After the Magic

By on Sep 12, 2011 in Fiction

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After the Magic graphic

Next day he went to church with Sara and afterwards had fried chicken at her parents’.  But he and Sara didn’t say three words, and he was home by one-thirty.  A couple hours later, there was a knock at the front door.  It was Cyrus West with a basketball, and under a grey sky, they crossed the street to the courts behind Central School.  Their breath showing in little streamers, they took turns shooting.  After a while Cyrus hit a long jump shot, and Tom passed the rebound back to him.  Cyrus bounced the ball and caught it.  “I heard you and Sara had a fight.”  

Tom told Cyrus about it.

Cyrus bounced the ball again.  “Well, can’t you compromise?  Maybe you could still build a cottage out there.  Spend the weekends.”

“Or maybe,” Tom said,  “we could live out there.  And Sara could drive in to help her parents.  Since they need her help so bad.”

“Well, main thing is, you’re gonna be together.”  Cyrus held the ball against his hip.  “Maybe where, doesn’t matter.”

“I’m right about this, Cyrus,” Tom said.  “And if Sara gets her way, that’s how it’ll be from here on.”

Cyrus nodded, but his face was long.  When he first fell for Judy, the world had started to sparkle.  She could do no wrong, and he knew he’d be crazy about her forever.  She was like God’s gift to him.  The gift wasn’t exactly what he thought at first, though.  He had to deal with her sides that weren’t perfect, and get through the daily grind with her.  Right now, things with Tom and Sara looked bad:  Like the first battle in a long war…

Neither one gave an inch about the house.  Then one evening in April, Tom was driving them to a dance over in Riggsville.  As they crossed the bridge above The Ohio, he glanced at Sara, the sky wide and blue, sun not quite down, the river sparkling.  He said, “Hey, Sara, I’ve been thinking.  About my best man.”

“Oh?”  She turned his way.

“What do you think about Cyrus?”

“Are you joking?”

Tom glanced her way.  “Cyrus is my best friend these days.”

“Have you forgotten what he did to me?”

Tom glanced away.  “That’s all behind you, I thought.”

“Forgiving Cyrus is one thing.”  She crossed her arms.  “Him standing up at my wedding is another.”

After the dance, in a booth at Stout’s Truck Stop, Tom said, “Back to my best man.  How about Ricardo Perez?”

Sara said, “The guy from New York you were stationed with?”

He nodded.

She rolled her eyes.  “Can’t you find someone from around here?  Someone who won’t complicate everything?”   So he didn’t bring up Ricardo Perez again, or any other best man.

Then, when they got in another argument the next week, about their honeymoon, they postponed the wedding until they could straighten things out.  But they didn’t set a new date.  And as the months passed, it got so anything one said, the other disagreed, their voices always cold and hard.  Cyrus hated how things were turning out.  Tom was his friend; Sara was his childhood sweetheart.  He’d helped bring them together, and it had come to this.  He talked to Tom again.  No good.  Sara’s parents talked to her.  No good.

Late that August, under a full moon, Cyrus went to the woods.  He had as much trouble getting to Ludeana Quinn as Tom had, but he did find her.  They sat by her fire, and Cyrus asked, “Can you make it right?”

She said nothing, the flames throwing strange shadows.  At last something sad came and went in her eyes.  “I’ll do what I can.”

Cyrus expected big things, but nothing seemed to change.  Tom and Sara still marched around, their voices shrill.  Cyrus figured maybe Ludeana Quinn couldn’t work the same magic twice.  Sunday morning Labor Day weekend, he went up to Haley’s Drugstore.  As he left with a Sunday paper, he looked over at the courthouse.  Dressed in their Sunday best, Tom and Sara stomped across the lawn, sneering into each other’s face, arguing.  They stopped in the center of the lawn, and Sara jabbed a finger at Tom.

Ludeana Quinn stepped from behind a maple, no expression on her face.  She spoke words Cyrus couldn’t understand, raised her hands, and threw them down.  More reds, blues, and golds than you could count flooded the square.  When the last shreds of color finally seemed to blow away in the wind, she was gone.  Cyrus stared at Tom and Sara through tears:  Golden statues of sparkling stone, and now everything about them spoke of new love.  

On the bench, the mother, daughter, and old man sat.  It was still dusk, but the streetlights had just winked on.

The girl gazed at the statues.  “Is all that stuff true?”

“Well, I had to guess a few details.”  He nodded slowly.  “But 99 percent of it’s true, that I guarantee.”

“How do you know?” she demanded.

“Oh…”  He shrugged.  “Everyone round here knows about each other.”

A white-haired woman in blue jeans and a Daisy Duck t-shirt walked up to the bench and gazed at the old man.

“Thought you might be here.”  She smiled.

He pushed his hands against his knees to rise, and then, hand in hand with the placid lady, wished mother and daughter a good night.

The mother watched the two cross the lawn.  At the street’s edge, the white-haired lady loosed her hand, patted her companion’s back and spoke, her words faint but clear.

“Time to come home, Cyrus.”  

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Kent McDaniel is a Chicago-based musician who also writes fiction. His stories have appeared most recently in Downstate Story, Chaffin Journal, Palo Alto Review, Iconoclast, Allegory, Rambunctious Review, and Timber Creek Review. Videos of his live musical performances are up at