Dandelion Wine
Ray Bradbury
Contributed by Loretta Ingwersen
Chapter 22

Mailman Sam Brown comes home to his wife, Elmira, and tells her about some mail he delivered to Clara Goodwater, who lives up the street: books about magic and the occult, and Clara had even told him she’s studying to be a first-class witch. Elmira spies Tom Spaulding on her front lawn and takes him with her to confront Clara: along the way, she has one of her frequent accidents but now attributes it to Clara’s magic. At Clara’s front porch, accusations fly between the two women: of Sam spying on people’s mail, of Elmira not being invited to the Sandwich Club meetings even if that’s the regular day she meets her Grandma, and ultimately that Clara has been using her witchcraft to secure her longstanding presidency of the Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge. Elmira intends to run for president at the next election, which happens to be tomorrow.

Clara shows off the various magical accoutrements that she’s gathered, all for the sake of her young cousin Raoul. She also points out that for the past ten years, Elmira has consistently nominated herself for the Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge presidency and received exactly one vote each time: her own. Elmira accuses Clara of being responsible for all the ill-timed accidents she’s had that kept her from winning the much-valued office. Elmira plans to bill Clara for all the injuries she suffered, obviously caused by malicious magic. Clara figures how much that amount can be and points out Elmira is the second clumsiest woman in Green Town; when Elmira refuses to back down, Clara threatens to use magic spells on Elmira after all.

Elmira decides to fight fire with fire, good magic against bad, with an innocent boy such as Tom by her side. Tom protests that his mother doesn’t think him all that innocent, but Elmira pays him no heed: even if Clara makes voodoo dolls of her, Elmira will still battle for the presidency. As she leaves the Goodwater house, Elmira’s toe is run over by a car.

That night, Elmira Brown tabulates the costs that Clara Goodwater’s magic has had on her. In the morning, she goes to the library for books on white magic, then the drugstore for ingredients to make her potion. Sam smells the foul-smelling potion and advises she drink it when she arrives at the Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge, or else she may not be able to make it up the stairs. She then fetches her talisman, Tom Spaulding, and heads to the lodge for the election. As president, Clara called the lodge to order at one thirty that afternoon. Elmira drinks her special potion and promises to exorcise the witch in their midst - by which she had to clarify that she meant Clara Goodwater. As Elmira continues, the potion takes its toll on her and she begins to make even less sense.

The votes finally take place and again, Elmira is the only one to vote for herself. She then sees Clara Goodwater pull out a small wax doll with rusty thumbtacks in it, and asks Tom to take her to the ladies room. Unfortunately, Elmira steers herself the wrong way and she falls down the stair well - all forty steps of it. Somehow, she only came out of this bruised and battered, but with no broken bones or even sprains or twists. Clara rushes to her and promises Elmira if she doesn’t die, she’ll only use her magic for good from now on, and will even make Elmira the new president of the Honeysuckle Ladies Lodge. At the top of the staircase, Tom witnesses all this and thinks someone died. As the remaining one hundred twenty-three lodge members descend on the two women at the bottom of the stairs, Tom sneaks out, as he was no longer needed.


The comedic tone of this story is a slight departure from the rest of the book. The ambiguity remains at the end: is Clara a witch, or was she simply teasing Elmira with her doll? However, the value of life is maintained by the deal Clara strikes with Elmira, for fear of her death. While this all seems like so much twittery and silliness to Tom (and, in turn, the readers) this story is another affirmation of the miracles of small-town life and the struggle against mortality.

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