Semper letteris mandate
Somewhere out there is a man who believes I’m an angel. And I don’t mean one of those wimpy angels everyone knows is just some mortal Good Samaritan who does a good deed and then modestly walks away without giving his name. (“Oh, he was like an angel come just at the right moment to save me from that bus!“) No sir! In the unlikely event that I ever do a good deed, I bloody well want newspaper and TV coverage. And I’m going to make sure they spell my name right.
No, when I say he thought I was an angel, I’m talking about the real thing: a supernatural creature with magical powers.
One of my few strengths is the ability to improvise. This often kept me out of trouble when I was a teenager. For instance, during lunch hour in high school, I would take the record player they used in typing class and set it up in an empty room. There, two of my friends and I would eat lunch while listening to Procol Harem and Grand Funk Railroad. I always got the record player back to the class room before the teacher arrived, so nobody ever missed it.
Except once. I’d just set it on the desk and was plugging it in when typewriting teacher walked in.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
I picked up the arm, pointed to the needle, and said, “There wasn’t anything really wrong with it. The diacrystal just came loose.”
Now, I have no idea what a diacrystal is, nor why that particular word came to mind — possibly my mind was reaching for piezo crystal, but was unable to find it due to the chaos created by the panicky creature running around in my head. In any event, it worked. The teacher immediately became conciliatory, said she hadn’t realized there’d been a problem, and thanked me profusely for fixing it.
But as neat as that was, at no point did she mistake me for a supernatural being.
That came later.
It was shortly after I’d moved to Toronto. I was working in the exciting field of Mobile Promotional Communications Distribution — or what the uninitiated call “door-to-door leafleting.” It was around November, early morning after a cold night. There was still frost on the ground, but the day was going to be warm, and although I was wearing a long, black coat, I had it open with the leaflets clutched in one arm against my chest.
Remember that image of the long black coat. Open. Kind of like a cape.
I came across a young sparrow shivering on the side walk Figuring that if I left him there he’d either freeze or become breakfast for a neighbourhood cat, I picked him up and tucked him behind the pamphlets. Not long afterwards, I came across a guy about my age waiting for a friend to pick him up outside his house. We talked for a few minutes, and then I walked on.
I’d gone about fifteen feet when I felt the bird starting to flutter. I stopped, turned, and when I’d caught the other guy’s eye, I opened my arms in a dramatic fashion and the bird flew out of my chest.
The look on his face is one I’ll never forget for as long as I live.
Years later I actually joined the IBM (International Brotherhood of Magicians) through Toronto’s Hat and Rabbit Club (Ring 17). I performed magic on many occasions, including a dinner for Beauty and the Beast fans. But nothing I’ve done since that cool November morning could ever top the feeling I had when, for a brief moment, I truly felt magical.
Still, sometimes I think of that young man, now in his 50s, sitting alone in front of the shrine he undoubtedly set up to commemorate his visitation from an angel, and I have to admit — I feel a little guilty.