Magical Life

This is the second story I submitted for the Los Angeles County Library Summer Contest. It didn’t win. I think I like it more than the one that did win, but I have always been a sucker for magic. So, what do you think?

…..

I’ve held fire in my hand, captivated by its beauty and validated by its power. I’ve felt it sear my flesh in agonizing waves of triumph. I’ve swelled with maniacal pride as the flames, enthralled by my command, tasted the air in licks and lashes. I’ve smiled in purest pleasure as I unleashed it upon my enemies to watch them dance away to ash.

That was all before, in what I have come to feel was my previous life.

It is as if I have lived two very different lives. First, I was a power-hungry wizard intent upon destroying all who dared to stand in my way of becoming the greatest to ever live. My thirst for new spells and artifacts was unquenchable. My hunger for power insatiable. I feasted on all I could find and honed myself and my craft until I was the finest sorcerer in the land.

When I was at the pinnacle of my talent, witches and wizards challenged me to duels to try to dethrone me. These were dealt with, not always easily but dealt with nonetheless. Others, too insecure in their craft or timid in their pursuit of knowledge, came to try to learn from me instead. These I turned away. I would not freely give away what had cost me my life to obtain.

I was feared and respected. I was invincible and immortal. I was everything I had ever wanted to be. And, yet, then I was shown that I had only really become everything I had thought that I wanted to be. My dream had been incomplete. There was something else, something more, that I ended up wanting even more.

She arrived on my doorstep, the friend of a friend, and, in those days, I had few enough of the latter to turn any away. She was no magician but she had her own magic to be sure. She was a temptress.

She didn’t mean to be. But she was. Every bit. And I was every bit tempted as well. In short order, the temptress turned into a companion, and a companion to a lover, and a lover to a wife.

Then came a family, one child and then a second, and those responsibilities trumped my other desires. In those early days, the magic was never far from my thoughts, of course. Having tasted its power before, I would never be rid of the want and the need for more. But my love for my wife and our children was equally strong, and putting their needs above my own was easy.

There is, I found, a certain magic to a child’s laugh and the way they bounce with joy when being held. I also found a certain magic in giving myself to another person completely, just as I had given myself to my craft. And there is a certain magic in helping someone become greater than they were before.

I hadn’t understood that, obviously, when I’d turned away all those magicians. Helping them would have helped myself as well. I had missed those opportunities. I did not, and do not, miss the chances I have to raise my children up.

…..

It has been wonderful to watch them grow into magic on their own. Both children are blessed with the gift to some degree. How much will not be determined for many years, as is normal. For now, I am delighted by their wide-eyed retelling of the minor things they accomplish through their will or accidentally through their rampant emotional outbursts. Children will be children, and with magical children that means that tantrums can be rather extraordinary and rather destructive, to their delight.

Preventing what I could and undoing the damages I couldn’t contain in time, have kept me well enough versed in my own craft. Plus, I have found it comforting on occasion to read through my scrolls and tomes to keep the magic fresh in my mind and blood, even if I’m not using it nearly as much as I once was or to anywhere near the same purpose. The thrill of use remains unchanged. If anything, the thrill has intensified because I am using it for those I love.

As for my enemies, those who were still alive before I became a family man, they have been around here and there over the years. Early on, some, emboldened by my absence, took strides to supplant me to become recognized as the greatest to ever live and practice the art of magic. I have noted their progress and, should they grow powerful enough and, perhaps, paranoid enough to think they must challenge me to really get what they are after, I will deal with them. Or someone else will.

My stepping aside created a vacuum in which the lesser magicians have scrambled for control and, in their jealous and hungry squabbles, have mostly just caused their own demise. They fight amongst themselves and plot and plan for their own gains without ever really achieving anything great. Perhaps the younger generations no longer have the stomach for what must really be done, what must really be sacrificed for the craft. I do not know, nor do I care as long as they leave my family alone.

Thankfully, none have been foolish enough to move against me directly in all these years. They either figure I am retired, or no longer a threat, or both. Perhaps I am retired in a way. I certainly no longer crave the power of new spells with the jealous fervor that once gripped my waking moments and my most vibrant dreams. The hours and days I once spent researching, obtaining, studying and perfecting new spells is now spent nurturing my loved ones. My dreams involve lifting my children to their greatest heights.

For the most part.

The odd dream still fills me with the sense of fulfillment that comes with the mastery of a spell and the dance that follows, almost always circling back to flickering flames weaving through my fingertips and reaching out from my upraised palm. I smile as I watch the oranges and reds waltz across my flesh before turning my hand upon a deserving foe. My breathing goes ragged with excitement. My eyes fly wide with anticipation. And then… And then I invariably wake.

My breathing quickly returns to normal, and my eyes are usually only half open as I struggle from the depths of the dream. No fire encircles either of my hands. The smile, however, remains, for my wife is still beside me and, in the quiet darkness, I can hear the sleepy stirrings of my children. Everything is as it should be. Everything is as I want it to be.


And then there were three

Dear Littlest Prince,

I believe you may be a surprise, certainly not to yourself – that will come later – but to some of my readers, to some of even the most faithful of the kingdomites. We didn’t plan on keeping you a secret and we didn’t mean for it to come to this, where you are here and there are still several people near and dear to us that likely didn’t even know you were coming, and yet here you are, here we all are. This year has been a strange one. Your arrival is most definitely one of the bright spots.

Your brothers, the Little Prince and the Littler Prince, already adore you and, of course, already want to know when you will be able to play. They stayed up late to see you, to say hello to you, literal seconds after you were born. The Little Prince helped cut the umbilical cord. They both made toys for you, each hoping you might grab on to the one they made first. They have helped pick out some of the outfits for your first days. They have watched and asked questions and been present in those days. Yes, they already adore you.

Oh, the magical years you have ahead of you. Three brothers, with worlds to conquer for and against each other. Three brothers with mischief to make and wrongs to right. Three brothers in a family that embraces adventure.

The Queen and I, the humble Jester, promised adventure in our vows to each other, and we have promised it to each of our sons in turn. The adventures won’t always be fun. The adventures won’t always be the ones you want to have. That isn’t the point. That isn’t what the promise is about.

You will see amazing things. You will travel. You will discover. You will learn and love and lose and live. Music will be a part of it. The mountains will be a part of it. The ocean will be a part of it. And you will help us find new paths to walk. We will walk them together, the five of us. For no matter what the adventures bring, we will see them through as a family. That is part of the promise as well.

So, my dear Littlest Prince, welcome to the family. You are loved more than this writer could attempt to capture with mere words. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings, and the day after that, and the day after that…

Love,

Daddy – Matticus – The Jester

On being thirty-nine

Dear Jester,

I’d say that’s a funny way to start a letter to myself but we all know that it fits.

What an adventure it has been, yes?  Thirty-nine years full of adventures.  Far too many to list out here so perhaps we should just focus on the last little bit.  Perhaps, perhaps.  Though I doubt I can say much now that doesn’t relate to something that came before.  We all know that fits as well.

It’s an interesting thing to reflect on the passage of time, to admire the triumphs over the adventures that went sideways and to bask in the remaining glow of those that went better than expected.  I’ve done far more than I thought I would by this age and far less at the same time.  That’s part of the hypocrisy that is at my core.  Hypocrisy isn’t exactly the right word but it harkens to something I think about a lot.

When I was young I assumed there would be a point when I would stop being a child and would be an adult.  It would be a clear delineation.  One or the other.  And I keep waiting for that to happen.  Yet, here I am at thirty-nine and it hasn’t happened yet so now I have to assume it never will.  Which then makes me wonder about all the generations that came before.  Did they go through life always feeling like both?  Young at heart but wise with age? That’s not quite either but it is close enough for now, especially since this letter is for me and I know what I mean even if I can’t articulate it.

The logical answer is that yes, of course, they felt the same.  But logic isn’t always the easiest thing for me to accept.  And by that I mean, that I grew up on stories with clear distinctions with well defined endings, where the heroes were either children or adults, and have thus romanticized that.  And I feel like neither and both at the same time and that can leave me feeling out of sorts, like something is wrong with me.

Again, logically, I know that nothing is wrong with me and I need to be kinder to myself.  That’s true for all sorts of things.  I have expectations that are likely impossible to live up to and thus constantly disappointing myself even though nobody else holds me to those same standards and expectations.  Knowing this does little to curb the sting of failures and regrets.

That’s not entirely accurate anyway.  I’m hard on myself on some things and super forgiving on others… all part of the hypocrisy that is me…  Not the right word but close enough.  And I know it doesn’t really matter.

I know a couple other things too.  I have a beautiful and brilliant wife and two, going on three, children.  And know that all I really need to be happy in this crazy world is two things: my beloved mountains and family.  I’m blessed with both.

And that’s nothing to scoff off after thirty-nine years.  Or after any amount of time, really.

So, dear Jester, be kind to yourself.  Be patient.  Remember that you know what you need to be happy and let the rest slide to the side.  As best you can.  Some days you’ll do it well.  Some days you won’t.  So it goes.

Now go hug your kids and wife and tell them that you love them, including the tiny one still hidden away, and then dream of the wild places, the high places, the valleys and rivers, and snow-capped peaks that call to you.  You’ll be back among them soon enough.

You’ve got this,

Matticus

On being seven

Dear Little Prince,

What a ride?  What a journey?  What an adventure?

Yes, yes, they aren’t always good adventures… that’s not the point and I think you are now aware enough and old enough to begin to understand that.  We adventure in this kingdom.  Sometimes those adventures are fun.  Sometimes those adventures are work.  Always, always, we do it together and see our way through.  That’s at the core of being part of this family.

First grade and a pandemic.  A growing little brother that adores you and tortures you in equal measure.  Star Wars, Harry Potter (again), bike rides, hikes, math worksheets, and the never ending stream of questions.  They whys, the whats the hows, the whens.  Never ending.  Your curiosity is as fierce as it has ever been, as fierce as your confidence and stubbornness.  It is these qualities that will have you rise up to rule the world one day.  I joke but I’m serious at the same time.

You’re still a weed, getting taller and faster and stronger and learning all the time, sponging in the obscure facts from the history of the world audiobooks you listen to on repeat.  You still struggle with some lessons and most of those are the ones we all struggle with: patience, impulse control, patience, empathy and patience.  Don’t worry overly much about that, though.  In time, you’ll learn these lessons as well as any of the rest of us have.

I know I’m too hard on you sometimes and I hope you can forgive me.  I see this greatness in you and I want to get every bit of it to come out and shine.  So about that patience?  Yes, I know, it is one of my faults as well.  As I said, we all struggle with it at times.  You’ll get there.  I know you will.

You’ll get there flying on your bike and running up those trails.  You’ll get there with your lego learned engineering and artistic skills that already outstrip my own.  You’ll get there with your passion and confidence.  And then you will shine, shine, shine till I go blind from the burning brilliance and my refusal to look away, out of pride and love and my own stubbornness.

You keep being you.  Trust in that.  You’ll see.  You will move mountains, as they say.

Love you kiddo,

Daddy

Matticus

The Jester

On being three

I’m a little behind on these posts. Life in the kingdom, as everywhere, has been strange of late and the change to my routines in that strangeness took away my normal wiring time. Plus I forgot.  It happens, you know. Then I was reminded and here we are.

…..

Dear Littler Prince,

So this is three?  Wild and amazing and cranky and empathetic and constantly surprising.  The current state of affairs has certainly thrown what little routine you’d grown used to out the window and you just shrugged your shoulders and carried on.  Part of that is having your brother around, of course, but most of that is just who you are.  You take things in stride, come what may.  That doesn’t factor in when you are tired or hungry.  Then the raging tantrums shake the walls and rattle the windows.  That’s all part of it.  Normal.  Expected.  And perfectly fine.

Your laugh, wild like your hair and your exuberance, is perfectly fine as well.  It also shakes the walls and rattles the windows and reverberates with a joy that is nothing short of infectious.  It fills this house and bursts free at the seams.  I hope you laugh that way forever.  I hope your world continues to be so full of things to laugh at.

You took to your scooter the way your older brother took to his bike.  You zoom and swerve and fall and pick yourself back up and zoom off again.  Faster and more fearless with each passing day.  It too is a joy to behold.

Then the tantrums come and you curl your fists up and your eyes well with tears and you scream and scream and scream.  Those will pass, of course.  They always do.  In the moment and in general.  Though, perhaps I’ll miss the times when the solution to those is a hug and a cuddle, or a silly face made in passing, or any of the other little things that can often cheer you up that you will one day outgrow.  The transition will be slow but it has already begun.

I will miss those days more than you… and this isn’t about me, so I’ll move along.

What this all comes down to is you are learning (exponentially), you are growing (like a weed), you are silly (perhaps like a certain Jester), you are crazy (like all of us here) and, to overuse the word, a joy.  It’s as simple as that.

And long may that continue.

Love you kiddo,

Daddy

Matticus

The Jester