As I walked along a sidewalk bathed in the whitest snow, I heard a whistle from behind. It seemed so close. But, at first, I saw nothing in sight. Then, suddenly appearing by my side was the oddest looking little man I had ever seen. He was tiny and scrawny and had large, pointy ears. His feet were long and narrow, twice the size of my own. Of an unusual sort were his clothes. I must admit, rather flimsy for this season of winter freezing. He was wearing a jersey and bloomers with striped stockings to match. Upon his head a cotton hat snuggly attached, a furry ball stitched to its tip.
“And who might you be?” I asked the tiny stranger.
He placed a hand on his hip. “I bet you’re thinking that I’m nothing more than a figment of your imagination. However, that I am not, May Beth Shaw.”
I wondered how he knew my name. Perhaps this was some kind of game.
His voice was crisp and clean, not what I would have deemed, as he answered, “I am Ishcrane, an elf from the Elves of Starlight.”
“An elf!” I laughed in a mocking way. “Of course! I should have known that something as funny looking as you would ‘have’ to be an elf … and one with such a brilliant name.”
“Funny looking, yes, but wiser than the wisest looking.”
Walking against the rough winter wind, I spied this elf from the corner of my eye and, amused, asked, “And what is it that brings you to me, Ishcrane?”
“I am seeking the meaning of magic, Mary Beth Shaw.”
“But … ohhh …” I said, shuddering from the cold, frost pinching my nose, “you’ve most certainly come to the wrong person if it’s the definition of magic you seek.”
Unaffected by the cold as he bounded through the snow, the pepper-gray clouds looming above in the late afternoon sky unable to steal the twinkling glitter from his wide eyes, he insisted, “But you ‘must’ know! Otherwise, I never would have been sent to you!”
Not as amused as I was moments before, I questioned, “Who exactly was it that sent you to me?”
“The Elves of Starlight of course.”
How did he think this I would know?
Billowy puffs of frost sailed heavily behind my words as I confessed to him in the most forlorn way, “I am the wrong person to request this of. I’ve no poetic graciousness to issue, not in the smallest denomination. I’m but a mere writer whose work is dismissed far too often. Surely if I knew the meaning of magic I’d not be taking these long walks feeling so desperately lost.” Then, while gazing down upon this elf who called himself ‘Ishcrane’, I thought of something which almost made me laugh. “Silly little elf … Ishcrane. Have you not been brought to life from some old and forgotten fairy tale?”
“Could be,” he said, hedging to further disclose. “But that is not the matter we’re to concern ourselves with.” His tone was controlled and not at all flawed as he furthered on with, “You, Mary Beth Shaw, must know the meaning of magic. The wisest and most highly respected of all the elves in Starlight said it was ‘you’ who I must seek.”
He walked ahead of me now, backwards so as to keep his twinkling eyes fixed upon me. His smile began to fade. Concern weighed heavy above his brows. “You see, before I can graduate from the school of Starlight, where our skills at answering wishes and performing small miracles are developed, I am to prove to my mentors that the meaning of magic is what I know and understand the best.” His voice extended excitement now as he added, “For it is magic, Mary Beth Shaw, which we elves have been created from. It is our purpose and destiny.”
I said nothing. Instead, I merely listened.
“My time is scuttling by much too quickly now, Mary Beth. If I cannot prove to my mentors what I have learned from you today then, sadly, I will not be granted the honor of performing magic.”
I sighed, suddenly feeling bad for him … sad and certainly sorry. I said to him, in a voice laced with dismay, “If I could give you the solution you need, I assuredly would. However, Ishcrane, my every thought has been imprisoned in despair. I often don’t know that I should even care. I’ve not been able to write a word for months now. To a writer like me that’s a very long time … and quite a literary crime.”
“But you know the meaning of magic. I know you do!” he anxiously spewed, surely not meaning to be abrupt or rude.
The wind grew stronger, now causing the furry ball on his hat to flop up and down, this way and that.
I raised my index finger to my lips and thought for a second or two. I knew I had to tell him something. “Perhaps I think I know, Ishcrane. But certainly it’s not something that can be summed up in a word or two. And I don’t believe that its meaning stops with simply answering a wish or performing a small miracle, as you may believe. Magic, Ishcrane, is often so plain to see and feel that people like me miss it altogether. You see, magic comes from the simple things, things that we often take for granted … like the air that we breathe, the oceans we sail, the flowers that bloom in the spring. Magic is a rainbow that appears across the sky after a rainstorm, and stars that glow in a night sky. Most importantly, Ishcrane, I’ll tell you what ‘I’ believe … I believe that our ability to simply ‘love’ is magic, whether it’s your family or a favorite place you’ve been, or something that you enjoy doing. Just being here right now with you is a certain kind of magic. All of these things are perhaps more profound than what your ‘magic’ can create.”
Ishcrane nodded approvingly. “And so it is.” With a chuckle, he surmised, “I knew that you knew, Mary Beth Shaw.”
Then he began away, pedaling his scrawny little legs through the snow.
I stood confused, wondering where it was he was heading. “Why are you leaving?”
He paused, now so far away from me, and he twisted back around. “You spoke the words I came to hear. Now I must go.”
“Tell me, Ishcrane,” I said, coaxing him to remain a moment more. “Why did you come to me?”
“Was it not yesterday that you tossed a penny into a wishing well and asked that the magic in your work be restored?”
“Of that I did,” I replied, remembering.
“Indeed.” He winked, and then he was gone, this little elf who came to me from a child’s dream.
Publication Date: 04-28-2010
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