Saturday, July 15, 2023

“Monthly Magic Subscription Box” • by Carol Scheina

When Grandma emailed asking for gift ideas for Izzy’s 7th birthday, Anne wanted to scream.
More toys? She’d only just survived the holidays with its tidal wave of plastic—all requiring assembly with microscopic screws and tiny batteries of unusual sizes. Once everything was finally ready for play, Izzy had lost interest faster than a blink of the eye. Now, the majority of the crap was shoved into a packed closet in the basement.

Anne tried to keep her voice level as she asked Grandma, “Why don’t you get Izzy an experience instead?”

“Of course. I can do that,” Grandma said.

Close to Izzy’s birthday, Grandma sent an email: “I got Izzy one of those monthly subscription services. Three months’ worth. Have fun and happy birthday to my favorite granddaughter!”

“Your only granddaughter,” Anne muttered.


The first box arrived in the mailbox emblazoned with a cheerful Comic Sans font:

Monthly Magic Adventures!
Learn to be a witch or wizard!
Amaze your friends!

Anne examined the plastic wand and cheap black cape before deciding they were harmless. The only other thing in the box was a piece of card stock with the words:

Levitation spell
Make sure you practice the
correct pronunciation.


Followed by some strange words that apparently were the magic spell.

Izzy asked, “Mommy, what’s levitation?”

“It means to fly,” Anne said. Her tongue twisted trying to form the spell. Nothing happened. I hope Grandma didn’t pay a ton for this, she thought. “Why don’t you go practice your magic in the basement, honey? And take the dog? I’ve gotta get dinner cooked.”

Izzy waved the wand. “C’mon Bruiser! Let’s go be witches!”

Bruiser’s tail wagged as he followed the young girl out of the kitchen.

Anne had just started pan-frying the chicken when a mournful howl sent her dashing downstairs. Izzy stood with her wand upraised, cape over her shoulders. Bruiser the dog floated near the ceiling, tail tight between his legs.

“I can’t get him down,” Izzy explained.

Bruiser whined, his legs pumping the air.

“Where’s the spell to lower him?” Anne cried.

“Bruiser ate it.”

Anne said some words that Izzy shouldn’t have heard. She pulled out her cell and began researching a help number to call.

“Uh, Mommy? I think something’s burning in the kitchen,” Izzy said.

The chicken was still on the stove. Anne said some more words she regretted. Bruiser howled in the air.

After trashing the charred chicken, Anne found a help number for the subscription company. Thankfully, she wasn’t on hold too long, and the helpful employee taught Anne the correct pronunciation for un-levitating, and levitating as well. Bruiser was able to return his four paws to the earth, where he got many comforting belly rubs.

Anne asked Izzy not to use the spell on Bruiser. But in the meantime, Izzy delighted with sending plastic toys from the closet soaring around. Anne even found the levitation spell handy for removing Legos from the floor, which was a blessing for her feet.


The next month, Anne was prepared for the subscription box, and she told Izzy to let Mommy test it out first. Just to make sure they set up ground rules. Bruiser stayed safely corralled in the kitchen.

This time, the glittery font on the card stock declared:

Power any device with a single touch!

“Sounds like this would be handy for charging my cell phone,” Anne muttered. Plus, no more needing odd-sized batteries. She felt a bit more confident in her pronunciation this time around as she spoke the words. When she touched her phone, it buzzed. “Oh, fully charged!” She touched her tablet, and it charged as well. “You want to try, Izzy?”

The girl nodded, cape around her shoulder.

“Let’s try this toy car first, okay honey?”

Izzy got the spell right on her second try. The girl touched her speedy racer, and the battery-powered car took off.

Anne went upstairs to the kitchen to start dinner, a smile on her face.

Ten minutes later, she noticed quite a bit of noise coming from the basement. She dashed downstairs to find Izzy frantically waving her wand. “Nothing’s stopping, Mommy!”

Around the girl, nearly every battery-powered toy from the closet flashed and beeped—racing cars, self-playing pianos, Baby Cries-a-Lot. Bruiser sat in a corner and howled his misery.

When flipping switches and removing batteries didn’t shut anything off, Anne called the help number. The representative explained that everything would be powered for the duration of the item’s life.

“You mean the toys will beep until they fall apart?” Anne’s eyes widened.

The representative’s voice grated like artificial sugar. “Yes, or we can sign you up for a one-year extension of your subscription. We’ll provide a free counter-spell in your next box.”

Anne’s teeth clenched as she hung up. Baby Cries-a-Lot wailed, and Anne imagined popping its head off. Izzy wouldn’t like that. Better to just toss it all into the trash and let the garbage people deal with it. Well, she’d been wanting to clean out some toys for some time…

Izzy accepted a bribe of an extra-large strawberry milkshake in exchange for letting Mommy trash the toys. Anne blessed the magic of sugary treats to help with forgetting. “Let’s not do this spell again, okay sweetie?”

“Okay, but Mommy?” Izzy still wore her cape as she slurped. “I’ll need more milkshakes. It’ll help me remember not to do the magic again.”


When the third, and final, monthly subscription box arrived, Anne hid it from Izzy.

This spell will clean your room for you!
Fast and easy!

She could swear she’d seen that spell in a movie before. Mops would start flying out of control, clothes would dance around, and Bruiser would be traumatized once again. She’d probably have to sign up for a two-year subscription to get the counter-spell.

The box went into the trash bin. Next time, she’d tell Grandma to just get a damn toy.



Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author whose stories appeared in publications such as Diabolical Plots, Flash Fiction Online, Escape Pod, and more, including of course Stupefying Stories. You can find more of her work at

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Pete Wood said...

Why do I get the feeling this is inspired by real events?

Karin Terebessy said...

Delightful and VERY relatable speculative fiction piece! Parenthood gives us lots of fodder for writing the strange and unusual - I always enjoy reading how other writers morph their parenthood journey into sci-fi. Well done!

Unknown said...

Where does Grandma S. find this subscription? Signing Lizzie up asap!
(LOVE this story, Carol! So us!)

Made in DNA said...

Commercialism meets magic, moreover, SUBSCRIPTION magic. I love it.