‘Thinking of going for a ride, Son?’ The father asked his boy as he watched him finger the broomstick which was propped in a dark corner of the gift shop.
‘No, not me, but Nan would,’ the boy replied.
The man chuckled, ‘Not too sure what she’d think of you suggesting she’s a witch!’
‘No, really,’ said the boy, ‘When I asked her what she wanted she said a magic carpet or one of these. Either would do.’ He stroked the broom again.
‘Yes. She said she needed a quick getaway from all this rain and no sun.’
The father chuckled again, ‘You should know your nan, she takes delight in winding you up and I just can’t believe she would want an old broom.’ Still, something made him look for the tag, but it was unmarked, and as his fingers brushed the handle, a slight tremor ran up his arm. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder and gently ushered him toward the door, ‘Come on, we still have a lot to do.’ He took in his son’s down-turned mouth and added, ‘Anyway, there was no price on it. It’s obviously not for sale.’
‘Well, can’t we just ask?’ He pleaded.
‘Let’s go and get the tree,’ he insisted gently, ‘It’s time we got on home,’ and they stepped out of the door into the darkening afternoon.
‘Drive over and I’ll help you tie it on to the roof rack,’ said the chap who was selling the trees, ‘It’s too big to manhandle all the way over to the car park.’
‘Thanks, we shouldn’t be long,’ but as they walked away the boy tugged on his hand.
‘Please, I really need to get that for Nan. We just need to ask.’ And on a sudden whim his dad agreed.
As they pushed open the door the bell tinkled and the woman behind the counter smiled, ‘Aah, you’re back,’ she said, ‘So she’s found herself a new home at last.’
The man gave her a doubtful sideways glance, but the boy’s expression was a picture of wonder and innocence.
The man reached out and this time, as soon as his fingers touched the besom, he knew it was the perfect gift for his mother; it seemed to jump right into his hand. All thought of cost gone he took it to the counter.
The boy settled first the broom and then himself into the back seat of the car. ‘How are we going to wrap it, Dad? It will need a lot of paper.’
‘Oh, I shouldn’t worry about that,’ the man replied, ‘We could never disguise what it is, so I think just a nice ribbon and a gift tag.’ He glanced at his son in the rear-view mirror, ‘Your mum has that big bag of odd bits and pieces in her craft cupboard, I’m sure there will be something in there we can use.’
The man wanted to put the present in the shed when they got home, but the boy insisted he stow it in his bedroom. ‘It will get all damp and cobwebby out there. And besides I need to put that bow on it.’
‘Plenty of time for that,’ said his dad from the kitchen where he was having a well-earned cuppa after a hard afternoon’s Christmas shopping.
‘No, now. I need to do it now. Please?’
His mum sighed and got up from her chair, ‘OK, let’s go see.’
The boy lay in his bed, curtains open, so that he could look at his nan’s present. They had found a big green bow to tie round the handle and seven silver bells which he attached with a sparkly tag on which he had written his message – "Safe travels." Although he couldn’t see the colours in the moonlight, he did fancy he could see what he imagined to be stardust, shimmer around it. He didn’t know how he could wait for the big day.
The festivities over the man wondered if his mother would like to join them for a New Year’s drink, but she was not answering her home phone and her mobile was going straight to “leave a message”, so he decided to drop by her bungalow. There was no answer at the front door, so he went round the back. He found her car in the usual place and the back door unlocked. On the table sat an empty teacup and the crumbs from what looked like burnt toast, but there was no sign of Nan – or the cat.