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  • Jordan Keller

The Magician (A Short Story)

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

Growing bored of the saddening morning news articles on his phone, Peter Pelskie swapped to the Tarot of the Day app he downloaded last week just for the hell of it. Like most of the world, he chalked up the divine arts of horoscopes, fortune cookies, and tarot cards to being simply fun and borderline hokey. He once paid a woman $40 to read his cards on Jackson Square. She recommended he pick up an umbrella, which she was conveniently selling, but Peter declined to spend more of his drinking money and returned to Bourbon Street. He was promptly soaked by a pop-up shower.

Common weather prediction, especially rain in a coastal city, was not mystical, but Peter did admire her good business practice.

The digital deck of cards on the app shuffled in time to his rapid finger tapping against the screen. The woman sitting next to him on the city bus glanced at his phone, and Peter tilted his screen away. Before hitting the “draw card” button, Peter tucked his phone between the side of the bus and the cardboard box on his lap to keep his fortune, and any proof he used such a silly app, a secret.

At his command, the deck flipped over the top card with a display of colorful fireworks. A suave-looking man stared at him from the screen. Peter thought he resembled a movie star with his symmetrical face and styled dark hair. Around the man floated four items: an over filling goblet, a golden coin, a dagger, and a magic wand. Peter clicked the card’s name, “No. 1 The Magician”, to read more about his prediction.

The picture made little sense, but the description turned his stomach into a butterfly migration hot spot. His palms sweated as he read more: able to use your own talents in the creation of something new. The masterful use of all the elements. A new beginning. The creation of something.

Perhaps Peter could believe in magic if it meant this fortune came true. He stored his phone and peered inside the cardboard box sitting on his lap. The contraption stared back him. The dark iron prongs intimidating and unmoving, the elements Peter needed to adopt today. Two years of his life had been spent on its contents. Two years of inventing, acquiring investors, making prototypes, moving back into his parent's basement, applying for patents. Two years of his life boiled down to a simple idea that Peter thought would make him rich.

And after his upcoming 10 a.m. meeting today with JP Manufacturing, he was certain his two years would pay off.

Peter closed his eyes and envisioned his Pelskie’s Poisonous Snake Deterrent selling out in every major retailer. He pictured receiving his first check that contained more zeroes than there were Cheerios in his breakfast bowl. He pictured exchanging his basement apartment for a four-story mansion equipped with a swimming pool, movie theater, nine-car garage, and whatever else rich people put into their huge homes.

The bus rumbled to the curb, and Peter shot out of his seat ready to claim his future. He smiled at the receptionist inside the lobby JP Manufacturing, announced his meeting time, and took the elevator to the thirteenth floor. Seven navy-suited individuals sat inside a room with glass walls, looking like fish inside a tank. Peter opened the door, pictured himself as strong as iron, and claimed the empty seat at their table.

It only took JP Manufacturing twelve minutes to decide Peter’s future was not with them. Claiming his invention useless and a waste of their time. They claimed Peter’s ground modified bird spikes wouldn’t prevent anything except for a high home value.

Upon his exit, Peter spat on the side of the building and headed for the closest open bar, cursing the executives with each step. In a city that seemed to never sleep, 10:30 a.m. was still too early for O’Malley’s, Tavern Joe’s, Peachy Keen or Red Hill Spirits to be open, so Peter tucked himself into the busy brunch spot called Beth’s Breakfast & Lunch. The restaurant was filled with fancily dressed women, men ensnared with their pressed ties, and young children he thought ought to be in school. By some luck of fate, one lone seat was open at the bar counter.

Peter crashed himself into the seat and ordered the strongest drink they had.

A couple of minutes later, the bar tender place a bubbling orange mimosa, adorned with edible flowers, in front of him. It was not what he had in mind, but neither was any part of this morning. Peter downed the mimosa in a single gulp and wondered if there was even a drop of alcohol mixed inside. It wasn’t the lack of booze that added to his anger; it was the lack of potential. This drink could have been perfect if only brought to its mind-numbing and mood-lifting potential. Peter’s future could have been perfect if only JP Manufacturing saw his potential.

Two years of his life ended with a boardroom of strangers laughing at his invention. Peter opened his phone and deleted Tarot of the Day. He knew better than to trust phony ideas like fate and luck. He was stupid to let a new beginning, the creation of something new get his hopes up. He didn’t need any more parlor tricks. Peter needed something real. A fresh start. And a whiskey.

The remaining drips inside his glass bubbled and morphed from thick orange liquid to smooth caramel color and filled the glass. Peter looked around baffled but saw no one close enough to refill his drink. He didn’t even see a whiskey bottle behind the bar.

He took a cautious sip and was surprised to find the best-tasting whiskey in his glass. The kind that came from aged bottles he knew he’d never be able to afford. Taking another drink, the whiskey and whimsy filling his gut, Peter made a second mental request. He could use a breakfast sandwich.

A server whisked to him holding a try with a single breakfast sandwich. Melted cheese dripped off the English muffin glinting like gold in the sunlight peering in through the window.

“You want this?” she asked him, but her attention was on a leaving table and the tip laying under a saltshaker. “Someone left before we could bring it out. Free of charge.”

Peter accepted the sandwich without any thought on the ramifications of doing so.

With his unaffordable drink, on-the-house meal, and crisp feeling of possibility, The Magician was born.

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