Dust motes flew in the air, and Halbert thought it smelled mustier than his grandmother’s attic. He rummaged through the shelves of the junk shop, sifting through bric-a-brac and knick-knacks for a place to put his thingamajig. After moving a teapot, a pack of old playing cards, a few dusty books and a thimble, Halbert placed the paintbrush on the back of the shelf, making sure the shadows disguised it adequately. Once he had done this, he rearranged the items in what he hoped looked natural.
He stepped back from the shelf, calling on all his willpower to remain casual, and not act like a Chromatist on the run hiding a powerful artifact. It never hurt to be careful.
His impulse was to make a hasty exit, whistling casually or humming to himself. He did, however, feel bad for the shop owner, who obviously wasn’t turning this place into a gold mine. Scanning the shelves on the way to the door, he selected a few old potholders and tossed them on the counter. He didn’t need to tell them that they would actually be ‘cauldron holders’. His last pair had incinerated in an unfortunate potion mishap.
“Uh, h-how much for these, man?” said Halbert in a voice that shook much more than he intended.
The cashier, a balding man with large jowls and dark splotches on his cheeks barely tilted his head to examine the merchandise. “Two bucks, old timer,” he grumbled, his lips barely moving. “And that’s only because I like you.”
Fumbling in his pockets, he pulled out several scraps of paper that would not count as currency anywhere around here, and finally located a five-dollar bill. With an awkward smile, he slapped the bill on the counter and turned to go. “Keep the change,” said Halbert, forcing a chuckle. “I like you too.”
Halbert did not turn to see the cashier’s reaction. He wished that his disguise as an old man could disguise his teenage nervousness. His father would have done a much better job at this.
He hurried out the door, jumping as a bell rang on his departure. He hoped to melt into a crowd when leaving the shop. He found the street occupied by a couple of hobos, and an old lady tearing up the crosswalk with her walker.
He glanced down the street both ways, deciding that there was no smooth way to make his getaway. Then again, if the old lady were an agent of darkness, he would hang up his hat.
He turned toward the high-rise he called home looming in the distance. All the way, he fumbled in his pockets for the source of his power. He felt strangely exposed without it, but he knew he had no other choice. If he kept his Wand right now, he’d be found. It would only take a week or so to get Fyodor and his agents off his tail. He’d be back, and he was certain his Wand would still be there. The disguise was perfect. Who would buy an old paintbrush with teeth marks?
One Week Later
Halbert glanced over at the thrift store again and then around at the street, checking for the dozenth time that he was not being watched. His healthy sense of paranoia had shifted into high gear and he began to see sinister signs in every passer-by.
“Stop it,” he muttered to himself. “That baby in the stroller can’t possibly be an agent of evil, no matter how grumpy a look he gave you.”
He bit his lip, taking a second to consider his opponent. With him, you never could be too sure. Some of Fyodor’s disguises had fooled them all, and others had paid with their lives.
In a moment of impulse, Halbert darted into the street, narrowly avoiding an oncoming taxi. The driver screamed a choice stream of words in a foreign language. Making his way across the rest of the street, Halbert vowed to pay more attention next time. A speeding car would strike him just as dead as a bolt of magic from an enemy agent.
It had been a week since he had hidden the wand in the shop, and he couldn’t stand not having it anymore. Perhaps it had been a mistake to part with it in the first place, even if an enemy agent had been hot on his trail. Having the wand on his person was in many ways a double-edged sword. Though it provided him with an incredible boost in his ability to manipulate the Chromatic powers, it also tacked a glowing bullseye on his head for his enimies.
The bell above the door jingled as Halbert entered Merlin’s thrift store, seeing the same stoic, deep-jowled man standing behind the register. After giving the clerk a bob of his head, Halbert shuffled off to the back corner of the shop, trying to look as nonchalant as possible.
As he walked, he rummaged through his pocket and withdrew a monocle on a slender golden chain. He placed it over his eye and considered the aisle in front of him anew. His stomach unclenched when he saw the Chromatic residue left by the wand still on the shelf he had laid it.
He increased his pace, stuffing the monocle back in his pocket. Checking one last to ensure that no one was watching, he slid his arm back, rummaging on the shelf to retrieve what was rightfully his.
He searched every square inch of the shelf, but his search turned up nothing.
Feeling the knot start to retie itself in his stomach, Halbert closed his eyes and expended a few seconds of the Vitas energy that fueled all his Chromatic power. Doing so shaved time off of his life, but what were a few milliseconds extra of life when finding the wand could spell the difference between triumph and certain doom?
When he grasped an object, however, it was a pencil instead of a paintbrush. He tossed the unassuming green number two pencil from hand to hand. Though he knew the object possessed a great deal of Chromatic power, it was not his Wand. Though his fickle Wand was known to change its appearance from time to time, it would never change into something so closely resembling its previous form.
Just as he was about to reach back into the shelf for a second try, he felt a sharp pain in his back. “Hiya, Hal. Looking for something?”
Even before the voice registered, the black licorice-laden breath gave it away. “Hello, Misha,” he said, without turning. “I suppose that’s a Wand you’ve got shoved into my back. But tell me, my back isn’t as sensitive as it used to be and I can’t tell what form it’s in.”
“A knitting needle, if you must know,” said Misha. “I find it goes well with my current persona.” She let out an exaggerated sigh. “I thought I’d never catch you here. Your paranoia is matched only by your pitifulness. You should really know better than to automatically trust old ladies.”
Halbert mentally slapped himself. He had seen the woman both the last time he had entered the shop and just now as he had been coming down the aisle. He had assumed that she was a regular.
“A mistake I will never repeat,” said Halbert, trying to keep his tone light. “Next I’ll start suspecting nuns and the Salvation Army.”
“You’d be surprised what I have in my pocket,” Misha whispered. “Now, you know why I am here. The Sixth Wand. Where is it? More importantly, what is it?”
Halbert gave the slightest of shrugs. “Can’t a tired, old man sift through other people’s junk without being suspected of harboring a Wand?” He tried to smile though he knew that nothing he had just said was true. Tried, yes, but old…not so much.
The knitting needle pushed harder in Halbert’s back. “Don’t fool with me, Hally. This may not be the Twelfth Wand, but I’d like to see this tired, old man leap out of the way before I can pump you full of red Chroma.”
Still facing away from her, Halbert did not let his opponent see his smile. “Red Chrome, you say? That is a powerful bit of magic, but still, good news.”
Misha chuckled mirthlessly. “Oh really? For whom?”
“For the man with the green pencil.”
With a sudden jerk, Halbert broke the green pencil he had been fingering in his pocket. A brilliant blast of green light enveloped them both, comprising thousands of different Chromatic shades of the color. He knew that every burst of Chrome, as Wielders called magical substances, consisted of millions of shades of green, but most people could only make out a handful.
Misha cried out, her own red Chrome unable to stand the sting of its complimentary color of Chrome. Halbert knew, however, that such an attack would only distract the one who held one of the Wands and that he’d have to think up his next stroke in a matter of seconds.
Wishing he had found his Wand before the confrontation, Halbert whipped out his Chromatic monocle, searching for anything letting off a Chromatic aura. Two rows down, something glowed faintly, and he dashed off towards the grim glimmer of hope.
Though all things contained Chromatic matter, much of it had gone dormant and would be no good to him.
When he reached the shelf, he heard Misha’s bellow of rage behind him, but did not stop to gauge her progress. He snatched the object off the shelf and found that it was of all things an old action figure with strong active traces of both green and purple Chrome.
Just then, Misha rounded the corner, unusually spry for an old lady. She jabbed the air with her knitting needle at the same moment that Halbert popped the head off of the action figure and flung it at his opponent. The green Chrome collided with the bolt of red Chrome Misha had shot at him, while the purple Chrome continued flying towards Misha, where it bounced off her inflicting relatively little damage. A light purple haze, however, hovered around her like something glowing in the dark.
“Playing with dolls, are we, Hally?” said Misha, her voice sounding distorted. “How very like you. I shall tell the others what you want us to place on your tombstone.”
Halbert backed away, knocking junk off the shelves with one hand as he went in search of another item to use in his defense. “You should be talking, Misha. I seem to recall there was a certain teddy bear you were once very fond of. Now what was her name again? Babushka?”
Misha narrowed her eyes, her face taking on even more wrinkles than before. “I couldn’t help it if my wand wanted to be a bear,” she growled. “And I only brought it to bed because it doubled nicely as a pillow. Best sleep of my life.”
Without warning, Misha jabbed the air several times with her wand, weaving a fierce red magical web in the air. It hung suspended for several seconds and then rushed towards Halbert, bringing destruction to everything it touched. Halbert hit the ground just in time, though he was reasonably sure that part of his hair was now on fire.
Ignoring his singed hair, Halbert caught a glimpse of something in the very color he was hoping to see. The rubber duck lay mere inches from his face, still bright yellow, though under a layer of dirt. Unable to reach his monocle, he had no idea if the duck held any kind of active Chrome, but at this point, he had little choice but to try. In any case, it might actually be a step up from his last attempt.
Hoping that he was not making the single most foolish move of his life, Halbert snatched the duck and squeezed it as hard as he could, producing a muffled squeak. He then launched it at his opponent. Even if it didn’t count as a Chromatic attack, maybe she’d die of laughter.
To Halbert’s great relief, the duck burst into a puff of mostly yellow with a tiny bit of orange. The blast caught his surprised opponent directly in the midsection where the yellow mixed with the purple residue around her and set off a terrific chain reaction. Misha collapsed, and Halbert did not wait to see if she would recover. He dashed towards the front of the shop, fumbling in his pocket for the golden coins he usually kept there.
He passed the owner on his way out and tossed him a handful of the coins. “I know-I broke it, and so I bought it. But you can keep it!” he yelled as he barreled through the door and onto the nearly-empty street.
One week before
Many strange parents had stood before Morgan Tobler’s desk over the years. As a high school principal, he sat down with a dozen or two parents every week, ranging from the rich I-can’t-believe-our-kid-isn’t-in-private-school parents, to the parents he expected lived out of a shopping cart and a refrigerator box.
The woman who stood in front of him, however, belonged in a category of her own.
Ms. Emmaline McFaren strode everywhere as though she were a movie star, though Mr. Tobler knew that she did nothing more than run a small photography studio out of her basement. Her cascades of black, curly hair defied gravity in new ways every time he saw her, and she always wore such exotic makeup that he wasn’t sure he knew what her real face looked like. Her wardrobe always consisted of creative combinations of black and white, and she spoke with a slight French accent, though he could not imagine she had ever been there.
Today was no exception to her eccentricities, as she bounded into the room with her black mane spilling out a huge floppy hat. Instead of sitting like a normal person, she lounged sideways on the chair in front of his desk and fixed him with a casual stare. “So, what will it be today?” she said.“Have you called me in to tell me what a wonder my little Wanda is?”
Mr. Tobler glanced down at the day planner open on his desk. He might need to cancel another appointment or two. He massaged his temples and tried to look back at Ms. McFaren with something other than annoyance or amusement. “You could say that. She is a wonderful student. She’d be even more wonderful if this were an art school.”
Emmaline raised a pencil-thin eyebrow. “Oh? And what do you mean by that?”
His jaw hung open while he tried to formulate just the words to describe Wanda’s latest caper. “Perhaps I should show you instead. The whole picture is worth a thousand words.” He muttered to himself. “It’s the end of the day and I don’t think I’ve got another thousand words to spare.”
The principal motioned for Emmaline to follow and tried not to roll his eyes as she strutted down the hallway as though a dozen cameras were on her.
“You would not believe some of the art she is capable of, Mr. T. She has a gift, a true gift!”
“I know,” he muttered, “and please don’t call me Mr. T. Mr. Tobler will do just fine.”
“Oui, Monsieur Toblay,” she said, pronouncing it like a French name. “As I was saying, my little Wanda, I’m always telling her ‘the world is your canvas. Go out there and leave your mark!’.”
Mr. Tobler rolled his eyes and opened the door to one of Wanda’s classrooms. “I think you’ll find that she’s been taking that advice to heart—a little too literally.” The principal entered the room and indicated a desk near the back. Instead of the usual chipped wood surface, lay a portrait of a man etched into the surface of the desk with pen.
The man featured a thin nose with large, intelligent eyes, a subtle smile and a wave of dark hair. He wore a crisp suit and had a cape slung over one shoulder.
“So, Ms. McFaren, what do you have to say for your daughter’s behavior?”
Emmaline’s eyes widened like high-beam headlights. “You mean to tell me that Wanda did this?”
Tapping his fingers on a nearby, unblemished desk, the principal nodded. “She most certainly did, and as you know, it is not the first offense. I’ll be amazed if she learned one thing about algebra in this class today.”
Leaning in close, Emmaline studied the picture’s every detail from the traces of the stubble on the man’s chin to the slight dimple in the man’s tie. Suddenly, she straightened up, a look of rapture on her thin face. “C’est magnifique! There’s only one word that truly describes it.”
Though his French was more than rusty, Mr. Tobler knew that this was anything but the reaction he had been looking for. He cleared his throat. “And what’s that?” he asked, fearing the answer.
“Wandaful!” she cried. “Wandaful, of course.”
Mr. Tobler did not claim to be anything near a great poet, or even a great master of the English language. He had performed decently on the spelling-bee circuit as a boy, but nothing more. Despite his limitations, he was fairly sure the word his student’s mother had just uttered was not going to be found in any dictionary known to man.
“Do you mean ‘wonderful’, ma’am?”
Emmaline whirled on the principal, her face suddenly sour. “If I had meant ‘wonderful’, I would have said it, wouldn’t I? Wonderful is exactly two degrees lacking in describing my daughter. Why do you think I named her ‘Wanda’ in the first place?”
Unable to think of an intelligent answer, he simply shrugged.
In the meantime, Emmaline had returned to scrutinizing the top of the desk, emitting little grunts and squeals at regular intervals. At last, she popped up, a sly expressive smile teasing her lips. “You look like a man who would drive a hard bargain. But I’ve also heard that you put the ‘pal’ in ‘principal’.” She placed one finger on the desk and narrowed her eyes. “I must have it. How much do you want for it?”
Mr. Tobler jammed his forefinger into his right ear and jimmied it around. “Too many pep rallies for me, I’m afraid. You’re going to have to say that again.”
Emmaline swept her fingers over the desk’s surface as though she might damage it with too overbearing a touch. “I said that I want it for my collection. I thank you for showing it to me first. I’m sure there must be other bidders lined up, but you’d be willing to forgo the auction altogether, I think I can make it worth your while.”
Mr. Tobler rolled his eyes, praying that tomorrow might be a snow day. “Each desk runs $68.25. As this desk is a complete loss, I must insist that you pay the full amount.”
Emmaline slammed a skinny hand on the desk next to her. “No!” she shouted with all the gusto of a comic book heroine. “That is absurd!”
He reached back to massage his neck, already feeling an ache beginning to form at the base of his skull. “Ms. McFaren, I’m sorry, but this is not a negotiable matter. Your daughter defaced school property, and –“
Her head started to wobble, then to shake, then the closest thing she could do to a complete spin without being an owl. “That price is unacceptable! I will not let this masterpiece leave your hands for such a paltry sum. I will pay $100, no less. And that, only because her talent is still budding.”
The principal held up both hands. “I don’t need $100, just $68.25—cash or check. If you need change, we can run back over to the office.”
Both hands had vanished into Emmaline’s oversized black, glossy leather purse. She rummaged, poked and prodded for several moments, her arms vanishing a surprising amount into the depths of the bag. When at last she surfaced, she clutched a single green bill, bearing the image of Benjamin Franklin. She took a few seconds to smooth it out on the desk and then presented it to Mr. Tobler.
“Do you accept my offer, or do we have to play hardball?”
Not wanting to play any sort of sport with this deranged parent, Mr. Tobler pinched the edge of the bill between thumb and forefinger and pocketed it. The drama club was always complaining about their budget anyway, and an extra $31.75 might ward off their complaints, at least until the end of the semester.
Their transaction complete, Emmaline eyed Mr. Tobler, coyly raising one eyebrow. “A-ha!” she said. “You’ll rue this day. This is going to be the centerpiece of my new ‘Creative Canvasses’ exhibit, and will put my little Wanda on the map.” She reached again into her purse and withdrew a pristine white handkerchief with a smattering of black polka dots. She held it at arm’s length and the principal took it.
Mr. Tobler studied the cloth for several seconds, making no move to take it. “What is that for?” he asked at last, crinkling his nose slightly.
“Why, for the tears you’ll cry when this piece really goes to auction. You could have financed all the field trips in the world. Instead, it looks like more bake sales for you.”
When Emmaline did not withdraw the hanky, Mr. Tobler took it in much the same way as he had taken her money. “I’ll keep it somewhere safe,” he said, thinking that it might serve a suitable trashcan liner.
Emmaline rubbed her hands briskly together and then pointed to the desk. “I suppose then that only one matter remains. How will I get this in my car?”
Mr. Tobler barely contained a snort. “With respect, madam, that is not my concern. Nor is it the only remaining matter. Your daughter must never do anything like this again. If she really wants to draw on desks, I can give you the name of our supplier and you can order them yourself.”
Emmaline drew a hand over her mouth in a gasp. “Oh, no, no, no! Are you hearing yourself? Her piece must be one of a kind! Imagine if there were desk art in every gallery. No one would think this one was so special. Now call a janitor to remove my property.”
Thinking of the mounds of paperwork remaining on his desk, Mr. Tobler grabbed the walkie-talkie clipped to his belt and summoned a couple janitors by name. “Mr. Ramsey, Mr. Hogan, I need some muscle in my office, now. It’s probably the heaviest and most ridiculous piece of art you’ve ever seen.”
“Non, non, not ridiculous,” said Emmaline, leaning in toward the walkie-talkie. “Wandaful!”
The two men appeared within a minute and helped Emmaline remove the desk from the classroom.
Mr. Tobler watched them go, the two janitors toting the desk with Ms. McFaren gesturing like a crazed mime the entire time. Behind them, Wanda McFaren kept her gaze firmly on the ground, the sway of her head bobbing her dark curls back and forth. She too wore a black dress, and Mr. Tobler couldn’t help but think the whole thing looked a bit like a funeral procession for the dearly departed desk.
As he watched the scene unfold, he mentally calculated the years he had left until retirement. Maybe what his wife had been telling him for years was true.
It was time for a career change.
That afternoon, Wanda McFaren held her loaded paintbrush between her teeth, considering the partially-finished canvas in front of her. She had tried to recreate the man’s face many times before, the most recent being the rendition she had carved into her desk.
For what felt like the thousandth time, she closed her eyes and tried to remember her father. Reaching out with her imagination, she turned the clock back, starting with the day before and moving back, remembering birthdays and holidays, school years and summer vacations back as far as she could go.
As she reached age five, however, the memories started to grow murky. The clear memories grew hazy around the edges, so that she could only remember snatches and feelings rather than concrete memories. Clenching her teeth around the paintbrush, she thought harder, willing her brain to dust off some of her earliest memories for just one glimpse of the face she so desperately wanted to paint.
The sound of the door swinging open shattered her concentration, and the images in her mind fled. The paintbrush dropped from her mouth, leaving a dark splotch on the man’s chin before tumbling to the sheet spread across the carpeted floor.
“Bonjour, maman,” Wanda said, trying not to blame her for making her lose her concentration or for the whole spectacle with the desk earlier that day.
“Bonjour, Wanda,” said her mother, half walking, half dancing over to her. “What are we working on today?”
Emmaline paused and considered the portrait, adjusting her floppy hat several times in the process. “That’s wandaful darling. I have only one question—did he get in a fight?”
Wanda shook her head, her red curls bobbing playfully around her face. “No, why do you say that? Did I draw his nose crooked again?”
“No, no, it’s not that. It’s that scar on his chin or whatever it is. Looks like he ran into a tree branch while riding his bike, no?”
Wanda growled and tried to erase the smudge by dipping the back of her sleeve in water and dabbing at the spot.
“Hm,” said her mother, “Now it just looks like he missed a spot while shaving. I’m not sure that’s doing any good.”
With a sigh, Wanda withdrew her sleeve and stepped back from the canvas. “No, maman. I think it looks like a dumpster liner now,” she said, drooping her shoulders.
Emmaline stepped forwards and snatched the canvas from the easel before Wanda could make off with it. “Nonsense!” she cried, keeping the canvas out of Wanda’s reach. “You simply have to change the focus of the piece. With the right title this could be a powerful allegorical piece. ‘The Flawed Man’ or something like that.”
Wanda stopped her efforts to grab the picture and raised a single, thin eyebrow. “A powerful alley-what? Can’t you use words I understand? I’m not a thesaurus.”
“But you’ve come so far, my sweet. A few years ago, you thought a thesaurus was a kind of dinosaur.”
With a sudden leap, Wanda nearly caught her mother off guard to snatch the picture. “Yeah, and I thought a cummerbund was something you got at a bakery. I know, I know.”
Looking up, Emmaline narrowed her eyes at the painting she held aloft. “Wandy-dear, I’ll give you this back on one condition—you’ve got to tell me whom you are trying to paint.”
Wanda crossed her arms across her chest and gave her a mom a look that meant everything from “I won’t eat my peas” to “I’ll clean my room tomorrow.”
Her mother clicked her tongue. “Now, I saw what you did to your desk today, Wanda. You’ve been drawing the same sort of man over and over again… quite well I might add. But I’m afraid you’ve hit an artistic brick wall. You need to move on.”
Wanda shook her head. “I can’t move on until I get him right.”
“Who, sweet pea?”
“Dad. Every time I try to remember his face, I get it wrong. Why don’t you have any pictures?”
Emmaline lowered her arms slowly. “Your father was a very private man, and very shy. He had the strangest knack for knowing when a camera was pointing at him. He could turn away or cover his face in a split second.”
“Don’t you have pictures from your marriage? Nobody can refuse them.”
Emmaline let out a long sigh. “I did, but then some clumsy movers lost the box with them in it. There were so precious few pictures and each one was a treasure. He had a smile like no one else, captured fewer times than I have fingers.” Wanda’s mother played with a discarded wrapper that lay on the floor for a few seconds with her foot. “And now they are all gone.”
Wanda reached up and patted her mother on the back, all the pout gone from her face. “Do you still remember his face?”
“Most of the time,” said Emmaline. “There are some times when I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t remember.”
Wanda’s shoulders slumped. “I can’t either.”
Emmaline patted the top of Wanda’s head. “But you were so young.”
They stood in silence for a few moments before Wanda pointed again to the portrait she had been working on. “So, if you remember, could you help me? I know something’s wrong, but I can’t tell what.”
A cheery grin rose up Emmaline’s face. “You should have come to me before. I’d love to help.” She placed the canvas back on the easel and studied it again with fresh eyes. “Really, it’s not too bad,” she said, chewing on the corner of her lip. “But the nose is all wrong, and the eyes are a little farther apart. Here, let me see your paint brush.”
Wanda picked up her paint brush and handed it to her mother, whose nose wrinkled as though she had dipped it in turpentine. “There is your problem. How can you produce a masterpiece with a brush like that?”
Wanda shrugged. “Oh, I don’t know. I think it’s just having a bad bristle day.”
Emmaline shook her head, studying the dilapidated brush. “This brush has had a few strokes too many. And like your dear departed grandfather, may he rest in peace, you can’t have too many strokes before you just can’t function anymore.”
Wanda gazed up forlornly, as though her mother were talking about replacing a beloved pet instead of a paintbrush. “But you didn’t throw grandpa away when he got old. There’s no difference.”
“Of course I didn’t. We moved him in to a nice home where he was warm, happy and taken care of. We can do the same for your brush.” Emmaline took the brush and placed it in a drawer next to an assortment of other knick-knacks that held some sort of sentimental value. “There, right between your spelling bee ribbon and your student of the month pin. He’ll be nice and safe, and can dream of the glory days he had working with the master.”
Together they closed the drawer and bowed their heads for a moment of silence. “Unfortunately, this is where my analogy breaks down. While no one could replace your grandfather, you can always get a new brush with all its bristles in the right place. Why don’t you do that now?”
Wanda bowed her head, stifling a sniff. “I don’t know, mom. Don’t you think it’s too soon?”
“Maybe,” she said, “but I do know this. The sooner you get yourself a new brush, the sooner you’ll succeed in painting the perfect portrait of your father.”
Wiping her nose on the back of her hand, Wanda straightened and hugged her mother. “You’re right, mom. You’re always right.”
Emmaline’s eyes perked up. “Why don’t I ever have my recorder around when you say that? I need to be able to play that back to you when you get cross.”
“You’ll never get the proof,” said Wanda, releasing her.
A few minutes later, Wanda unlocked her bicycle from the rock in front of their apartment complex. Her mother gave her a new bike every year, each one a tribute to a famous artist. After last year’s Picasso themed bike had gone terribly wrong due to the rearrangement of vital parts, Emmaline had scrimped and saved and bought an especially nice bike, covered it with random stripes of color in honor of the famous abstract painter Jackson Pollock.
The sheets whizzed by as she pedaled furiously, steering towards one of her very favorite places in the world. Just under ten minutes later, she locked her bike up in front of Abracadabra Odds and Ends—the thrift store she had been going to for as long as she could remember.
The jingling of a tiny bell signaled her entrance, and the man behind the register looked up. Though most people compared the old man’s face to a bulldog, Wanda found it endearing. Mr. Merlin Vorhees had taken over the shop from his father when he was 25 and had never done anything else. Though all of his family members had encouraged him to be true to his name and become a magician, he had only laughed and replied that he’d just as soon become a birdwatcher, as a merlin was not only a wizard, but also a kind of bird.