the wizard and the girl.

The wizard stood tall in his chair as he stared down across the table at his friend. The girl was eating some nuggets of meat and humming to herself as the wizard remembered his personal memories of youth that seemed so sweet and so edited.

"So," the wizard thought and then said, "are you enjoying yourself?" The small, and yet not little, she would contend with the derogatory nature of the word little, girl smiled and nodded. The modern wizard smiled in kind, glad to bring another being a moment of enjoyment, before gently stroking his red-and-black beard. He reflected deeply on the nature of being, that existence is sweet and on his naive wish that he could live within that fleeting moment of exchanged smiles before being interrupted by the current moment, the girl declaring "All done!" The grey meat tucked by a thin layer of orangish-brown stuff was, indeed, all done, yet the wizard was not, so he thought to himself a moment, then spoke.

"Do you ever think of your body as a vessel?" The small girl puckered her mouth and placed it to one side of her face, shook her head. "Do you know what I mean?" The second question was greeted with more shakes of the head. The wise fellow chortled, and clarified. "The idea that your body is just a body, and that inside yourself there is a thing that is you, popularly called a soul, do you ever think about that sort of thing?" The girl said "No" and looked back down at the colorful and empty plastic boxes of crumbs before looking back up to her friend's face. His was of such hopeful contemplation that she felt the need to elaborate. "I don't think..." each word spaced out with carefulness, "that I am a thing in a thing, I just am." The wizard chewed on her words for a moment, seeing their careful construction. "I would say the same thing, but in my thirty-years of age, one thing keeps me from saying the same." He looked to his partner and found interest. He continued. "'I just am' is for me followed by 'what if I just wasn't?' You see, it's the profound notion that everything ends that keeps me from sharing your answer." The six-year old girl sat up in her chair, the puckered and aside expression returning. "Well, I just am a small girl. One day I'll be a big girl and" The wizard opened his mouth to interrupt, as was his tendency, before catching himself and letting her finish. "And... I'll just be a big girl."

The wizard sighed and looked out the window, leaving the conversation to stare out at the parking lot. His companion was frustrated at his leaving and brought him back with a swift-yet-gentle swing of her legs, tapping his. He turned back sharply, smiled and returned. "It's just... One day you'll be big like me, then one day you'll be even older than me, then yet another single day will come when you won't be." The wizard said this and the girl felt a weight enter the room that was not there before and her tall, old friend did not so he continued onward; she did not follow. "You see, everything eats a living thing to live and then ceases to live and becomes life for other living things." "Wait." "The heart beats until it doesn't." "Stop." "And every single time I enjoy the moment it is followed by my desperate trying to hold it in my hands forever, and, and, and" "Please!" The girl was looking deep into the wizard's heterochromatic brown-and-blue eyes when she pleaded, "I am today, but tomorrow, I might not be?" The girl's eyes welled up and the wizard felt the weight of his words.

The small girl cried, feeling little. The wizard winced, understanding what he had done. He remembered his sorrows of youth, the thought of not-being coming to him at the age of ten, in the dark bedroom of his parents' house, scared and intrigued at the dark notion. He remembered thinking it would not matter what schools he went to, what career he pursued, what friends he made when everything ends in non-living. He remembered how recently his back aching had made him come to terms in part with his own body decaying. He remembered earlier this morning his brief pass with death, thinking of how some day his father would die, how he seemingly moved past it. He remembered all these things as his friend cried, and wept. He looked to her with helplessness as the well of tears overflowed. His eyes in their darkest hour scanned the room, the faces of the fast food so-called restaurant patrons who stared back at the wizard with no great empathy, bearing great semblance of stoic statues. He reflected how society is now a word to describe nearby strangers. A being of greatness showed no small kindness when she placed her hand upon the wizard's back, swirled it in a circle and crouched next to the girl, placed her arm around her. The wizard thought about this act and how his friend needed it and how he did not think to give this to her. He thought about the older patrons staring, how they neither cry nor laugh nor feel deeply in their age; he thought of his friends and how embarrassed he would be to weep in their presence; he thought of his parents and their inability to comfort him and cried deeper as he thought of all of them, his disenfranchised tribe and his delusions of bringing them back to togetherness. The great being was there for as long as she needed to be, which happened to be two minutes before the wizard and his friend, the small girl, managed to calm the rivers of emotion. The being of great kindness arose, said "My break is over, I've got to get report back to my manager" and flew away, leaving the two alone.

The girl was now sulking and the wizard was tired, deeply tired. He tired of being in his own head, so the wizard conjured up his bravery and arose, his cheap plastic chair sliding across the cheap plastic tile, and kneeled next to his friend, and kissed her on the cheek.

Adam Papes