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Deal 1011: The Gift of Wonder

I’ve found some old photos of a visit to the fair, when I was younger, so much younger. I’d almost forgotten about being talked into the magician’s tent show that day. From the pictures, it must have been a two act show. As I sit here and remember, with pictures of the posters that promised the worlds of wonder to behold within as reminders, I recall the shows.

The first act blustered out on stage, and left the audience alternately confused and annoyed, the stinker. By which I mean he stunk. Somewhat literally stunk. He drug me on stage, and proceeded to taunt me at every turn. The balloon became a dog on his command, but then was promptly popped with a needle. He showed a magic mirror that could tell the future, but all it predicted for me was humdrum work at the factory. He didn’t even give me a choice! And when he finished with me, he just shooed me away like an unwanted puppy.

Sure, the things he did were astounding, but at every turn, he popped everyone’s sense of wonder and left the crowd sitting on their fingers. By that point I was ready to write it all off, and expected the other act to phone it in as badly as this one did.

But I stuck it out. I’d paid my hard-earned dime for my seat, after all!

I could tell the next performer was different just from the way he walked on stage. He had presence under the lights. The stage wasn’t all that fancy, but he knew he belonged on the best stages in the world, and acted as if this was one of them. His act exuded quiet strength at every turn, especially when dealing with gentler topics.

He produced a flock of birds from nowhere that swarmed around the audience and returned to the stage to line up and mutter amongst themselves. Each bird did a trick as it appeared. You could tell the birds respected him, and that he loved his birds as he tore them in two to double them, found them folded up in silk, and even lined them up, invisible, on his stick so clearly that when the stick vanished and a line of birds was suddenly beating their wings in its place, it took a moment to realize the stick was gone.

He seemed to single out each of the people humiliated earlier for a special moment. To me, he offered a choice among several jewelry boxes. The one I chose had an egg inside, which he broke open to reveal a gemstone on a chain. It was only as he was settling it around my neck that I realized it was my birthstone. Or at least a good simulation of it. He took that moment to carry my imagination outside of the tent on the boardwalk, and to see the opportunities that were hiding in all things mundane.

After his last bow, I could tell the whole audience was profoundly affected. Usually loud conversations about how the tricks were done are overheard in the aisles and lobby. But this time, the conversations I heard seemed less about tricks and more about what each had seen, and people felt. That schmuck from the opening act had left everyone cold. But this guy, well he had us all dreaming.

Years have passed, and I still occasionally rediscover that stone stored safely away in its cheap mount and slowly tarnishing cheap chain. With it, I’ve preserved the program, and some snapshots. And I cherish those memories.

Much of what he had promised had indeed come true. I had married well and happily. I made a difference in the world, and would someday (but not too soon!) leave it a better place than I found it. But in the end, all of that was incidental. As I sit here and reminisce, I can see how those moments of wonder opened my eyes to the wonders around me, and changed me for the better.

Now today, I get to offer a moment of wonder to an audience of my own.

I hope I can find my way to do for them what was done for me those many years ago.

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Deal 1006: Tanka thrice

Shakes off each change as
if the very idea
were his to command
dangling rewards before the
universe is usual.

Siren’s call brought men
upon the shore to die but
never him because
the quest held no lure to cause
neglected duty to home.

With each croak, Bullfrog
reminds Raven, his wager
fails the test of time
where hero’s knowledge brought
The Fates to admit their loss.

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Deal 994: Mirrored in Mire

From humble beginnings and all that rot. Roses growing from manure. Right.

Those are all nice ideas for a story. But in my world. Heh.

The mirror has been on that wall for a long time. No one now living can quite explain why it’s there at the back of a stable. But there it stays. It has resisted most attempts to remove it, some from people who sunk low enough to try to steal it in the night. Most who attempted to steal it were found wandering around in a daze, with no explanation of what happened.

I did see it hit square on by a thrown shoe once. It didn’t break. I felt more than saw the shoe go past, then flinched as I realized I was about to get an eye full of shards of glass. But it didn’t break. Strangely, the shoe was nowhere to be found.

The farrier was rather upset about that missing shoe, and tried to stick it on me. As the one on the receiving end of it, that didn’t sit well at all. But I’m no one important. I’ve just been around the place, done my time.

I’ve tried wandering afield, but it never lasts. Stable boys find reasons to push me along. Innkeepers don’t want me where the guests might see. Farmers seem to worry that their milk might curdle or their cheeses get ideas. I guess they fear that some cheese with ambition will succeed, and then they will find themselves on the wrong side of the law. I don’t really know, they run me off before it gets that far.

So after I while, I find myself drawn back here.

Back to the manure pile.

And the mirror behind it.

Clear that my humble beginning will be my humble end.

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Deal 991: Frog’s legs and tea

Let me introduce myself. I act as if I’m a prince among men, but I’ve always carried a secret shame. For I was once a prince among frogs.

Not in a wheel of karma and past lives sense. No, I literally was born a frog.

As a tad, I had little on my mind, other than survival. Life is brutal and short for most tadpoles. But I was one of the lucky few who survived to have legs. And I used those legs to escape that stagnant pond. For some time I moved from shelter to shelter, always aware of the risk of being eaten by some predator swooping down on me from above, or sneaking up on me from the shadows.

Then one day I was snatched from above, and my world changed.

I had a species change.

It might have been done with open eyes, it is difficult to be sure. I do know that I have difficulty recalling the time before I became a man. I’m not really even sure how old I was, but I must have lived several years as a tadpole and frog, as my transformation to human gave me the appearance of a young adult not a child.

That early time after the change is also just a blurry memory today. Aside from the fact that it was at least a score of years ago, it took some time for my mind to catch up with the change in my body. Surely, I was transformed from frog to man in one event. But that newly enlarged brain took some time to develop a full sense of self as a man.

Some of my earliest memories of that time include a helpful but shadowy figure, who I assume was involved in my change. From clues I have stumbled over since, I suspect she was a notorious crone of the hills, and that she passed away sometime after turning me loose upon the world to make my fortune. But she neglected to (or perhaps deliberately prevented) allow me many memories of my time with her. I don’t even know her name.

I fear I am merely a pawn in some game being played by the Fates, or among hedge witches.

While I think I have been wandering aimlessly, I may well be guided by unseen forces to put me in the path of a suitable princess. Although I may never know why this path was chosen.

So I find myself here today, at the festival before a castle.

And dare I notice that a princess is even now making her way toward me?

I think I ought to put on the tea.