The idea that you could have a school for enchanters is just ridiculous. Hundreds of small students who can levitate pots and become invisible and enlarge frogs? Dozens of classrooms that, according to a clockwork academic calendar, regularly disgorge a number of people exceptionally endowed with magical prowess? Just patently absurd.
My opinion — and really mine is the only opinion that matters in this case, as you know absolutely nothing about this, like most people — is that the only thing worth talking about in this case is apprenticeships. Do art schools turn out mountains of Van Goghs and Rembrandts? The fact is — and it’s not a popular fact — you can train a magician, but enchanters are born. You’ve got to have aptitude to be a great enchanter, and aptitude is best served in an apprenticeship, not in a sticky desk previously occupied by some snot-nosed, no-talent wizard wannabe.
“Which is why I won’t take the position,” I told Eric Singer. Singer was a scrawny thing, even now — a fact he tried to hide with an unfortunate beard. He always looked extremely hungry and extremely hungover to me. I had already told him my decision on the phone but he had materialized in my kitchen just before noon, apparently because he found rejection a dish better eaten with company.
“I went through enchanters school,” Singer said. “I’m a product of standardized testing.”
“Thank you for proving my point,” I replied. “Coffee?”
His eyes peered dolefully out at me from a few inches above his distractingly pitiful beard. He felt I was being cruel, when I was being merely factual.
I was also unapologetic. “Oh, stop feeling sorry for yourself and sit down, you’re making me nervous.”
Obediently, he dropped into one of the kitchen chairs. This is what most people don’t realize about magic. Magic is not always the most efficient way to make things happen.
“Tell me I’m looking well,” I suggested. “That might help.”
“No, it won’t,” Singer said, sounding gloomy. It had begun to dawn on him, I think, that he might have wasted a perfectly good parlor trick on a fool’s errand. He added, almost resentfully, “Though you are looking all right. You look different not in a skirt. I mean, in shorts.”
Skirts are another reason I will not go back to a regular desk job. I don’t miss panty hose. Singer was observing my legs now, in a way that made me slightly pleased. Women my age collect the stares of younger men in jars for later use. Or at least I do. You probably don’t, because it hasn’t occurred to you. This would be another reason why I’m famous and you aren’t.
“A weak attempt at flattery, at best,” I said. “I’m not suited for teacher work anyway. I don’t get up at regular hours, I work with toxic potions, I am extremely crotchety, and I have a very specialized diet.”
“But you are the best at what you do,” Singer said, and this flattery was a bit better, because he meant it, even if he didn’t go on and on about it — which if you’re going to flatter, you might as well. Scratch the ego well. Don’t tickle. But Singer didn’t go on. Instead he said, “You’re the only one who’s been able to do the Splitting.”
So that’s what this was about. He thought I would come and teach a generation of teens the ultimate in magics, the culmination of a lifetime of practice. I laughed aloud at the very concept of it — at the action of standing before a classroom and trying to explain myself, and then at what would greet me if I was at all successful at that task.
“I would never teach that,” I said. “What a ridiculous idea.”
“Please as in please come? Or please as in please elucidate at how ridiculous the idea is? Because I hope you mean the latter.”
“Fine,” Singer said. “Fine. So I wasted my time coming here.”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure why you came. I already told you my answer.”
Singer simultaneously held his face in his hands and scratched his beard. I wished he wouldn’t; I was expecting his facial hair to begin falling out in mangy clumps on my table. “The council thought if I explained to you how many teens’ lives you could touch, you might come round instead of –”
My ears pricked. He was about to say something really nasty, evidence of a spine, and I was curious to hear it. But then Singer just shrugged and said, “It’s clear they didn’t know you very well. I may as well go.”
You know, I really thought you were a fop, and even you don’t give up that easily. In comparison to Singer here, you are a champion of bravery and persistence. A pinnacle of womanhood. Which meant that this poorly haired example of a magician was sitting at my kitchen table for some reason other than what he’d stated.
Just as I thought this, I heard a thump in my study, and saw a glimmer in Singer’s eyes at the sound.
“You didn’t come alone,” I remarked, already on my way down the hall. Clever Singer. All this time, sitting in the kitchen, distracting me — and another magician had materialized in my study when Singer appeared. To what end? Maybe hoping for my notes, my potions, clues to my secrets.
You had gotten to the study the same time I did, and you stood in the doorway, wrestling with a portly woman who was all nail polish. I have an opinion on magicians and excessive nail polish, but now isn’t the time to tell it. You looked disheveled, like you had been sleeping late again. You are exceptionally feckless, amongst other things.
Have you got that under control?” I asked you, and in the most casual of gestures, you rubbed a strand of the woman’s hair between two fingers, sending her to her knees, twitching a bit on the polished wood floor.
“Yes,” you said. “As usual.”
This was so far from the truth that I laughed again. Behind me, I heard Singer’s feet slapping on the hallway floor. If I were him, I would’ve been getting out of there as quickly as possible.
I heard his sharp intake of breath when he saw us together, you, wearing my face, not quite as well as me, I might add, and me, smirking back at him over his continued idiocy.
“So it is true,” he breathed. “You did it.”
“Yes,” I said. “And she won’t take the job either.”
Author’s Note: Just a general commentary on standardized schooling, with some identity crisis thrown in for good measure.
Image from: eggman