Deaths in the family are never convenient. Most especially if they are distant relatives but to whom one owes respect and living on the other side of the world.
Great Aunt Sarah had moved back to the States to be near “the boys” a long time ago, leaving me in rural isolation in France which suited me just fine. We aren’t a close family, as happens when some emigrate and others, like me, tend to the hermit persuasion. My only companion was Woody the golden labrador.
It’s a common mistaken assumption that all witches’ familiars are cats. Many are, of course, and all of us have one but mine is Barker Woods. I’ve also had a snake, a bat, and a few mice but then even by witch-standards, I’m a bit of a fruit-loop. Nobody in the village would take him in, although, as village-witch, I command a lot of respect, they are terrified of big dogs. Mr. Barker Woods is a naughty old lad and tends to make himself the size of a St. Bernard when faced with fear. He finds that funny and I haven’t discouraged him because, to be honest, I find grown men cowering behind half-shut doors hilarious!
What would I do? I couldn’t take him to America with me. There wasn’t time to get the visas, paperwork, injections etc done and …
Bash! He dropped a large piece of firewood at my feet which he had picked up by the stove. You know that intense stare dogs do when trying to make you understand, you thick, stupid, witless human? Yes, that one.
If I hadn’t had a mug of tea in my hand I’d have slapped my own forehead but Woody saved me the trouble by patting my knee condescendingly. “There, she’s finally got it.”
So that is why a large elderly lady bustled through Customs in Boston with a backpack containing a piece of wood with what looked for all the world like a dog’s face on it. A labrador, to be precise. The Customs officer was a woman and if I judged correctly (OK I peeked in her head) a Native American. I explained about my dead Great Aunt and that this was a sacred family object that had to be present at her funeral. She understood. She too patted my hand. I was doing well for patting. The wood trembled in my hand as if Mr. Barker were giggling.
Absolutely nobody was surprised to see us at the funeral, even though I had disguised Mr. Barker as a “seeing eye” dog and wore sunglasses. He’s very good at that.
And, as they say, after that we went home for tea and glad to be there.