J u l y   2 0 0 2

Guest Writer

Before you can even say
The magician
by Edward Morris Jr.

ou open the old, loosely-hinged screen door with the faded "No Pets" sign on it, and see a momentary side view of the display window (toy cars and Coca-Cola trucks from a bygone era, a framed photo of JFK smiling proudly from the Oval Office).

As you walk in, the smell rises from the waxed counter – dust and food and leather barstools. Memorabilia stretching back a corridor of 54 years. The smell of burning light-bulb dust and oil soap. The smell of Time.

Faded fluorescent light gleams from the counter and behind. The counter is stocked with syrup and ice cream, dry ice and club soda all tucked away into fountains and pitchers, shakers and portholed
compartments, to be brought out at the drop of a phrase in complicated patterns that would give even the most seasoned bartender a headache and double vision. An ancient box far back on the bottom shelf advertises Oh Henry! candy bars for a nickel.

You sit down at the leftmost stool, looking at the booths and walls lined with sketches and war pictures, autographs and bottles. High on the opposite wall, the old cuckoo clock chimes the half hour and the brand-new Sony TV blares Notre Dame winning by two points at the end of the second quarter.

And the Magician, tall and pale in his apron and horn-rimmed glasses, his thinning hair combed back and still showing black, stands at attention behind the counter as he has done for the past 54 years.

He saw you walk in from the reflection in his glasses, and as you sit down he roars out the talisman: "EDDIE BOY! What would you like?"

"Corney Boy!" The countersign. "A large egg cream."

And he begins. With a flourish, he sets up a pint Coca-Cola glass on the counter, scooping ice cream from within its inner workings so fast it seems by virtue of a sorcerer's wand. He holds the glass beneath the fountain to catch a chocolate rain and deftly removes a bottle of club soda from the ammoniac belly of the drugstore. He pours, stirs, looks again, frowns at the glass and pours the last, making it fizz beautifully over the rim and into the saucer. Out of nowhere, he produces a spoon and a straw, setting them both in the glass before you can even say or begin to fathom 1934.

You sit and sip your drink, talking with the Magician about offhand things. He nods every so often, mostly listening. "Oh, did ya, though?" The fabulous archaisms rise, one layered against the other.

You finish, pay and leave your change on the bar as he calls out: "Thank you, call again now."

"I will," you reply. The ritual is complete.

Careful to not let the door bang behind you, you go out across the street to unlock your bike from the parking meter.

And the Magician – the Last Druggist – waves and goes back inside as you ride away.

E-mail Edward at locutuspdx@yahoo.com, and don't miss his previous work.

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