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Deal 1050: Poof

In search of fish, indeed. Well that turned out to be something of a wild goose chase. We even found a wild goose. She didn’t know anything helpful, and declined to come along, possibly out of fear that she might end up gracing our dining table. I have to admit that fear might not have been without grounds.

I know things happened the rest of the afternoon. I have the sunburn, scratches, aches, and pains to confirm it. But I don’t know what happened. And that worries me more than a little. The faint smell of perfume worries me even more. Also, we were found tied up and to each other around the base of a tree. That isn’t the kind of thing that happens normally without remembering it.

Gwen seems even more disturbed than I am. I suspect it takes strong magic to mess with a dragon, the old stories all claim that dragons are almost immune to magical attacks. Waking up to find you are literally tied up in evidence of such an attack has to be rather disorienting. Then there’s the fact that she seems to believe she has failed in her duty to protect me. It is true that she did not protect either of us. But I’m not entirely convinced that she should take the blame alone. After all, I bear an apparently powerful magical tool and did not protect us either.

Regardless of assigning the blame, nearly seven hours are completely unaccounted for, vanished into a void.

I can assure Gwen that nothing untoward happened, but the very need for that assurance is untoward. Unexpected even. And worrying.

And Dragons like to worry.

I think the event has suggested to her that we are on the wrong path as well.

My worry is that the chicken will cross us, cross the path, and get in the way of the cat. The cat who has yet to offer me a name, or any reason at all to trust him. The cat that acts like Gwen is his pet dragon. He’s been along on this ride too, and he’s not saying whether whatever happened happened to him too. Cats being 99% dignity, after all. Admitting it did happen would be nearly as hard on him as answering the question.

Cats.

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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 1003: Race day

At the track, I always bet on the nose. It seems disrespectful to assume that anyone wants to do anything other than win. The race for second is substantially more unpredictable, and never mind at all about the race for third. Not that I won’t occasionally protect my investment with smaller bets. But I only care about the bet to win.

They ran well today, despite the troubles. Something odd was happening out of view of the paying customers. Something hateful and ugly. It had everyone on edge. But on edge is often a good thing, so I doubled my usual investment.

Then they found that vagrant. In two places. It is never a good thing to find parts of an intruder on both sides of the track. That implies that security was way off their game. Or perhaps someone spiked their coffee again. And if someone is spiking the coffee, regulars start to worry about what else might have been spiked, and if it was just slipping a Mickey to security, or if something more serious might be going on.

But that vagrant was found in two pieces. So something a lot sharper than just a little rat poison was involved there.

But the games must go on. I’ve got an investment here, and the house doesn’t like to return bets. Much safer to assume that the situation is under control, that the event was an anomaly, and that things can proceed as usual. A few well placed hints and incentives will keep the gentlemen in blue out of the way, and avoid too many delays.

If they are causing troubles, whisper in the Mayor’s ear, and let him get the guard dogs to back down for an hour or two. It won’t hurt the dead guy too much to wait.

Or perhaps open a window and offer odds on the cause of death?

Nah, that would be more disrespectful than always betting on show.

Finally, they calmed everyone down and readied the main event. My favorite is running in the middle, but with an unfamiliar jockey. And there’s that other shoe that has been waiting to drop. That was no vagrant torn in pieces. That was my investment!

It all went downhill from there.

And now the gentlemen in blue seem to think I might be interesting to talk to too.

I’m gonna need some strong storytelling to get clear of this one.