Wine for Witches, Milk for Saints
by Rachael K. Jones
My grandmother would have disapproved of a Tinker in a Father Christmas suit, my customary
dress in the children's hospital each December. She believed no good could come of frivolity in
our profession, when a routine procedure could end in tragedy. I saw her point when I found
myself delivering bad news in costume to a seven-year-old and her sick friend on Christmas Eve.
Maria wasn't supposed to be in Lia's hospital room to begin with. She should have been in the
Puppet Ward with her little brother Enzo, who was infected with puppetism. Instead, the two
young girls curled up cross-legged on the hospital bed, divvying up sweets I knew Lia shouldn't
eat in her condition. Congenital heart failure didn't require abstention from sugar, but with her
transfer imminent, the Coromancers advised against heavy food, as it could interfere with
I didn't know how she'd smuggled in the contraband, but that was Maria. It wasn't easy for
siblings of sick children, stuck in a hospital for days on end. Maria coped by slipping into all
sorts of places she shouldn't go. But on Christmas Eve, we all tended to look the other way.
"Maria," said Dr. Vanessa Silva, "would you please step out? We need a little privacy with the
Giordanos right now."
"Mamma, can't she stay?" Lia asked.
"Of course. I'm sure it's all right," said Mrs. Giordano. She shut her book and gave Dr. Silva her
full attention. "What's the trouble, dottore?"
Dr. Silva stole another glance at Maria, breathed deep. "I'm afraid there's been a delay on Lia's
"What do you mean 'a delay'?" Mrs. Giordano asked in a careful, strained voice.
Dr. Silva rubbed her temple. She had volunteered to work the Christmas shift so the other
Coromancers could be with their families tonight. But I knew she had no one to go home to
except the absence of her elderly cat, who had died earlier this month. She cleared her throat.
"The cogs Enzo needs were shipped from a Tinker in Canada last week. The package should
have been here two days ago, but I'm afraid it's been lost. Without the cogs, we can't transfer
Enzo's puppetism to Lia today as planned."
It was actually a good deal worse than that. Originally, we'd ordered the cogs from a Tinker in
Belgium, but before they were produced, authorities discovered the Tinker had been selling
precious human organ cogs on the black market for use in machinery. The Tinkers' Code forbade
the use of human parts, even broken, discarded ones, to repair a machine, and they jailed him for
it. A Canadian Tinker filled the order at the last minute, but now the package had gone missing
en route to Vittorio Veneto. Without the cogs, I couldn't repair Enzo, and Dr. Silva couldn't
perform the magic disease transfer that would cure Enzo's puppetism by infecting Lia.