a bottle sealed with wax – so I sealed it and handed it to him.
‘One teaspoon should do the trick,’ I told him, but I’m not sure he heard me because he left in such a rush.
Three days later – that’s how powerful the potion is – he returned here and demanded to speak to me. I made him wait until I was finished working and then we went upstairs.
‘This is a curse you have given me,’ he said, trembling with anger.
I shook my head. ‘Sir, I assure you I had no intention of cursing you.’
‘You’ve cursed me!’ he barked’ glaring at me. I was afraid. I moved closer to the door.
‘What’s wrong?’ I asked apprehensively.
‘What’s wrong?’ he echoed mockingly. ‘I’ve got women falling all over me.’
‘But isn’t that what you wanted?’ I mumbled.
‘Not like this!’ he exclaimed. ‘They’re fighting over me! One almost killed another just a few hours ago! I don’t know why this is happening and I don’t know what to do. So why don’t you tell me.’
He sat down and folded his arms and waited for me to speak. I stared at him open mouthed and tried to think quickly. I had never sold the love potion before, and I had no knowledge of any cases like his. The only thing I could think of was an incorrect dosage.
‘Did you take one teaspoon as I instructed?’ I whispered.
‘Yes,’ he replied.
‘Did you take it again?’
He looked up at me accusingly. ‘Why, yes, I did. What difference does that make?’
I closed my eyes and shook my head. ‘How many times did you take it?’
The man shrugged. ‘I took the whole bottle.’
‘The whole bottle!’ I cried. ‘Have you lost your mind? The power of the potion increases exponentially with each additional dose! If my calculations are correct –’ I quickly did the math in my head – ‘the potion is affecting you at 128 times its strength!’
His eyes widened and he grabbed his own throat as if choking on the potion. I waited for him to blame me for his mistake, but instead he hit himself on the head and closed his eyes.
‘I was enjoying the attention I got from the first teaspoon,’ he muttered. ‘So I figured it couldn’t hurt to take more.’
I nodded. ‘An easy mistake to make.’ Not. What at idiot.
‘What do I do now?’ he asked desperately.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied. ‘There’s no antidote that I know of. The only option I’ve ever heard of is to change your appearance.’
He sat silently for a long time. There was nothing I could to do help him, so I just waited for him to leave. After a while, he did. And I’ve never seen him since.”
The waffle lady finished her story and started working on her waffle.
“You know what,” said the young man, “I don’t buy it.”
The waffle lady eyed him skeptically.
“I don’t believe this love potion is real,” he clarified.
The waffle lady grinned. “Fine,” she said with a mouthful of food, “I’ll take it right now and we’ll see if you can resist me.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I don’t know if I could resist you without the aid of the potion,” he grinned.
She laughed. “We’ll see about that.” She scribbled her phone number on a piece of cardboard and he slipped it into his pocket.
“Goodbye,” he said, and just as he was leaving, she noticed a twitch above his left eye, and felt foolish for thinking him an idiot.
© 2011 Liora Sophie
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