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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Monday, 08 August 2011 05:14

Truckstop Magic

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Truckstop Magic Amanda Gowin

He had this magic trick, my granddad. Said he learned it from a truckstop wizard somewhere near El Paso. This was back before the cartels made them highways impassable to any guerro, before they stretched out like elder tree roots throughout the border states. My granddad, Willie, he'd come up to one of the grandkids, us, with a cigarette perched on his grin.

He'd slap us on the shoulder and force us to look him in his eyes, blue like the sky just north of the horizon. He'd talk then. Sometimes a dirty joke, maybe an insult forged in jest. Once or twice that each of us could remember, his words would be honest, filled with things that would help you out one day, words you'd hold close to your chest on those long nights none of us like to think on. It was then, once he'd say whatever he had it in mind to say, that Willie would reach behind your ear and bring out a coin. Could be a buffalo nickel, a Maximilian peso, might even be a silver shilling. Once he held a German five-cent piece, the back with an eagle holding a swastika. He'd take our hands in his, then, and turn the palm facing heaven, pressing that coin so deep into our flesh we'd think the impression would last the rest of our lives, until we were old men and women like our granddad. He folded our fingers tight and held those tiny hands like the pulled pin of a grenade before backing slowly out of the room. The story went that if we kept our hands closed, if we didn't peek for a full hour, the coin would be ours, but if any light touched that coin it would turn to trash. Being young, we could never wait for that long, we'd always take just a little look and there, sitting in the palm of our hands, would be a bottle top, sometimes with small drops of beer still on the bottom.

My granddad would do this regularly until the day of your eighteenth birthday. He would take you down to his garage workshop, a cave where he could get away from the family you were never too sure he wanted. Willie was a quiet man, something he passed along to the rest of the men. Were it not for our grandmother and his daughters, the man would have never celebrated his birthday. On the day we became adults, he would bring us downstairs, sitting us in a chair covered in leather cracked like veins running under our skin. He would go to the cabinet where he kept his drinks. Willie had money from the days and night behind the wheel but he still drank the cheapest brandy he could find. He would pull a stool to act as a table between you and him, where he would place two glasses and a full bottle. With a full cup, he'd bid you take a sip. When you were caught full in the burn, he would reach back, behind your ear, and on this day he would extract a Golden Eagle. We were trained and each of us would gladly turn our palms towards the Lord. As always, he would press that coin into our skin so hard before closing our fingers. This time, though, his words were careful. Willie spoke of a man he knew only through stories his older brother told him, of a great explorer, a brave soldier, and then an unrepentant drunk, a whoremonger who fathered three children and then left them all to fend for food during a time of dust and hunger. He would then tell us about growing up, of working from the age of ten to feed himself, then of meeting the love of his life, of siring children of his own, of driving his whole life until it came time to stay home, where you didn't have to count roadside crosses or lonely days. Then he told us that truckstop wizard near El Paso, well, maybe that man looked something like a mirror, only faded. How that magic man reached and brought forth a silver bit, pressing it down into the skin and was gone. When he was done, so was the bottle and the hour, and on that day you were old enough not to peek.

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Last modified on Friday, 16 March 2012 19:28
Chris Deal

Chris Deal writes from Huntersville, North Carolina.  His debut collection of microfiction, Cienfuegos, was published in early 2010 by Brown Paper Publishing.  You can find and harass him at www.Chris-Deal.com.

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