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Deal 1175: Hot.

The three foot square slab of stainless steel was hot, and stayed hot from opening at dawn until we decided to close sometime after lunch. It was hot and heavy, and was always the perfect temperature for a pancake or fried egg. It was decided not a good place to sit.

Unless you weren’t quite mortal, I suppose.

The kitchen was in a brief lull when she appeared, sitting on the flattop and looking like she belonged there. I just stood there for a moment, staring. I suppose I was waiting for the inevitable scream. It never came.

I gestured with my spatula, but she declined to be turned.

I looked around. My prep cook was in the other room, chasing after something in the walk-in. The wait staff were all out on the floor. In short, I was the only witness to her impossible comfort in the very spot that a full stack of cakes had occupied just moments before her arrival.

This was going to be a very interesting conversation.

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Deal 1171: Tied in knots

Strings bind us all, and guide our actions. Of course, a true gentleman knows where the strings will lead, and requires only a light touch. And a scoundrel needs constant correction.

The strings on the body don’t control the heart, however. But they can occasionally provide a needed nudge.

She wasn’t aware of her strings at all, being the sort that blows along with the in crowd and would never even consider acting outside her character.

He was nearly her opposite. Risk-taking and daring to her meek acceptance. A bad boy in image and in deeds. And aware enough of his strings to cast as many off as he could find ways to release, and bucking the control of the rest.

Their chance meeting on the street may have been set up by the weird sisters, and made available for those able to watch by crystal ball, magic mirror, or scrying pool, as light entertainment for the supernatural set. But that didn’t make it any less real for our players.

If he had planned the bump, he might have been prepared to pick her pocket or purse. But he was as startled as she was. She, of course, would have done everything in her power to not bump into anyone on the street.

But neither had a chance to act, and the bump was rather more literal than the fates would have preferred. She ended up sitting in a puddle, and he nearly had an impromptu lynching from the bystanders. But struck by some slightly out of character notion, he was polite and apologetic, and helped her to her feet.

Next the knew, they were dining together and comparing notes on how odd it was that this was happening at all, how startled and amused their families would be, and before long dessert was just a fading memory and they were comparing hopes and dreams.

They never were able to untangle their strings from that meeting, so they married, and had the expected number of children, pets, and pickets on their fence.

The lesson the fates may not have learned here is that the meeting itself may be dramatic and unexpected, but when the meeting is demanded by the fates themselves, it is also likely to be far more anticlimactic than entertaining.

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Deal 1111: Pipe no more

There was a lone piper on the hill when I opened my eyes. He was playing, but I couldn’t quite make out the melody. You know it is going to be a strange day when you wake to bagpipes.

I looked around at the bleak landscape. Windblown hill faces, flat tops, occasional trees that were shaped by persistent winds, and not happily.

The piper was closer now. I hadn’t seen him moving, but he was now standing on the next line of hills.

Or perhaps I had moved towards him?

I wasn’t all that sure, to be honest.

I was beginning to realize that honesty was absolutely a good idea here. Wherever that might be.

I also somehow knew that hearing the music would be irrevocable. Somehow my current situation was ambiguous. But if I heard the piper, it would be certain. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to hear him.

Not only was the landscape bleak, but I was alone. So very alone. There were no other people to be seen in any direction. I am sure there had been some people near me before I went to sleep. But their memory was shadowy, suggestive, and ambiguous. I realized that I no longer knew my own name.

The real punch was the realization that I was not breathing. Had not taken a breath since I opened my eyes. Was not even sure if I could breathe.

In my panic, I opened my eyes again, to find a bright light and a circle of concerned people. There was no music playing, but the noise was music to my ears. It had been a close call. In my minds eye, I could see the piper salute, turn and walk away, his services not needed any more.

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Deal 1087: Wet but not dead

fear of death adds spice
to a life well lived although
fear must be groundless

Joe watched the water rise, and for a moment was nearly as nervous as the audience. It was ever thus. The essence of the trick was that there was no trick: he really did escape from the shackles, chains, and cuffs. Or he could do it that way if he was a fool. Joe was no fool.

By the time the water reached his knees, his hands were free. Not that the audience could tell, he knew it was important that they believe him trapped and certain to die.

Hence the dramatic music, the curtain shielding him from view in his “final moments”, and all the other trappings for the stage.

His favorite ending to the escape was to hop out of the water as soon as he was hidden from view, then settle down with a newspaper in the cheap seats to wait while a shadow puppet show plays out of his apparent drowning. At the peak of the frenzy, as the audience is screaming for someone to do something, a pin spot focused on the tank from behind would suddenly reveal that the tank was empty.

The curtain would drop to reveal that there was nothing left in the tank but a pile of chains at the bottom and a few fish swimming in circles.

Joe enjoyed listening to the stunned realization sweeping across the audience that he hadn’t died in front of them. Did he vanish? Did he become a fish? Was anything what it seemed?

Joe stepped forwards, dropping the coat and newspaper that had concealed him from casual discovery, and accepted the applause that he was due.