Photo by Naomi on Morgue File.
You have been transformed into a mystical being who has the ability to do magic. Describe your new abilities in detail. How will you use your new skills?
Josie woke the morning after New Year’s Eve with what felt like a mind-numbing, head-splitting hangover. Josie knew what a hangover felt like, she had them before. Josie use to be something of a rounder in her younger years. She had been a candle burning at both ends. Her mantra had been go as fast as you can, as long as you can. But, something strange had happened to Josie, she got older. And as she got older she began applying the brakes a bit more and steadying her speed through life. She realized that as long as you can is not interminable; she once thought she was immortal, but wrinkles and back aches had convinced her otherwise.
Now, this is not to say she had grown into an old fogey. She still liked to enjoy life. She still had a flair for the dramatic. Every now and then, from time to time, she still put the hammer down and revved the engine and let the wind whistle past. But these times now came in spurts and not in prolonged demonstrations. Like one of her favorite songs opined, Sweet sixteen turned thrity-one, plus a few more!
So, there Josie was, lying in her bed with what felt like the biggest hangover she could ever remember. Only one problem, she had not had a single drink the night before. In fact, she had not even gone out for New Year’s Eve. She had elected to stay in for the night and enjoy the New Year alone.
As she rubbed her temples, trying to alleviate the dull, piercing throbbing, she retraced her steps the day and night before. The only thing she could recall that was out of the ordinary was a chance encounter with a strange little fellow. She had gone out to grab some takeout Chinese and as she was getting into her car, a man approached her door. At first she was startled and was reaching quickly for her small can of mace. But, when she looked at the man she felt reassured and calm. He smiled with a wink and spoke in a smooth, relaxing tone.
How are you tonight Miss, the man asked Josie?
I’m fine, Josie replied, thinking her Chinese was getting colder by the second.
Glad to hear it young Miss, he replied, I hope you have had a wonderful past year.
Yes, um, it was fine, just fine, Josie answered, wondering when the man would go about his business so she could get home and eat her General Tsos chicken and fried rice.
That is good, very good indeed, the man said with a smile that plastered his face ear to ear, And I hope this new year will be even better.
Yes, well thank you so much for the sentiments, Josie said, as she tried to close the door.
Just, one moment more, please my dear, the man said, I was hoping to extend to you a gesture of good will, a little human kindness to help jump-start this new year for you and put your feet on the right path, so to speak.
Josie’s mind was racing at this point. Was this just some nice, old man wanting to spread a little cheer? Or, was he off his rocker? Josie wasn’t sure at this point, but she was leaning to the latter!
So, what will it be my dear Miss, what can I do for you this blessed evening, the man said with a twinkle in his eye.
Well, that is awfully sweet of you and all, but I’m really just fine, Josie offered, still trying to close her door and drive away.
Ah, come now Miss, we all have something we need, something that is lacking in our lives, the man said.
Well, yes, I’m sure that is so, Josie retorted, But, I really can’t think of anything off-hand. But, thank you so much for your kindness and concern and I hope you have a great new year yourself.
The man persisted, You don’t seem to understand dear, I am offering you a splendid thing. It is only up to you to make a request and I will do what is in my ability to help you.
Josie was growing tired of the whole thing and was looking for anyway to leave the situation behind, Okay, fine, I would like a million dollars please, she said sarcastically.
A million dollars, well that would be quite a treat, the man said with a chuckle, And I could do that for you without doubt, but I think you can do better than that.
Okay, Josie said hurriedly, How about two million then!
The man laughed and pat himself on his head, You really are quite something just like they said.
Like who said, Josie asked in a confused voice?
Oh, don’t mind that my dear, the man said, rubbing his little chin, So, what will it be my dear, what will your request be?
Josie looked at the little man standing at her car door. He couldn’t be anymore than five feet tall, five-two at the most. He had big, plump rosy cheeks and long red, wavy hair. He was wearing a tux, with a red bow tie and red cumberbun. His shoes were white and well-worn, but polished and shiny. He looked as if he were going to a party or a wedding or some sort of celebration.
Finally, in exasperation, Josie became frank with the little man, her patience having worn thin.
You want to know what I really want, Josie said in a huffed tone, I simply want some peace and quiet. I want to be left alone and allowed to go home, eat my General Tsos chicken and fried rice, watch the ball drop at midnight and then go to bed. That’s it. That’s it in a nutshell, nothing more and nothing less. So, please, please, please, please grant my request and leave me alone.
The little man, startled by the brashness of her response, stood motionless and silent for a few seconds, the whole while rubbing his little chin and arching his back, while staring straight at Josie.
Well now, well indeed, the little man finally replied with a deep, hearty laugh that shook him from head to toe, I guess you have come to it at last. Very well, very well indeed my dear Miss, I will grant you your request. And I will wish you a fond farewell and a very happy New Year and blessings for all the years which may come your way.
For a moment Josie felt her defenses lower and a strange, warm feeling washed over her, like a summer breeze on a July morning. Josie’s lips flinched, to say one last good-bye, when suddenly, in a flash of light the little man disappeared.
Josie jumped from her car, moving the car door back and forth, looking to the front and back. But, there was no sign of the little tux wearing man. All Josie could now discern of his presence was the smell of mint that she had noticed was coming from him as they talked. The smell of mint still hung lightly in the air around her car door.
Josie looked around one last time, going to the rear of the car and back around on the other side. But there was no sign of the little, smiling man. Josie sat back down in her car seat, the smell of mint now faint. She closed the door, started the engine and drove home.
When she got home she went to her couch, put her General Tsos chicken and fired rice on the coffee table, ate to her heart’s content, watched the ball drop in Times Square and then went to bed. She slept a good, hard, deep sleep. She had many dreams, some she remembered, some she did not. In one, there was a little, smiling man wearing a tux with a red bow tie and red cumberbun, with a big orange top hat atop his head. He gave her a wink, tipped his hat, laughed a manly laugh, and simply said, You’re welcome! and then he gave a quick wave and Poof! he was gone. Mint flooded Josie’s nostrils, itching her nose.
As Josie sat with her head buried in her hands, on the side of her bed, she wondered what in the world it was all about. She suddenly felt an uncontrollable desire, even a need, to laugh. So she did. She laughed from the pit of her stomach all the way up to the top of her head. She laughed so hard she began to cry, rolling back on the bed, pulling her knees up to her chest.
Well, Josie said with a laugh in her breath, I guess I got my wish after all. Josie paused, her laughing fit subsiding, But, I don’t remember asking for this splitting headache.
Oh well, Josie said with a sly grin, I guess everything has a price.
And so, Josie had experienced the greatest magic of all, the magic of wanting something; something not grand and silly, but simple and quaint, and having it granted all the same. It is the magic of putting on the brakes long enough to realize that sometimes the ordinary, normal everyday things we sometimes find so bland and boring, really are great gifts of blessing. For when our lives are interrupted and the daily routine is broken, it often comes in the form of tragedy or annoyance of some kind. It is seldom the stuff of great adventures and romantic interludes.
Josie was thankful for her peace and quiet, that she had so often times lamented, dreaming of her more wild and reckless younger days. She was grateful for her secondhand couch and the glow of her TV and the spicy General Tsos chicken and yummy fried rice. She was thankful for her privacy and not being pestered by a thousand questions. She had been granted a wish, and unlike so many others, she had the awesome privilege of seeing her wish come true.
Now, some may see no magic in this whatsoever. Some may chalk it up to coincidence, or just the normal course of events. But, maybe that is what makes it magical . . . it cannot be seen and ascertained by everyone. And besides, if it wasn’t magical, how do you explain the curious little, smiling tux wearing man?
She also learned another valuable lesson: when encountering little, smiling men wearing a tux with a red bow tie and red cumberbun, smelling of mint, do not inhale too deeply, the scent has a way of lingering in one’s nostrils and causing an awfully big headache the next morning!