“Such a nasty woman.”
The nasty women gather on the heath just after midnight. It is Nasty Women’s Sabbath, Election Eve, and they must make haste.
Their sturdy he-goats and their broomsticks are parked with the valet. Beyond the circle, their familiar owls and toads and pussycats strut back and forth, boasting of being grabbed or not grabbed.
A will-o’-the-wisp zigzags back and forth over the assemblage (it is bad with directions, like a nasty woman).
They have much to do and the hour is late.
They must sabotage the career of an upwardly mobile young general named Macbeth.
They must lure an old wizard into a cave and lock him there so that Camelot may fall.
They must finish Ron and Harry’s homework for them (again).
They must turn some people into newts and let some of them get better and let others run for office and go on prime-time cable.
They must transform all of Odysseus’s sailors into swine and then back again, get Sabrina through high school, freeze Narnia permanently, complete all sorts of housework for Samantha Stevens.
They have a good many apples to poison and drug and mermaid voices to steal and little dogs to get, too.
And then they have an election to rig.
They must make haste. The vagenda is quite full.
They gather around the bubbling cauldron as the squirrels scurry off into hiding and the bats fly in.
One particularly nasty woman who has been juggling a lot at home and at work lately flies in late on her Swiffer and apologizes; she has not even had time to put a wart on her nose or a bat into her hair. Nasty women know that it only looks easy.
The nasty women gather around the cauldron and lean in.
They lean in with the ingredients that they have been gathering for days, for years, to make the potion potent.
Eye of newt. Wool of bat. Woman cards, both tarot and credit. Binders. Lemons. Lemonade. Letters to the editor saying that a woman could not govern at that time of month — when in fact she would be at the height of her power and capable of unleashing the maximum number of moon-sicknesses against our enemies, but the nasty women do not stoop to correct this.
They toss in pieces of meat and legs with nothing else attached and dolls and sweethearts and sugars and all the other things they were told to be, and like it.
They drop in paradoxes: powerful rings that give you everything and keep you from getting the job, heels that only move forward by moving backward, skirts that are too long and too short at the same time, comic-book drawings whose anatomy defies gravity, suits that become pantsuits when a woman slips them on, enchanted shirts and skirts and sweaters that can ask for it, whatever it is, on their own. They take the essence of a million locker rooms wrung out of towels and drop it in, one drip at a time. Then stir.
They sprinkle it with the brains of the people who did not recognize that they were doctors, pepper it with ground-up essays by respected men asking why women aren’t funny, whip in six pounds of pressure and demands for perfection. They drizzle it with the laughter of women in commercials holding salads and the rueful smiles of women in commercials peddling digestive yogurts. They toss in some armpit hair and a wizened old bat, just to be safe. And wine. Plenty of wine. And cold bathwater. Then they leave it to simmer.
And they whisper incantations into it, too. They whisper to it years of shame and blame and what-were-you-wearing and boys-will-be-boys. They tell the formless mass in the cauldron tales of the too many times that they were told they were too much. Too loud. Too emotional. Too bossy. Insufficiently smiling. The words shouted at them as they walked down the streets. The words typed at them when their minds traveled through the Internet. Every concession they were told to make so that they took up less space. Every time they were too mean or too nice or shaped wrong. Every time they were told they were different, other, objects, the princess at the end of the quest, the grab-bag prize for the end of the party.
They pour them all into a terrible and bitter brew and stir to taste.
It tastes nasty. It is the taste of why we cannot have nice things, and they are used to that.
Perhaps if the potion works, they will not have to be.
The nasty women have a great deal to do before the moon sinks back beneath the horizon.
But that is all right. They know how to get things done.