Gertie turns in a project


“Interesting choice,” Mr. Jerson said, blinking to keep from tearing up at the overpowering smell of orange. He doubted it was a natural smell that the student had collected for their potion. Likely, they had brewed their base serum from an artificial cleaner. “Well, Miss Hanler? Do you smell your potion?”
Sitting in the storage closet, Marissa Hanler sniffed the air hesitantly. If she had brewed her Locus potion correctly, it would have magically contained itself within the classroom it was dropped into, and she wouldn’t be able to smell it despite the open door.
“No,” she said.
Mr. Jerson looked behind her, to the scent detector he had placed. The light was still green, so the scent he had activated in the classroom hadn’t reached it.
“Nicely done.” He cleaned the dropper he had used to test her potion with water. “I’m going to check your report and if my suspicions are correct, we’re going to have a conversation about using artificial ingredients.”
Marissa flushed as she sat back in her seat, glaring at the desk. Most students who thought that a magic elective would be an easy A often cut corners. It was nothing Mr. Jerson hadn’t seen before. He picked up his red grading pen and wrote “A-” next to “Hanler” in the “demonstration” column. The demonstration grade would be averaged with her report’s grade  after he graded the whole stack that night.
Mr. Jerson picked up an open glass cup with a symbol for “clean” etched into its side. Mr. Jerson waved his hand in front of the symbol and murmured “begin” in the magical language of Laux. A blue flame appeared, confined by the cup. It cast the logical opposite of the spell in the students’ potion bottles, clearing any and all smells in the classroom.
“Gertrude Mallon.”
Gertie perked up as her teacher chose the potion bottle with the piece of tape that had her name in her loopy handwriting. The potion she had spent a week on sloshed inside, a honey cinnamon color, as Mr. Jerson unscrewed the lid.
“In the closet, please,” he said as he raised the dropper.
Gertie hurried through the grid of desks and sat in the desk chair that had been placed in the supply closet for the potion demonstration.
Mr. Jerson stuck the dropper in the potion bottle and sucked up a few drops. He wiped the plate he had been using to activate the potion with a cloth and dripped Gertie’s potion into the center.
Gertie watched as a cloud of smoke rose from the drop and whooshed through the room. From her vantage point, Gertie could see the cloud stop when it hit the open door in front of her, as if the door was still there to block it. She smiled, knowing her potion had worked properly.
Immediately the classroom was filled with the smell of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Gertie had hung around in her favorite bakeshop for hours to get enough of the honey-colored scent with her scent extractor for the serum. The bakers had looked at her like she was insane as the magical tool she had borrowed from the potions lab whirred, but the fond look of longing on her classmates’ and teacher’s faces made it worth it.
Of course, given that her potion was properly brewed, the scent hadn’t reached the supply closet. The light on the detector remained green.
Mr. Jerson did his best not to show how pleased he was with her choice of scent. It wouldn’t do well to set the other students’ jealousy on her.
“Well done,” he said. He placed her bottle off to the side, scribbling an “A+” next to her name. He was sure she’d earn an A+ on the whole assignment, given her penchant for writing detailed reports. For the same reason, he knew he’d find what shop made such delectable-smelling cinnamon rolls.
“Darryl Fudin,” Mr. Jerson read from the next bottle.
The anxious student wearing a letterman jacket stood up. He hadn’t had a choice in what class he attended this period, what with the restrictive football practice schedules. He would be the last to turn in tests, and would quickly hide the red marks when they were passed back.
Darryl sat in the closet, his head in his hands. This would be the first time the whole class would be privy to his failure. He had been up all night after a grueling practice brewing his potion, and he still hadn’t been able to smell anything.
The drop of his bright purple potion fell to the plate. A cloud of smoke spread through the room and vanished.
And there was no smell.
Gertie frowned and sniffed again. That had to be even worse than a bad smell, or a smell that left the room, right? Because it was like nothing even happened.
To her right, somebody hiccupped. She thought nothing of it.
To her left, someone hiccupped. That was unusual, it was supposed to be yawns that were contagious.
Then Gertie hiccuped. Again and again.
As all the students started to hiccup in what sounded like a band of frogs, Mr. Jerson pulled out the report Darryl had turned in with his potion.
“Bends berries?” Mr. Jerson said, letting out a shriek-like hiccup. “You can’t use something magical-hic-for your scent!”
Darryl stood in the closet, looking horrified. But he wasn’t hiccuping.
Gertie was hiccuping so hard and so much it was hard to breathe. Marissa pulled out her inhaler, feeling the hiccuping trigger her asthma. Students were trying to get to the door, to get help. As soon as they were out of the classroom, their hiccuping stopped.
As Mr. Jerson tried to grab a cure for bends berries from a cupboard, Gertie struggled to the front of the class, hiccuping the whole way. She got her hand in front of the glass cup and summoned the power she kept stored in her keychain accessories.
“Be-hic-gin,” she whispered in Laux, and fell to the ground.
The little flame lit up, and, as quickly as it had started, the hiccuping stopped. Marissa took a deep breath from her inhaler, and Mr. Jerson quickly capped Darryl’s potion so as to not have a repeat experience.
Gertie leaned against the demonstration table, panting, incredibly grateful she hadn’t decided to use what magical power she had stored to fold her laundry that morning.
Darryl came out of the closet, his face scarlet.
Mr. Jerson looked at him.
“We’re going to have a nice, long talk about what just happened,” he said. Then he gave a small smile. “But thank goodness you were able to brew the potion to stay in the classroom.”
After a moment of thought, next to Darryl’s name he wrote “B-”.

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