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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 1004: Waiting

I’m passing time writing by candlelight in the depths of my cave. The tiny flame casts constantly moving shadows on the walls around me. They catch my attention and distract from the work I am trying to do.

I’d write in the daylight, but I have limited time in this place. I must achieve my goals and move on. Each time I reach this point I feel like I’ve done this before, but I must emerge eventually back into the light of day and rejoin the world. Until then, I sit in the darkness and write, pen scratching as it threads its way across the pages. 

It is a long and slow wait. In the distance I hear water dripping. I can count my heartbeats between drips. I can count the drips. I can hear that tangible evidence of time passing. And yet, I am stuck in this pool of flickering light and the perception that all time is stopped outside its reach.

I hear the occasional noise that reminds me that my primary defense here is the difficulty of finding this cave. Surely it has served other creatures as a refuge, but when I entered it aeons ago or just recently there was no recent sign. 

The reach of the light remains limited to just more than an armspan. Aside from the pen and a penkife I have little defense other than my fingernails. Those won’t serve me. Next time I find myself in this cage, I should plan to be better prepared.

But there aren’t that many that can find this cave in the first place, and fewer who can enter it. Those, such as I, are rare birds indeed. Spending some time in a gilded cage would seem fitting.

So I return to my notes on the study of the human condition, and wait for the time to be right to emerge and conduct another round of observation and interaction. Only time will tell where and when that will be. Time and the cave, but neither is speaking to me at the moment.