Sunday, November 23, 2014

Magic and Gravity

           Spear Bearer Flash Fiction
       The big motorcycle, all black leather and chrome, leaned on its kickstand near the hitch of Gordon’s trailer. The magician sat on a short plastic stool and wiped a cloth over the fuel tank. Beads of sweat glistened on his shiny black scalp. “Hallo,” he said without turning when Manuel approached.
       Some kids had piano, violin or guitar lessons after school. Manuel had magic lessons.
       “What is magic?” Manuel asked. He had been coming to lessons for a week and he knew what magic wasn’t: card tricks, mirrors and boxes with false bottoms. That’s how illusionists worked. But Gordon taught magic. Gordon made things move with his mind.
       “What’s that?” Gordon asked, turning his head and looking at Manuel sidelong with a sparkling golden eye. “Magic?”
       “I mean,” Manuel said, running his fingers through his wavy black hair, “What makes the things move? Where does the force come from?”
       Gordon smiled and turned on his stool to fully face Manuel. Manuel could tell he liked the question. “It comes from everywhere. It comes from inside of you.”
       Manuel shook his head. “That’s not what I mean. I mean how does it work? Like, if I was studying science at school, what would they say?”
       Gordon laughed. “They’d say it was a lot of bunk.”
       Manuel frowned. He wanted to know.
       Gordon stopped laughing, but an ember of mirth remained in his eyes. “It’s a force of nature. An invisible and powerful force of nature. Like the wind.”
       Manuel sighed. “But I know what the wind is. The air is filled with millions and millions of molecules and when they hit my face I feel it. But what is magic?”
       “You are a bright little nipper,” Gordon said, his bright white smile beaming with pride. “I guess these American schools aren’t as bad as they say. What year are you?”
       “I’m in the fourth grade.”
       Gordon rubbed his chin for a minute. “I suppose it might be better to compare magic to gravity. Gravity holds us and everything to the earth.” Gordon pointed toward the sun that was about to dip below the horizon. “It also holds the earth in orbit about the sun, and the moon in orbit about the earth. It holds the sun in orbit around the center of the galaxy. It is invisible and works through the emptiness of space over fathomless distances. Magical, eh?”
       “But scientists know what gravity is,” Manuel said.
       Gordon shook his head. “No,” he said, “I suppose they have theories...”
       “But what about Newton? He discovered gravity when he saw an apple fall from a tree.” Manuel saw a sudden grin form on Gordon’s face. He felt a little embarrassed because he didn’t know what was funny.
       After a moment the magician answered. “Newton came up with the Law of Universal Gravitation that describes the behavior of gravity. He discovered equations that describe the effect of gravity, but he never figured out what causes the force behind gravity.”
       Manuel looked at the trailer and again read the words that had been painted there when Gordon traveled with the carnival: The Amazing Gordon. “’re saying magic is a force like gravity?”
       “No.” Gordon shook his head. “I’m saying I don’t know what magic is any more than the physicists know what gravity is.”
       “You’re saying the scientists don’t know what gravity is?” Manuel didn’t believe it.
       “No,” Gordon said, slowly drawing out the ‘o’. “They talk about gravitons and string theory, and some other wonky ideas to boot, but it’s all just theory and thinking.”
       Manuel had always had a vague idea that there must be a definite explanation for things like gravity and the only reason he didn’t know was because he was young and hadn’t learned them yet. Now he felt uneasy and wondered if Gordon might possibly be right. He looked at the ground and imagined himself just floating up and away into the sky helpless and out of control.
       Gordon’s wrinkled face drew in with concern. “The universe is full of mysteries. There are many, many things you will never figure out.” The corners of Gordon’s lips turned up into a sympathetic smile. “But if you had everything figured out, wouldn’t the universe be a boring place?”
       Manuel met Gordon’s eyes and wondered if that was it.
       And Gordon returned the look.
       And that was it. Manuel had asked what magic was and instead of getting an answer he only had more questions. He wasn’t sure he believed Gordon about gravity...he had only known him a week...and it wasn’t that he thought Gordon would lie...but after all Gordon wasn’t a physicist. But Manuel had an uncomfortable feeling that there were things he thought he understood he hadn’t really even thought about. And maybe, he thought, magic was more in everything than he’d ever imagined.