To begin the story at the beginning, read "Part 1: Post 1: Beginning Again," published in January, 2013. To consult a description of the campus, read "Part 1: Post 14: The Greening of Campus," published in March, 2013.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Year 3: Part 2: Post 4: Levity

The warm weather over and just after Ostar didn't last, of course.  Last week it got cold again and sleeted for hours on end so that the ground was covered by two inches of slush and the roads all turned to ice. Which didn't make much difference to us on campus, of course, except that Allen couldn't get home on Saturday and had to spend the day on campus.

The slush and ice has melted, but the ground is still wet and puddled and the air is cold and raw. There's supposed to be another ice storm coming in sometime tomorrow, maybe turning to snow at the end.

Allen must be worried about the roads, because he came to campus this morning instead of waiting until Tuesday like normal. Usually, he goes home late Friday night and does not come back till lunch-time on Tuesday. He doesn't see his family during the week, so having such a short weekend this time must bother him because he brought Alexis in to work with him. She's on Easter break right now. The other two are probably busy with friends and of course Lo has to work.

I'm unexpectedly on campus today, too, because of the weather. Fred isn't sending out crews today, and there isn't enough work at the nursery and yard for all of us. He told me and the other part-timer to stay home, so I've worked all day for Charlie instead. I'm trying to arrange it so I don't lose out on hours at either my on-campus or my off-campus jobs, I only rearrange them.

So, anyway, on the way in to the Dining Hall I bumped into Allen and Alexis sitting together outside. They'd just finished eating and Allen was entertaining his daughter by levitating a penny. She kept trying to grab it but he wouldn't let her. Eventually he promised to teach her how to do it when she got older and sent her inside to drop off their dirty dishes.

I sat down next to him for a moment.

"Does she know it's just a trick?" I asked. I'd been wondering about this--what it's like to grow up with a magician-father.

"It what sense is it just a trick?" he asked me, smiling. Of course, we've had this conversation before. He is, as far as I know, levitating the penny. It's not an illusion in the ordinary sense of the word. I sighed.

"I mean, do you think she knows that pennies don't normally levitate by themselves?"

"Pennies don't normally do anything by themselves. They need us to do things to them."


"It's not my fault that you don't know what you're talking about yet." He was still smiling when he said it, though. I sighed again and tried to focus.

"Do you think that growing up with you confuses her about physics," I said, finally. "No offense, I mean."

"None taken, though my answer is predictable. A better question would by why I think magic doesn't confuse her."

"Well, ok, why?"

"Because she isn't confused. She functions in ordinary space-time as well as any kid her age. She sees all kinds of things on television that don't happen in ordinary life and that doesn't confuse her. Her understanding of reality is pretty sophisticated."

"What do you tell her about the Easter Bunny?" I asked. "Do you tell her about the Easter Bunny?"

"Not really. I don't lie to my kids, but I don't go out of my way to squash fantasies, either. If she wants to pretend about the Easter Bunny, that's fine with me. And Charlie's shown her real baby rabbits, so I think she has a definite sense of mystery and wonder about things."



"How can you do stage magic without lying? In a good cause, I mean?" I felt really uncomfortable asking him that, like I was accusing him of being a liar (after I'd just accused him of being a confusing parent!) but Allen does not mind honest questions. And he knows when you're engaging in polite fiction and he will skewer you for it.

"When have I ever lied? I produce playing cards, silk scarves, Easter eggs," and of course, he made all those things appear in his hands as he named them, "where is the dishonesty in that? When am I ever saying I am doing anything I am not?"

"You make it look like these things appear out of nowhere," I protested. "But they do come from somewhere, they must. I don't  have fish in my ear, but I bet you can make it look like I do."

"That is a bet I will not take," he said, and obligingly produced several toy fish out of my right ear. I laughed. I don't understand how he can prepare himself for such pop-quizzes in stage magic. But he must have thought I was starting to get used to his tricks. "Or, maybe you were thinking something more literal?" he added, and produced a very real fish, a small trout from my left ear. And it was still alive.

Alexis ran up at that moment, so Allen handed the fish to her and told her to quick put it in a jar of water from the kitchen and then to take it and put it in the fountain in the Green Room. She obliged without any apparent surprise at all.

"How do you do that?" I asked him, incredulous. He gave me an exaggerated shrug. I laughed. "Ok, but there was not a fish in my ear!"

"I didn't say there was. I made a fish appear at the entrance to your ear. That's exactly what you saw me do, and I did not pretend to do anything else. I merely hid the way I did it. If the basis of the trick were making you believe there was a fish in your ear, the trick wouldn't work."

He's right. He's usually right.

And you know, I wonder if that's why he doesn't take offense when I ask how magic isn't lying or whether he thinks he's confusing his child, or any other question that would seem tactless at best with anyone else--because I wasn't accusing him of anything any more than I was harboring a live fish in my ear. I never said he WAS confusing his child, I just asked him whether he thought he was. I think he knows perfectly well why someone might take offense at such things--he must, he's a therapist--just as he knows why it's funnier to make a fish appear next to an ear than elsewhere. It's not that he doesn't get it. But when you say something to him, he hears what you say, not you don't say.

Frankly, it's reassuring.

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