|Posted by Matt Posner on June 26, 2015 at 3:40 PM|
Here is a selection from the first draft of School of the Ages V: The Wonderful Carol. Enjoy -- Matt
Mr. Dancer’s lips curled. “The contract with the funeral home is in an envelope in the bag outside, man. And there’s a doctor’s report showing that I have terminal liver cancer. I don’t, but I’ll do a spell to make it look that way. Also, my will is there. I’m leaving my house to School of the Ages, and the Peace Bus, too. The stuff in the bag is for you kids, on one condition.”
“A new bargain?” I asked.
“Sort of,” he said. “You and your friends can have all the magic artifacts I made, if you let me pick your senior project.”
Mr. Tinker sighed. “Oh, not this again.”
“Come on, Butch,” said Mr. Dancer, waving a hand at him gently. “Let me tell the kids about it.”
Mr. Tinker sauntered off to get another drink.
“Go on.” Goldberry settled down on the floor next to him, spreading her skirt over her knees. Cougar, my family’s fat gray tabby, climbed onto the coffee table next to her and rubbed his nose into her shoulder. They had become close. I sat on the sofa by Mr. Dancer’s knees.
“The Wonderful Carol, man,” the old teacher began. “It’s a song from God. It has many parts, so you need a bunch of singers, but if you sing it all together, it soothes wounded spirits.”
“You mean, it stops people feeling depressed?” I asked. “Regular music can do that.”
“Naw, it’s better than that. The Wonderful Carol soothes spirits of the dead.”
“You mean… spirits that are still on Earth?” A specialist in divination magic, Goldberry had good instincts about what to ask.
“Yeah, man. Earth-bound ghosts.”
“It makes ghosts feel good,” I said.
“Better than that. It makes them go to Heaven. It makes pain and suffering leave the Earth.”
“So we need to learn the Wonderful Carol. Okay. Is it in a grimoire somewhere?” A grimoire is a book of spells.
“I wish, man,” said Mr. Dancer. “Only the Simurgh knows it, and the Simurgh isn’t easy to find.”
“He’s mad,” Mr. Tinker contributed from the dining room, which was in sight of us. “He’s been trying this old saw with students since the 70’s.”
“Don’t bum me out, Butch,” said Mr. Dancer. “I’m dying here.”
“Sorry.” Mr. Tinker sipped his drink.
My father was also in the dining room pouring whiskey. He was very drunk and in an excellent mood. “The Simurgh is a creature from Persian mythology. A holy bird, mother of all birds, something like that.”
“It’s just a metaphor,” said Mr. Tinker. “It’s a symbol for divine wisdom. It’s not a real being. Other students have fallen for his story and tried to conjure it up. No one could. Waste of a senior project.”
“I have a good feeling about these guys,” said Mr. Dancer. “Maybe they could do it.”
“Like Calvin Calico and Loralinda,” Mr. Tinker replied.
Mrs. Tinker joined us, sitting on the loveseat with her own whiskey sour. “Are those the two who were seniors when you enrolled, dear?”
“Yes. Really brilliant pair. They tried a summoning spell they had made themselves after teaching themselves ancient Persian. Calvin Calico grew feathers on his head, and Loralinda grew them — well, somewhere else. And no Simurgh.”
“Yeah, but these kids are different,” said Mr. Dancer.
“They were your star students that year.”
“Yeah, but these kids are…”
“One of them is my daughter.”
“And she isn’t stupid,” Goldberry interrupted. “And she knows just a few ways to assess risks on her own,if you’re quite finished being overprotective.”