Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PROCRASTINATE (08/04/16)
- TITLE: Apothecary
By Holly Westefeld
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"Good afternoon, Ma'am. I could sure use a glass of water, and would like to tell you about a wonderful salve."
"How 'bout a glass of lemonade?" Why had she said that? All he had asked for was water. She could have given him one of those newfangled Dixie cups, told him she had no need of salve, and sent him on his way.
"That sounds mighty fine, Ma'am!"
"Have a seat. I'll be out in a moment." She wiped her hands on her apron, put two glasses on a tray, and carried it outside, setting it on a table between the rockers on the back porch.
"Thank you kindly, Ma'am."
"I don't need any salve, but you looked like you could use a short rest."
The man took a sip and smiled. "That does hit the spot on a still autumn afternoon. Some of the best I've ever had!"
"I'm sure you've had many "best" cups of lemonade in your travels."
"No, not many. Most people have a poor balance of sugar to lemon, making it too sweet for my liking."
Katherine pulled a fan from her apron pocket. "I am certainly ready for some brisk autumn air."
The man indicated a small wooden chest with straps that rested on his lap, not a peddler's usual canvas pack. "I've never met anyone, though, who doesn't need this salve. It can reduce the thickest callouses to fresh smooth skin, keep wounds from getting infected while helping them heal, and erase even the oldest scars."
"No disrespect intended, sir, but I've heard that before."
The peddler's gaze rested on Katherine's forearm, the loose sleeve fallen to her elbow as she fanned herself, revealing a long jagged scar. She jerked the sleeve back down and stood. "I've tried them all. Nothing helps. I need to get back to work, but there is a woman named Evelyn at Greengate Farm on the other side of town who might be in need of such a salve."
"Many thanks for the lemonade. I will be sure to stop by your friend's farm. If there is sufficient interest, I plan to open an apothecary shop in town. Have a nice day, ma'am."
"You do the same, sir."
Katherine hitched her new horse outside the apothecary, stomping the snow from her boots before stepping inside. No one was in the shop except the man she had seen months ago. There were no shelves of jars, just the same small chest on the counter.
He smiled. "How may I help you, Katherine?"
Had she told him her name? Perhaps Evelyn had, if he had gone to see her.
"I would like to purchase some of your salve. My neighbor, Nancy, said it really helped."
"Didn't she tell you that it is free?"
"She said you didn't charge her, but I can afford to pay, and you have expenses."
"What is troubling you?"
"A bit of a scrape." Katherine pulled her wallet from her coat pocket. "How much for a small jar?"
"I don't have it in jars. I must apply it here, from this supply." He indicated the chest.
"Perhaps I should just go see Doc..."
The door opened. "Good morning, Evelyn."
Evelyn stammered, "I didn't recognize your horse... I'll come back later."
"Please come in, Evelyn. It is past time, and Katherine is ready."
Katherine looked from one to the other in confusion.
"Please take your coats off and rest your arms on the counter.
The women complied, as the man opened the chest out in four directions. Sleeves pushed up, arms adjacent, they saw that their scars were similar, though Evelyn's was even larger.
The man smoothed the crimson salve over both arms simultaneously.
Evelyn's eyes brimmed. "I never meant to impart my wounds to you, Katherine. Please forgive me."
"How did I never see your scar, Mama. I never knew you hurt even more than you hurt me. Yes, I forgive you.
"I'm sorry I waited so long to ask. We have lost so much time."
The man smiled, refolding the cross in to the treasure chest.
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