Josie Has a Secret, Chapter Nine

CHAPTER NINE

"Josie, have you been faith-healing the kids at school?"

"The kids at school?" Josie looked sheepish. "No."

J.P. frowned. "Have you been faith healing the kids outside of school?"

"Oh, um... maybe once or twice," Josie admitted. Then she pretended to become totally engrossed in our math homework.

J.P. pointed at the phone. "Well, that was Leslie Droober on the phone. She said that since you 'removed her tumor' several weeks ago, Amanda's cancer has gone into full remission. She's well enough to come back to school Monday."

"Hey, great," Josie said. She turned to me. "Isn't that great?"

I ducked down under my mathbook.

J.P. knelt down in front of Josie.

"Josie, how did you learn how to summon power-animals?" she asked. "We won't cover that in class for weeks. We're barely up to breathing fire."

Josie reluctantly dug The Craft of Illusion out of her backpack and handed it to Gra'ma.

"I see," J.P. said, standing up.

"Did you read the warnings about doing real magic?" J.P. asked.

"Except when there's an emergency," Josie quoted. "Don't you think Amanda's cancer was an emergency?"

"That's for you to decide," J.P. answered. "The question is, can you afford to pay the price?"

"Um. I guess that depends. What is it?"

"I just talked to David Raskin," Aunt Leslie announced as she entered the room. "He came by the frame shop to ask if Josie could do anything about his bald spot. And Ms. O'Leary called to ask if Josie could take a look at her arthritis. When I told her there was nothing Josie could do about arthritis, she said 'So that's the way it is,' and hung up."

"It's started," J.P. said, "Once you show people a little real magic they'll want more and more. How do you think people are going to react when word gets out that you can magically cure them, but chose not to?"

Josie slumped down like she was trying to melt.

"You may use the book one more time, Josie. I suggest you read the chapter on 'deflating your own myth.' Then it's going back in the safe, with a new little-joker-proof lock."

J.P. handed Josie the Book, and she and Leslie left the room.

****

Ms. Droober seemed a lot happier to see us this time. "Listen, I have these sharp pains in my chest, especially after I drink coffee," She said. "I think it might be cystic fibrosis."

"That's too bad," Josie said. She already looked ridiculous wearing her grandmother's black top hat and tuxedo jacket, and it didn't help that her cheeks were turning red.

"Also, I suffer terribly from irritable bowel syndrome."

Josie and I looked at each other, then back at Ms. Droober.

"Is Amanda home?" Josie asked.

Ms. Droober kept smiling and fawning on Josie as she led us through the house, offering her soda and cookies about a gabillion times.

"Here's our little miracle-maker!" she announced finally, showing us to the backyard.

"I did the Power Animal," I said proudly, but Josie nudged me in the ribs.

Amanda looked great. She wasn't wearing her turban anymore, and a thin peachfuzz of blond hair was already growing back in. Her skin had returned from pasty back to its usual mysteriously-tan-even-in-the-winter color. She was playing hopscotch on a chalk outline she had done on the deck beside the pool.

As soon as Amanda saw Josie she dropped her jump rope instantly and gasped, running towards us both. I thought she was going to punch Josie in the face, but instead she bear-hugged her and kissed her on the mouth.

"Glenda the Good Witch!" she shouted, jumping up and down.

"And her symbol-maker!" she added, pulling me into a three-way hug. Amanda was amazingly strong for a future cheerleader.

"Actually, I'm not really her symbol-maker," I protested. "I'm kind of a free agent."

Josie gave me another look.

"The doctors say I can go back to school on Monday!" Amanda said gleefully. "All thanks to you."

"Remember I told you that you make your own magic," Josie pointed out. "We only helped."

"Whatever you say, Glenda," Amanda said, winking. Then she did a cartwheel and emitted an incredibly girly shriek.

"No, really...," Josie said. "You did it yourself."

"I am so sorry I ever called you a faker," Amanda said, bouncing up and down. "But then I'm 'sometimes reluctant to accept help from others,' right?"

"But you were right," Josie said. "I am a faker."

"Gotcha."

"It was all a trick," Josie protested.

Amanda raised her eyebrows in disbelief. "Sure, sure -- whatever you say. Hey, can you do anything about my mom's irritable bowel syndrome? It sounds totally icky."

"Amanda, you're not listening to me -- I'm a charlatan. No one can really do magic."

Amanda stopped bouncing for a second. "Then why are you dressed up like that?"

Josie looked down at her black silk sleeves. "Well, I thought I'd do a trick for you. To celebrate your recovery and everything. But remember it's just an illusion. There's no such thing as real magic."

Amanda dropped into a lawn-chair. "Okay, but then will you do something about my mom's cystic fibrosis? She complains about it, like, constantly."

Josie rolled her eyes heavenward and sighed.

"If my lovely assistant," she gestured to me, "would be so kind as to draw a dove for me...?"

I scooped up a piece of chalk and began sketching a dove on the Droober's back deck, just as we had rehearsed.

Josie kept talking: "I will be bringing this drawing to life. -- Or seeming to, because as you know magic is the art of making the unreal seem real, the incredible seem trivial, the impossible," -- she pulled a bouquet of daisies out from her sleeve -- "possible."

"These are from our yard," Amanda said, accepting the flowers anyway.

"I like to include the audience as much as possible," Josie told her. "How's that dove coming?"

"Give me a few minutes," I answered. My outline looked okay, but the eyes still needed more empathy.

"This is one of the finest tricks in the Taylor repertoire," Josie continued, waving her arms dramatically. "Passed down to me from The Spellbinding J.P. Taylor herself, learned at the feet of Garbanzo The Splendiferous..."

Josie stopped talking for a moment and frowned. She reached into her left sleeve and pulled out a white feather. She quickly stuffed it into her front pocket.

"Garbanzo himself learned the secret of bringing drawings to life during his travels through occult Egypt, land of the Pharaohs, where..."

She frowned again, then suddenly stopped waving to itch under her right arm. Reaching into her jacket as if to find whatever was scratching her, she produced a handful of white feathers. She quickly stuffed them into the same pocket where she had put the others, blushing.

"How's that drawing coming?" she asked again.

"Almost done," I told her.

Amanda was frowning. She looked confused.

"Please notice," Josie continued. "That I have absolutely nothing up my sleeve." She glanced up her sleeves herself, just to make sure, before holding them out for Amanda to inspect. "At no time will I use a real dove in this illusion. Instead, I will turn Darla's drawing into a real dove! All through the power of..."

"Coo," the noise came from somewhere in Josie's jacket. She snapped her head to the right, as though looking for the source of the noise. As she was inspecting her right sleeve for the second time a dove's head peeked out from Josie's left breast pocket, blinked twice and disappeared again.

"...All through the power of legerdemain," Josie continued, "That most hallowed art of the ancients, which..."

"Coo."

Josie shot a finger into her left breast pocket, and pulled it open to inspect. This time the dove poked its head out from Josie's hatband. Amanda started giggling.

"...art of the ancients," Josie continued, still squinting into her pocket, "Who could call a creature into being by sheer willpower alone, merely by uttering the magical phrase 'abra...'"

Josie twitched, as though she had just stepped on something sharp.

"Abraca..."

She looked like she had an itch someplace she couldn't scratch. A few feathers fell out from her left sleeve.

"Abracada..."

Josie's jacket looked as if it was swelling up like a balloon. Josie's eyes were wide with surprise, and she looked nervous.

"Abracadabra!" she shouted, and pulled open the jacket. A dozen white doves flew out of the jacket and took off into the sky.

"Ooops," Josie said sheepishly. "I'm still working on that one."

She looked down at my drawing. "Nice chalk-dove, though. Plenty of empathy."

Amanda was curled up in the lawn chair, hugging a pillow. She looked pasty again.

"But if you just do tricks...," she said.

"Then you must have done your own healing-magic," Josie said, hurriedly picking up the feathers. She inspected a pillow from the other lawn-chair, noticed it had dove guano on it, and hurriedly flipped it upside-down.

"Thanks for helping us practice the new trick," Josie said, hustling me towards the door. "You can keep the flowers!"

"Leaving so soon?" Ms. Droober met us in the kitchen. She was carrying a tray of cookies and lemonade. "Is there anything you can do about my cystic fibrosis?"

"Sure," Josie said. She snatched the bag of coffee beans off the kitchen shelf and dropped it in the trash.

****

When we got back to Josie's house, J.P. was waiting for us at the door. She immediately confiscated The Craft of Illusion.

"You may have the general edition, same as everyone else in class," she told Josie. "This copy is to be a going-away present to my old teacher, Garbanzo The Splendiferous. We're having a special ceremony Saturday, at this year's Annual Meeting of the Society of Magical Persons."

"Going away?" Josie asked, trying to sound casual.

"That's right," J.P. peered over her glasses as if trying to figure out the reason for Josie's interest. "On Monday he's moving to Bordeaux, France."

How did Josie convince Amanda that her recovery was through her own efforts, not magic? See "Deflating Your Own Myth" on the page with all the answers.
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