Flash Friday 08/01/2016: Kind of Magic
“Do you believe in magic, Sonny Jim?”
The course voice caught me off guard. I have walked this street many times in my life, but people haven’t so much as looked at me, let alone ask me if I believe in magic. I’m ashamed to admit that if the man with one milky eye and less teeth than ears hadn’t stopped me, I would have missed the strange, black tent that had been pitched on the side of the path, a faint aura of incense drifting from within.
I stopped. “In magic?”
The man said nothing more, simply beckoning me with a finger as he crept back into his tent. Part of me wanted to simply walk on, but I had to see where this was going. At least if I was stabbed in the gut and had my wallet stolen from me, I’d have a valid reason not to visit the in-laws this Sunday. Would make a nice change.
I parted the tent’s entrance with a hand, expecting a flash of steel or to peer down the barrel of a gun. Instead, the man was on both of his knees, behind what was probably a box covered in a black, sequined cloth. With flourish, he motioned to the large silver dish that rested atop of it. “Come see for yourself, if yer heart’s still full o’doubt.”
Admittedly, it was. You can’t just hiss at someone walking down the street that you believe in fairy tales and expect them to follow. At this point, however, I was far too invested in this act, a small glimmer of hope that the man was about to make a rabbit appear from a hat.
I entered the tent fully. “Do I have to do anything special?”
The man shook his head, gesturing to the other side of the cloth. “Just perch yourself there, and let me do all the magic.”
I did. What else was I to do? He claimed he was about to show me a world of magic in front of my eyes, and all I had to do was sit and watch. I felt like a kid again. Maybe because only a kid would be so daft as to enter the tent of a creepy man.
The man turned around and grabbed something behind him. It was a large jar, ceramic, and looked very old. Carefully, he began to pour a crystal clear liquid into the silver dish, the drops making gentle metallic noises as they hit.
“S’just water,” the man said with a grin, noting my confused expression. “Nothin’ special about it.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I just thought that was the magic part.”
“No, no, no. Gonna use the water for the magic, see? Alright, then.” The man put the jug aside. “What you’re about to see may challenge your views on reality. It will astound you, amaze you, and leave you all a wonder. Are you ready, young sir?”
“Excellent.” With both hands, he motioned toward the dish. “Peer into the waters, and we’ll begin.”
I looked over my shoulder as a wave of doubt overcame me. When I confirmed nobody was about to mug me from behind, I craned over the dish.
“Now, tell me…” the man said, wringing his hands together with glee. “What do you see?”
“Yes, good! Very good, young sir. Gaze into the water as if it were a grand ocean, spanning the surface of the globe like a blue blanket. Wonder upon the marvels of water itself, and soon — very soon — you’ll see something.”
I gazed deeper into the bowl. At first I thought he was talking baloney as I peered into my own reflection. Then I noticed something was different, however; it was unlike looking at myself in the mirror. For some reason, I was seeing great insight on myself; my choices, my life ambitions, my history. It was as if all the tangled thoughts of the past was unravelling in front of me, and all the answers were coming to the forefront of my mind.
And I thought, hey — maybe this is magic, after all.
A hand holding a cloth swiped past my view, taking the water with it. I sat up with a started jolt, blinking at the man. He was wringing the cloth out into a bucket.
“Did you see that?” he said. “Wonderful cloth this is. Picks up water in a single swipe. Doesn’t clog up. Doesn’t falter. Wring it dry in an instant. Just–” He poured more water in, and swiped it dry once more. “Bam! Just like magic. Ketchup, mustard, beer, you name it.” He squirted condiments and tipped all sorts of liquid onto the plate, swiping them away in an instant. “Yes, sir, with this cloth, you’ll never have to worry about the housework again. Just one simply payment of four ninety-nine, and you can take this lovely item back home with you. Buy now, and get this stain remover absolutely free.” The man showed off a bottle, looked around for a stain, looked down at his shirt, scrubbed off a mark with it, and gave me a gum-filled grin.
“Oh,” I said. “It’s a ‘magic’ cloth.”
“That’s right, sir.”
“So when you talked about magic, you didn’t mean…spells, and all that.”
“No, sir. Stuff’s a load of bollocks, sir.”
“But when I peered into the water, I was beginning to have an insight on who I was.”
“Ooh,” the man said. “Bathtime must be very fun for you, sir.”
“Right,” I said, nodding to myself. “Well, sorry to take up your time, but I really have to go. Thank you, anyway.”
“Wait!” the man called as I parted the tent flap with a hand. “I forgot to mention this also gets out wine!”
I froze. Mental images of cackling in-laws with sloshing glasses of port filled my mind.
“Alright then,” I said, holding out a note. “And I’ll take the stain remover, too, while you’re at it.”