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Burn The Midnight Oil
Cowgirl Nymph
I wrote this to the Thimbleful Thursday prompt "Burn the Midnight Oil."

The midnight oil needed to be pressed by a maiden and Iris was over half a century beyond any scope of that definition. That’s why she was getting Katie to do the job for her, taking advantage of the girl’s mother’s insistence that she ‘get involved in the community.’ Iris would pay in kind for the work, of course, not that she owed Arleen Walkinshaw anything, but Katie herself was another matter. There were things that Katie needed to know that Arleen had no clue about.

Midnight oil, and everything involved with it, was one thing. Cooking was another.

In the meantime, to keep herself occupied so she didn’t go out to the shed and ruin the process, Iris was baking. Because it was Iris, cinnamon and ginger were involved. When Katie returned from the shed, the stoppered glass bottle of oil carefully held in two hands, the girl sniffed appreciatively and asked, “Have you been cooking?”

“Oh yes,” Iris assured her with a smile. “You were doing something for me at some inconvenience to yourself, so I thought I’d make you ginger and cinnamon blondies to go with your cocoa.”

Katie asked, “What’s a blondie?” Arleen had used to boast that her children never tasted sugar, so that shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise.

“Essentially, it’s a brownie without chocolate,” Iris replied. “I’m afraid these are rather….experimental.”

“As long as you didn’t use anything poisonous in them, then the worst that can happened is that they taste strange, isn’t it?” Katie hesitated then asked, “So why was I making oil for you at midnight?”

Iris considered the girl carefully for a moment. She knew what the Walkinshaws thought about Katie, but even if they were right, that didn’t mean that she was dull or otherwise deficient in understanding. If speaking freely to her was a problem, then there were acceptable remedies for that. “It might surprise you to know that magic is real and I am a witch.”

Katie looked offended and Iris’ heart sank. The girl took a bite of her blondie and said with a full mouth, “I’ve known that you’re a witch practically since Mom sent me over here to ‘help the elderly.’ As for magic, that creep who dresses like he thinks he’s a monk,or something, has made it obvious for months now that it’s real. I’m pretty sure I can keep him out of my head, but he’s annoying and it’s hard work.”

“Oh.” Iris beamed at her with delight. “But you shouldn’t talk with your mouth full, dear. Let’s finish our cocoa and I’ll show you what the midnight oil’s for.”

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It can be very flammable under the right circumstances.

Same 'verse as the coven-hunter snippets?

Yes, and two of the same characters!

Iris is in IV and Katie is in V.

I'm surprised a maiden is needed for pressing midnight oil. :) I'd have expected, if anything, that it would be a virgin guy.

What if both genders qualify? How many guys would be happy being identified as a maiden?

Despite the popular image of boys as eager to boast/pretend their amorous achievements, I think it's not unlike girls in that ratio-- there is some moral high ground in 'saving it for marriage'. :)

I suppose I'm just thinking 'wait, why is it sex-specific when a large number of men might find it useful to "burn the midnight oil"'

I was thinking more that the word has gender connotations.

Of course Iris, and her teacher/s, may not have investigated the ability of young men to perform this task...

My brain is now playing "Blue Sky Mine" at me. (Yes, I earworm ridiculously easily.)

I'm now curious: are the key properties -- whatever they might be -- of midnight oil derived from the timing and who pressed it, rather than what it was pressed from?

Huh, given Katie's earlier reaction to the monk, or whatever he was, made me think that she might've been on drugs of some sort, or blind, or something else that would induce rocking. But it looks like she was using it as a deliberate defense. Though really, having someone trying to talk to you inside your head, and project images at you, may well come across as an irregular but disturbing form of mental illness.

To say nothing of the rocking backwards and forwards plus shaking her hand across her line of vision.

They distort the sound and the image she's receiving but, as she says, it's tiring.

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