“It’s only old geesers who knows a bit of magic” Laurence Heartrate, in between puffs on an old and withered tobacco pipe, said. Would he had not had a shaven face one would think Mr Heartrate was the caricature of the fairytales. “A Wizard! No, that’s from the sagas” he rapidly responded when I first, and admittedly ignorant, greeted him with the title of Wizard.
He is an old and sagged man but age has not taken away his wits and his mind seems sharp as one of the young ones. I can’t help to get lost and baffeled by mystery when I read his face. For when you look at him you find yourself that it is not possible to only “look” and you find yourself discerning his features as if every little wrinkle and unshaven straw of hair has been part of something utterly important. Those important events that the normal mortals only dreams of.
“The young ones dream. The old ones regret they didn’t try harder. Only a few of us come to the realisation that we were just not meant to get into this intricate sphere of knowledge, which we in common tongue call magic.” Mr Heartrate pauses and gleams out the window from the cafe table, at which we are enjoying the intake of Mrs Waffles pancakes, and looks just like the professors we used to know at school. Only that Mr Heartrate has an air I’ve personally never seen in any professor. It comes naturally, then, that he is a professor in mystery. He continues after a quite long pause.
“But us few, I think sometimes…” he pauses again “Yes?” I promtly add to let him know that I am listening. “Ah forget that. Old man’s nonsense. Excuse my attention span, you tend to drift off to here and there in my age, you see. What was your question again?”
“No need to apologise Mr Heartrate. No need at all. What I, and our readers, were interested in to know was if you think we learn magic or if some are just “blessed” with the ability to make magic?”
“I see. There is a problem with that question. Do you know of Hem Barley?”. I confirmed I did not know. “Hem Barley was a wonder child, the story goes and people say. He grew up in Hinloc as the only child of very poor parents. The father worked in the field and his mother was like a domesticated cat. You know how it goes. She kept the old shack spotless, so clean even rats were repelled by it. Keeping a dirt floor clean is not an easy feat, but she managed and only Lord knows how. She loved Hem to the bones, some say, and always kept that motherly eye on him but she never let him play, afraid of ruining her daily cleaning. If you’d know how that shack of theirs looked like you would smile as I do. Terribly comical.” I nodded and indeed he had a smile close to laughter on his face. “But you see, when we are children we don’t want to sit still, and do this and that in order to not get that and the other. We want to play. Hem was no different, of course, and naturally his mother’s hygene neurosis got the better of him as well. What I have heard, the poor kid was always ill. Just minor things but there always seemed to be something wrong with him. Or maybe it was just his mother’s protective imagination. In any case. One night Mr and Mrs Barley woke up by a KABOOM and their shack was in flames. The mother protector immediately ran to the bed of Hem’s but did not find him there. Should it not had been for Mr Barley’s entire life of working in the field, Mrs barley would surely had burned in. He carried her out, with great force you’d imagine, and both were unharmed. Well outside Mr Barley stared helpless at his burning home while holding the mother in his bear arms. Hem was nowhere to be seen and because this all happened in the dry season it took only minutes for their shack to burn to the ground. The little possessions they once had were now gone. But Mr and Mrs had matters of the heart now: little Hem where gone.
It was not until a week later that they started hearing the first signs of their son. But at that point they disregarded them becuase they did not think those signs were of their little boy. You see, it was reported that some maniac, a pyromaniac to be precise, was rumaging the are burning down the woods. At that point Mr and Mrs where looking in the opposite direction, so to speak, you could guess they had had enough of things burning. The pyromanic had supposedly burnt down great areas of forest and people where of course baffeled. No idea, did they have of why or even how any idot could do such a thing. Another week later or so, a patrol, an angry mob you could imagine, searched the trails of the pyromaniac and at its end they found a boy. A skinny little bow with sooted skin and red eyes, lying on his back unconscious. It took a while, for them all to realise that this boy was not a victim but indeed the manic they were hunting. A great dilemma, they had to admit, and the boy was simply taken to the nearest village to be taken care of. After some days rest and caring tendance the boy woke up. He didn’t even have any energy left to complain, he just lied there with barely open eyes. Water was shoved down his throat and he soon recovered, however sligtly. The village elder took his responsibility and did what had to be done. Can you imagine? Accusing a little boy close to death for burning down an entire forest? The matters of the heart has never been easy. But as an elder he had to and to his relief the boy was not offended and did not get angry. The boy admitted it outright but what was strange to every man, except Hem probably, was completely confused by the boy’s unremorsive response. “I had to. I had to because I could” the boy said according to the tale and added with some pride “I burned it all down and it was masterful. Did you see the fire?” he asked the elder interrogating him “You must have seen the fire and I did it all. I thought the trees should burn and they did. Just like that they started to burn. They wanted to burn and I wanted them to burn”. The elder did not know what to say and neither did anyone else, for that matter. In the end though, little Hem was taken back to his mother and father who was crying with joy and relief, of course. This time around though, the mother kept an even sharper eye on her boy and it was not often at all that Hem Barley were given the slightest space without his mother. She was close at all times. Father Barley couldn’t really complain, for he didn’t want to see another home being burnt down. Well, so it goes, the story of Hem Barley”
Suddenly Mr Heartrate has the air of someone drowning coming up to the surface or someone waking up from a terriffic sleep.
“So, magic is something some are born with then?” I ask our gentleman. “No. No. No. Magic is not something some are born with. It just happens that one person every eon or so that makes it impossible for us to be sure. Hem Barley was maybe five or six years old and he managed this devastating feat on his own. How on earth could that be? As I said, it’s only us old ones that knows a little bit of magic and we dream of doing things like what Hem Barley did. The differnce is that we study our entire lives, hoping to find that pussle piece that would give us that kind of power. We just don’t know, that’s all.”
We sit in silence for a while, sipping our coffe and pipe. But it is enough and I think I know what Laurence Heartrate means. Maybe I’ll ask him for another interview at a later time.