Kerriann Godwin - Runner up

Competition: Subscriber-only writing for children competition 2017

Kerriann Godwin, originally from Australia, lives by the beach in Dorset. She is a keen blogger and loves nonsense poems and being silly. She is currently undertaking The Writers Bureau Creative Writing Course and is a member of the Hengitsbury Writers Group. This is her first success in a writing competition and she is ‘beyond excited’.

 

Kerriann Godwin

The Knitty Kitty Spell

 

‘Thanks for trying to help me find Paddy-Sack, Jem. Without him I can’t do my spells.’ Granny’s wrinkles grew deep with worry.
‘No problem, Gran, you know I love doing magic. And I’m sure our spell will get Paddy back soon.’
‘I hope so. It’s a tragedy that so few people use magic these days. Your mother was never interested but there’s nothing wrong with you doing a bit of white witchcraft to help me find him while you’re staying here.’
‘I agree, Granny. Mum and dad are sooooo boring!’
How is your mother anyway? She doesn’t visit much these days.’
‘OMG, she’s so embarrassing! Ever since daddy got that government job mummy has gone all posh and old-fashioned. She’s started wearing pink cardigans! And she’s totally gone off the whole ‘magic’ thing. She won’t even let me mention it in the house – thinks it’s all a bit evil.’
Oh, where did I go wrong? thought Granny. Thank wizards my granddaughter is normal.
‘Well, it can be our little secret. Have you been practising talking to spirits like I taught you?’
Jem’s eyes lit up with a devilish spark. ‘Oh yes. I’ve a couple who come and whisper in my ear when I’m telling fortunes at school and they’re pretty accurate.’
‘Excellent! Just don’t get caught. Your teachers wouldn’t be too happy about it if they found out.’
‘Ha, the teachers are my best customers,’ laughed Jem. ‘And the spirits suggested which spell to use to get Paddy back.’
‘Well, if he returns I’ll be most grateful. He’s a good little cat but I should’ve known he’d be trouble. I loved that little white tip on his tail when I saw him and couldn’t resist his naughty face. Oh dear, he’s been gone for two nights now. He’s never been missing this long before.’ Granny turned her face away from Jemima as she wiped a small tear from her cheek.
‘Where do you think he is, Gran?’
 ‘I don’t know. It’s not even a full moon, for wizards’ sake,’ Granny sniffed. ‘I wonder if the silly cat’s been run-over, or something worse – perhaps your mother’s taken him to the vicar to pray the magic out of him.’ She gave a small laugh but deep in her heart she thought this was highly likely.
‘I’m sure the spirits and I can help! ‘We can use the glass knitting needle spell. You know he likes playing with wool. I bet if I gave it a try he’d come home.’
Granny smiled.’ And I have an idea which may just give it an extra puss-tacular boost.’ Grabbing her hat and shawl she headed to the door. ‘Get the scissors, we’re off to find some catnip.’
‘You do make up the funniest words, Gran.’ They held hands and Jem skipped all the way to the graveyard garden.
‘Cats love it here. You can tell where the catnip is; it’s that flat bit over by the gate where they go and have a good roll. Go and grab us a bunch.’
‘Snip, snip
Some catnip
Make a spell to knit, knit
A way to find a kitty kit.’
‘That’s a great snipping song, Jem, now let’s go home and get this spell rolling.’
Back in the kitchen they heated a pot on the stove and threw the catnip and yarn in the boiling water.
Jemima’s tongue peeped from her mouth as she concentrated on stirring the pot. She looked shyly towards Granny. ‘I’ve left some extra bits in my knitting bag to sprinkle on later for extra oomph.’
Granny’s eyes twinkled with pride. ‘I’m so pleased you’re throwing yourself into your magic, Jem. I know this will work.’
She smiled and kept stirring. ‘The spirits said it would work and I trust them.’
When the yarn had absorbed the pussy-pulling-power of the catnip, they placed it in the window to dry.
‘This feels like a potent batch.’ Jemima sprinkled the remaining leaves on the wool for some extra pussy-punch. ‘Next step, knitting needles.’
‘I suggest you leave them outside tonight to absorb the moonlight. Put a crystal on top to increase the moon’s power.’
‘I’ve already thought of that, Gran. I have a quartz here that’s perfect for the job.’
‘Well done, my girl.’ ‘Now, do you remember what I taught you?’
‘Of course. I repeat the spell over and over as I knit and knit. This sends me into a trance and increases the spell’s power. When the power is raised enough, I pull the knitting from the needles and throw it into the fire to release the magic.’
Jem’s face suddenly turned a deep shade of red. ‘I’ve actually tried this spell out before just to see if it works.’
Granny’s eyebrows lifted as she silently asked her to explain. ‘Well. mummy was being a pain. She wouldn’t let me buy more crystals so I used your knitting magic to make the buttons drop off her new pink cardigan.’
Granny could barely stop herself from laughing out loud. ‘That was very naughty, Jem. You know you’re only supposed to use your powers to do good things. Don’t let me catch you doing anything like that again.’
‘Yes Gran. It was funny though.’
‘Hmph, off to bed with you and I’ll see you in the morning.’ Granny chuckled when Jem was out of sight. That’s my girl, she thought.
The next night Jem sat in the centre of the living room and prepared her spell.
‘It’s a new moon tonight; the perfect time for ‘find-your-kitty’ magic. When I’m finished, I’ll put the ashes into a bag and hang it by the fireplace. Paddy-Sack loves sitting by the fire.’
‘Moon light, moon bright,
Here I chant my spell tonight,
By click, by clack, by Paddy-Sack,
May Granny get her pussy back.’
Jemima repeated the spell over and over as she click-clacked away. Her eyes glazed over and Granny could see she was going into a trance. The fire sparked and hissed. The words swirled around the room, spinning higher and higher until, at last, Jem pulled the knitting from the needles and flung it into the flames.
‘MEEEOW!’ The sound of a very surprised cat filled the room then all went quiet apart from the crackle of burning yarn.
Granny’s eyebrows almost flew off her face. ‘Oh wizards, that went well! Your powers may even be stronger than mine. Paddy must surely come home now.’
Jem smiled as she prodded the ashes. When they’d cooled, she placed them carefully into the bag and hung them by the fireplace.
‘Let’s go out for a while and see what happens. It’s important not to think about the spell once it’s done. Shall we pop over and see your parents?’ Granny’s eyes twinkled as she knew what the answer would be.
‘No way! I’d rather just hang out with you, Gran.’ Chuckling merrily, they headed out to the cemetery to see if they could meet any spirits for a nice chat. Unfortunately, the graveyard seemed to be totally free of ghosts so, after a couple of hours, they decided to return home.
‘Look, Jem. Can you see something fluffy poking out of my window?’ Granny hurried forward as quickly as her old feet could carry her. As she got closer she could see black fur sticking out of every window.
Oh dear, she thought. Could this spell have been too successful? Puffing and panting, she reached the front of her cottage and stepped through the door.
Oh, my wizards, there must be twenty or thirty cats in here.’ She looked around her room in amazement. They were all black, all different sizes, and all showing quite a bit of naughtiness as they hissed and clawed at each other.
‘Do you notice anything strange about these cats, Jem? I seem to have all my pussies back – I’ve even got the ghostly ones. The graveyard spirits must have been out rounding them up.’
When Jemima tried to pat one her hand went straight through. ‘Oh dear, I think I need to focus more.’
‘Don’t worry, we can exorcise them later. I must say it’s lovely to see them again. Look, there’s Tiddle-the-Wink – and Jonathon Smartyfluff – I do miss them. The only one who doesn’t seem to be here is Paddy-Sack.’
As she spoke she heard a faint meowing behind her. She looked around to see a bedraggled black cat with a tiny white tip on his tail. Something pink was hanging from his mouth.
‘Paddy-Sack, you’re back! And you’re not a ghost! You look terrible, what’s been happening to you?’ Swooping him up in her arms, Granny grabbed the thing dangling from his mouth. ‘I knew it! A cardigan, and look – no buttons.
The ghostly cats all sat staring at Paddy. Jemima’s face flushed red with rage. ‘Mummy did take him after all. How could she? I feel another spell coming on.’

Judges Comments

The runner up in our Children's/YA Short Story competition, Kerriann Godwin's The Knitty Kitty Spell is an absolute charm of a story. Its ingredients are familiar: a grandmother who's a witch, a grand-daughter who's inherited her powers, and a non-conformist streak that appears to have skipped a generation, with the mother a cartoon image of conventional propriety.

Kerriann has made the story her own with the addition of a missing cat, an original spell and a wonderful, whimsical sense of comedy that makes the dialogue sparkle and creates such gorgeous set-pieces as the house being filled with the ghosts of all Granny's much-loved cats and the missing one, Paddy-Sack, returning home with the mother's dreaded pink cardigan as a trophy.

We're straight into the action in this story, knowing that heroine Jemima is straight on the case of looking for her Granny's missing cat. Jemima is a great heroine: she's pro-active, she can see things for what they are, she makes a big effort with her magic, she's loving and helpful and for all that she's got good values, she's also sparky and a bit naughty, not being averse to using her magical powers to make the buttons fall off her snobby mother's cardigan. It's easy to imagine readers identifying with her and wanting to read more of her and her adventures – Kerriann, might you have any more Jem stories up your sleeve?

The magic is well-used here; rather than simply providing a solution, it works, but not perfectly, and has unexpected consequences (all those ghost cats!) that have to be dealt with. In this cosy, quirky tale, the magical elements are delivered – in enough detail to be convincing – in the way of a recipe whose ingredients must to correctly assembled in order for it to work properly. Rather like this story, too – Kerriann has assembled good characters, a problem that needs solving, an interesting setting and some amusing ideas, and sprinkled the whole thing with a touch of magic to make a properly enchanting story.
 

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