A flicker of pink light caught young Raymond’s eye. It was the open sign for the magic shop, Alazar’s Parlor of Mystique. Raymond walked past the shop everyday on his short walk home from school, but it was always closed. He often fantasized about what might be inside. On this day, though, he had stayed a few hours after school for a pep rally. So he finally managed to catch the store when it opened.
Now the pink light called out to him. This was his chance. He stood outside the shop for some time trying to summon up the bravery to enter. Elaborate furniture, handcuffs, trunks, wild costumes, and glass orbs lined the two great display windows. It was so cluttered that one couldn’t see into the shop itself. This made Raymond all the more nervous.
He thought about what might happen if he entered. What if the shop keeper kicked him out for having no money? Then again, his 11th birthday was in two days. He could tell the shop keeper he was picking out a birthday present for his mom to buy him.
“No, that’s stupid,” he decided.
Raymond stared long at hard at the door, then made a sudden rush toward it. Just as he grabbed the handle his nerves got the best of him.
“Come on, you can do this,” he reassured himself.
He began tugging on the door; it felt like he was lifting an anvil overhead. It wouldn’t budge. Maybe it wasn’t open after all, he thought to himself.
“That’s not the way in, sonny.”
Raymond was so startled he smacked his chest and chin into the door. He turned to see an old man staring at him through milky white eyes.
“Ex…excuse me?” Raymond managed. “The sign said open so I thought the magic shop would be—” he trailed off.
The old man nodded his head. “Right, the magic shop. If you want to go in, you must say the magic words?”
“Magic words?” Raymond repeated, confused and a little afraid.
“Oh yes. You see, this isn’t an ordinary magic shop.” He cleared his throat and wheezed a couple of times. “It’s the real deal. You won’t,” he hacked a throaty mucus into a bright red handkerchief, “find any cheap tricks or fluffy white rabbits.”
“How, I mean, am I even allowed in then?” he asked the old man meekly.
“Of course. That is, if you’re meant to.” The old man smiled a warm, toothless smile.
“But how do I get in?”
The old man leaned a little closer to Raymond and whispered, “I told you. You need to say the magic words.”
“What are they?” Raymond was now shedding off his timid exterior and letting his boyish excitement show through.
“Here, allow me.”
The old man motioned Raymond to the side and stepped to the door. He waved both his hands in a grand gesture, breathed in deeply making himself as large as possible, then with a quick swipe of his fist, began pounding on the door.
“Hey Carl, open the damn door! You got customers waiting out here!”
Raymond looked on in shock. The old man just kept smiling that toothless smile.
A loud click followed by the sound of sliding metal echoed behind the door. Then the door opened slowly. Raymond didn’t know what to expect. Would there be a thick mist pouring out? Would a high ranking wizard be on the other side?
His questions were quickly answered when before them stepped a short, pudgy bald man in a stained undershirt and huge green cargo shorts.
“Dammit Dennis! What did I tell you about banging on my door?”
The fat man shot a mean glance toward Raymond.
“No kids!” he barked. “Come back when you’re 18.”
The door slammed shut and with it escaped the sterilized odor of bleach and rubber. The old man leaned in closer and really looked hard at Raymond.
“A kid? I thought you was a midget.” He stood up too fast and his heavy black trench coat whipped open to reveal that he was wearing nothing more than a leather thong. “Sorry bout that,” he said as he clenched the coat closed.
The old man looked around nervously before fixing his white eyes on Raymond again. His toothless mouth opened to say something, but then he turned around and rushed into the shop without saying a word.
Right before the door closed again Raymond caught a glimpse of a wall comprised entirely of magic wands. Some big, some small, some colorful, some plain. At least, in his young mind they looked like magic wands. And for the time being, it was better that he thought that.
Some months later in the summer Raymond would catch his mother coming out of that “magic shop” with a large purchase hidden away in a black bag. He thought it odd that his mom would need a magic wand, but he figured it better not to ask any questions.
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