The final part of our two-part study:
Jenny hesitated. She turned.
Mr. Thrush met her curious gaze. There was strange warmth in his own.
‘I know you do not like me,’ he said, ‘and I don’t ask that you do—but I would be grateful if you could tell me why.’
‘For no reason,’ she said—and flushed. ‘It’s not that—not that I don’t like—’
‘I have no magic,’ he said. ‘Is that it?’
Her face burned.
‘May I show you something, Miss Graves?’
She looked up in surprise.
Mr. Thrush’s voice was gentle. His eye had lost none of its easy humor.
She crossed to his desk.
‘What is it?’ she asked.
Mr. Thrush reached inside the drawer. He took out a stained sheet of paper. Across the page she saw all kinds of strange and fantastic creatures, and in their midst was a young mother and baby. The two were playing among these alien faces as if they were friends, and the woman smiled to see how her little one’s eyes widened at the great dragon before it, whose eyes were equally wide, to find such a little thing as curious and wonderful as this.
‘What is it?’ asked Jenny. She spoke almost in a whisper. ‘Is it a future-teller?’
‘In a sense,’ said Mr. Thrush. ‘It is only an idle fancy—a dream that could be realized. The future is a mystery to me, as I like it.’
‘Then a lie-pad?’
‘It is my own,’ said Mr. Thrush. ‘It is a drawing.’
She drew back from him. Her eyes flashed.
‘You’re trying to trick me,’ she said.
‘Why should I trick you?’
‘Why do you care if I like you or not, and show me stupid pictures?’
‘Because there is sense in you,’ he said. ‘Because you judge against that sense, and I would reason with you, and change you, if I can. You were kind to my wife. You little know what that means to me. But you are wrong, to think I am desperate. I am desperate to protect her and our child—I am not desperate because I have no magic to sharpen or aid me. Look at this picture and tell me magic could have made it. Look at me and tell me this is worthless.’
His energy surprised Jenny. She backed towards the door.
She reached for the knob.
‘Forgive me—forgive me. Listen to me, please.’
He was quiet again, breathless, and except for that breathlessness, almost calm.
‘I get it,’ she said. ‘You have a kind of magic too, right?’
‘I do,’ he said. ‘Do you hate me for it?’
‘You’re right. It isn’t astonishing work, far as it goes,’ he said. ‘But if you like I can teach it to you.’
‘I won’t teach you magic, if that’s what you’re thinking. You either have it or not. That’s magic.’
Jenny bit her lip. She looked down at her shoes.
‘I capture this on paper,’ said Thrush. ‘Magic adds its own charm, if given. But it is the heart—your mind—that truly brings it to life.’
She looked at him. For the first time she was genuinely curious, caught by the pale, tense strain in his face.
‘You know my uncle,’ she said.
‘Yes. From school.’
‘Will you tell me about him?’
‘Will he not tell you about himself?’
‘Were you always friends?’ she asked. ‘Does he not care about—about—?’
‘Yeah. I guess.’
Mr. Thrush nodded a little.
‘We were enemies at first,’ he said. ‘Dear old Wallie. But we grew on each other I suppose. He saved my life. Did you know that? Certainly did. And I—I saved his, twice. That’s more than even.’
‘Try telling him that,’ she said.
Mr. Thrush laughed. He looked a little younger when he laughed, a little less worn.
‘You know your uncle better than you think,’ he said.