There are certain days when magic is as necessary as breathing and as predictable as your next blink.
You wake up in the morning and know … you are absolutely certain … that your telephone is going to ring, and an imperatively male voice is going to say, “Listen carefully. If you value your country, your integrity, and your honor, meet me at Pier 32 in one hour. You will know me by the white rose in my lapel and black patch over my left eye. If you have a gun, bring it.”
You lie still, waiting for the mysterious man to call and to release your inner Mata Hari. You throw your legs over the side of the bed and feel the frantic beating of your heart. Today is the day. Today, you will step onto the podium reserved only for those destined to live wildly exciting lives.
You get up.
The phone doesn’t ring.
You make yourself a cup of coffee.
The phone doesn’t ring.
But the magic does not diminish. It grows louder and louder in your brain, like a concerto being played on the radio with the volume turned way up. You put your cell phone, a twenty dollar bill, and your keys into your pocket. That is all you will need. Those who live on the edge, as you intend to do, travel light.
“The magic! The magic!” Your hallway screams as you exit your apartment.
“The magic! The magic!” The musty wallpaper shouts as you descend the stairs. One flight down. Two flights. Three. But as you reach the ground floor, you realize that you have made a mistake. There be no mysterious man on a pier, no rose in a lapel, and no black eyepatch.
“The magic! The magic!” The row of mailboxes calls to you from the lobby. It is clear to you now (how could you have thought otherwise?) that the magic will not come from a telephone; it will be in a letter from the solicitors of your Great Uncle Rufus. You never knew you had a Great Uncle Rufus, but he knew about you, and because he recognized in you a true Bird of Paradise soul, he has decided to leave you his vast fortune. Even a private Island in the glittering Aegean Sea. To you and you alone.
You unlock your mailbox.
Inside are a flyer advertising Venetian blinds and a utility bill. You shrug and laugh out loud. Of course magic would not be in stuffed into an envelope. It is too big for that. Too wide and high and voluminous. Magic cannot be sent via soundwaves or crammed into a mailbox.
You push through your lobby door and walk outside. You want to sing like a bird, twirl like a dancer, and spread out your arms to embrace a glorious blue sky. “The magic! The magic!” the yellow sun is singing to you. “The magic. The magic!” It echoes off the facades of buildings lining both sides of the street.
You walk a block south, and on the corner, you see a stylishly dressed woman leaning against the door of a Rolls-Royce. She is in her forties, and with her glossy black hair and signature red lipstick, she is unmistakable as president of the most successful talent agency in town. Her cell phone is clasped to her ear. She is oblivious to the world and concentrating on the call. Then she looks up. Her eyes surveille her surroundings, and — “The magic! The magic!” — she is staring right at you.
It is well known that this woman discovered a super model in a bookstore and an Oscar winning actress at the zoo. You thrust back your shoulders and flick an itinerant flop of hair away from your perfectly sculpted cheeks. As you step gracefully into the street, you are certain that today, she is going to discover you. That soon your face will be gracing the covers of magazines; soon Hollywood producers will be sending you scripts; soon…
She turns ever so slowly.
For the first time, you see her profile, an you quickly realize that she is far too old to be the talent agent you had thought her to be. Even the car is wrong. It is not a Rolls-Royce, but just a very new Buick.
You sigh, and with your hands dug deeply in your pockets, you dejectedly begin to slump downtown. Before you have gone five blocks, though, your slump turns into a stride, your heart begins to flutter, and you are swinging your arms. You look to your right: Magic. You look to your left: Magic. It is here, there, and everywhere. The rustling leaves on the trees shout magic; the water fountain in the park gurgles magic; and fleecy clouds high above puff magic across a panoramic sky.
You look at your watch. Five minutes to nine. You should be at work. But you know with a certainty bordering on prescience that there will be no magic waiting for you in the office today. So you call your boss. I am sick! You merrily proclaim, and you hang up before he can ask if your sickness has something to do with spring fever.
You walk all day. Uptown. Downtown. Crosstown. Sometimes you miss the magic by less than a second. Other times you approach within an inch. You wonder if the earth rotated a wee bit more slowly, of if the moon had less effect on the tides, or if the Polar ice caps weren’t in such a great hurry to melt, you might encounter the magic more quickly. Perhaps at a newsstand. Or on a rooftop. Or spinning with the painted ponies on a carousel.
If … Might … Perhaps … Could … But all to no avail.
You go home. You make dinner. You pour coffee. The telephone rings.
THE TELEPHONE RINGS!!!
You leap to your feet.
Your heart crashes against your rib cage, and your mind screams — “The Magic! The Magic!”
It is night.
It is spring.
You are young (for when it is spring, we are all young).
And life is beautiful.
You reach for the phone.
Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2016
Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com.