I hadn’t seen Maggie Eberhart since high school and, having often wondered about her over the years, was delighted to see her striding toward me at the class reunion, red hair bouncing, dressed entirely in black, just as I remembered her.

“You haven’t changed a bit,” I said.

“You have,” she replied. “I was expecting a brush cut. I had to have Joan point you out. How long have you been growing it?”

“A couple of years,” I said, “though it’s not so much I’ve been growing it as putting off getting it cut. Don’t know why, but I hate having my hair cut and always have.”

She laughed. “Me, too.”

I told her how great it was to see her again and asked what she was doing now. She said she had just come through twelve tumultuous years as the owner of a small publishing house on Vancouver Island. 

“Tough business,” I said.

“Very tough. There’ve been several times we didn’t think we’d make it. But we persevered, and these last couple of years have been our best yet. Life has never been better.”

She enthused about her love affairs with the west coast and her dog, Leona, and, while showing me some photos on her phone, asked what I was doing now.

I told her I’d come to it late but was an artist, now, and a writer of sorts.

“You’ve excellent timing,” she said. “There are lots of people out of sorts these days—a big demand for them. Are yours fiction or nonfiction?”

I laughed. Same old Maggie. “I’ll let you decide that for yourself,” I said, and handed her one of my cards. She rummaged in her bag and handed me one of hers in return.

“After so many years,” I said, “one hardly knows where to begin asking questions.”

She agreed and suggested we skip the part where we catch each other up on everything we’ve done since high school. “I’ve already been through all that with Joan,” she said, “and found the sharing of how we’ve grown apart anything but reuniting. I think It would be more in keeping with the occasion and much more fun, as well, to share memories of our childhood, of our times together. Don’t you?”

I agreed, so that’s what we did. And it was much more fun. With her recollection of being caught cheating on a grade 8 science exam, she had me doubled up with laughter right out of the gate, which attracted others with amusing memories of their own to share, drawing still others, and, before long, everyone had joined in the fun. It was Maggie who had us laughing the hardest. She always had, but was even funnier, now, even had Angus laughing. I wished I’d stayed in touch with her over the years. I would from here on in.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

A week or so later, she texted me, “I sat down with your collected works mid-evening and didn’t look up again till sunrise.” 

To have so enraptured a person of Maggie’s sensibilities and accomplishments was the equivalent, to me, of a standing ovation. And she was a publisher, to boot! I reread and savoured her text. I was thrilled. How could I not be? I imagined her going on to say, “I was swept along, smile to smile, story to story, through a whimsical treasury of small-time adventures I hoped would never end, and when they did, I read them again, and again after that, and again.” 

“Do you have a favourite?” I enquired.

“No, not yet,” she replied. “I dozed off midway through the first story and slept like a baby till sunup. I can’t remember the story’s name. I’ll give it another go this evening—will start earlier, this time, and sit in a less comfortable chair. I’ll stand if I have to.”

I imagined her laughing.

“Truth is,” she added, “I read your entire collection straight through—was swept along, smile to smile, story to story, through a whimsical treasury of small-time adventures I hoped would never end, and when they did, I read them again, and again after that, and again.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’d imagined it word-for-word!

Or had I?

Had I imagined what she’d say, or had she read my mind? Or had it simply been a coincidence?—the odds of that, I reckoned, were slim to none.

So, what was going on?

I’d thought nothing of it growing up but recalled, now, how Maggie had always had this otherworldliness about her, and that, for as long as I’d known her, she’d dressed entirely in black and, every Halloween, as a witch, and that, even as a young kid, she’d had more of a cackle than a laugh. Could it be? I’d had an entire childhood of being used to the way she was. Perhaps I’d missed the forest for the trees. Perhaps, for all those Halloweens, she’d only been pretending to pretend she was a witch. Perhaps she really could read my thoughts.

The possibility was disconcerting. Like everyone else, I have thoughts unsuitable for airing. But what could I do about it? Not have them? Impossible.

Nah. What was the likelihood, really, that she could read my mind? Especially from a distance. And, besides, once proved nothing. I had as much cause, on so little evidence, to be celebrating a bountiful imagination.

A text arrived from Maggie. “You’re right,” it read, “you’ve as much cause, on so little evidence, to be celebrating a bountiful imagination.”

There was no other explanation. She had clearly read my mind. 

Had she always been able to?

If she had, she’d certainly never let on. Perhaps, growing up, she hadn’t yet realized her powers—hadn’t yet realized she was truly a witch. Same as Mom hadn’t realized, till later, she was gay. Perhaps, this word-for-word magic act was, in a sense, Maggie’s way of coming out to me. And it was very much as I imagined she might do it—obliquely, like that.

Not sure how I felt about all this, I didn’t respond—I had some sorting out to do, first. But I’d little more than begun when this text arrived from Maggie—

“Your inability, just now, to imagine me riding about on a broom is well-founded, Tom. Remember, as kids, how I was the only one of us who couldn’t ride a bike? Well, I’ve never been able to keep my balance on a broom, either—have had to fight traffic and line up at airports the same as everybody else. Well, nearly everybody else. I have friends who ride bikes and brooms with equal ease and have enjoyed the benefits of both for many years. For how much longer, though, is anybody’s guess. While cycling conditions continue to improve, sweeping conditions steadily worsen. There are drones to be avoided, now—more of them all the time. Phiona was nicked by one just the other night while sweeping a folk festival at Jericho Beach. Luckily, she required only a few stitches in her cheek. She could, as easily, have lost an eye.

“But, enough of that! Your thoughts are clearly on that big slice of apple pie warming in the oven. And here’s Leona, now, nudging me for attention. Time to go. Cheers, Maggie.

“P.S. Am looking forward to more of your sorts and haven’t decided, yet, whether the ones I’ve read are fiction or nonfiction, for which I commend you.”

There was no need to reply. I turned on Jeopardy and went and took the pie out of the oven.

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