The review was up. The city’s only all-female brewery gets special PC treatment. Marsha stared at the text on her phone, ignoring the smell of yeast in the air.
It was her second week at The Craft. She’d gotten the job through her friend Stacey, who’d been working there for some time as an assistant brewer. Stacey knew Marsha would never have the courage to get into beer brewing on her own, so she’d gotten into a field she knew nothing about just to give her friend a reference. Marsha still couldn’t believe the ease with which Stacey navigated life, forever walking into opportunities like the guest of honor at a ball.
“Marsha, can you watch the bottling machine? The inspector’s coming today.” Gwendolyn, the brew master, emerged from the back carrying a bag of hops for their summer solstice beer.
Marsha nodded and walked over, gingerly navigating the slippery white tiles from an earlier spill. She found her footing and stood watching the rhythmic pounding of caps onto the bottles. Her nose wrinkled from the sharp scent of barley mixed with fermenting sugars.
Stacey walked in and saw her face. “You will get used to it.”
“It’s more subtle with home brewing.”
Stacey put down the box of labels she carried. “You ready for the ritual?”
Marsha looked at her and nodded. “I’m nervous though.”
“That’s normal. It’s your first one. I was throwing up like crazy before my first time.”
Gwendolyn and another assistant brewer named Jackie came into the brewery carrying boxes of goods for the solstice ritual. They put them down and began placing things on the floor. Gwendolyn stood up and started drawing the pentagram with black charcoal, carefully missing the spill that still glistened.
“Oi, new girl.” Gwendolyn stood up and looked at Marsha. “Don’t just stand there. Grab the stuff and put it around the pentagram.”
Marsha jumped and grabbed the first thing in the box she could see. A wooden statue of the goddess. She put it on one of the corners of the pentagram, then grabbed a few vials and continued.
When it was all done, the pentagram had the statue, an empty beer bottle, and vials of wheat, barley, and hops. Four black candles were lit on each side to represent north, south, east and west.
Gwendolyn stood at the north candle. “Blessed be.”
The other women echoed her.
“Goddess, we call on you to bless this beer. We offer these vials of barley, hops and wheat in hopes you will make this brew our best yet.”
“Blessed be,” the others said.
Gwendolyn pulled a knife from behind her back and held it in the air. “Dearest Goddess, with this blood offering I ask you to bless this brew so there are no more misogynist reviews.”
She brought both hands above her head and ran the blade along her palm, face expressionless. Blood dripped from her closed fist, falling into a pool on the white tile.
The room began to shake. The objects in the pentagram started vibrating with the walls, and within moments Marsha gasped as they began to float. Stacey had warned her about the job, but she hadn’t believed it until this moment.
Gwendolyn’s stared directly in front of her. The objects floated even higher as she looked up at the sky, eyes turning black with power.
“With this blood I ask you to — ”
There was a knock at the door. “Ahem.”
The women turned. A man entered, balding, roughly 5”7 with a faded black suit and old-fashioned briefcase, eyes wide and scanning the room.
“I-I’m afraid you can’t have an open wound by the p-product. That’s violation number one.”
Marsha’s mouth dropped. She looked to Gwendolyn, who looked mildly irritated at the intrusion.
Then she smiled and her chin dropped as she stared at the man. “Right on time, inspector.”
Chelsea La Vecchia is a writer living in Toronto, Canada. She has been working on her debut novel since graduating from the University of Toronto Scarborough, where she studied English literature and creative writing. Her articles can be found in Torontoist, SickNotWeak Society, and dandyhorse magazine. When not reading or writing, you can find her cycling from A to B, cooking, or taking a dance class. Find her on Twitter @ChelseaLaVecch or Instagram @cheldawg7.