It’s mid-October, late in the afternoon. The day is warm and the sky is that piercing blue that only exists for a few brief weeks, contrasting beautifully against the red and orange leaves of the trees. You pull into a small rest area to stretch your legs after several hours of driving, and to maybe get something to eat from the little attached diner. The parking lot is pretty quiet, and it’s a nice day, so you decide to stop and eat at one of the picnic tables off to the side. As you sit down, a flash of color catches your attention.
At a nearby table, a woman is sitting beside a plain brown woven basket filled with what looks to be brightly colored eggs, like the kind you see in the spring. Beside the basket is a handwritten note stating that they are for sale. There seems to be more writing, but you can’t quite make it out from where you sit.
The woman notices you looking, smiles pleasantly, and gestures that you are welcome to take a look. You point at your food, and she nods. After you finish eating and dispose of your trash in a nearby waste bin, you give in to your curiosity and approach her table.
Izbushka Eggs – $6 each
Guaranteed to be mostly helpful.
Not knowing what to make of this, you ask her what an Izbushka egg is.
She smiles and begins to tell you about hand-raised chicken-legged huts. You blink nervously, trying to decide if you’re dealing with a Halloween prank, a local artist, or someone with some sort of mental health issues. As surreptitiously as you can, you glance toward the rest area employees who are leaning against the side of the building on their break, and see that they don’t appear concerned at all, so you’re pretty sure that she’s probably fine. Artist, most likely, then. You relax somewhat and turn your attention back to her, as she tells you about her flock of rare breed izbushka (barely the size of a child’s dollhouse!), and how this particular breed is known especially for their gentle natures, brightly colored eggs, and high rate of beneficial laying, as opposed to most of the larger breeds, who are prone to being more aggressive and liable to lay harmful eggs. Unfortunately, they do have a higher chance of laying neutral eggs, so you’re as likely to get a small roll of stickers or cute pencil erasers as you are magic rings or the like.
She asks if you’re interested in buying one or two and, after a moment’s hesitation, you decide “why not?”. A little whimsy is good for the soul, and it’ll make a good story when you get home. Besides, you’re pretty sure the rest area employees would have stepped in by now if she was any kind of threat or whatever. You pull out your wallet, hand her some money, and select an egg from the basket. Definitely feels like plastic, though it does have a somewhat odd texture that you can’t quite place.
You thank the woman, wish her a good day, and continue on down the road.
Later that night, tucked up in your hotel room, you pull the egg out of your bag. You smile and open it, curious to see what you’ll find.
Inside the pale shell, surrounded by vaguely iridescent fluff of some kind (you think it feels like some kind of unspun fiber, like raw silk maybe, but you aren’t sure), is a small, gold-colored ring. Must be a “magic” ring, you think, and chuckle at the silliness of it all. You go to sleep, pleased with your day’s little side adventure.
It takes you some time to notice it, but whenever you have the ring with you you have strangely good luck finding parking spaces. Always in the most convenient locations no matter how busy or crowded a parking area is. You think of the strange woman at the rest stop and wonder. You shrug, and tell yourself it’s just a coincidence – after all, magic rings and chicken-legged huts that lay eggs aren’t really real – but you also never leave home without the ring and you never have to struggle to find parking again.
(If you liked what you just read, please feel free to toss a few coins at your mostly friendly resident word-witch!)