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art by Shannon N. Kelly

Magic Enough

Chuck lives outside of Dayton, OH, but spends his summers at the Center for Study of Science Fiction in Lawrence, KS. He served for 22 years in the United States Air Force. Another of his fantasies for kids appeared in the June 2011 edition of Spaceports and Spidersilk.

Evan didn't have much magic left.
He'd almost used it all up before he met Trevor. He never had a lot--just enough to make his invisible friend, Nave, come and play. But Evan hadn't needed Nave to come and play after Trevor moved in next door because Trevor became Evan's best friend.
But Evan couldn't play with Trevor anymore. Now Trevor lived in a special room in this hospital where only grownups could go.
The round clock on the white wall clacked; its big hand jerked up. The nurse at the desk frowned. Evan knew he couldn't sneak past her. She'd grab him by his X-Men t-shirt like last time. She'd give him a coloring book. She'd tell him to sit down. She wouldn't listen when he told her about what he had in his pocket for Trevor.
Last summer, before Trevor got sick, they splashed all day in a creek that bubbled over smooth rocks. They built forts out of soft mud. They tickled turtles. They petted the bumps on the backs of frogs. In the afternoons, Evan and Trevor played marbles with the other kids, and Trevor gave Evan marbles from his bag when Evan ran out. They had fun. They had lots of fun.
But after Trevor got sick, he couldn't go outside anymore. The medicine the doctor gave him made him throw up. His skin turned white and his hair fell out. He couldn't run or jump. It hurt him to move. It hurt him to smile.
Evan shivered. The machines that made the hospital cold hummed. The air felt weird. Outside, the sun shone. Outside, you felt its warm touch on your skin. Trevor loved the sun, loved its heat. Evan knew Trevor must be sad to be in a place with no sky. Evan wanted to do something to make Trevor remember the outside. But the nurse still frowned at her desk.
Evan couldn't sneak past the nurse, but maybe Nave could. Evan could see Nave but nobody else could. And Nave had an invisible pocket he could carry things in.
Sometimes Nave didn't come when Evan did his spell. Sometimes, before he met Trevor, Evan hadn't even had an invisible friend to play with. Evan hoped he had enough magic left for one last time.
Evan's magic spell had three parts. First, he closed his eyes tight. Next, he clenched his hands into fists and shoved them against his head. Then he said, "Nave, Nave, Nave." The words were the important part of the spell because they made the magic work. He said them so soft that only he heard. Evan felt his throat go dry when he said the words, like the tickle you feel the day before a sore throat starts to hurt--this hadn't happened the other times.
Evan opened his eyes and saw Nave. Nave looked just like Evan except that Nave's ears stuck up like a cat's.
Evan looked at the nurse. She sat at the desk. She didn't get up to give Nave a coloring book. She didn't say anything about boys with funny ears.
Evan reached in his pocket and took out the thing he wanted Trevor to have--a cat's eye with twists of blue and green--twists like the slit eyes of turtles and frogs, green like the water, blue like the sky. Evan gave Nave the marble. He didn't say anything--Nave knew his thoughts and Evan saw through Nave's eyes. Nave put the marble in his invisible pocket and whizzed past the nurse.
This is what Evan saw with Nave's eyes: A room filled with machines that whirred and beeped. Clear curtains hung around the sides of Trevor's bed like a tent. Through them, Trevor looked like a boy made of chalk. He grabbed his chest. He gasped for air. In the corner, in ugly chairs, Evan's mom held Trevor's mom.
"It's okay," Evan's mom said, "it'll be over soon."
Evan felt sad, sadder than he ever had--too sad for a first-grader. Only grownups should be in places like this. Evan didn't know what he'd do if he had to spend all day in this room.
The sadness Evan felt made him want to give the cat's eye to Trevor even more. He reminded Nave that it was in his invisible pocket. He told Nave to give Trevor the marble quick. Nave had to do it fast because Evan felt his magic going. His throat burned. His head ached.
Nave went through the clear curtain because curtains don't stop invisible people. Nave opened Trevor's hand and put the cat's eye in it. Nave bent down and whispered so only Trevor heard the word, "Remember."
Nave's lips touched Trevor's ear and Evan let his friend see blue sky and green water. He let him hear the croak of frogs and the crack of marbles. He let him feel the sun's touch and the wind's hug. Evan let his friend remember the things that made the world good. And Trevor smiled.
Trevor breathed in. Trevor breathed out. He let go of the marble. It bounced on the tile.
Trevor's mom looked up. Her brow creased. She picked up the marble.
Trevor laughed and laughed. The two moms turned.
Evan's view of Trevor flickered out. He could not stand up any more. He fell. His head cracked on a waiting room chair's hard edge. Evan had used up his magic. Now Nave had to fade away forever.
Evan didn't have enough magic to make his friend better. He didn't have enough magic to make him run, or make his hair grow, or make his skin tanned again. But he could let Trevor remember the fun they had. He could let Trevor know he'd never stop missing him.
Evan had just enough magic left for that.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Author Comments

When I wrote "Magic Enough," I hoped to capture the spirit of the wonderful fantasy and SF for kids I'd read--tales like Bradbury's "All Summer in a Day," or Asimov's "It's Such a Beautiful Day." I wanted to write a tale that captured a kid's point of view like theirs does. I wanted to record a kid's logic like Tamora Pierce can, like William Sleator did. This is not an easy task.

- Chuck Von Nordheim
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