Copyright© 2020 by Lazlo Zalezac
After doing stupid little tricks all week in his room, Sean decided that it was time to see what he could really do with his gift of magic. He hiked out into the woods thinking that it would probably be safer to try his next couple of experiments where there was nothing to break. He had already broken a glass that had been between him and an object that he called to his hand. He hadn’t gotten into trouble over the incident, but it was a good reminder that he had to be careful.
Anyone who might have seen him enter the woods would have wondered what he was doing. He had a small board about six inches wide, twenty inches long, and an inch thick in one hand. He had a coke can in his other hand. A hammer was stuck in his belt. His left front pocket bulged with marbles and his right front pocket bulged with change. His right rear pocket was filled with nails.
When he was a good half hour into the woods, he stopped and looked around. There was nothing around except for trees. He said, “This looks like a good place.”
His first experiment was to determine how easy it would be to use his gift to do something complicated. With his left hand, he held up the board to the trunk of a fairly large oak tree. With his right hand, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a couple of nails. The nails were the lightweight finishing nails that were within the limit of his ability to control.
Holding the nail in his right hand, he commanded it to penetrate the board. The nail penetrated the board unnervingly close to his hand. He said, “I had better be a little more careful. I’d hate to try and explain to Mom how I nailed my hand to a board.”
It took a couple of attempts to figure out what he had to do to get the board nailed to the tree. He found the easiest way was to hold the nail next to the piece of wood where he wanted it to go in and then give it the command to penetrate into the tree. It took a good dozen nails before he was satisfied that the board was not going anywhere. He said, “That was fun.”
He stepped back and examined his work. It wasn’t too bad. He figured that he could always earn a living as a carpenter as long as he never had to use a nail heavier than his little stone. Giving a nice little tug on the board to make sure that it stayed up, he said, “On to phase two.”
He pulled out the bag of marbles and walked twenty-five paces away from the board. He commanded the marble to hit the board like a bullet. The result was rather spectacular when the marble and the board exploded. He went over to the board and examined the damage. The marble had destroyed a good portion of the board. He whistled and said, “I could outdraw Billy The Kidder with that little trick.”
He decided to see what would happen at fifty paces. He walked fifty steps away from the board and directed the marble to fly in the direction of the board at the speed of a bullet. Much to his surprise, the marble struck the board creating another explosion of glass and wood. Somewhat puzzled by the result, he said, “They told me I could only control things at a distance of forty- three steps.”
He held out a marble and told it to stay in place. The marble floated in the air. He stepped back and watched what the marble did. He kept stepping back until he hit forty-four paces. Upon stepping out of range, the marble fell to the ground. Shaking his head, he said, “This doesn’t make sense.”
Sean spent a couple hours of the morning figuring out that once the object was more than forty-three paces away from him that the normal laws of physics held. If the object was moving, it continued to move but without his control. If the object was stationary, it then behaved like a normal object and fell if it wasn’t supported. After fishing for a marble in his pocket and not finding one, he said, “As Mom would say, I’ve lost all my marbles.”
After repeating the marble trick with some change, he discovered that the coins were less accurate than the marbles after forty-three paces. They tended to flutter and take off in unpredictable directions at the longer distances. More than half of them missed the target at sixty paces. However, they all struck the target within the forty-three pace range.
Satisfied with his discoveries, he decided it was time to head home and see if there were any trips to the store pending. The longer he stayed gone, the more trips he would have to make back to back. He looked at the coke can and ordered it to flatten. It turned into a huge flat sheet about the thickness of aluminum foil. After ordering it to fold itself into halves until it was small enough to fit in his pocket, he watched fascinated as it folded itself. He ordered the can in his back pocket and the sensation of it sliding in caused him to jump. It was kind of a weird feeling. As he bent down and picked up the hammer, he said, “That was kind of neat.”
After making sure that he hadn’t forgotten anything, he headed back towards the path. He came out near Suzie’s house. He stood there looking down the path thinking about the afternoon spent swimming with her. Just the idea of seeing her in that bathing suit was enough to excite him. He debated about going to the backdoor and seeing if she was home, but decided that she wouldn’t want to see him.
He turned to head home when Suzie asked, “Where are you going?”
Sean turned around surprised to see Suzie coming up the path from the convenience store. He said, “I was about to head home.”
“I thought maybe you came by to see me,” Suzie said.
“I thought about it,” Sean said.
“And what did you decide?” Suzie asked.
“I decided that you probably had better things to do than waste your time with me,” Sean answered. Two summers ago they had spent most of their free time together until he had noticed that she had turned into a pretty woman one afternoon. Her mother had picked up on the tension and hadn’t helped the situation any. There were lots of comments about how it would be best if he didn’t come over to visit Suzie when she wasn’t at home. Her mother had watched every move that he made. All of a sudden, he had felt awkward around Suzie and stopped coming over so often.
Suzie shook her head and said, “Come on and have a coke with me.”
“That might not be a good idea. Your mother doesn’t like me,” Sean said.
Suzie laughed at that. Sean was often a topic of conversation around the house and her mother always talked fondly of him; at least until the conversation came to having him stop by for a visit. She said, “She likes you well enough. She told me the other day that she’s just afraid that if she feeds you that you’ll move in like some sort of stray cat.”
“In that case, I’ll stay for supper,” Sean said provoking a laugh from Suzie.
As they walked up to the backdoor, Mrs. Emery stepped out and said, “If it isn’t the Witless Wonder.”
“Hello, Mrs. Emery. It is a beautiful day isn’t it?” Sean said.
“Yes, it is, Sean. What brings you over here?” Mrs. Emery asked. One glance at Suzie and she knew the answer. Her daughter had been hanging around the path behind the house for the past couple of hours.
“Food,” Sean said.
“Food?” Mrs. Emery asked not quite sure she understood his answer.
“Yes,” Sean answered with a curt nod of his head.
“You’re here to borrow a cup of sugar or something?” Mrs. Emery asked.
Suzie elbowed Sean as he said, “Suzie said that if you fed me that you would adopt me like I was a stray cat so I came here to eat.”
“That’s a novel idea, Sean,” Mrs. Emery said shaking her head. She found it hard to keep from laughing.
“I thought so. I rather like the idea of living the lifestyle of a cat,” Sean said.
“And what would that entail?” Mrs. Emery asked looking at him.
“You know, rubbing against people you like, sleeping wherever you want, and being a finicky eater,” Sean answered.
Despite being shocked that Sean had actually said that to her mother, Suzie laughed and said, “It does sound like a nice lifestyle.”
“Hearing it phrased like that, I’d have to agree with you Sean. It does sound like a nice lifestyle,” Mrs. Emery said amused by his audaciousness.
“All I would have to do is purr on occasion,” Sean said.
Smiling, Mrs. Emery said, “When I take in a stray cat, the first thing I do is take it to the vet for shots. Then I have it neutered. Are you still interested in staying for dinner?”
“Now that you mention it, my mother is serving fried liver tonight and I would hate to miss it,” Sean answered smiling.
Suzie said, “You hate liver.”
“It is better than the alternative,” Sean said gesturing to her mother.
“Ah well, there’s always next time. I’ll make sure to talk to the vet about the charges for emergency services in case I adopt another stray cat,” Mrs. Emery said.
“It is always good to be prepared, Mrs. Emery,” Sean said.
Mrs. Emery said, “I was a girl scout once upon a time.”
“They had them back then?” Suzie asked.
“Yes. I even got a merit badge for making a broom so that I could sweep out my parent’s cave and chase out any stray saber toothed tigers that wandered in,” Mrs. Emery said sweetly.
Sean said, “I get the feeling that being a cat in your house isn’t all that pleasant of a prospect.”
“Snip, snip. Tom cat turns into a pussy cat,” Mrs. Emery said making a scissors gesture with her fingers.
“Yes, I must say that you definitely have a cat hostile household,” Sean said.
“Let’s get some cokes,” Suzie said.
Sean followed Suzie into the house. She offered him a seat at the kitchen table. He started to sit down and remembered the hammer that he had stuck in his belt. He took out the hammer and set it on the place mat. Suzie returned to the table carrying a glass of soda and asked, “What’s with the hammer?”
“I was out in the woods and thought I’d see if the old tree house was still there,” Sean said frantically trying to come up with a believable explanation. He, Max, and Suzie had built it one summer with pieces of wood they had rummaged from around their respective houses. It was little more than a lopsided platform built across two branches with ladder steps leading up to it. Building it had taken a couple of days, but they had played in it most of the summer.
“Are you planning on running away from home?” Suzie asked.
“I thought it would make a nice little vacation retreat. You know, someplace to contemplate my existence between trips to the store,” Sean answered.
Suzie smiled and said, “I haven’t thought about that old tree house in years. How did it look?”
Even though Sean hadn’t seen it that day, he had wandered across it last year when playing in the woods. He said, “There wasn’t much left of it. The platform was gone. I guess the nails rusted and the wind blew the board away.”
“We had a lot of fun that summer,” Suzie said with a sigh. Those had been fun days when kids were kids and the whole world was new. She missed the sense of friendly togetherness and the adventures they had back in those times.
“Yes, we did,” Sean said noticing that Mrs. Emery was poking her head in the kitchen to watch them every fifteen seconds or so. She was talking on the phone and he assumed that she was inviting his mother over.
Suzie said, “It would be nice if you came over more often. We could hang around, play some video games, swim in the pool, and do stuff.”
“That would be nice,” Sean said.
Mrs. Emery entered the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. She sat down at the table and said, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat.”
Sean frowned and said, “I hate to say this, but you definitely have a thing against cats. You might want to visit a doctor and find out why.”
“It comes from being raised around saber tooth tigers,” Mrs. Emery said wryly.
“That would explain it,” Sean said nodding his head and trying to look wise.
Mrs. Emery, knowing the answer to her question, asked, “What were you kids talking about?”
“Making some plans for the rest of the summer,” Suzie said.
“Your daughter has found a most unique way of keeping her virtue,” Sean answered.
Frowning at hearing Sean talking about Suzie’s virtue, Mrs. Emery asked, “How?”
“What?” Suzie asked wondering how Sean was going to turn the discussion they had to something even resembling his comment.
“She has decided that being seen in my presence will give her the kind of reputation that will keep all of the guys away,” Sean answered.
Suzie looked at him and asked, “Just how is that supposed to work?”
“What kind of reputation?” Mrs. Emery asked curious about where he was going with the topic.
“No one wants to go out with the crazy girl who hangs out with the weird guy,” Sean answered.
“It is the weird guy I’m worried about,” Mrs. Emery said.
Sean waved a hand dismissively and said, “Don’t worry, Mrs. Emery. Weirdness isn’t contagious.”
“I’m not sure about that,” Mrs. Emery said.
Sean shrugged off the comment and said, “You must admit that it is a most remarkable plan on her part.”
“I’m not sure who is doing the planning,” Mrs. Emery said.