The Wizard of Wall Street

Not so many years ago, Wall Street had its very own wizard. He was typical of wizards--eccentric, bearded, and obsessed with numbers. He mumbled to himself and rarely bathed, but wherever he went a stream of hungry young traders followed him. They tried to catch every clairvoyant word that slipped through his chapped lips. Every year in the fall, a new set of junior traders arrived. They'd each buy sandwiches or pickup dry cleaning or dust off his pointy wizard's cap. One in four decided that, come hell or B.O., they'd be the one to learn his prophetic secrets. But none of them could crack the wizard's facade. Only one man ever claimed to, and it wasn't intentional. Anderson, a senior trader, sat in a homeless shelter playing cards and talking with the residents. The wizard burst in with a sack of sandwiches under his arm, excess dry cleaning in a shopping cart, and a floppy wizard's cap devoid of dust. He waved his wand and sang a hymn no living man on Earth would recognize (mostly because he made it up on the spot). The other residents rushed to the wizard with open arms. They were hungry for a sandwich, a new suit and the wizard's favorite party trick: straightening his hat. Anderson continued to shuffle his cards absentmindedly. The wizard began his performance with a few inaccurate stock tips. Once the pretend homeless had run out to lose their money, he started the real show. He did card tricks, made coins disappear, and produced clouds of magic dust. After his song and dance, the shelter residents returned to their soup with the wizard's shared wealth under their arms. The wizard wandered about the room. He spent a long time speaking to an unseen "Jeb" concerning magical devolution. Finally his throng of junior executives and determined sycophants dwindled to none. The wizard sat in his corner with Jeb for a while longer, rocking back and forth and playing dress up with his beard. Anderson walked over. "Pardon me, Jeb," he said. He made a show of giving the imaginary Jeb space to get up, then sat next to the wizard. "Jeb likes having you on his lap," the wizard said with a gritty, yellow smile. Anderson looked up like a child making sure his mother hadn't disappeared. "Uh, thanks, Jeb. Nice to be here." "Jeb says, 'Foobleshpoot.'" "Oh, well, ummm--Gezoinkel to you, Jeb." The wizard laughed. "Jeb says your pronunciation is atrocious." Anderson smiled. "I've never been able to put one over on you, Uncle Jeb." They fell into silence for a time before the wizard spoke. "You seen the witch?" "You know, she prefers 'sorceress.'" "I know, I know," the wizard said, "but she put me here." "I have seen her," Anderson said. "You want to see her yourself? She'd like to see you." The wizard snorted. "She'd shackle me to the fence post. Plus-plus-plus, I have prognostications and attestations and appellations and conflagrations to attend to. Can't she understand?" Anderson chose his words carefully. "Those'll be around in the morning. Tonight, the sorceress needs you." "I'll go tomorrow." "There is no tomorrow. There's only today." Anderson said. "Is she okay?" "She needs your magic." The wizard pushed his floppy cap up on his head and straightened his back. He marched toward the door, wand in hand. "To the witch!" They walked through the streets with the wizard greeting every feline, real or imaginary, along the way. The wizard entered a building and took the stairs to the seventh floor. Anderson trailed behind him, breathing heavily. When they reached a room, Anderson walked in. The wizard hesitated. He surveyed the runes on the door. "I brought him," Anderson said to the woman in the bed inside the room. She had tubes to help her breathe. The hospital monitors beeped and blooped in concert with her vital signs. The wizard reached out. He touched the runes on the door. "Clara?" he asked. And the spell broke. He stepped into the room. At his entrance, she brightened and the ashen gray left her face. "Close enough," she said. Her smile warmed the room with its forgiveness, like a bonfire bearing the insult of an ice cube. "I wanted to see you," the woman said. "Before they pulled the plug." The wizard stepped forward and put his hand on hers. She rubbed it and said, "I love you." The wizard belched. Then his affect changed, and he bent to listen to something far away. Her love and her smile never wavered. "No, you can't say that!" the wizard said to the air, "OK, OK, okay, OKAY! I'll tell her. Jeb--errr--Jeb says he'll probably miss you," the wizard said to the woman. "I miss you too, Jeb," she said. She turned to Anderson. "Take care of him for me." "I will, Aunt Carolyn," Anderson said. He gave his aunt a hug and looked up. The wizard mumbled and shook and paced and argued. "I left her here? You couldn't bear to see her ill. I used everything to prevent this. You just watched!" "Time to go," Anderson said. As they left the room, the wizard's agitation changed. "What's wrong with the witch? Why's she here? What's going on?" A thousand questions tumbled out. "We need to get her out! She can't stay here." "She won't," Anderson said. The wizard fumbled for his wand--a gnarled, rolled up newspaper. "Combustibubble diseaskia Crahpappatappa!" he shouted and waved his hands in the air, scaring an orderly and two nurses. He'd thrown money, time, and his mind at the disease. They'd had about as much effect as those magic words. Anderson walked over to him and hugged him. "The only magic left, Uncle Jeb, is us." The End

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