A Man Worth Knowing

In the spirit of honesty, I must preface this entire account by saying that I do not, in general, like wizards.

I could further elucidate on this comment, but I think it will suffice to say that I find them manipulative, kissing to be clever, easily led to drink and malice, and in general unnatural to the course of nature.

So knowing my opinion on wizards, you must know now what I was feeling when my secretary let one into my office. My secretary, Flower, did not announce the wizard as such, but she did tell me his name: Andy M. Stewart. There was not a Stewart or a Sutherland or a Bannock that wasn’t a wizard, poor cursed wombs of those mothers.

Even if he had not been a wizard, I do not think I would have liked him. He didn’t so much enter the room as insinuate himself into it. His eyes roved over the bookshelves that crowded around my desk as if her were surprised to find such a large audience, and then he stopped in front of me and pressed his fingertips on the desktop. This near to him, I could see that the fit of his vest and jacket was impeccable and that a red, blue, and gold handkerchief poked from his breast pocket, the colors of the Wizards for Labour. My heart, if possible, hardened towards him even more.

“Mr. Barrett,” he said, and he was even possessed of the wizard accent. That flattening of the a and the entirely vexing uplifting of his voice at the end of my name. “It’s a Tuesday, so I trust you’re well?”

Tuesdays were my favorite, in general, as on Tuesdays Mrs. Barrett got her hair done, which put Mrs. Barrett in a good temper, which, in turn, put me in a good temper. I was not particularly interested in knowing how Andy M. Stewart came by this information.

“I was well,” I allowed. “What can I do for you, Mr. Stewart?”

“What you can do for any man,” Andy M. said broadly, with a generous smile that revealed dimples. “Listen to him extol his own virtues.”

I cast my eyes, first, down to my stack of archive requests and acquisition paperwork and then upwards, towards the gentleman upstairs, in hopes that He might feel inclined to send me patience.

“Mr. Stewart, I will be frank with you,” I said. “I have precious little time for any man at 11 a.m. a fortnight from our annual opening to the public, but I have even less time for a wizard. Why, pray tell, are you here?”

Andy M. Stewart pushed off the desk and opened his hands like a book. His continued congeniality only increased my irritability. “To prove my worth to you, of course. I would like to tell you of all the things that I can do, so that, in the end, you will say to yourself — nay, to everyone, ‘Andy M. Stewart is a man worth knowing.’ “

The gentleman upstairs had gently turned a blind ear toward my request for patience. “Mr. Stewart, I am an archivist and a lover of books and the only souls in this world who care a whit about my opinion on anything are other archivists and lovers of books.”

“Oh, I assure you there is at least one other person in the world who cares very much about your opinion.” And he delivered to me a smile so wide that I could have fit the Sa-St volume of Grant’s Encyclopedia of this World and the Several Others into it.

“Who might that be?” My tone was frosty.

“Let’s not worry about that just yet,” Andy M. Stewart said. “Let’s go straight into the convincing.” He paused, straightening. “I can fly,” he announced.

I attempted to bite back a sour noise. Of course he could fly. Saying a wizard could fly was like saying that a cow could milk or a draught horse could trot. It was part of their physical make-up. On the end of the month, it was hard to go to a market day without seeing the wizards thick in the sky. Mrs. Barrett always made sure to cover what God had given her with a scarf on those days. I replied drily, “It would be more impressive if you could not.”

“I can also conjure fire,” Andy M. offered, and he picked up my best pen and licked the end. Fire danced from the tip of the pen while I strived to repress my regurgitation impulse.

“Do you lick many things?” I asked.

Andy M., unperturbed, set my pen on the desk — I hastily snuffed the flame with my thumb — and journeyed to one of my shelves.

“You had better not set anything over there on fire,” I warned, as he was standing before the maps of the discovered and the maps of the lost.

“Indeed not,” he said warmly, as if we were old friends. “I am also gifted in the art of psychometry.” Andy M. pressed his fingers against the exposed edge of one of the bound maps. “This one was a gift from the Duke of Cornwall. He kept it in his wine cellar so that his wife would not discover it and ask how much he had paid for it.” He touched the next. “This one is a forgery. The man who forged it was a Moor who only changed one detail in it, to make his family line look stronger. How cunning of him.”

“I can imagine how you would appreciate that deceit,” I said. “So far, Mr. Stewart, I do not see how you are any more impressive than any other wizard who floats around the hedgerows looking for handouts or bamboozling housewives out of their coins.”

Andy M. returned to my desk and leaned upon it again, close, close to me, close enough that I could smell the sharp bite of peppermint on his breath. “But Mr. Barrett,” he said, “I have not told you everything. I can also walk between the worlds.”

I stood up so abruptly that my chair knocked backwards, leaning against the wall behind me on only two legs. “Do not be so bold as to come into my office and tell lies to me. This exercise is over!”

Andy M. Stewart said, “But I have brought you something from the other world, something you lost, to prove it to you.”

I felt the rush of blood burning in my ears. “There is only one thing I have lost, and –”

The door opened behind Andy M., and in walked my daughter, face fresh as the last day I had seen her; glowing and scented with jasmine, as all recovered things did. She took her place beside Andy M. while I gaped and gasped for breath like a dying fish.

“Father,” she said. “Tell me that Andy is a man worth knowing.”

“A man worth being your son in law,” Andy M. said, and his smile was painted large.

“Please, Father,” my daughter said. “It is a Tuesday, after all.”

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image by anvilcloud

26 thoughts on “A Man Worth Knowing

  1. I loved how easily I could feel Mr. Barrett’s increasing impatience, and then his utter shock at the end.

    I could definitely stand to read some more. *grin*

  2. I am amused that you consider the wombs of the mothers cursed when clearly it’s the names of the fathers that are the problem…*grin* That was neatly done.

    Much love,
    Rowan

  3. D00d. Andy is creepy! Maybe he’s not supposed to be creepy, but the dad finds him creepy, and um, creepy.

  4. He is totally creepy. He smiles wide enough to swallow an encyclopedia! And licks things! What’s not creepy about that? Sounds like he should be on MTV reality shows!

  5. Because I’d be a wizard, too, and they’d be giving us all a bad name so I’d smite them. A lot.

  6. Haha! I loved this! Reminded me a bit of my own debut, which has its fair share of smarmy wizards as well… There are just so many good lines here–the image of the flying wizards, the smile wide enough for the encyclopedia…

  7. “His continued congeniality only increased my irritability.”

    YES. I decided I felt some kinship with Mr. Barrett the very moment he thought this.

  8. Oh man! I love the sort of air of this, the quasiVictoriansortawithwizards of it all. Plus the end, and the last line! Awesome little story.

  9. Oh man, you just completely re-invoked my love of Jonathan Strange! Now I think I may have to read it again. But there is no time . . . never mind.

    Yay for Victorian wizards and their haters!

  10. Oh ho! I did not see that coming. (Nor was I calling you a ho – ’twas merely an exclamation of surprise!) EXcellent!

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