The Sea And The Little Fishes

Pratchett Terry

Trouble began, and not for the first time, with an apple.

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There was a bag of them on Granny Weatherwax's bleached and spotless table. Red and round, shiny and fruity, if they'd known the future they should have ticked like bombs.

'Keep the lot, old Hopcroft said I could have as many as I wanted,' said Nanny Ogg. She gave her sister witch a sidelong glance.

'Tasty, a bit wrinkled, but a damn good keeper.'

'He named an apple after you?' said Granny. Each word was an acid drop on the air.

" Cos of my rosy cheeks,' said Nanny Ogg. 'An' I cured his leg for him after he fell off that ladder last year. An' I made him up some jollop for his bald head.'

'It didn't work, though,' said Granny. 'That wig he wears, that's a terrible thing to see on a man still alive.'

'But he was pleased I took an interest.'

Granny Weatherwax didn't take her eyes off the bag. Fruit and vegetables grew famously in the mountains' hot summers and cold winters.

Percy Hopcroft was the premier grower and definitely a keen man when it came to sexual antics among the horticulture with a camel-hair brush.

'He sells his apple trees all over the place,' Nanny Ogg went on. 'Funny, eh, to think that pretty soon thousands of people will be having a bite of Nanny Ogg.'

'Thousands more,' said Granny, tartly. Nanny's wild youth was an open book, although only available in plain covers.

'Thank you, Esme.' Nanny Ogg looked wistful for a moment, and then opened her mouth in mock concern. 'Oh, you ain't jealous, are you, Esme?

You ain't begrudging me my little moment in the sun?'

'Me? Jealous? Why should I be jealous? It's only an apple. It's not as if it's anything important.'

'That's what I thought. It's just a little frippery to humour an old lady,' said Nanny. 'So how are things with you, then?'

'Fine. Fine.'

'Got your winter wood in, have you?'

'Mostly.'

'Good,' said Nanny. 'Good.'

They sat in silence. On the windowpane a butterfly, awoken by the unseasonable warmth, beat a little tattoo in an effort to reach the September sun.

'Your potatoes ... got them dug, then?' said Nanny.

'Yes.'

'We got a good crop off ours this year.'

'Good.'

'Salted your beans, have you?'

'Yes.'

'I expect you're looking forward to the Trials next week?'

'Yes.'

'I expect you've been practising?'

'No.'

It seemed to Nanny that, despite the sunlight, the shadows were deepening in the corners of the room. The very air itself was growing dark. A witch's cottage gets sensitive to the moods of its occupant. But she plunged on. Fools rush in, but they are laggards compared to little old ladies with nothing left to fear.

'You coming over to dinner on Sunday?'

'What're you havin'?'

'Pork.'

'With apple sauce?'

'Ye -,

'No,' said Granny.

There was a creaking behind Nanny. The door had swung open.

Someone who wasn't a witch would have rationalised this, would have said that of course it was only the wind. And Nanny Ogg was quite prepared to go along with this, but would have added: why was it only the wind, and how come the wind had managed to lift the latch?

'Oh, well, can't sit here chatting all day,' she said, standing up quickly.

'Always busy at this time of year, ain't it?'

'Yes.'

'So I'll be off, then.'

'Goodbye.'

The wind blew the door shut again as Nanny hurried off down the path.

It occurred to her that, just possibly, she may have gone a bit too far.

But only a bit.

The trouble with being a witch - at least,



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