View Full Version : "The Incredible Shrink 'n' Witch" (Frasier/Sabrina crossover)
01-15-2005, 03:12 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
A crossover fanfic featuring characters from “Frasier” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.” It’s set in the fall of 1999, the seventh season for “Frasier” and fourth for “Sabrina.”
The “Frasier” characters are property of Grub Street Productions, the “Sabrina” characters property of Archie Comics. Both series were produced by Viacom and filmed at Paramount Studios.
Frasier, Meet Zelda
“...this is Dr. Frasier Crane, wishing you good mental health.” With that, he took off his earphones and quickly rose from his chair; his radio show on KACL was done for the day.
Roz Doyle, his producer, saw his hurried pace. “Why the rush, Fras?” She learned why in seconds when she noticed his father, Martin Crane, waiting in the hallway.
“I have to drive Dad over to the train station,” Frasier said, as he walked out of the studio, Roz following him. “An old police buddy of his is returning from a trip and he wants to meet him there.”
Martin, hearing the second half of Frasier’s comment, nodded in approval. “Yep, Herb Winters, my first precinct captain. Actually, he’s professor Herb Winters. He’s taught criminology over at the U-Dub for several years now.”
Frasier smiled. “Dad asked me to drop Professor Winters off at his house near the university to save him some cab fare. And I, being the generous type, of course complied.”
Roz and Martin, both aware of Frasier’s mercurial personality, subtly grinned at each other.
“Let’s go,” Martin said as Frasier put on his overcoat. “Nice seeing you, Roz.”
* * *
Amtrak’s Empire Builder was on the verge of completing its run from Chicago, as Herb Winters noticed while sitting in the lounge car, drinking his beer. The rolling farmland of Washington State was gradually giving way to suburbia, and a minute ago the train had made its penultimate stop of Edmonds.
Herb had boarded the train in the Twin Cities and spent most of the time in his sleeper, as people in their early sixties are wont to do. When he got home that night, he’d review his course materials and prepare to teach his law enforcement class the next day.
His thoughts were suddenly jolted by a woman’s voice. “Mind if I sit across from you?” He looked up toward the voice, and found it belonged to an attractive, slender blonde, seemingly in her late thirties, wearing a blue pantsuit and holding a cup of hot tea.
“No, ma’am, be my guest,” he said with a smile as she proceeded to sit down. Once she was comfortably seated, he drew out his right hand as a welcoming gesture. “Pleased to meet you. I’m Herb Winters.”
She drew out hers, and their hands shook gently. “And I’m Zelda Spellman.”
“Enjoying the trip?”
Zelda nodded. “By all means.”
“Ride the train often?”
She smiled. “I’ve done my share.” What she didn’t, and couldn’t, tell him was that she was a witch, several hundred years old, and had been riding trains since their invention in the early 19th century.
Herb nodded. “I got on in Minnesota. And you?”
“Well, actually I’ve been on since Chicago, when I changed trains from Boston. I’m going to a scientific convention in Seattle.”
“This is so much more secure than going by air,” he said. “Even if it takes a couple of days.”
“I know what you’re talking about. Sometimes half the fun of a vacation is getting there, seeing the countryside. I mean, I could’ve saved time flying,” Zelda said. And as a witch, she could have saved even more time by zapping herself from Massachusetts to Seattle, but she saved that option for family emergencies. Plus, she needed a few days away from her younger sister, Hilda, whom she felt confident could look after their teenaged witch niece, Sabrina, for a few days without any trouble. Well, at least that’s what she hoped.
“A scientific convention?” Herb asked with interest. “What’s your specialty?”
“Chemistry, physics, all sorts of things. I guess you could say I’m a scientific generalist.”
He smiled. “I’m a criminology professor at the University of Washington. Do you teach?”
She shook her head. “Not now, I’m afraid. Maybe down the road.”
Herb held his can of beer in a mock toast. “To a lady whose beauty is exceeded only by her intelligence.”
Flattered by his flirtation, though she realized it was harmless, Zelda gently laughed. “Well, it’s nice to see a man who’s not intimidated by a woman’s brain.” Over the years, she had noticed her intellect turned off a lot of otherwise fine men who felt they couldn’t keep up with her...and she could only guess how small she’d make them feel if they also knew she had magic powers.
The train chugged on, and Herb pointed to a billboard on a parallel highway. “See the guy whose face is there?” he said. “I’m meeting his father at the station.”
Zelda caught a glimpse of the sign, for KACL radio. “‘Frasier Crane – he’s listening.’ Is he a talk-show host?”
“More of an advice program, sort of like Dr. Laura” – Zelda grimaced upon hearing her name – “or Dr. Joy Browne,” whom she apparently liked, given her sudden smile. “He’s a trained psychiatrist.”
“Well, if you know his father, I guess you know Frasier too.”
“I do,” Herb said. “A good guy for the most part, but at times a bit of a snob...just like his younger brother Niles, who has his own private practice. I still can’t fathom how they turned out that way – I mean, they’re two sons of a cop, and they’re into opera, obscure art, all this highbrow stuff.”
That perked Zelda up; she herself could be a bit of a highbrow every now and then. “Do you think this Frasier will be at the train station?”
“If he is, I’ll introduce you to him. Just follow me when we get off the train.”
“Looking forward to it,” she said with a smile.
* * *
“So the train’s a few minutes late, Fras. Big deal.” Martin and his son sat in the waiting room of Seattle’s Amtrak station, near an electronic sign that said the Empire Builder was 10 minutes late. “If I know Herb, he’s still enjoying the trip.”
Frasier was nonetheless exasperated. “Why couldn’t Herb have flown from Minneapolis, like normal people do in 1999? I mean, who takes the train anymore?”
Martin shook his head. “Your mother Hester and I took the train on our honeymoon, the Coast Starlight down to Los Angeles. Furthermore, I’m pretty certain you were conceived aboard a sleeper car on the way back.”
Knocked down a peg, Frasier grinned. “I’m hoping it was near the Napa Valley, Dad. At least that would explain my superior taste in wines.”
“And Herb has a good reason for riding trains,” Martin added. “In 1964, he flew to Anchorage to help their police operations after that big Alaska earthquake. The small plane he was on crashed near the airport. Thank God no one was killed, but he suffered more than a few broken bones and was hospitalized for two months. Can you blame him for not wanting to fly?”
Frasier paused to reflect. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that.”
“You and Niles were too young to remember him then. And Herb and I don’t talk much about it.”
The P.A. system interrupted their conversation. “The Amtrak Empire Builder, from Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Fargo, Minot and Spokane, will be arriving in three minutes on track B.”
Martin quickly rose to walk toward the track, Frasier following closely behind.
* * *
The Empire Builder was nearing the end of its run, and Herb and his new friend were standing in the aisle near the door, waiting for the final stop.
“See that over there?” Herb said to Zelda as he ducked and pointed out a window. “That’s Safeco Field, the Mariners’ new ballpark. Just opened this summer, great place to watch a game. You like baseball?”
“Sure,” Zelda said, not letting on the last game she saw was in Boston – at Braves Field in 1952, before the team moved to Milwaukee. For some unknown reason, she had never cared much for the American League, even before the designated hitter.
“I know you are going to enjoy Seattle, Zelda. Have a great time.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will. I have reservations at a nice hotel, and I’m looking forward to some first-class seafood.”
The train stopped and the passengers alighted. Herb turned to the right, saw Martin and Frasier about 50 feet away, and waved for them to come over. “You wanted to meet Frasier,” he told Zelda, “well, here’s your chance.”
Martin hugged Herb, then Frasier shook his hand. “Did you have a safe trip?”
Herb nodded as Zelda looked on.
“Who’s the good-looking blonde with you, Herb?” Martin said with a smile. “You sure can still pick ’em.”
“Met her on the train,” he replied. “Her name’s Zelda. She’s in for a science convention.”
“Hmmm, Zelda,” Frasier said, shaking hands with her. “Named for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, I presume.”
“No, not really,” Zelda answered, grinning outside but slightly perturbed inside. Everyone thinks I was named for her, even though I predate her by several hundred years. If I had a dollar every time people made that comment... “But I am glad you made the allusion. And you’re Frasier Crane, the radio star.”
“I’m glad you listen.”
“Not quite,” Zelda replied. “Herb pointed out a billboard to me. Actually, I’m from out of town, near Boston.”
“Oh, I know all about Boston,” Frasier said, grinning, “thanks to a few degrees from Harvard and several years of practice there. I used to spend a lot of time at a tavern called Cheers. Ever go there?”
“To be honest, I’m not much of a bar-hopper, but who knows? Maybe we crossed paths at a Boston Symphony concert, or at an opera.”
“A patron of the arts, I see,” Frasier said. He felt increasingly attracted to this stunning woman.
“Fras, I think we better take Herb back to his place,” Martin interjected, “and we can also drop Zelda off at her hotel, if she’d like.” Zelda nodded.
“Fine,” Frasier said. “The money she’ll save on cab fare can be spent at one of Seattle’s elite restaurants.”
“But let’s get our luggage first,” Herb said.
* * *
As soon as Zelda checked into her hotel room some two hours later, she called Hilda on the phone.
“Why didn’t you simply zap yourself over here?” her younger sister asked.
“With my luck, I’d materialize in the living room while you were watching a video with some cute firefighter, and we’d have a lot of explaining to do.”
“Alas, it’s not the case, Zelly. Just me and Salem here. Sabrina’s at the library doing research for a school project; she should be home in about 20 minutes.”
“Tell Zelda to bring home some of the Northwest’s finest salmon,” yelled Salem, the family cat. “I can’t think of a better souvenir.”
Hilda nodded cynically. “How was the train ride?”
“Wonderful, beautiful country. Reminded me of that $1 train trip we made from Kansas City to Los Angeles during the southern California land boom of 1885.”
Hilda nodded. “I’m still sorry I kept you from buying the acreage that turned out to be downtown Hollywood.”
Her sister shrugged it off. “Anyway, I met this wonderful guy named Frasier Crane, who’s a psychiatrist with a radio show here. He’s the son of a friend of a man I met on the train.” Zelda’s enthusiasm was evident, and Hilda was impressed. “Oh, and he spent several years in Boston. Told me he spent a lot of time at a bar downtown called Cheers.”
“I went in there once to get out of the rain,” Hilda said. “Nice, but I felt so out of place, as if no one knew me. But tell me about this Crane guy. What’s so great about him?”
“He challenges my mind. Intelligent, erudite, urbane, sort of a sciences version of Cole Porter or Noel Coward.” After hearing several seconds’ silence on the other end, Zelda added, “No, not in that sense.”
“Whew,” Hilda said.
“When he dropped me off at the hotel, he asked me to dinner and a chamber music concert tomorrow night, and I, of course, said yes.”
“You sound smitten.”
“Oh, I am.” Zelda smiled.
“Well, be careful out there, as they used to say on TV,” Hilda replied. “And remember the midnight rule.” She was referring to a Witches’ Council decree that any witch over 21 who had non-forced sexual relations with a mortal he or she was not married to lost their powers to that mortal for the remainder of that calendar day. (Witches under 21 in similar situations didn’t transfer their powers to the mortal, but simply lost them for a month.) Many witches beat the system by doing the deed in the minutes before midnight, hence the nickname “midnight rule.”
“Hildy, you know me better than that. Do you actually think I want to go to bed with him?”
“Now, maybe not. This time tomorrow, who knows?” Hilda pointed out. “You’re 3,000 miles from your home base. Distance sometimes makes us do strange things.”
“Well, I better be going through my convention packet to see what seminars I want to attend tomorrow,” Zelda said. “Tell Sabrina I’m thinking of her.”
“Will do,” her sister said. “Take care. Bye.” With that, she hung up.
end of chapter 1
01-15-2005, 03:26 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
It’s A Date
It was about 8:30 a.m. when Zelda Spellman, a long black coat covering her above-the-knee red dress, strolled out of her hotel to walk a bit around downtown Seattle. The first seminar she was to attend at the Science Convention of North America wouldn’t start until 10, so she had some time to catch the sights and get some of the flavor of the city.
And flavor – specifically the scents of coffee beans -- was what she sensed when she walked past a door. She turned to it and saw a sign: “Café Nervosa.”
She smiled and thought to herself, you might as well go in. It’s Seattle, and when in Rome, do as the... She was thankful the convention was not in Cincinnati or Philadelphia, where she’d have to gorge on chili or cheese steaks.
She walked to the line at the counter, gazed at the menu, and decided to order a vanilla latte. Not the most adventurous selection, to be sure, but nonetheless likely bound to satisfy. While waiting, she overheard a conversation at a nearby table.
“Strictly based on my phone call with him last night, you would not believe how he raved about this woman,” a man was saying. “He views her almost as a goddess, a larger-than-life figure, someone who enthralls his psyche as much as his libido.”
“Ah, so what else is new?” a female replied. “You know what Frasier is like.”
With that, Zelda’s ears figuratively perked up. She turned towards the conversation and saw a woman in a dark green sweater and gray slacks chatting with a nattily attired, slender man in a dark blue three-piece suit. Curious to learn more, she decided to leave the line and walked to their table.
“Excuse me,” she said, “but I heard you mention the name Frasier. Is he that, uh, radio talk host?”
“The very one,” the man said. “And I happen to be his brother, Niles Crane.”
“And I’m Frasier’s producer, Roz Doyle,” the woman added, pulling out a chair and inviting the stranger to sit down. “Do you listen to the show?”
Zelda blushed as she took her seat. “Well, not really since I’m from out of town, but I met him last night and am dating him this evening.”
“So you’re the mysterious Zelda!” Niles replied.
“And you’re going out with him?” Roz said. “Should I feel admiration or pity?”
Zelda was now confused. “What do you mean?”
“Frasier’s great to work with and a good friend, but...well, let’s say that every now and then he can be a real witch.”
Just to be on the safe side – suppose this guy is really a witch and I don’t know it -- Zelda asked, “In what sense?”
Roz answered, “Snobby, overbearing, pretentious...”
Niles interjected, “And you’re saying these are inherently bad qualities?” With that, he excused himself to use the men’s room.
“Peas in a pod,” Roz said to Zelda, pointing at Niles’ empty chair. “At times, he can make Frasier look like Mr. Meat-and-Potatoes.”
“I see where you’re coming from. I met their father last night, and he seems nothing like them.”
“Their dad’s a real gem,” Roz said. “They may not have inherited his tastes, but they did inherit his good nature. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t be working for Frasier or having coffee with Niles.”
“You’re not dating?”
“Niles?” Roz nearly broke into laughter. “Hell, no! But I’ll tell you who Niles secretly has the hots for: Daphne Moon, Martin Crane’s live-in physical therapist. Everyone knows it but Daphne, and sometimes Niles, for that matter.”
“One of those relationships,” Zelda said with a nod.
“The stuff that screwball comedies are made of,” Roz replied. “Think of William Powell or Cary Grant pursuing Carole Lombard or Myrna Loy.” That brought a smile to Zelda’s face, as she had faithfully attended all four of those stars’ movies in the thirties and forties.
Roz then looked at her watch. “I need to be over at the station in a few minutes to start preparing Frasier’s show today. It’s been nice meeting you, Zelda. Here, let me order you something before I go.”
“A vanilla latte won’t break your budget, will it?”
Roz placed a $10 bill on the table. “This will cover that, what I ordered, and a tip. Niles pays separately.” She stood up. “Have a great time in Seattle, and I’ll tell Frasier you said hello.” With that, she left the café.
About 20 seconds later, Niles returned from the men’s room. “Briefcase safe and sound, I see,” he said. “Where’d Roz go? Off to work?”
Zelda nodded as Niles placed a $5 bill on the table.
“It’s off to my practice. Enjoy the convention...and your date tonight,” he said, hailing an attendant to take Zelda’s order.
“Oh, by the way,” she said with a smile just before he left the table, “I’m not larger than life. I’m only 5-foot-8, about 5-10 in heels.”
* * *
The seminar on global warming was intriguing. Oh boy, another thing to worry about in addition to Y2K, Zelda thought, which reminded her to tell Sabrina to refrain from using her powers on New Year’s Eve, as 1999 rolled into 2000 – just to make sure the world wouldn’t accidentally be sent back to 999.
When it ended shortly after 1 p.m., Zelda went into an empty women’s lounge, sat in a wicker chair and pointed at her micro-cassette to turn it into a headphone radio. She then used her magic to find KACL’s frequency and put on her headphones.
“Good afternoon Seattle, this is Dr. Frasier Crane signing on for another day. And while I’m at it, let me welcome the Science Convention of North America to our fair city. We hope all of you who are visiting enjoy the many qualities the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Roz, who’s our first call today?”
“It’s a Zelda...oops! Make that Jen from Puyallup.”
“Hello, Jen,” a notably perturbed Frasier said. “I’m listening.”
Zelda laughed heartily at Roz’s joke, even a few seconds later when two other women entered the lounge and stared at her as if she were daffy. She listened to Frasier give advice for a few minutes, then shut off the radio to eat a quick lunch and attend an afternoon seminar on physics.
Meanwhile at KACL, Frasier wasn’t taking Roz’s joke quite as well, and let her know it when he rushed into her booth during the first commercial break.
“Zelda? Just how did you find out about her?”
“Oh, relax, Frasier. She came into Café Nervosa this morning.”
Now Frasier was confused. “Do you have some psychic radar that sets off when a woman I’m dating is near?”
“Niles told me what you told him about her, and she overheard us.” Roz smiled. “Nothing to worry about; I said nice things about you. She seems like a very bright and lovely lady.”
With that, Frasier relaxed a bit. “I left a message for her to come to my apartment at five tonight.”
Roz paused. “Why not pick her up at the hotel?”
“When I drove Dad, her, and Herb back from the train station yesterday, it was apparent she had some rapport with Dad and probably wanted to meet him again. So I’ll comply.”
“Well, I hope you two have a great date. Oh, and get back to the studio; you’re on in five, four, three, two...”
* * *
As the elevator ascended in the Elliott Bay Towers high-rise apartment complex, Zelda, still wearing the dark coat and red dress she’d put on for the convention, was a mite nervous. Not about Frasier’s intentions, since he seemed like a scrupulous fellow, but about how she was presenting herself in this kind of social situation. Sure, she’d been on plenty of dates before, but it had been a while since she had dated someone of Frasier’s apparent intellectual stature. What if, for once, she didn’t measure up?
At last, the car stopped at the 19th floor, and Zelda saw a door reading “1901,” Frasier’s apartment, right in front of her. She rang the doorbell, heard it chime, and, within seconds, Frasier himself answered.
“Zelda, you look positively wonderful!” he said as they exchanged perfunctory kisses on the cheek. “Welcome to my abode. Hang up your coat and stay awhile. Excuse me, but I have to return to the kitchen for a minute.”
She was impressed with the tastefully furnished apartment, aside from an out-of-place Barcalounger in the middle of it all, and the Seattle skyline in the distance. “Where’s your dad?” she asked.
“Oh, he and Daphne – that’s his therapist – are out getting some groceries,” Frasier replied as he disappeared from sight into the kitchen.
“Okay,” Zelda said as she took off her coat and looked in the mirror. To her dismay, she saw an ugly, and noticeable, run in the thigh of her sheer suntan pantyhose. How did that happen, she wondered. Maybe it was from sitting in that wicker chair in the women’s lounge.
Fortunately, she knew a foolproof, discreet way of fixing the run; she pointed her finger at it, and in less than a second the stocking leg was magically back to normal. Nobody saw or will know the difference, she said to herself.
Nobody, except a Jack Russell terrier on the sofa named Eddie who had never witnessed anything like that before...
* * *
A few seconds later, Martin and Daphne entered with groceries. “Frasier, we’re back! Oh, and I see Zelda has arrived,” he yelled. “Glad to see you again. Zelda, meet Daphne.”
While the two women exchanged pleasantries and Zelda took in Daphne’s English accent, Eddie got off the sofa to greet Martin, until he saw Zelda standing nearby. The terrier immediately ran away from her to another section of the room.
“That’s not like him,” Martin said. “Eddie is usually great around people who visit.”
“Maybe he senses I’m a cat person; we have one at home,” Zelda said. Well, actually Salem was a witch who had been sentenced to cathood by the Witches’ Council for attempted world domination, but she wasn’t going to mention that.
Frasier came from the kitchen, holding two glasses of wine. “Enjoy some of the best Merlot you’ve ever quaffed, Zelda,” he said, handing a glass while looking over her sleek, leggy figure and raising a toast. “To the magic,” he said, a word that caught her off-guard, “of science.” She let out an inward sigh of relief. “Once we finish these off, it’s time for exquisite dining and chamber music.”
Martin, by now in his customary Barcalounger, grinned. “Speaking of magic, Daphne here maintains she has psychic powers.”
That unnerved Zelda. What if she unknowingly was a witch hunter? Sabrina now had the same problem at school with a newcomer named Brad, and it only added more tension to the teen’s life.
“You don’t detect anything about me, do you?” Zelda asked Daphne playfully, though it really wasn’t.
“No, not really,” she replied, “but give me time.”
Let’s hope she was being sarcastic, Zelda thought.
“C’mon here, Eddie,” Martin said to the dog, who carefully walked to the chair and jumped in his lap...but not before giving Zelda a stare, as if he knew a secret.
end of chapter 2
01-15-2005, 03:39 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
Power Outage – And Transfer
Zelda, full from her meal, looked admiringly at Frasier across the table. “I thought we had some great seafood restaurants in Boston, but this was spectacular,” she said.
“No one, absolutely no one, makes crab like this place. It defines exquisite,” he replied. “In this category, you can have San Francisco and Baltimore, and, dare I say, Boston too.”
The evening had been as sparkling as the champagne Frasier had ordered. It began with a trip to the top of the Space Needle. “A bit touristy, I must admit,” he said, “but at twilight it is magnificently romantic.” Then they went to Frasier’s favorite seafood venue, where the conversation between the two was as dynamic as the food. On tap was a visit to a concert hall for a touring chamber music quartet.
“I’ve seen them play twice, and their subtlety is something to behold,” Frasier said. “I sense you have a fondness for classical music.”
“Oh, I do,” Zelda said, not telling him she had attended concerts since the days of Bach.
“I particularly like good opera. I’ve seen Pavarotti nine times.”
She nodded, impressed. Pavarotti’s very good, she thought, but he’s no Caruso, and knew that firsthand. Then again, we’re not playing ‘Can You Top This?’
Just before they planned to leave, a silver-haired man in a bow tie stopped at Frasier’s table. “Frasier, I know how much you love this place, and I do too,” he said, “but you really should try that new Thai restaurant near the university. The peanut sauce is to die for!”
Frasier smiled. “Zelda, I’d like you to meet Gil Chesterton, KACL’s restaurant critic and man about town. Gil, this is my date, Zelda Spellman, in town for the science convention.”
Gil bowed his head to her, and she smiled. “Science? I’m guessing you two have some special...chemistry.”
“You might say so,” Zelda answered, a comment Frasier mulled over for a minute or two until their taxi arrived...
* * *
They enjoyed the concert from front-row seats. “There is nothing that quite matches the intimacy of chamber music,” Frasier said. “It’s a feast for the ears.”
“Yes, indeed it is,” Zelda replied, though she couldn’t help noticing Frasier was often feasting his eyes on her attractive, crossed legs, not that she minded. Knowing she still had sex appeal was reassuring; even witches occasionally needed a boost to their egos.
Once it ended, Frasier was ready to hail a taxi to take Zelda back to her hotel, but she surprised him by saying, “Let’s head back to your place. I want to compare that balcony view of yours to the Space Needle.” With that, she kissed him on the lips.
“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” he replied.
“By all means,” Zelda said. “I feel such a marvelous rapport with you.” She knew Frasier wasn’t perfect, but she didn’t want to let him go. And if it meant going to bed with him, she’d do it. That was unlike the normally chaste Zelda, who hadn’t experienced such intimacy in a long, long time...but Frasier was miles ahead of the mortal men, and even a few male witches she had dated in recent years.
“Okay,” Frasier said, “but please keep in mind you’re under no pressure to stay. If you want to, I have no objection; we’re adults, and I’m a gentleman. Whenever you want to leave, I’ll call a cab and pay the fare.”
“That’s fine with me,” Zelda said, again kissing him on the lips, this time far more passionately.
* * *
They entered his darkened apartment and tiptoed to the balcony, Frasier gingerly opening the door. “To be fair, there isn’t much to see of the skyline this late at night,” he told Zelda as they looked over the city. “Most everything is dark.”
“That’s okay,” she said, staring into his eyes. “I’ll simply see it in the morning.”
Zelda nodded. “Yes,” she said sensually, caressing Frasier’s neck. “I want to stay the night, and...”
“I would be honored to know intimacy with such an intelligent and beautiful woman as you.” He smiled. “You know, it has been said that the most overlooked sex organ is the mind.”
“I concur,” she replied, closing her eyes for a second. It had been many years since she had felt like this.
“Then let us satisfy each other’s needs on multiple levels,” Frasier said. “Follow me.”
Once in the bedroom, Zelda looked at Frasier’s analog electric alarm clock; the hands read a minute or so before 11:30. Good, enough time to evade the midnight rule, she thought as she and Frasier hurriedly began taking off their clothes. Watches, rings and other jewelry were quickly tossed on a bedroom table. Then clothes were dropped to the floor, with Zelda stripped to bra and pantyhose and Frasier down to his underwear.
They stared into each other’s eyes, embraced, and began removing each other’s undergarments. This stage was so much easier in the age of stockings and garter belts, Zelda thought, recalling a fling in her flapper days, while Frasier struggled to pull off her pantyhose.
Eventually the hose came off, Frasier turned out the light, and the two tumbled into bed, successfully enjoying each other for several minutes. When that was all finished, Zelda glanced at the lighted alarm clock; it read about 11:45. Even though she now was without her powers, sort of a strange feeling to any witch, she smiled, knowing she’d beaten the deadline. Enjoy your short-lived powers as you fall asleep, lover boy, she said to herself while Frasier closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Or tried to; he felt unusual, for some reason he couldn’t fathom. After a few minutes, he got up, discreetly put on his underwear and a bathrobe, and went to the kitchen, where he was surprised to see Martin, drinking coffee.
“Dad, what are you doing up this late?”
“Whaddya think?” he replied. “I couldn’t sleep, so I came over here for a bit. By the way, how was the date with Zelda?”
“It was excellent,” Frasier said, not telling him she was currently sharing his bed. “She’s a magnificent lady. Too bad she has to return to Boston.” Then again, if she was satisfied with Frasier in the bedroom, perhaps she might eventually consider relocating...
“Very good,” Martin nodded, getting up to return to bed. “Oh, by the way, adjust that ancient alarm clock of yours about 25 minutes. The building had a power failure while you were out. We fixed all the other clocks, and would’ve taken care of yours if you hadn’t locked your room. Jeez.”
“Dad, I’m a very private person.” With that, he returned to the bedroom, locked the door and turned on the light, awakening Zelda.
“What’s going on here?” she asked.
“I have to fix my alarm clock,” he said, as its hands read a minute or two before midnight, the moment Zelda would regain her powers. “Turns out we briefly lost power here tonight.” He picked up his watch. “Now this tells accurate time,” he said. “Made in Geneva with first-rate craftsmanship.”
Checking the time on the watch, he adjusted the alarm clock and put it down. To her shock, Zelda saw the time was now about 12:25 or so -- which meant she and Frasier had completed their lovemaking at approximately 12:10.
Oh my God, she thought in horror. We did it past midnight! My witch powers are gone for nearly 24 hours, and now belong to...Frasier Crane!
“Excuse me, Frasier,” Zelda said as she got up, wrapping the bed sheet around her to cover both her nudity and her sudden powerless vulnerability, “but I need to make a phone call.” She grabbed a cell phone from her handbag.
“Sure,” he said, “use my bathroom.” He pointed, a gesture that suddenly filled Zelda with dread, since he didn’t know his “gun” was now loaded. “If you want more privacy, turn on the fan to muffle the sound.”
She did just that, hoping it would be strong enough to prevent Frasier from eavesdropping, and called Hilda, even though it was now roughly 3:30 a.m. in the east.
“Oh, it’s you, Zelda,” her sister said, yawning. “So, how’d the date go? Pop over here and tell me about it.”
“That’s the problem. I can’t.”
Hilda caught on, and wasn’t perturbed. “Well, it’ll be midnight out there soon, and you’ll have your powers back. Be patient.”
“There’s a three-hour difference between there and here, not four. Look at your alarm clock.”
Hilda did, and suddenly understood her sister’s predicament. “You mean...you broke the midnight rule?”
“Not intentionally, no. I thought we had completed things about 11:45, or at least that’s what the hands of his old electric alarm clock read. Turns out the building had a power failure earlier in the evening, and we’d done the deed after midnight. Which means Frasier has my powers for the next 23-plus hours, until midnight Pacific Time.”
Hilda nodded. “I can see where that could cause problems.”
“Frasier’s an intelligent and well-intentioned man, but he’s a little, what would you say, bonkos,” Zelda said.
“Oh, you caught that ‘Seinfeld’ rerun last night too!” Hilda said. “Regis Philbin is so much fun! I wonder what it would be like to have my own talk show.” She paused, realizing the enormity of the situation. “But I digress.”
“Anyway, mix his haughtiness with magic and there’s no telling what could happen,” Zelda said, hoping he couldn’t hear her above the fan. “Someone who isn’t an expert on opera could find themselves transformed into another species.”
“I mean, as witches we have the ability to think something without it actually happening. When mortals wind up with our powers, they can’t make that distinction,” Zelda said.
“Like when Sabrina sneezed and temporarily gave her powers to her teacher Mrs. Quick, who briefly acquired her powers and turned Willard Kraft into a monkey,” Hilda recalled. “In retrospect, I loved it.”
“Right,” Zelda said, although she was more fond of Willard, Sabrina’s principal, than her sister was. “But back to the matter at hand. If Frasier does something really severe, the Witches’ Council will notice and I could be sentenced to be a mortal forever. Hilda, you’ve got to help me!”
“You’ve bailed me out of many things over the years, Zelly, so I suppose I can return the favor – but for a price.”
“Okay, who?” Zelda knew where this was going.
“That good-looking investment banker down the street.”
“You’ve got it. Oh, and don’t you ever tell Sabrina about what I did here. It’s not a good message to send to her.”
“I guess this little incident is going to tug on your conscience, eh, Zelly?”
Zelda paused. “That’s it! You’ve just given me an idea on how to keep Frasier Crane on the straight and narrow while he has my powers.”
“We have a few hours to prepare while Frasier’s asleep. His powers will activate only when he’s awake.”
“Why don’t you simply sedate him, then?”
“For 24 hours? Not likely, and if something backfired I’ll wind up in prison, like my evil twin Jezebelda.”
“You don’t want that to happen,” Hilda told her older sister. “You look awful in orange.”
“Listen, I’ve got a better, safer idea. Now I want you to head over to the Other Realm, to the Witches’ Science Alliance, where I’ve been assisting on a project...”
end of chapter 3
01-15-2005, 03:58 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
Thirty Seconds Over Frasier
Zelda, who understandably now found it impossible to sleep, looked at the now-accurate alarm clock across the bedroom and saw the time was nearly 6 a.m. Judging from the clock’s gold alarm hand, Frasier was set to awake at 6:30. There isn’t much time, she thought. Where are you, Hilda?
She got her answer within seconds when a two-inch-tall Hilda, holding a contraption in her hands, materialized on the small bedside table next to her. “I’d have been here earlier, but we’re having a November snow and Sabrina’s school opened an hour late,” her pixie-sized sister explained. “Just sent her off. It’s now 9 a.m. back east, you know. Boy, does he snore.”
“Good,” Zelda hurriedly said, ignoring her comment about Frasier. “Any hassles obtaining the device?”
“Nope...they said it would be a good dry run for Y2K. However, a day’s rental will set you back $100.”
“No problem with that. Now did they explain how it works to you?”
Hilda nodded. “Yes. Once it’s set up, you can see 30 seconds into the future.” She paused. “But will that give the world enough time to repair things if Y2K disaster strikes?”
“We’re hoping to extend it up to a few minutes by New Year’s Eve, but this will do for now.” Zelda looked down at Hilda. “We have other things to worry about. You know the procedure we ran through.”
“Yes,” Hilda said, gulping. “I get into Frasier’s mind, set up the device, see 30 seconds ahead and prevent his newfound magic from causing havoc. But how are you and I going to communicate?”
“The machine can also transmit and receive psychic frequencies, something even mortals have,” Zelda said, suddenly recalling her encounter with Daphne. “We’ll keep in touch that way.”
“Psychic frequencies?” Hilda quipped. “Wasn’t that a phrase in a Blondie song?”
“All right, then, let’s go,” Zelda said. “Wait! You’re too big to get into Frasier. Step onto my hand and make yourself smaller, down to about a thirtieth of an inch or so.”
Hilda slid into Zelda’s left palm. “Oh, the things I do for you!” she said. “I don’t see why you couldn’t do this.”
“Two good reasons. One, I’m supposed to be here in Seattle for the convention, and two, I couldn’t survive inside Frasier now that I’m mortal! Would you please shrink!”
Hilda acceded to her sister’s pleading, and shrank to one-sixtieth of her already tiny size. “Hold on tight,” Zelda whispered, carefully picking her sister up between the thumb and forefinger of her right hand, then yawned, deliberately having her hand softly hit Frasier’s nose and depositing Hilda into his left nostril. He apparently was a heavy sleeper, because he didn’t notice a thing.
So far, so good, Hilda psychically told Zelda. It's like I’m in “Fantastic Voyage” or “Honey, I Shrunk The Witch.” She also remembered Sabrina had been in a similar situation not long ago, when she and Salem accidentally wound up inside the brain of her high school arch-rival, the obnoxious cheerleader Libby.
Great to see this working, Zelda telepathically replied. Oh, by the way, you are hereby forbidden to enter Frasier’s memory to get details of last night’s encounter.
Dang – can’t a gal have a little entertainment?
Focus, Hilda, focus.
I’m sorry, Zelly.
Now get into his brain and set yourself up before he wakes! Zelda fell back onto her pillow and reflected on the past night’s events. Frasier had indeed a wonderful, generous lover, but in her current predicament he could have been a Rudolph Valentino sheik character and she wouldn’t have cared.
That good, huh? Hilda telepathically told her older sister.
* * *
The alarm rang at 6:30, and Frasier arose from his bed, turning to see Zelda beside him, sleeping soundly. He felt relaxed, in control, almost rejuvenated, as he put on a bathrobe, opened the closet and tossed another robe atop Zelda’s blanket.
Very gentlemanly, Hilda mused as she looked over the controls from the recesses of Frasier’s brain. Now what do I need to do next? Of course -- wake up Zelly!
Within seconds, Zelda’s psyche was jolted by a “Reveille” bugle call, as if she were in the Army during World War I. Hilda!!! she telepathically screamed.
He’s up, sis. You’ve got to as well, just to keep tabs on him.
Zelda nodded. Oh, I guess you’re right.
He’s entering the bathroom. To shower, I hope.
Zelda understood her sister’s queasiness. For the sake of propriety, cast a spell to hold his, uh, other functions for 24 hours. And while he’s showering, try to keep his thoughts pure.
Easy way to do that, Hilda replied. I’ll lower the water temperature some 10 degrees.
Meanwhile, I’m going to make myself some breakfast.
* * *
Clad in Frasier’s maroon bathrobe that was considerably too big for her slender frame, Zelda slowly entered the kitchen – only to find Martin and Daphne already there.
“Well, it looks like Dr. Crane had an extra house guest last night,” Daphne wryly commented.
Zelda sensed the uncomfortable situation. “I’m really sorry about all this,” she said.
“No need to apologize!” Martin said, pulling out a chair for her. “We like having you around, especially compared to Frasier’s other ‘Morning After’ ladies.”
“That’s true,” Daphne added.
“I’m glad you feel that way,” Zelda said as she sat down, relieved at their hospitality. But would they feel similarly by the end of the day if Frasier somehow magically ran amok?
Meanwhile, Eddie entered the kitchen and saw Zelda, but this time, his reaction to her was significantly different. Rather than shy away from her, he leapt onto her lap, climbed up her upper torso and licked her face.
“Look,” Martin said to Daphne as she prepared to hand Zelda a cup of coffee, “even Eddie is warming up to her.”
* * *
In the shower, Frasier was frustrated with the cold water temperature. Hilda checked the device’s “30 seconds later” screen, and saw a maintenance man’s neck being wrung by a pair of invisible hands. Uh-oh, she thought, I can’t let Frasier think that.
She hurriedly tried to think of something that would settle him down, then recalled her visit to Shenandoah National Park that summer. Sure, the mountains in Virginia were paltry compared to those out west, but the thoughts would nonetheless be soothing.
Suddenly, Frasier was thinking of mountain vistas from back east, and a journey along Skyline Drive he had taken many years ago in conjunction with a trip to Washington, D.C. Ah, those were good times, he thought – and suddenly the coolness of the shower water didn’t bother him.
I think I’ve got this down, Hilda telepathically told her sister. How many more national parks are there?
Once out of the shower, Frasier dressed, selecting some navy slacks and matching suit, and strolled into the kitchen. “I see Miss Spellman has made her presence known,” he told his father and Daphne, then turned to Zelda, just as Eddie scurried off her lap and out of the room. “Would you like to share breakfast on the balcony?”
“I would be honored,” she replied, only wishing to keep sight of him. “But first give me a minute to change back into my old clothes.”
“I know Eddie isn’t all that fond of you, Fras,” Martin said, “but I’ve never seen him scamper like that.” Maybe Eddie knows Frasier’s now magical and I’m not, Zelda thought as she walked to Frasier’s bedroom.
The second Zelda entered, she heard Daphne say, “Good morning, Dr. Crane. Is there – something different about you today?”
As the door shut behind Zelda, Frasier replied, “No. In fact, I frankly feel better than ever, as if all the powers of life were within my command.”
Daphne’s comment nonetheless set off (figurative) alarms in Zelda’s head. Suppose Daphne is indeed a witch hunter and somehow today discovers Frasier has magical powers? What will happen to him? What would happen to me?
I feel your pain, Zelly, Hilda telepathically shot back. I’ll check out the legal ramifications of this. She instantaneously zapped the host of the popular Other Realm radio series “Looking At Witch Law” into a seat beside her.
“Where am I?” said the show’s erudite, bespectacled attorney host.
“That’s not important right now,” Hilda replied. “I have a, uh, hypothetical question. If a witch violates the midnight rule and the mortal who acquires the powers for the day is discovered by a witch hunter, who gets turned into a mouse for 100 years?”
The host nodded. “There was such a case in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1929, and the Witches’ Council decreed that both witch and mortal would be turned into mice for 100 years,” he said. “The witch was paroled for good behavior and restored to witchhood in 1993.”
“And what about the mortal?”
“He survived as a mouse for two weeks before being eaten.”
“Thanks for answering my question,” Hilda said, zapping the host back to the Other Realm before gulping.
Not good, Zelda telepathically told her sister. His life may be in peril, and all because of me.
Does Eddie play with rodents? Hilda replied.
* * *
“So, what seminars are you attending today?” Frasier asked Zelda over a croissant on the balcony.
“I’ve decided to pass them up and spend the day with you, if you don’t mind,” she replied.
Zelly, what about the convention? Hilda asked. I know you had your heart set on going. And you realize the signals you’re sending him.
It’s not as if I have much of a choice.
“The entire day, eh? So you wish to see Frasier Crane at work.” Frasier was flattered that she seemed truly interested in him. “Ever been inside a radio station before?”
“Not for a while,” Zelda replied, which was true. Fascinated by mortal technology, she had briefly worked at a radio station during the medium’s infancy in the 1920s.
“Well, as long as you keep your hands to yourself and don’t touch any of the equipment, you’ll be fine.”
Inside his brain, Hilda saw an image of a radio station transmitter, with a sign on a nearby shack reading “KACL, 500,000 Watts,” and it was obvious that at least one of the zeroes had just been installed. He can’t boost the station’s power like that, she thought. That violates FCC guidelines, even with deregulation!
So it was back to thoughts of national parks, this time Acadia in Maine. Oh, how relaxing.
“It’s funny,” he said, “but I was just thinking about Acadia National Park and the beauty of Maine.”
“Maybe it’s because I’m from New England,” she said with a sly smile. So far, it’s working, she psychically told Hilda. “By the way, before we go to the station, can I go to my hotel room? I really should change into a new dress.”
Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Hilda said.
Do you like wearing the same clothes two days in a row?
Touche, Zelly, touche.
“Sure,” Frasier replied, “as long as we don’t spend too much time there. I have to be at the station by 11:30 to begin preparing my show.” He checked his watch; it was 9:15.
“Then, let’s go.”
* * *
In her hotel room, Zelda held two dresses before Frasier. “Which do you like better, the purple or the gold?” she asked.
Frasier smiled. “The gold dress is gorgeous, but the purple would look simply magnificent on you,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I prefer the purple.”
“Then purple is what you’ll get. Now turn around while I change.”
“It’s not as if I’d see things I hadn’t before,” Frasier replied in mock protest.
“And I thought you were a gentleman.”
He softly laughed and turned away as Zelda slipped off her old clothes, changed into new undergarments and stepped into the short, form-fitting purple dress Frasier liked so much. Anything with his mind I should know about, Hildy?
Nothing you couldn’t guess already, sis.
Zelda smiled, and once fully in her dress she told Frasier, “You can not only turn around now, but you can zip me up in back.” Normally she would zap the zipper herself, but even if she had possessed her usual magic, she would have given Frasier the honor.
“The dress looked great before,” Frasier said while zipping her, “but with you in it, it looks absolutely dazzling.” He whirled her around, then gently kissed her, as Zelda sighed.
I can see why you fell, Zelly, her sister psychically said. What a romantic! Once we get this magic stuff all straightened out, I think you two would make a great pair.
We’ll discuss that later, okay?
“Now that you’re so lavishly dressed, it’s off to KACL,” Frasier said, “but I do feel the need to make a stop along the way at a place I understand you patronized yesterday, a certain Café Nervosa.”
“Fine with me,” Zelda replied, reminding herself to this time order something considerably more adventurous than a vanilla latte.
* * *
They entered the café, and Zelda asked Frasier to recommend a selection. “Try the Trans-Atlantic, a truly enticing new blend of beans from Kenya and Colombia, both mellow and aromatic,” he said. “Add a little ginger or cinnamon, and you have bliss in a cup.”
“You should have gone into advertising,” Zelda quipped as Frasier noticed Niles, sitting at his usual table.
“It’s ten-thirty. Shouldn’t you be at your practice?” Frasier asked his younger brother as he and Zelda took their seats.
“My scheduled appointment called to cancel, though from the tropical birds I heard in the background I seriously doubt she was ill with the flu,” Niles replied matter-of-factly. “I see you brought your date, whom I’m sure you’ve heard by now, I met yesterday.”
“Very good to see you again,” Zelda said with a smile.
That’s his brother, and he’s a doctor, too? Hilda asked admiringly. A bit on the prissy side, but I can handle that. Once this is all rectified, how about a double date?
Not now, sis, not now.
Gee, don’t be a spoilsport.
“Zelda and I went to the chamber music concert last night, and had a wonderful time,” Frasier said. “What have you been up to?”
“Funny you mention that. Last night I was at the record store and, on a lark, was thumbing through the budget bins of the classical section when I came across a CD of ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik,’ conducted by Bruno Walter with the Columbia Symphony Orchestra. I bought it, listened to it when I got home, and it was just as thrilling as it was when I heard it in my youth. My one regret is that it’s in mono.”
“It was very good,” Frasier retorted, “but nowhere as exhilarating as ‘Eine Kleine Nachtmusik’ as performed by Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now, that was a sound.”
Niles shook his head. “Frasier, you know I like Ormandy a lot, but frankly that wasn’t one of the Philadelphia’s better performances. Walter’s version cuts his to ribbons.”
Zelda watched the brothers go at it over Mozart, which amused her since she had actually seen Wolfgang Amadeus conduct the piece back in 1788. If she could only tell them...
Zelly, Zelly! Hilda telepathically screamed. I see Niles with a donkey head in 30 seconds, and it’s not a pretty sight. Do something quick!
Okay, but you do your part, too. “Frasier, Niles, I’ve heard both and think they’re equally sublime,” she told the brothers. “So was an arrangement by the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood some years back.”
“Tanglewood – what a magnificent setting,” Frasier replied, “almost the classical equivalent of Yellowstone. Which is where I may take my summer vacation next year, like we did when the family took the RV a few years back. Ah, to feel the sprinkles from the geysers caressing my face again.”
You came through, Zelda told her sister.
Hey, it’s what I do.
They chatted for a few minutes more, and then Frasier noted he had to leave. As the brothers and Zelda stood on the sidewalk outside the café exchanging pleasantries, Hilda noticed a bizarre vision on her 30-second screen...a woman nearly twice the size of Frasier and Niles, with shapely legs more than four feet long. While her face was not visible on screen, the purple mini-dress made it obvious the maxi-gal was Zelda.
Zelly, did one of those cookies you had read ‘EAT ME’? Because I suddenly see you as a giant!
Me -- a giant? Zelda wondered, then remembered Niles’ comment from yesterday about Frasier calling her larger-than-life. I think he’s going to say that in his eyes, I’m ten feet tall. Park mode, and quick!
“Yes, I’m truly enamored with Zelda,” Frasier told his brother, “and in – time, I may take her to see the wonderful, incomparable sights of Yosemite.”
“I’d love that,” Zelda said with relief. In the nick of time, Hildy.
And be thankful he didn’t say that while inside. There were ceiling fans!
Zelda sighed. I can’t recall the last time I didn’t want to hear a compliment from a man.
“It’s off to the station,” Frasier told his brother. “She’s going to watch my show while in the studio.”
“Genius at work,” Niles said to Zelda with a grin, “or so he thinks.”
end of chapter 4
01-15-2005, 04:10 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
Zelda and Frasier entered the KACL offices only to find Roz standing in the lobby. “Is she looking for a career in broadcasting?” Roz cracked, pointing at Zelda. “Missy, you gotta pay your dues. There’s a country daytime AM in Moses Lake that’s looking for a midday host. Noticed it in the trades this morning.”
“I’m not after your job!” Zelda protested.
“I know that,” Roz said with a smile, shaking hands with her guest. “Welcome to KACL, and I guess you’re here to see us at work. As long as you keep your hands off the equipment – and no, I don’t mean Frasier, except of course when he’s on the air – we’ll be fine.”
Frasier grinned. “Did you see anything in the papers today that we could use in case things get slow?” By now, he had learned to have a topic or two he could toss out to the audience if the phone system went dead or people simply weren’t calling. His one caveat was that the topic not be political; Lord knows there were enough radio talk hosts handling that.
“How about this: the increasing belief in the supernatural, especially among our young people,” Roz said, holding a newspaper clipping. “I can’t believe we didn’t discuss this when Halloween rolled around a few weeks ago, especially since I know you feel it’s all crap.”
Hilda, Hilda...Zelda’s psyche cried out.
Relax, her sister replied. Nothing worrisome is on the screen.
“Actually, I’m beginning to have second thoughts about the whole thing,” Frasier told Roz. “There might be something to the concept of magic after all. Or maybe it’s just being in the presence of a lady who’s almost magical.”
No wonder I didn’t see any change in you, Hilda told her sister. Be glad he used “almost”!
Zelda nonetheless beamed as Frasier went to the station lounge.
“If I were you, I’d hold out for a few more compliments before tonight,” Roz said to Zelda just before the producer followed him down the hall. “Come on down to the lounge. We’re ordering Chinese.”
* * *
“Don’t mention I’m here while on the air,” Zelda asked Frasier before the show began. “Someone from the convention might be listening and would wonder why I’m playing hooky.”
“Think nothing of it,” Frasier replied as he examined his headphones.
Glancing at the 30-second screen, Hilda saw Zelda suddenly vanish from sight. Maybe that’s what Frasier is going to say...as far as he was concerned, she didn’t exist, the younger sister thought. Don’t worry, Zelly, here’s a pre-emptive strike.
Kenny, the KACL station manager, came into the studio and handed Frasier a memo.
“Say, Kenny, I’ve got a great idea for our weekend schedule,” Frasier told him. “How about if I host a program dedicated to our national parks. I think it would make for pleasant listening, don’t you?”
The manager shook his head. “The lady who had the 6 a.m. Saturday public affairs program resigns, and you now want her time slot? You amaze me, Frasier, you amaze me.” With that, he left and entered Roz’s booth to give her a copy of the same memo.
“Why is Frasier suddenly so enamored with national parks?” Kenny asked the producer.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” she replied. “Maybe Martin gave him a lifetime membership to the Sierra Club.”
My existence is preserved, thanks to you, Zelda telepathically told her sister. But we still have nearly half a day to go.
You don’t have to remind me.
* * *
While Zelda, watching silently from a corner of the studio, was concerned that Frasier might make a potentially dangerous figure of speech while taking calls from listeners, the three hours went surprisingly smoothly. Moreover, she was impressed at his ability to provide helpful answers to difficult, often vexing, personal questions.
This guy is good, Hilda telepathically commented. Somebody please syndicate this program!
Have I great taste in men or what?
Zelly, don’t go bragging.
The second he signed off, Zelda ran to Frasier and hugged him. “Job well done,” she said.
Then she was twice jolted – by something that hit her ribs and by an irritating, unfamiliar voice from behind her. “If you really want a job well done, hon–”
“Meet Bob ‘Bulldog’ Briscoe, our one-time sports talk host,” Frasier said disdainfully. “He was let go earlier this year, but is back on a fill-in basis this week.” It was obvious from the look on his face that he tolerated him, but barely. Zelda turned around and saw a short man with even less hair than Frasier. eyeing her lustily.
“Who’s the hot babe, Frasier?”
He’s laboring under the impression he’s God’s gift to women, Hilda commented.
Well, if I had my powers back I know what I’d do to him, and it wouldn’t be pretty, Zelda replied. And that’s not like me, either. Check the screen, Hildy – what about Frasier?
As the Beach Boys sang, don’t worry baby, everything will turn out all right.
Zelda was perplexed. What are you referring to?
“You know, Bulldog, I think this time you should do a sports show without the gimmicks, without the attitude, without the bull. Respect your listeners’ intelligence for once.”
“But Fras, I know this part of the biz and that does–” Bulldog paused, as if he were suddenly under a spell. “That does sound like a good idea. I think I’ll try it. I hope you and your lovely guest listen to me this afternoon.”
See, I told you, Hilda said. For once, his magic paid off. But wait! There’s more!
“Oh, and keep your distance from Roz,” Frasier added while Bulldog walked around the studio; when he got near her booth, he felt a jolt of static electricity and hurriedly pulled away.
To borrow a sports term, no harm, no foul, Hilda quipped.
A few minutes later, Frasier and Zelda were in the lobby of KACL, where Bulldog’s program was piped in over the loudspeaker. “You know, for some reason he sounds a bit different today,” Kenny said to Frasier as he passed by. “No horns, no bells, no obnoxiousness. He’s just taking calls.”
Frasier listened, along with the station manager. “I see we have Adam from Tacoma on line one,” Bulldog said, “and you want to discuss the upcoming Apple Cup at Husky Stadium this Saturday.”
“That’s the annual football game between the University of Washington and Washington State University,” Frasier explained to Zelda. “A fierce rivalry...not Harvard-Yale or even Stanford-Cal, mind you, but nonetheless intense. And Bulldog always makes fun of WSU and its fans, calling them hicks and ags and such.”
“Anyway, Bulldog,” Adam said, “I know you’re going to give me a rough time, since I’m a Cougar fan, but do we have a chance against U-Dub?”
“Better than you think, since it’s a rivalry game and emotions will be high,” Bulldog rationally replied. “Okay, so 1999 hasn’t been the miracle year that ’97 was in Pullman – no Rose Bowl trip for the Cougs this year – but you of course know that a WSU win puts Stanford in the Rose Bowl, no matter what it does against Cal. The Huskies need to win and have Cal pull the upset to get to Pasadena.”
“I can’t believe you aren’t insulting me.”
“Why would I not want to treat my listeners with respect?” the host said. “Oh, and stay on the line once this call ends. Roz will get your name and address, and you’ll be entered in KACL’s contest to win a commemorative square-foot slab of Kingdome concrete, imprinted with the Mariners’ and Seahawks’ logos, after the building is imploded next spring. Many thanks for calling.”
Kenny shook his head. “Thanks? That’s a new Bulldog.” The station manager paused. “Does he know what he’s doing?”
* * *
As soon as Frasier and Zelda left the KACL offices, she asked him, “Okay, where would you like to have dinner? Tonight, it’s my treat.”
“While it’s a wonderful invitation, Zelda, I regretfully will have to decline.”
Her smile disappeared. “I can afford it. It’s the least I can do for you.”
“It isn’t that at all,” he replied. “I have prior commitments. Specifically, I’m hosting a fund-raising party in my apartment for the Seattle chapter of the Harvard Alumni Association – and, no, Bill Gates isn’t coming, since he never graduated. You are more than welcome to attend, especially since you live not far from Cambridge and your presence will give these alums a feel for home.”
You have to say yes, Zelly, if only to guide me the rest of the way, Hilda telepathically said. I’d be out of my league among all those smarties.
“Okay,” Zelda answered.
“Excellent. Now come back with me for dinner there, and following that the party preparation.”
“Just one question. Will your family and friends be there?”
Frasier smiled. “Not Niles; he’s a Yale man, and understandably would probably be a bit intimidated. And Dad plans to take in a movie. But Daphne has graciously agreed to help set things up. Isn’t that nice of her?”
“I guess,” Zelda halfheartedly replied with a gulp, even though her presence could ultimately transform you and me into rodents. She glanced at her watch; the time was 4:30. Only seven-and-a-half excruciating hours to go.
end of chapter 5
01-15-2005, 04:26 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
A Party In Crimson
“I pride myself on my ability as a party-giver,” Frasier said to Zelda as they took a cab back to Elliott Bay Towers. “The caterer is providing some of the best roast beef in the Pacific Northwest, only the fanciest of cheeses, while from my own collection there will be wine, both red and white, of incredible subtlety.”
I frankly don’t mind if the party is a disaster, as long as he and I survive it with our secrets intact, Zelda told her sister.
Why don’t you see if you can get Daphne excused for the evening? That way, you can attend the party with a lot more confidence, knowing a potential witch hunter is not around.
Zelda made an imperceptible nod. Not a bad idea, that. “Say, Frasier, why don’t you let me show off my skills as a hostess and give Daphne the night off?”
As long as you don’t cook, Zelly. I mean, you’re not much in the kitchen with magic...as a mortal you’d be–
Watch it, sister, them’s fightin’ words. I may be no Julia Child, but...
“I appreciate your offer, but it’s positively out of the question,” Frasier replied. “I mean, you are a guest here. There’s no need for you to work on my behalf. Savor the bonhomie tonight; that’s all I ask of you.”
If only we could come up with some way to get Daphne out, Zelda told Hilda. Maybe a ploy involving Niles; Roz told me there’s some sort of attraction between them.
Leave it to me!
* * *
As Niles Crane entered his luxurious apartment at the Montana after a not-so-busy day at his practice, his feet mysteriously gave out from under him and he collapsed to the floor. While he was able to slowly get up, his calf muscles were in excruciating pain, as if they had all been pulled simultaneously.
While he knew he had several options for recuperating, he eased over to the telephone and chose the option he frankly wanted...
* * *
When Frasier and Zelda reached the 19th floor of Elliott Bay Towers and the elevator door opened, they were surprised to see Daphne Moon standing there, wearing a leather jacket.
“Where do you think you’re going when I need you for party preparation?” Frasier demanded. “Didn’t you walk Eddie earlier?” Then he looked down and noticed the dog wasn’t with her, nor did she have a leash.
“Medical emergency. Out of the way,” Daphne said, moving into the elevator as Frasier and Zelda moved out.
“It’s not my father, is it?” Frasier said, fearing the worst.
“No, it’s your brother, and it’s not life-threatening. I left a note--” Daphne replied just before the doors closed.
Everything will be fine, Hilda emphasized to Zelda. Nothing to worry about. She’s simply out of the way for the evening to give Niles some TLC, courtesy of me.
Oh, are you the clever one...
Frasier sighed. “For lack of a better option, I suppose you’ve been called to duty, Miss Spellman. Can you handle the challenge?”
Zelda gave him a mock salute. “Aye, aye, captain.”
That’s the spirit, Zelly! Hilda said, clapping her hands.
* * *
“Everything’s going to be fine,” Niles told his older brother over the phone. “I’m sure Daphne will be here any minute now, providing me the same gentle care she gives Dad.”
And if you play your cards right, a little more, Hilda thought.
“While I want you to heal quickly,” Frasier replied to Niles, “I absolutely hate having to ask someone from out of town to attend to my party details. It’s so unbecoming.”
“I don’t mind,” Zelda shouted from a few feet away as she examined the contents of the cupboards in his kitchen. She had already followed Frasier’s orders and herded Eddie into Martin’s bedroom.
Following a quick, light dinner of soup and pasta Frasier himself prepared, setup for the party began in earnest shortly after six. “The caterer is scheduled to be here at 6:45, with the first guests arriving at 7:30, so please be prompt,” he asked Zelda. “Please!”
“It should be a snap,” she replied, although to her it would seem painfully slow since she’d have to do everything the mortal way.
Things went smoothly until about 6:30, when Frasier complained about the arrangement of the cheeses and snacks. “You put the crackers near the soft cheeses, not near the dip,” he insisted.
Zelda, at the other end of the room, disagreed. “Well, since for some ridiculous reason you don’t have any chips on hand–”
Frasier bristled. “Potato chips? Tortilla chips? They’re so...so plebeian, so state U-ish. These are Harvard people you’re dealing with. We’re not here to watch a football game and drink beer.”
Zelda’s response became louder. “Then what goes with the dip?”
Hilda looked at her screen, and to her surprise. Zelda – at least the adult version – wasn’t there. In her place was a little girl wearing a navy blue pinafore, looking for all the world if she were ready for her first day at school. Oh, I know where this is going, Hilda thought deliciously. Should I prevent this, or should I let it go? I mean, there’s no one else here, and it would be so nice for once to be the big sister...
A few seconds later, she decided to intervene. But it was too late.
“You’re acting like a child,” Frasier said while he was looking away from Zelda. The second he said it, she felt strange, and found everything around her suddenly seemed twice as large. Furthermore, her purple dress was gone, replaced by, of all things, a little girl’s outfit...with a bewildered Frasier staring at her from across the room. He blinked, and then saw a full-sized, adult Zelda, again in purple dress, look back at him.
What happened? she angrily asked Hilda. You are in big trouble for this.
Relax! No one else saw it, and you can ride it out. Make believe it was his imagination. We do that all the time, remember?
“Is something wrong?” she asked Frasier.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “A few seconds ago, I thought I saw you as a little girl, standing over there.”
“You’re obviously overworking yourself,” Zelda answered, strolling closer to him. “And tell me -- would you expect this from a little girl?” she added, embracing Frasier and sensually kissing him on the lips.
“I think not,” a confused Frasier said as he fell back from her arms and heard the doorbell chime. “That must be the caterer.”
Now that’s one passionate witch, Hilda said to herself in complimenting Zelda. Hold it; he’s still the witch.
* * *
The first guest, a 1990 alumnus who was now a systems analyst at Microsoft, arrived slightly before 7:30. They continued to trickle in gradually, and by 8 p.m. about twenty guests, five of them women, were in Frasier’s apartment.
“Mingle, make some acquaintances,” Frasier told Zelda as he went to open the door. “It could pay off.”
“That it could,” she replied, remembering she had zapped some copies of her resume and put them in her handbag before losing her powers. Some of her recent accomplishments were listed, but no dates, for obvious reasons; who would believe she actually worked in Thomas Edison’s lab?
Zelda double-checked with Hilda at Frasier Central. Now this time, you’re ready in case of disaster? I don’t want a repeat of what happened earlier.
I’ll be on my best behavior, her sister answered.
Good. Oh, and by the way, come up with something new other than national parks. At this rate, Frasier will wind up as Secretary of the Interior.
No problem, Zelly.
The first problem came about 8:30, when the alums stopped mingling and the head of the Seattle chapter introduced the host, “a man who has done so much for the good name of Harvard in the Pacific Northwest: Frasier Crane!” Enthusiastic, if polite, applause followed.
Hilda looked at the 30-second screen, and saw a vision of Zelda in a fur robe, sitting on a throne. Oh, no, she thought, he’s going to call her a queen! What to do? Then she saw his piano. Voila! Frasier Crane, get ready to be the life of the party.
“Thank you,” Frasier told his fellow alumni. “I want to welcome you here, along with – let’s forget all the pleasantries and enjoy some music. Zelda, would you please sit down and play?”
“Huh? Okay,” replied a stunned Zelda, who could play the piano passably but was hardly a virtuoso. But, sis, what the heck should I play?
You like Sinatra, right?
Sure, ever since we magically turned ourselves into bobbysoxers to see him back in 1944.
Just crank out some stuff from the Great American Songbook for Frasier to sing, and everything should be okay. Hilda paused. Oh, and sis, no “Witchcraft” or “Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered.” Can’t afford to give him ideas.
Zelda walked over to the piano, took a few seconds to get her fingers limber, and whispered to Frasier, “Do you know ‘Saturday Night Is The Loneliest Night In The Week’?”
“Do I?” he answered cheerfully. “It’s one of my dad’s favorite Sinatra songs! I know it by heart.”
Zelda smiled. “Then, let’s go.” She played four notes, pointed at him, and he began: “Saturday night is the loneliest night in the week, ’cause that’s the night that my sweetie and I used to dance cheek to cheek...”
“He had the same great voice in glee club,” Zelda overheard someone say as she continued playing.
I’m impressed, Hilda said psychically. With both of you.
You always underestimate my musical skills, Zelda replied.
The mellow sounds continued with the Ellington standard “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” the ballad “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning,” and finally “I’m Confessin’,” of which Zelda remembered wearing out Louis Armstrong’s record of it back in the early thirties.
Zelda, did you change your outfit? Hilda hurriedly asked between songs. I suddenly see you playing in a sequined dress slit up to...well...
How can I change my outfit so quickly if I’m mortal? Oh no, he must see me as a star like Diana Krall, or something to that effect. She quickly rose from her seat. “Frasier, I think it’s time you sat down and played.”
“If you insist,” he replied.
Good move, Hilda commented. Unless he had a Liberace obsession in his youth, I doubt we’ll see him in sequins.
* * *
A petite brunette who looked to be in her early thirties began chatting with Zelda while Frasier was singing, and playing, his heart out. “My name is Kelly Marie Ford, class of ’88, Business School ’91,” she said, “and before this get-together turned into a musicale, Frasier told me some wonderful things about your scientific skills. Do you have a resume?”
“Yes,” she said, retrieving a folded copy from her handbag and handing it to her. She wasn’t necessarily looking for work, although a few freelance assignments certainly would boost the Spellman coffers. “What do you do?”
“I’m with a startup Internet company selling chemicals, and I think your abilities are precisely what we’re looking for,” Kelly said after examining the resume. “Not only can we offer you a good starting salary, but we’ll give you a number of shares in our company. Who knows how much they’ll be worth years from now?”
Who knows indeed, Zelda thought with some skepticism, recalling how Hilda lost much of their fortune in 1929 by buying stocks on margin. Still, it sounded like a good opportunity, plus it would be nice to be so close to Frasier...
“Call me at my hotel tomorrow morning to finalize your offer,” Zelda said, jotting down the phone number and room on the back of the resume. If it was as good as promised, she just might take it.
Would you really move clear across the country for this, Zelly?
Since the New World was discovered, we’ve crossed the Atlantic numerous times, sometimes even without magic, Zelda replied. Part of me eagerly awaits a new challenge, especially if Frasier Crane is by my side.
* * *
Nearly half of the alums had left the party by the time Martin returned to the apartment at about 10:30. “Where’s Daphne?” he asked Frasier.
“Niles had some muscular aches, and Daphne went to treat him,” his son answered. “She just called; she’ll be back within 30 minutes.”
“Are we nearly finished being overrun by the Crimson horde? I’d like to go and get ready for bed.”
Frasier nodded. “Just about. I’ll relay the word it’s time for everyone to leave. We did raise about $7,000 for the Seattle Harvard scholarship fund tonight.”
“And that Zelda’s not letting you out of her sight,” Martin said, noting her waving at him from across the room.
“You like her, don’t you Dad?” Frasier said with a smile.
“She’s pretty easy to like...and I’m glad she apparently likes you.”
“All I’ll say is...she’s special.”
And that’s all you need to say, Hilda added from deep within the recesses of Frasier's brain. We are in the homestretch.
* * *
A few minutes later, after the number of guests had dwindled to four, Daphne entered.
“Is Niles all right?” Martin asked.
“A few rubdowns of his calves and he was as good as new,” she replied, walking towards Frasier.
Oh, I don’t want to take any chances with a possible witch hunter now, Zelda thought as she saw her get closer to him. Without making it appear too obvious, she headed Daphne off at the pass, a few feet from Frasier.
“Could I have a few minutes with you, Daphne?” Zelda said. “It’s about...” She subtly pointed at Frasier.
“Oh, I get it,” Daphne answered. “Sure. Follow me into my room.” She turned to Martin. “I’m going to show Zelda some photos of my hometown of Manchester.”
Once in her room, Daphne sat at her chair while Zelda sat on the side of her bed. “You’re really fond of Dr. Crane, aren’t you? This isn’t just, uhh–”
“Physical attraction? I hope what he and I did last night doesn’t give you that impression,” Zelda said. “But you know him better than I do.” She sought answers, to be sure, but this was also a time-delaying tactic to keep a potential witch hunter away from her unwitting prey.
“For a man of such intellect, Dr. Crane can often be pretty irrational,” Daphne said. “Some of the things he does simply defy comprehension. But I will add this: even when he’s doing something strange, he never does it with malice. There’s a very gentle soul behind that volatile personality.”
Zelda took in her comments, then added after a slight pause, “Do you think I could make him happy? Could he make me happy?”
“From what I’ve seen of him over the past six years, I suppose the answer is ‘yes’ on both counts. But any woman who’s involved with Dr. Crane had better be pretty powerful in her own right.” Daphne smiled. “You’re not thinking of marrying him, are you?”
“Oh, that would be a long way off, if ever,” Zelda said. “But I may be taking a job in Seattle, in which case we could see each other regularly.”
“Just be sure you’re taking the job with your brain instead of your heart. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to go to bed. I’ve had a busy day.”
“Very good,” Zelda said, rising from the bed, letting Daphne’s advice sink in as she left the room. She looked at her watch. It was just about 11 p.m.
One hour to go.
end of chapter 6
01-15-2005, 04:39 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
To The Midnight Hour
“They’re all gone now,” Frasier said to Zelda as his final party guest departed; the wall clock read 11:15. Daphne had gone to bed, and Martin was about ready to do likewise. “In a few minutes...”
“Just you and I,” she replied. Well, not really...
“I’m thinking about going to bed myself,” Frasier said. That raised alarms from Hilda.
If he goes to sleep before midnight, Zelly, you won’t reacquire your powers until he awakens. Do you really want to risk several extra hours as a mortal? You never know. In the meantime, something bad could happen to you.
You’ve got a point, sis. But I think I can keep him occupied until midnight... “Frasier, let’s talk for a little bit,” she told him. “We really haven’t talked much about us today.”
He nodded. “Would you like to go out on the balcony? We’ll have some privacy, and for Seattle in mid-November, it’s surprisingly balmy.”
“That would be ideal.”
But before they could do so, Martin emerged from his bedroom. “I just wanted to get a final cup of joe while I finish reading my book,” he said. “Zelda, ever read real-life police or detective books?”
“Once in a while,” she said, which actually meant rarely.
“I’m nearly at the end,” he said with a smile. “I’ll let you two lovebirds know how it turns out when I see you at breakfast tomorrow morning.” With that, he went into the kitchen to get his coffee.
Frasier turned to Zelda. “I’m really quite sorry if that sounded as if he were casting doubts on the purity of our relationship,” he said softly. “I don’t like thinking that other people are assuming what we have is–”
He thinks other people think you’re a slut, Hilda bluntly told her sister. But judging from the 30-second screen, he doesn’t feel that way, so you’re all right.
“Purely physical? I didn’t sense that from your father at all,” Zelda replied. “He’s a very sweet man, and I think he’s bright enough to know our affection exists on several different levels.” Do you think Frasier wants me to go to bed with him again, she asked Hilda.
Not that I can tell, her younger sister replied. I think his feelings towards you are genuine, and he’s not out for another time in the sack.
That’s good, Zelda said, because if I slept with him again, it’d just be another chaotic 24 hours. Eventually that would catch up with both of us.
Not to mention me in here another day, further spoiling what little life I have, Hilda added.
Martin, carefully holding his cup of coffee, walked past the pair. “Hey, listen,” he told Zelda. “I hope what I just said didn’t make you feel unwelcome here. Just as Frasier and Niles have the common decency I always wanted from my sons...”
“Thank you, Dad,” Frasier replied.
“...so you, Zelda, appear to embody all the qualities I’d want from a daughter, just as Daphne sort of serves as the daughter I never had.” He paused and looked at Frasier. “Don’t ever tell her I said that.”
“You have my word.”
Zelda smiled and gave Martin a peck on the cheek while grasping his cup of coffee so it wouldn’t fall. “It’s evident from Frasier that you did a great job as a father,” she told him, “and for that I thank you.”
Martin glanced at his watch. “Heck, it’s past 11:30,” he said, shuffling to his room and closing the door behind him.
“Now’s the time,” Frasier said, waving his hand towards the balcony and handing Zelda his jacket. “Here, wear this in case it gets chilly out there.”
“Still the gentleman, I see.” It’s 11:33, Hilda told her sister. Just hold on for 27 minutes more, and you’ll be a full-fledged witch again.
* * *
For a few minutes, they simply stared out at the darkened Seattle skyline, without talking; like the night before, there was little to see, though the sounds of the streets below softly resonated through the air. Then, at 11:38 according to Zelda’s watch, Frasier turned to her.
“I don’t think we’ve run out of things to say,” he said gently. “I sense we simply haven’t found a way to say it.”
She smiled in response and clasped her hands over the railing. “I believe you’re right. There are many things I’d like to tell you, and probably things you want to tell me, but where is the framework for it? What’s the proper setting? We don’t know what it is yet.”
“This could be a magnificent relationship,” he said. “I’m not ashamed to admit I admire beauty in a woman, but intelligence enhances a woman’s beauty and personality aids it further still.”
You’re in a purple dress, and he’s reciting purple prose, Hilda said. You’re not believing all this garbage, Zelly, are you?
Let’s just say I’ll believe what I want to. Don’t spoil this for me.
Zelda looked into his eyes. “Frasier, if I took this job I could be offered and relocated out here, don’t feel I’d be pressuring you to continue this relationship if it isn’t what you want. I like your style, your taste, your intelligence, but above all I want you to be happy.”
He smiled at her. “After all these hours you’ve spent with me, it should be obvious that, at times, I’m not the easiest person in the world to get along with.”
“The work indeed is challenging,” Zelda told him, “but the benefits are amazing.” With that, she wrapped her arms around him and planted a few kisses on his face. Fifteen minutes left, Zelly, her sister reminded.
“To borrow a Gershwin title, nice work if you can get it,” Frasier said as Zelda nodded. Both feeling slightly awkward, they retreated to their previous positions watching over the city, her hands folded just over the railing.
I sense he’s thinking about living life with you, Hilda told her sister. No, nothing on the screen; it’s just a hunch of mine.
It should come as no surprise to you that I’m doing likewise, sis. Zelda smiled. He and I, married, albeit a few years from now...
If it happened, would you tell him...
...that I’m a witch? Sure, in time. I mean, Ted did it, Zelda replied, referring to their brother and Sabrina’s father, who had married a mortal woman before they ultimately divorced. I don’t think he’d be intimidated by my powers, nor would he try to exploit me or reveal my secret.
And our mother looks nothing at all like Agnes Moorehead, Hilda quipped. By the way, it’s 11:51.
* * *
The silence continued for a few minutes more, while Hilda carefully watched the clock near the 30-second device. It was now 11:57, and all systems seemed go before Frasier’s temporary magic would revert back to Zelda.
Still resting her hands on the railing, Zelda turned her head to look at Frasier. “I think I’ve said this at least once since we met,” she said, “but just in case I haven’t, I will say it now. I love you.”
“And I love you,” Frasier affectionately replied, gently kissing her on the lips. “I’m trying to recall the last time I felt so strongly about a woman. Maybe it was Lilith, maybe it was Diane – she was a girl I knew in Boston back in the eighties.” He smiled wistfully. “Je t’aime, Zelda.”
“Love,” Zelda said. “Four little letters, and yet it may be the mightiest word in the language.”
Frasier thought about it for a few seconds, and concurred. “Over the centuries, great minds – Freud, Jung among them – have tried to comprehend it, define it, distill it, ultimately without success. Love indeed has an almost magical, mystical power.”
Just after the clock reached 11:59 and the day’s final seconds began ticking off, Zelda again glanced at Frasier. “Love is pretty powerful, isn’t it?”
There were about 35 seconds to go before midnight when Hilda looked at her screen, and to her surprise saw only Zelda on the balcony. Where was Frasier? Then she saw something small on the screen fall from a stunned Zelda’s grasp.
Hilda hurriedly pressed the “freeze” button -- and that small item turned out to be Frasier himself. I know where this is going, she thought.
Zelda suddenly heard a “May day, May day” shout inside her psyche. Frasier’s going to say you have him in the palm of your hand, and you’ll accidentally drop him off the balcony! Do something! You have only a few seconds!
“Zelda, if anyone should know about power, it’s you,” Frasier said. “I mean, as far as I’m concerned, you have me–”
“I can’t go through with this,” Zelda hurriedly told him while also drawing her upturned palms against her body, just in case Frasier magically wound up in her hand. But there he was, still big as life and safe, as she heard chimes in the distance of the still night and felt a familiar power re-enter her body. It was midnight, and she was a witch again.
Whew, that was close, Hilda told her sister while wiping her forehead in relief. But, did you mean what you just said?
Frasier, who apparently didn’t feel a thing from the magic transfer, rested his chin on his fist in thought for a few seconds, and then nodded. “As much as we obviously love each other, I sense you’re doing the right thing,” he told Zelda. “This relationship developed in an incorrect way. Like a poorly cared-for houseplant, we gave it too much water at the start, and now it will never blossom to its potential.”
“Interesting analogy, that,” she replied.
“Also, I don’t think it’s any big secret that when we fall in love, we tend to project unreal, almost fantasy qualities on those we desire.”
Tell me about it, Zelda and Hilda simultaneously thought.
“And if you don’t mind my saying so,” he added, “you held me spellbound. But, ultimately, this relationship probably wasn’t going to succeed.”
Zelda nodded in agreement. “In addition, you have your obligations to Frederick, the son with Lilith you told me about. I have mine, especially to my niece Sabrina as she prepares to become a young adult. And there are 3,000 miles between us, and will continue to be, since if I’m offered that job I’m going to turn it down. Could this work between us? Perhaps in the future, but not now.”
“Nevertheless,” Frasier replied, “I’m glad we met and shared some wonderful times. I like to think there will always be a magical part of you within me.” With that, he hugged her.
“You don’t know the half of it, dearie,” she whispered to him.
This is coming off like the end of a comic book, Hilda telepathically told her sister, as if you were Superman and Frasier Crane was Lois Lane. What next? Are you going to wink at the audience?
Hilda, get out, Zelda answered. And using her regained magic for the first time, she zapped her sister out of Frasier’s now-mortal brain and into the bottom of her handbag.
“Ah, another Gershwin reference. This is why I like you,” Frasier told Zelda. “Remember when I told you last night I would pay for your cab ride back to the hotel? You’ll be pleased to know that I’m still a man of my word.” He took her hand, and they went back into the apartment.
* * *
“I can’t believe you gave up on him,” Hilda said to her sister in Zelda’s hotel room.
“If I didn’t, he’d have died!” she answered. “Had that tiny body fallen out of my hands, by the time he hit the ground, it would have been past midnight and he would have been mortal again. I had to do it.”
“So you saved his life.”
“With your help, Hilda.” Zelda paused. “It’s interesting when you stop and think about it. In the space of a few seconds, one of the toughest decisions of my life instead became one of the easiest.”
“It’s been a long day. Can I get some sleep?”
“Sure,” Zelda said, zapping her double bed into twins. “But remember, it’s back in the handbag for you when I check out this morning. I am not going to be charged for two people!”
end of chapter 7
01-15-2005, 04:44 PM
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINK ’N’ WITCH
“So she’s heading back to Boston? Too bad,” Roz told Frasier over mid-morning coffees they shared with Niles at Café Nervosa. “I liked her.”
“It’s not something to cry over,” Frasier said. “We handled it like adults. It was probably a long shot to begin with.”
Niles nodded, rubbing his still-aching calves. “We all know you can’t force-feed a relationship. It needs time, months, years even, to develop, till you know for sure she’s the one.” He sat back and glared at the ceiling, then turned to Frasier. “At the same time, I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. She apparently had a lot going for her.”
“Well, look who’s coming through the door,” Roz said as the brothers turned around. “It’s Zelda again, and another woman’s with her.”
“Hi there,” Zelda said. “Just wanted to drop by and say goodbye, and also have you meet my younger sister, Hilda. She was visiting here for a few days.”
“Hilda, how come we didn’t see you?” Frasier asked.
“Oh, I was around,” she said. “Saw a lot of the sights. We simply never crossed paths, I guess.”
“Zelda, you would have gotten a kick out of what Frasier said earlier,” Roz said, smiling. “He called you the thinking man’s sex symbol.”
Zelda softly laughed at the compliment. Had he said that yesterday, she thought, what would I have been transformed into? Probably a version of that famous Betty Grable swimsuit pinup from the forties, although I’d also have a graduate’s cap and tassel on my head.
Frasier gave an imperceptible nod to Zelda confirming the comment, as they briefly stared into each other’s eyes. “Would you mind if I dropped you a line every now and then? By letter, I mean,” he asked. “E-mail is so, how should I say it, impersonal. I have your address from an extra copy of your resume you left from last night.”
“A letter from you? It would be an honor,” Zelda said, “as long as Hilda here doesn’t get hold of it before I do.” Everyone laughed...well, everyone but Hilda.
“Are you taking the train back?” Roz asked.
“No, this time I’m, er, we’re flying,” Zelda said, checking her watch. “And if we hurry, we’ll get to the airport just in time.”
“Though I hate sounding so trite, bon voyage,” Niles said.
“And...so long,” Frasier added, smiling at Zelda as she and her sister turned to leave.
However, just before the Spellman sisters were out the door at Café Nervosa, Zelda turned to Hilda. “I can’t let it end without one more thing,” she said, pointing back and “freezing” the café and its inhabitants.
Walking over to the immobilized Frasier – who, thankfully, had not been in the process of sipping his cup of coffee at that split-second – Zelda bent down and gave him a full-bodied kiss, complete with a bit of her lipstick.
“Couldn’t have done it better myself. That’ll give him something to think about,” her sister said admiringly. “Oh, and since I’m not flying back with you, I’ll see you in a few hours,” she added, zapping herself back to the family house.
Zelda then looked around the café and slowly walked out, pointing back to unfreeze time.
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