Chapter 2 – The Magician

Chapter 2 – The Magician

 Chapter 2 – The Magician

Mr Ronald Parker was a dapper old gent. Always turned up to Leo’s Kentish Town school, Greycoats, in a quintessentially British suit. Leo reckoned Mr Parker had his suits tailor made in Savile Row back in the days. He was after all

The Magician, as Leo and his best mate, Marcelo, had named him.

Mr Parker always had this knack of turning a piece of crap into gold. A couple of boys in Leo’s year couldn’t hammer a nail into wood without bending the nail and something going a bit “pear shaped” in CDT class. The Magician would come over and weld their mishaps into some kind of sculpture – the kind of stuff you would see outside the Tate Modern…well maybe outside the headmistress’s office.

“Leo, I didn’t know you worked here,” Mr Parker said.

“Mr Parker,” Leo said. “What can I get you?”

“Please…it’s Ronald to you now that you’re no longer my pupil,” Mr Parker chortled. “And I’ll have a large cappuccino to have here please.”

“Take a seat and I’ll bring it over to you,” Leo said. Leo had suddenly woken up from his mid-afternoon sleep walk. It had been three years since Leo had left school and four years since Mr Parker, eh Ronald, eh actually The Magician had retired. What was The Magician doing in Old Street?, Leo thought. Leo put his barista best into making his former CDT teacher’s cappuccino before taking it over to Mr Parker. Mr Parker was sat at a table in the corner reading The Guardian newspaper that a customer had left behind.

“Ronald, here you go. Large cappuccino,” Leo said. “Thank you,” Ronald replied, gesturing to Leo to take a seat. “Would your boss allow me the pleasure of your company for a few moments?” Ronald asked. “Ehh”, Leo hesitated, not because he didn’t want to or that Graham may not let him, but Leo was taken aback by the gentlemanly ways of The Magician and his pleasant manner. Wonder what charm school he went to? Certainly not the same charm offensive that Leo came from – the generations of Casanovas in his family were crude at the best of times. Unlike Mr Parker, who Leo believed was all “How do you do?” and “Let’s congregate for tea at 4pm” kind of charm. Polite to perfection.

Leo waved at Graham, who gestured for him to take a five minute break. That was nice of him, Leo thought, but he’ll have to pay the price for it later by being on toilet-wiping duties at the end of the shift. Leo took a seat next to The Magician. “Well, well, well. Leo Maestri…one of my favourite students,” Mr Parker said. “What have you been up to since I left Greycoats?”

All of a sudden, Leo felt embarrassed. He didn’t really want to go into the details about him failing his A-Levels, so turned the question around. “What brings you to these ends, Ronald?”

“I have a shop in Hoxton Street,” Mr Parker replied. “Selling furniture – up-cycled and re-upholstered and other things. I’ve had the shop for years, even while I was teaching – my wife and son were running it. They still to do but since retiring, I’m there most days too now.”

“I never knew that,” Leo said.

“Well, you should come by some time,” Mr Parker said, reaching in the chest pocket of his checked shirt for a business card. “Here, when you get a chance come by and see me.”

“Sure,” Leo said.

“And you my son, what’s your story?” Mr Parker asked.

“Eh,” Leo started to mumble again. “Eh…I messed up my A-Levels,” he said. “Ehh…twice. Had to retake them. But I got a D for CDT. That was my pride of joy,” Leo sniggered, but in part ashamed.

“Well, it’s what’s inside that counts,” Mr Parker said, clenching his fist and tapping it gently onto his chest, near his heart. “Academia is not for everyone. But I hope you are still putting your crafting skills to good work?” Mr Parker looked down at his cappuccino, which was beautifully decorated with a chocolate-sprinkled heart shape. “Ah, I see you are putting them to good use,” he smiled. Leo looked embarrassed again but laughed it off, saying “Just spreading the love, sir. Eh, I mean Ronald.”

“Was I really one of your favourite students or were you pulling my leg?” Leo quizzed, referring to Ronald’s earlier comment. “As a matter of fact, you were indeed,” Mr Parker said. “It’s not everyday you get to teach a shining star. You have a way with design – an effervescent creativity, my dear child. It’s like you had visions of what you wanted to create and went full-steam ahead and did it. But maybe a little unnerving with the tools at time.”

Leo knew what Mr Parker was hinting at. It was the day Leo hammered his index finger on his left hand, leaving his nail literally hanging by the skin of its proverbial teeth. If it weren’t for The Magician and his first aid skills or healing powers rather, Leo may never have made it to his barista job. Somehow he couldn’t see the big boss, Mehmet, having someone with an impairment working for him. Mehmet was hardly the most politically correct of employers. Leo could see the crap joke already, “Leo, you truly are handicapped there with that finger. Let’s shake on it.”

“A little more tool training and you would have made a fine craftsman Leo…not to say you can’t do that now, if that is your desire?” Mr Parker said. “It’s truly interesting that we meet again. See I just got back from a trip to Brazil. In the Amazon. I met with a friend of mine who trades with some of the indigenous tribes there. He sells some of the artefacts they make in his shop in Cuiabá. I met some of the craftsmen this time. In fact one of the young lads reminded me of you.”

“The Amazon,” Leo said. “That must have been amazing.”

“Yes it was,” Mr Parker said, giving a look like he’d met the love of his life there. “Yes, I’m very fond of that place. Not my first time mind. I was first there in the 60s on a trip,” he chuckled.

Trip…Oh My God, Leo thought. Was The Magician really referring to drugs or just a vacation? He wasn’t really going to be having this conversation with his former teacher, was he? Mr Parker was he a swinging 60s hippie? “Oh Lord,” Leo said to himself. He was starting to have visions. It wasn’t the first time either. Psychic visions, clairsentience…call it what you want. He could just look at someone or touch someone and he would get glimpses into their life. It scared the crap out of Leo, especially when it was someone he knew and wished he really hadn’t seen what he had.

“Oh shit,” Leo said to himself. “I can’t stop this one.” Suddenly he had visions of The Magician somewhere in the jungle, and he was butt naked, swaying around like a monkey. “WTF”, Leo screamed to himself. “Is that monkey swaying ting, Mr Parker’s dancing skills or is he truly just mash up?” Oh no, no more.”

Ronald went into a few moments of reminiscing, Leo was channelling even more visions. Mr Parker sans Savile Row suit trippin’ his nuts off quite literally. What the frig was he on? Couldn’t have been LSD, must have been ayahuasca, thought Leo. Marcelo the Brazilian – Leo’s best mate and trusty sidekick who had taken Mr Parker’s CDT Classes alongside him – had told Leo all about ayahuasca. Last summer there had been a weed drought, and Marcelo kept going on about his Brazilian links and how he could get hold of some ayahuasca tea to drink instead. Ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic brew taken by Amazon tribes, for deep spiritual cleansing and awakening. “Dude,” Leo told Marcelo. “I’m not interested in some deep, darkest spiritual cleansing. I just wanna get me some smokes so I can get lean, have some fun in the sun with the girls and stuff myself silly on Haribo cos I got the munches afterwards.” Bless him, Marcelo was a bit of a nerd who tried too hard, in Leo’s eyes, but a “top lad” nonetheless.

Leo was going over to Marcelo’s home this evening – he’d have to tell him about bumping into The Magician again, and not to mention, the visions. That’s the thing, when Leo was in the company of folk, he couldn’t stop the visions, even if he wanted to. He often wondered where he got these skills and how he could hone them, at least to stop him from seeing stuff he didn’t want to be party to. “It certainly weren’t his mum”, his dad told Leo. “If she was psychic, she could have predicted that you were gonna fail your A-Levels again and she wouldn’t have wasted her wonga on that posh college,” Leo’s dad said. “But maybe it’s from one of those coffee-cup swirling old mamas on your mum’s gypsy side of the family, perhaps,” he laughed. Leo’s mum and dad could spend hours slagging off each other’s families. They loved each other dearly, but talk of each other’s families took them off on a tangent, fortunately it would end in belly laughs on both parts as soon as.

“Leo, I need you now thanks,” Graham yelled, summoning Leo to get back behind the counter. “I’ve got to get back to frothing milk sir, sorry,” Leo said. “Very well,” said Mr Parker. “I do hope you will pass by my store sometime Leo.”

“Of course,” Leo said. “I will come as soon as I can. In fact I may bring Marcelo. Do you remember him?”

“Oh yes,” replied Mr Parker. “The Brazilian lad, your partner in crime. Yes bring him along. You were both talented and a pleasure to teach.”

“Thanks, see you soon,” Leo fumbled and quickly turned round, scared that The Magician may see that he was blushing at The Magician’s compliment. “You too,” said Mr Parker as he got up from his chair, tucking The Guardian carefully under his arm. He picked up his hat from the table and perched it on his white bonce. Nodding, he turned to Leo at the counter and said: “Good day Leo”. The Magician walked out of the store, in a gentlemanly swagger – nothing like Leo’s vision of “Ronald the mad McDonald” on his monkey-dance thingy-mijig during his drug-taking Amazon trip.

Ten minutes later, Leo was locking up. He was looking forward to seeing Marcelo tonight. Marcelo was Leo’s boy. The two had become inseparable since Marcelo joined Leo’s school aged nine. A fresh faced, black curly haired boy with walnut-coloured skin tone, who spoke broken English with Brazilian Portugese. He’d arrived in London with his mum, Claudia, and older sister Mimi, in search of a new life, after Marcelo’s step dad married Claudia. Marcelo’s step dad had fallen in love with Claudia while on his travels to Bahia, north of Brazil.

There was something about Claudia. Leo loved going to Marcelo’s home, not just to see his best mate, but dare he say it, to catch a glimpse of Claudia’s “glorious booty”. He had developed a crush on Claudia since the first time he went round to play at Marcelo’s as a kid. With her long black wavy hair and piercing green eyes, Claudia had an Amazonian figure, nothing like the waifs of England, he joked. Big, round and heavy, in all the right places, according to Leo. Aside from being one hot mama, as Leo put it, Claudia had something magical about her. She had a presence, an energy that was powerful, enigmatic, endearing yet peaceful.

It was no coincidence then that Claudia was born in Bahia, Salvador, known for being Brazil’s spiritual centre. The birthplace of Samba and capoeira, and Candomblé, the Afro-Brazilian religion centred around deities.

Claudia was a great cook. In fact Marcelo’s mum was a bit of a kitchen witch, if you wanted to call it that. Leo was hoping that she may take pity on him as his throat had started to feel a little scratchy, and possibly make him one of her “special brews”.

Leo’s mouth started to water as he walked to the tube station, realising that he’d not eaten much other than a few scraps of a muffin that a customer had brought back to the counter because it contained eggs and she was allergic to eggs. She’d kicked up a stink and making a point, Graham stupidly told her Leo was also allergic to eggs but he would eat that muffin. The guy was certainly not the brightest spark nor the best manager, but when you ripped off the masks of Graham and Mehmet what you were left with were the heads of the cartoon villains Dastardly and Muttley. With that in mind, Leo was able to “understand” the gruesome twosome.

As Leo boarded the tube at Old Street, headed for Kentish Town, he started to dream about what Claudia was cooking. I hope she’s cooking them cheese balls, pão de queijo, he said to himself. Actually on second thoughts, he decided against the Brazilian cheese balls idea as he started to get visions again of Mr Parker in the Amazon, balls et al. Damn…he must find a way to stop those visions interfering. Maybe Claudia will know what to do.

Twins At Work are a writing duo. ‘Tarot Tales: The Mirror’, their latest book, is inspired by the world around them, its inhabitants and life lessons. See how ‘Tarot Tales’ unfolds here at Ravenhawks Magazine.