Read the first part of Flour Power (a selection from Three Goofy Stories)
Flour Power (Originally published in Sorcerous Signals)
When the lady of the brownstone dropped dead at her own party, the same party where I worked for the caterer, naturally I feared I was to blame.
Blame is a word that flies round circles here in D.C. like lightning and thunder claps back at Atlantica Wizard School, my alma mater where the fear of the possibility of my fault actually began.
Strangled, the coroner’s report later would claim, with her own pantyhose. Oh-ho! So that would be the official story? Washington hanky-pank sounded better on the books than death by derailed flour. Easier to believe, too, than what really happened, even though reality is only a definition of one’s perspective. Still, I couldn’t help wondering why on earth’s oceans anyone would interfere on my behalf.
It all began back at AWS, when I flew up to take my oath and receive my graduation hat. My head was full of trivia – history, principles, theory, and the science of magic.
“Felicity Flour,” the master trolled in his solemn voice that generated ten-foot swells beneath a backdrop of lightning, “do you swear to uphold the three laws of wizardry?”
“I do,” I murmured amidst thunder claps breaking in the distance.
I’d mastered spell practicum, transformation intensives, and honors seminars with the top wizards in the field. Thanks to Uncle Meredith’s connections, I’d apprenticed with the foremost recipe keeper of all time, a maven named Martha. I had everything I needed for a stellar career that would take me far away from the illusory island of my genesis. Which offer would I take?
None came in. And I wondered, why on earth’s oceans couldn’t I find a job, when clearly there were pressing needs, especially for folks of my kind?
Take, for example, the expected outcome of my story, which I learned way back in second-year Theory: train derails in downtown Washington D.C., only blocks away from cherry trees in high bloom. Bags of alleged flour burst apart in the wreckage, and white powder explodes everywhere, issuing clouds of alleged flour that billow out across the city and rain down on tourists from the heartland. Whoa. Thousands of asphyxiated tourists stack up under dusted cherry blossoms. That’s a picture that will strike a fatal blow to the driving force of the world’s greatest nation.
So I took my oath in spite of the absence of offers.
Before the first of the ten-footers scattered us from AWS, the master awarded me with my graduation hat, which resembled a puffy, white mushroom. This was the symbol of my specialty calling – to track the transportation of flour (in all its variations) and keep its trade from derailing. My calling had chosen me at the end of first-year Principles, and the rest of my classes at AWS adjusted their design especially for me.
We can theorize why no job offers had yet come in: blame it on widespread suspicion that Gen Y couldn’t deliver, or on the economy, or on my own family’s history of illicit activities, or heck, blame everything on W, but honestly, blame doesn’t accomplish anything. Blame doesn’t earn you a living or get you ahead in these ultrarealistic times. You just have to prove yourself, and in any case, I have to make a living. Otherwise, I’ll end up sharing a limestone cave on the far side of the tracks in Nowhere Ohi’a, where failed wizards go.
So I decided to volunteer. It wouldn’t pay the rent, but I’d worry about that next month. For now, Uncle Meredith had given me one free month in his basement, which he usually rented out, in spite of its location in a ghetto of D.C. where crack flowed freely. It was a sort of graduation present, a little gift of urban dwelling while I found my way to my calling. Maybe I could beg a job as an intern in some congressman’s office. I have a few skills. I can turn political opponents into toads.
Wizard Law #1:
A Wizard Will Never Use Magic in the Real World
for Personal Gain
But toads were probably not a good idea since I’d taken my oaths to uphold wizard laws. If we broke them (they hammered this into us back at AWS) the world would implode – something about colliding matter and anti-matter, but it’s all theory. No one knows for sure. Our magic is only supposed to be used in our unreality.
You might think of us as a sort of restricted wizard. Technically, we are wizards in a general sense, but actually we’re something far more complex. We can come and go through reality versus unreality. We meddle with time. We are people keepers. We are invisible guides of the universe. Through our role modeling the subconscious way, we lead unenlightened realists down the path of what they call “luck.”
Okay, I found some of their “luck” for myself. On the last day of my free month, I landed a job washing dishes for a catering company. Anyone could wash dishes. Or so the manager who’d hired me must’ve thought. It was just me and a rotating crew of illegal Central Americans down in what they called the “lava” room.
A Salvadoreño whom the other washers called Poto Gordo showed me around. P.G. (that’s what I called him) was as short as his nickname promised his ass was wide, but in spite of his encumbrance, he slipped through the labyrinthine cellar as soundlessly as an elf. An aroma of aftershave – carnation with a hint of tamarind – trailed along behind him. He apparently bathed in the stuff and used it to slick down the coarse, black wires of his hair. Only, they disobeyed, and so he had to wear his cousin’s pantyhose like a hat, tying the legs into knots across the top of his coiled head.
P.G. showed me around. He showed me the double doors where delivery trucks unloaded bins of dirties. He showed me the sinks and hoses and scrubbers and mechanized washers and cabinets of supplies, and he showed me the shelves where I was to stack the washed and dried dishes for someone else to put away. Not me.
But most important of all, “Señorita Felicidad,” as he liked to call me, was the break room. He showed me a locker where I could store my mushroom hat. He showed me the vending machines and the tables where they played cards. A happy worker, P.G. said, was a good worker. Happy happy!
I had a calling to fulfill, and it wasn’t cards. Fresh from school, I was eager to work. P.G. let me start on the easy bins first: flatware and cocktail plates.
On my second day of work, he let me load martini glasses into the washers. When I broke none of the crystal wizard hats, he gave me a bin of serving dishes on my third day. They had to be done the old-fashioned way, by hand, because they were expensive and covered with intricate designs.
Those platters were as heavy as if they’d been reinforced with iron. Once I lathered them all up good in suds, they just got so darned slippery… Well, I couldn’t help but drop the biggest, most unwieldy, costliest piece in all the inventory. Paying for it would take an entire week’s pay, which I wouldn’t have to spare. One week would have to go to the crack dealers to keep them from breaking into my apartment, two weeks’ pay to Uncle Meredith for rent, and everything else (say, if I wanted to eat) would have to come out of my fourth week.
Staring at the broken pieces of rainbow ceramics on the steel countertop, I summoned to mind a reversal spell I’d learned in the practicum. But then, there was that darned oath. The spell hesitated in my mind, and I stood there frozen, mute.
My clatter in the lava room brought P.G. sliding in on his soundless sneakers. Cards sprouted from his shirt pocket, and babbling incoherence in the form of a wordstream issued from his mouth. His short, pudgy arms waved in circles above his head. Clearly, me and my hat were bound for Ohi’a.
Here in the lava room I hadn’t yet intersected with the real world, I thought. Not really. Maybe I could undo the breakage. Who would notice? P.G. might, but he didn’t count as real. He preferred to be a shadow, since he was here illegally, working under the table, the only breadwinner for a bunch of cousins on the street. In fact, I had to do the reversal if I wanted to keep my job and move up in the world.
So I did. And once I started, I couldn’t stop.
When I was done with the entire set, the pieces were better than new. Shinier, less heavy, yet more durable. P.G. smiled, called me “Señorita Felicidad,” and returned happy happy to his card game. Since he didn’t know I’d meddled with his time reality (that’s how the spell worked), he would have no memory of my close call.
Best of all, I found out, the world didn’t implode.
Wizard Law #2:
A Wizard Never Reveals Magic Secrets to a Realist
So I grew a little more daring. I decided what the heck, maybe I could venture upstairs and sample the canapés that P.G. had bragged about. One of the chefs was P.G.’s Colombian buddy, close as family. His compadre’s creations were “out of this world.” Oh, yeah. But with my help, I could actually make that true.
I gave P.G.’s friend a foie gras trick I’d learned from Martha, and that’s when I came to the attention of the woman who ran this operation, a Martha wannabe named Marionette.
“What have you done to the foie gras?” Marionette shrilled, closing her eyes and licking her fingers. “It’s…it’s…je ne sais pas…” Her claw-shaped nails, manicured a brilliant pink, stroked the air, and she moaned, either struggling for a description or having an orgasm, I couldn’t be sure. “Extraordinaire!” she finally spit out, spitting a wayward blonde curl from her thick coat of lipstick, a pink that matched her nails and her suit.
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