The teacher stood up and the murmur of voices finally stopped. “Thank you,” she said. “This is a creative support group to help us further explore and develop our talents. I’d like to begin by having everyone introduce themselves and tell us about a talent that they have. Let’s start with the lady in the green shirt and go around the circle from there.”

The lady in the green shirt stood up and giggled nervously. “Hi, I’m Sylvia. I like to paint in my spare time. I’m not very good yet, but I think if I keep practicing, I’ll get better.”

Sylvia sat down and there was an awkward pause where the people sitting on either side of her just looked at each other. Finally the teacher stood up. “Thank you, Sylvia,” the teacher said. “And welcome to the class. I’m sure that you’re better than you think you are. Let’s hear from the gentleman in blue next and then go from there.”

The gentle man in blue stood up and smiled. “Hello,” he said. “My name is Kyle and I can sneeze on command.”

A few people laughed, but Kyle looked serious. “It may not seem like much,” he said. “But it’s my talent and I’m proud of it. I practice a lot to keep my skills up, and I’ve done what I could to share my gift with the world.”

Sylvia scooted her chair away from him a bit. “What do you mean?” she asked. “Do you go around sneezing on people in public? That’s not very nice. You’ll spread germs.”

Kyle sighed. “A talent like mine isn’t very common. It’s normal for me to be misunderstood.”

The class began to murmur. The teacher finally stood. “Settle down,” she said. The noise stopped. “That’s better. Let’s let Kyle explain more about his unusual talent before we jump to conclusions, all right?”

The class mumbled and nodded and turned to look at Kyle again. “Well, There aren’t many people who can sneeze whenever they’d like. Allow me to demonstrate.” Kyle sneezed. “There, you see? Now you try.”

The class members made various odd sounds. Sylvia clutched her purse and looked ready to run out the door. Kyle laughed. “It’s not easy, is it?” he said.

“How do you share your talent with others?” the teacher asked.

“Fake sneezes are always inferior to the real thing,” Kyle said. “I get small parts in plays and television shows and commercials. I help the artists who need a sneeze for their script realize their creative vision.”

“Very good, Kyle,” the teacher said. “Why don’t you have a seat, and we’ll hear from the next person.”

The man sitting next to Kyle stood up. “Hi, I’m Jim. I’m double jointed. Look, I can put my leg behind my head.”

“Wow, another unusual talent,” the teacher said. “I can tell that this is going to be an unusual class. Next?”

“Ahoy, I’m Susan, terror of the classrooms. I can speak like a pirate, mateys. Arrrrrr!”

The next student stood up. “I’m Dave, and I’m good at filling in crossword puzzles.”

“That’s not a creative talent,” Sylvia said.

“I fill out crossword puzzles in pen,” Dave said.

“Nice,” Jim said. “That’s really gutsy. Do you get the answers right?”

“Mostly,” Dave said.

“But it’s not art,” Sylvia said.

“It’s performance art,” Kyle said. “Like walking on a tightrope or reciting poetry or singing opera or something.”

“But no one would come watch someone fill in a crossword puzzle,” Sylvia said.

“People pay to listen to opera,” Dave said. “I wouldn’t do that.”

“Class, let’s be respectful of other people and their talents.   Everyone has a place here. Now, who’s next?”

The tall, pale man wearing sunglasses stood next. “My name is Vlad, and I can change into a bat.”

“That’s it. I’m leaving,” Sylvia said. She stormed out of the classroom.

“That’s too bad,” the teacher said. “So, who’s next?”



Magician on Trial

At first, it all seemed like fun and games. Peter the Great was a magician who made a name for himself making things disappear. Not apples and bunnies and watches, like so many other magicians. He’d disappear things like people’s left thumbs or entire parking lots.

His breakthrough was when he was invited to a popular daytime talk show and made the host’s hair disappear. “This is great!” the host said. “It’s like my hair is really gone. I’ve always wanted to see if I have a beautifully shaped head. I think I do. What do you all think?” Everyone had laughed and cheered and waited for the hair to come back.

“For my next trick,” Peter said. “I will need a bowling ball. I think I have one in my coat pocket.”

“What about my hair?” the host asked.

“Oh, if you want that back, you’ll have to invite me on again. I think I’m free two weeks from now,” Peter said.   He patted his flat jacket pocket and pulled out a bowling ball.

The host laughed nervously. “You’re joking, right?”

“No, this is a real bowling ball. Here, see how heavy it is.” Peter handed over the bowling ball. The host nearly dropped it.

She handed it back. “Yes, that’s a real bowling ball. Please may I have my hair back today? I really prefer to have hair.” She rubbed a hand over her shiny bald head.

“Oh fine,” Peter said. He handed her a hat.

“I don’t want a hat. I want my hair back. Give it back,” the host said.

“Put the hat on,” Peter said.

The host jammed the hat on her head. Her hair flowed out from under the hat and past her shoulders. The audience cheered. The host cried. Peter became an instant celebrity.

Peter the Great went on disappearing things like noses and trees and shopping malls and airplanes and rivers, and mostly putting things back when he felt like it and not a moment before.

And then, one day, the Statue of Liberty went missing, and everyone knew who did it. Weeks passed, and it didn’t come back. The National Park Service called Peter on the phone. “Did you take the Statue of Liberty?” the park ranger asked.

“Yes,” Peter said.

“Will you give it back?”

“No,” Peter said. “I don’t think so. Not yet.”

“Then we’ll see you in court,” the ranger said.

Three weeks later, Peter showed up in time for his trial in a flash of brilliant blue light. The judge blinked and motioned for the bailiff to start the trail.   “The next case is the people versus Peter the Great,” The bailiff said.

“I object,” the prosecuting attorney said. “That’s not his real name.”

“You can’t object yet,” the defense attorney said.   “Court isn’t officially in session.”

“I don’t know his real name,” the bailiff said.   “His paperwork disappeared. The file was filled with paper flowers. I’m not sure how they all fit in there, honestly.”

“Surely his information was still on the computer,” the judge said.

“No, the pages are full of dancing bananas,” the bailiff said.

“Obviously, we can’t hold a trial without the proper paperwork,” the defense attorney said.

“I’m willing to dismiss the case if he’ll give the Statue of Liberty back,” the judge said.

There was a puff of blue smoke and Peter the Great disappeared. When the law caught up with him, he was making streetlights blink morse code. “Is that a message?” the policeman asked, as he closed the handcuffs around Peter’s wrists.

“Yes,” Peter said.

“What does it say?” the policeman asked.

“It says run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me…” and Peter disappeared in a puff of blue smoke. The handcuffs dropped to the ground, empty.

He appeared a week later in a jail cell. By the time anyone noticed, the cell was filling up with white rabbits. “Are you Peter the Great?” the warden asked.

“I might be,” Peter said. “Would you like your statue back now?”

The warden looked around. “I don’t think there’s enough room for it in here,” he said.

“Fair enough,” Peter said, and he disappeared in a puff of blue smoke.

The statue appeared back on its base on Ellis Island.   No one ever saw Peter the Great again.  He’d disappeared himself.

The Magical Veterinarian

“Paws and Miles?” the pretty dark haired nurse asked.   When a young man in the crowded waiting room nodded and stood, she smiled. Her fangs showed, just for a moment. “The wizard will see you now. Follow me.”

Miles tugged a little on the lead and his dragon uncurled and stepped carefully over the unicorn and the basket of rainbow colored bats. They followed the nurse further down into the large underground tunnels. She left them in a cave lined with straw after checking the dragon’s vitals.

“We could fit your whole house in here, Paws,” Miles said.

The dragon blew out a puff of smoke and curled up again.   The young man found some chairs lined up along the back wall of the cave. He picked one and set it down next to his friend. There was a little chime, and then someone knocked on the open door.

“Come in,” Miles said. “Are you the wizard?”

“I’m a wizard,” an older man said. “I’m Wizard Andrew.” He pointed to his nametag.

“What does the MV stand for?” Miles asked.

“Magical veterinarian,” Wizard Andrew said. “Are you Miles?”

Miles nodded. “And this is Paws.” He patted the dragon’s side. The dragon opened one eye and snorted.

“What seems to be the problem?” Wizard Andrew asked.

“He loves ice cream,” Miles said. “But it puts his flames out. So he’s too cold all the time. He has a coat he wears around the house, but he won’t wear it outside.” Miles frowned, and Paws curled up even tighter and turned his back on Miles and the wizard.

“That is a problem. Ice cream isn’t very good for dragons,” Wizard Andrew said.

“Yes, I know,” Miles said. “It’s kind of a weird story.”

“I’d love to hear it,” the wizard said.

“Well, my grandparents gave Paws to my parents as a wedding gift. You know, to guard their new home and such.”

The wizard nodded. “It’s not uncommon. I assume he was still pretty young.”

“Just hatched,” Miles said. “I was born a few years later.”

“So you grew up together,” the wizard said.

“Yes,” Miles said. “And I’m a shapeshifter, and Paws was my best friend.”

The wizard laughed. “So, I suppose that half the time, your parents were raising two little dragons.”

Miles smiled. “That’s pretty much it. They tried to limit sweets, and mostly they did pretty well.   We both had a bit of a sweet tooth though.”

“That is unusual,” the doctor said. “Usually dragons prefer spicy food.”

Miles laughed and patted Paws again. “Oh we do. But, we’ve both always liked the same things, and I love sweets too.”

“And you haven’t had a problem with his flame going out before now?” the wizard asked, writing some notes in his chart.

“Before last week, we never gave him all that much ice cream. Just a scoop to go with a slice of cake or whatever,” Miles said. “But, last week Miles was pretty sick, and my parents are out of town. He wasn’t eating, so I took him to the store to see if there was something else he wanted.   All he wanted was the ice cream.   He was better in a day or two, but he’s still refusing to eat anything but ice cream.”

They both looked up at Paws. Paws looked over his shoulder and blew a puff of smoke at them. Wizard Andrew laughed. “A stubborn one, is he?”

Miles looked embarrassed. “Mom says he learned it from me.”

Wizard Andrew laughed again. “Well, I’ll tell you what I think we can do. I’ll prescribe a mix of herbs and peppers to use as an ice cream topping.   I recommend adding some vegetables as well. The topping should balance out the ice cream enough to stabalize his body temperature.”

The wizard wrote a list on his notepad and handed it to Miles. “Thank you, Wizard Andrew,” Miles said.

“I would suggest you offer him his favorite foods first, before you dish up the ice cream,” the wizard said.

Paws grumbled and Miles laughed. “We’ll try it,” he said.

“Now go get him home and back into his warm coat,” the wizard said. He smiled and gently patted Paws on the side.   Then he left to see his next patient.


Wizard Socks

Wendell was rather young to be a professional wizard.  But, his grandpa wanted to retire and his uncle couldn’t handle the family business alone.  There were other people in the family with the gift, of course, but none of them were interested.

“Shouldn’t you take over before me?” Wendell asked his dad once.

“I don’t want to be a wizard,” his dad said.  “I’m a dentist.  Dentistry is an art form you know.”

“But someone my age should still be an apprentice.  I don’t know enough to do wizard duties yet,” Wendell said.

“So you’ll learn on the job and make mistakes.  That happens.  People will understand,” his dad said.

Wendell wasn’t so sure about that.  He did make a lot of mistakes, and mostly people seemed annoyed or terrified.  Very few were understanding.

Uncle Nicolas would give Wendell a stack of books each week to study when things were slow.  He said, “Don’t be afraid to try out any spells that look interesting.” But, apparently he didn’t really mean that, because he’d get upset whenever Wendell tried anything.

One of the many times this happened was the day Wendell didn’t have any clean socks in his drawer.  This was mostly due to the goat that he’d conjured to mow the lawn that instead ate all the laundry.  That hadn’t gone over well.  “Don’t use magic just to save a bit of effort.  That’s lazy,” Uncle Nicolas said.

So when Wendell ran out of socks, he paused for a moment.  Was he trying to just save effort?  No, he was trying to save money too.  That probably meant it was okay to conjure socks.

He’d seen the spell in one of the older spell books.  It was one of those where the writing was faded and he had to squint to read it.  He found the spell and recopied it into his personal spell book before he tried it, just like Uncle Nicolas told him to do.

Then he waved his pinkies around and chanted.  He clapped twice.  An assortment of socks appeared on the table in front of him.  They were different colors and made of different materials, but they were all his size.  Perfect.

He wore the yellow socks first.  They were soft and warm.  The weather outside was sunny and beautiful.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  He sat out under a tree to eat his lunch.  It was a good day.

The next day, he wore his blue socks.  They were made with a silky, slippery fabric and constantly felt like they were slipping down around his ankles and bunching up under his heels.  From the moment he got dressed that morning, it poured.  He had to light candles in order to see his work.  When he went out to check the mail that evening, he was drenched.  His feet made squelchy sounds in his shoes as he walked around inside, so he took off his socks and shoes and changed.  That’s when the rain stopped, of course.  He should have waited to check the mail.

The next pair of socks was gray and itchy.  He put them on and a tornado raced through the backyard.  Acting on a sudden hunch, he pulled the socks off his feet.  The tornado petered out.  Were the socks causing the weather?

He pulled on the fluffy white socks.  The sky darkened and snow began to fall. As tempting as it was to have a snow day, Wendell took them off again.  There were plants and animals to consider after all.

Wendell looked at the rest of the socks.  Maybe he should find out what they do before trying them on.  What if a pair caused a hurricane? Or an earthquake?  Were earthquakes weather?

Wendell took his yellow socks out of the laundry basket and put them on.  He put the rest of the socks in a box and took them with him to the workshop.  Uncle Nicolas was already there, enchanting a lawnmower.

“I think I maybe can change the weather with these socks,” Wendell said.  He dropped the box on the table next to his uncle.

His uncle opened the box and pulled out one of the gray socks.  He took his goggles off the top of his head and put them on.  “Yup, these are weather socks,” he said.  He dropped the sock back in the box and took off his goggles.  “Wendell, why did you make weather socks? We don’t have weather manipulation in any of our orders.  I don’t think I’d even want to sell anything like that.  Weather isn’t something that should be messed with on a whim.”

“I ran out of socks,“ Wendell said. “‘But I wasn’t just saving effort this time.  I saved money, too.”

“Wendell, if it’s easy to do without magic, don’t use magic,” Uncle Nicolas said.  He picked up the box of socks.  “Is this all of them?”

Wendell looked down.  “Yes, except the ones I’m wearing, of course.”  He wiggled his toes inside his shoes.  These were really great socks.  He loved sunny days.

“Wendell,” Uncle Nicolas said.  Wendell looked up.  His uncle was frowning.  Uh, oh.  He was in trouble again.

“Yes uncle?” he said.

Uncle Nicolas held out his hand.  “Give me the socks,” he said.

“But then I won’t have any socks on inside my shoes,” Wendell said.

“Buy some on your way home,” Uncle said.

“All right, but I want them back on the day of the town picnic.  And my birthday,” Wendell said.

“We’ll see,” Uncle said.

Yellow Socks

Birthday Wish

It was Dad’s birthday. Lincoln helped Mom with Dad’s birthday cake. He was the one to write happy birthday, Dad in green letters that were only a little bit wobbly. Mom lit the candles and let Lincoln carry the little cake to the table while they all sang happy birthday to Dad.

Amanda and Emma were already sitting at the table. Lincoln put the cake on the table in front of Dad and slid into his chair as they finished the song. “Make a wish, Dad,” Lincoln said.

“All right,” Dad said. He closed his eyes for a moment. Then he took a deep breath and blew out all the candles. Then he disappeared.

“Where did he go?” Amanda asked.

“If he wished himself someplace nice, he should have wished us along too,” Emma said. “It’s not fair.”

“I don’t think he has his phone or his wallet,” Amanda said. “What will he do?”

Mom was looking under the table and behind all the chairs. Lincoln looked up. Maybe Dad would be clinging to the ceiling like Spiderman? Nope. Too bad.   That would have been an awesome wish.   He’d have to remember that one.

Maybe he wished himself invisible? Lincoln went to check Dad’s chair. He swung his hand through the air and patted the blue seat cushion. Dad wasn’t invisible. His fingers brushed against something smooth and cold. There was a little blue bottle on the seat cushion.   It was nearly the same color as the cushion.

Lincoln picked up the bottle. “Did Dad wish to be turned into a bottle?” he asked.

Amanda and Emma stopped talking. Mom stopped checking the cupboards. They all rushed over. “Let me see that,” they all said at once. They reached for the bottle.

Lincoln held the bottle closer. “Wait, not all at once,” he said. “What if it falls and we break Dad into pieces like Humpty Dumpty?”

Every one paused. “Let Mom hold the bottle,” Amanda said. Emma nodded. Lincoln carefully handed the bottle over to Mom.

Mom held the bottle up to the light. “Is it a perfume bottle? It’s rather fancy. I can’t see the inside,” she said.   She carefully tried to pull the glass stopper out. It didn’t budge.

“Why would Dad want to be a bottle of perfume?” Emma said. “It doesn’t make sense.”

“Maybe it’s not a perfume bottle. Maybe it’s a magic potion,” Lincoln said.

“Dad might want to have a magic potion, but he wouldn’t want to be a potion,” Amanda said.

“None of this makes sense,” Mom said. “Birthday wishes don’t work like this.”

“Yeah,” Emma said. “I still don’t have my pony.”

“Maybe it’s an especially magical birthday,” Amanda said.

“Well, he’s turning 42,” Mom said. “That is supposed to be an important number.”

“There, see?” Amanda said. “Maybe he forgot and wasn’t careful enough with his wishes.”

“Mom, you got frosting on Dad,” Lincoln said. “Look, now he has green smears. What if that makes the bottle slippery and you drop him?”

“That would be bad,” Mom said. “I’ll wipe him off and put him on the table where he’ll be safer.”

Mom wiped the bottle off with her sleeve. Dad appeared, dressed in an odd sparkly costume. He was floating in the air next to his chair. “Do you have a wish?” he asked.

“I want you back to normal,” Mom said.

There was a popping sound. The bottle disappeared, and dad was sitting in his chair in his regular clothes.

“What just happened?” Amanda asked.

“What did you wish, Dad?” Emma asked.

“I wished I could grant wishes. Then I was stuck in that bottle,” Dad said.

“You were a genie,” Mom said.

“Genies give three wishes,” Lincoln said. “We should have wished for other things before wishing him back. I could have had a new bike.”

“Something could have gone wrong, like in the stories,” Emma said.

“What if he was a genie who only gave one wish?” Amanda asked.

“Someone else could have made a wish,” Lincoln said.

“The bottle could have disappeared to a random new location after the wish,” Amanda said.

“We could have asked him the rules,” Lincoln said. He scowled at Amanda. She glared back.

“I’m just glad to have him back,” Mom said. She gave Dad a hug.

“Me too,” Emma said. She jumped up and hugged both Mom and Dad.

“Me too,” Amanda said. She stood hugged Dad from the other side, wrapping an arm around Emma’s back.

“Me too,” Lincoln said. He hugged Dad’s arm that was hugging Mom.

“I’m glad to be back,” Dad said. They all laughed and finally let go.

They all sat back in their chairs. Lincoln frowned. “Dad, you wasted your birthday wish.”

“I had an adventure, and now I have some yummy cake to share with my family.   That’s not so bad,” Dad said.

“I guess you’re right,” Lincoln said. “Did you see the writing on the cake? I did that.”

“I bet it’s extra yummy. I can’t wait to eat it,” Dad said.