I hadn’t seen Maggie Eberhart since we graduated 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, eyeing my hair. “I was expecting a brush cut—had to have Joan point you out to me. How long have you been growing it?”


“About a year,” I said, “though it’s not so much I’ve been growing it as putting off getting it cut—I’ve never liked that freshly-barbered look.” She laughed. “Me, neither.” I told her how great it was to see her again and asked what she was doing now. She said she was the proud and happy owner of a small publishing house on Vancouver Island. I wasn’t surprised.


“Tough business,” I said.


“It is. And there’ve been rough patches, for sure, but the last couple of years have been my best yet and I’ve never been happier.”


She enthused about her love affairs with the west coast and her dog, Leona, and, while showing me a couple of 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.


“Smart move,” she said. “There are lots of people out of sorts, these days—a big demand for them. Are yours fiction or nonfiction?” There it was—that playfulness I’d been expecting.


“I’ll let you decide that for yourself,” I said, and gave her one of my cards. She rummaged in her bag and gave 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 that part—the part where we catch each other up on what we’ve done since high school. She’d already been through all that with Joan and found the sharing of how they’d grown apart anything but reuniting. She thought 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, and I wholeheartedly agreed, so that’s what we did. And it was much more fun. And, drawn by our laughter, others chimed in with their memories, 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.” 


I was pumped. To have so engrossed a woman of Maggie’s sensibilities—and a publisher, to boot—was no small accomplishment. 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.” 


I asked if she had a favourite and, expecting, for nostalgic reasons, she might name ‘Whistler in Aisle One’, was surprised when she answered,


“I dozed off midway through the first story and slept like a baby till sunup. I can’t remember the story’s name.”


“Rising Waters?” I asked.


“That’s the one. I’ll give it another go this evening—will start earlier, this time, and stand the whole time 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 been privy to my imaginings?


Or had it simply been a coincidence?


Thinking back, Maggie had always had this otherworldliness about her. And every Halloween for as long as I’d known her she’d dressed as a witch. And she’d always, even as a young kid, had more of a cackle than a laugh. I felt a little foolish even entertaining the thought, but could it be? I’d had an entire childhood of getting used to her always dressing in black and being the way she was. Perhaps I’d missed the forest for the trees. Maybe, at all those parties over the years, she’d only been pretending to pretend she was a witch. Maybe 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. And, anyway, what was the likelihood, really, that she could read my thoughts, especially from a distance? Once proved nothing. What sense would it make, on so little evidence, to start worrying about what I was thinking when I had as much reason to be celebrating a bountiful imagination? And, as well, it might have been nothing more than a coincidence.


She immediately wrote, “You’re right. Once proves nothing. What sense would it make, on so little evidence, to start worrying about what you’re thinking when you’ve as much reason to be celebrating a bountiful imagination? And, as well, it might have been nothing more than a coincidence.”


So much for my bountiful imagination. And this was no coincidence. She had clearly read my thoughts.


Had she always been able to? If she had, she certainly hadn’t broadcast it. Maybe, growing up, she hadn’t yet realized her powers—hadn’t yet realized she was a truly a witch. Same as Mom hadn’t realized, till later, she was gay. This word-for-word magic act may have been Maggie’s way of, in a sense, 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 reply right away—I needed some time to sort things out.


But I had little more than begun the sorting when this email 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 like everyone else. Well, nearly everyone else. I have friends who ride bikes and brooms with equal ease and have enjoyed the benefits of both for many years—though, for how much longer is anybody’s guess—while cycling conditions continue to improve, sweeping (i.e. broom-flying) 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 in Vancouver. Luckily, she required only a few stitches in her cheek. She could, as easily, have lost an eye. But enough of that! You’re mind is 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.”


I sat there composing an answer in my head till I realized it wasn’t necessary, then turned on Jeopardy and went and took the pie out of the oven.

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