Coffee Break Read – Urban Wizardry

Being a wizard in a world where magic wasn’t supposed to exist wasn’t easy. His studies took all his time and left little for earning the money he needed to support himself. So home for Brandon Grey was a rented bedsit on the second floor of a converted suburban house. He was very tired having been up since dawn to practice a new incantation and then an afternoon stint as an Uber driver had tested his goodwill to humanity to its limit.
“Mr. Grey?”
Brandon hesitated between steps and resisted the impulse to swear. Instead, as he turned, his face was already wallpapered with a polite smile.
“Mrs. Howard!” His tone made of the name an answer to her question.
Mrs. Howard was his landlady. She lived on the ground floor. A big-boned thirty-something divorcee with a pack of rude children and a permanent short temper. From the open door behind her he could hear sounds of youthful discontent.
“It’s mine!”
“Gerroff me!” Then an ear-piercing shriek of protest.
“Mum – Shane’s taken the controller again!”
Despite the title being given three distinct syllables of intonation, ‘Mum’ seemed not to hear.
“You put out your rubbish Mr. Grey? It’s bin day tomorrow.”
Brandon maintained the smile and broadened it.
“I’ll do that as soon as I have got myself in,” he assured her. 
“Great and can you wheel the bin ‘round the front when you’re done?”
His smile still fixed Brandon assented. But his thoughts were traitors to the smile. He was getting fed up of being used as an odd-job man for the Howards. Seemed not a day went by and he was asked to do one job or another. Another yell of protest from behind Mrs. Howard decided him.
“But you know, your Shane is a big lad now. He could do with that kind of responsibility. Why don’t you get him to do it?”
As he spoke he added a small push of willpower. But Mrs. Howard had seen off two husbands and the bailiffs. She stared back nonplussed.
“I don’t think so. It is a heavy job.”
Brandon held her gaze and tried harder. No words were spoken. For a moment the woman looked perplexed, then her expression cleared. She half turned her head towards the open door and called out.
“Shane, you stop playing that video game and go do the rubbish!”
“But mum you said you’d get the poxy old lodger to do it!”
It was a red rag to a bull and Brandon was forgotten as she stormed back into the lower apartment yelling loudly and apparently adding to the chaos rather than resolving it in any measure at all.
Allowing himself a moment of satisfaction, Brandon opened his front door, dropped his jacket on the couch and made a coffee.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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