is an excerpt of the story
by David M. Fitzpatrick
Enchantments: The Many Facets of Magic
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“But if used for retribution, magic is vengeance incarnate.”
—Terry Goodkind, Blood of the Fold
“Okay, here it is: Thurston is a witch.”
Billy Goodman’s face froze at his friend’s revelation. He was
holding in smoke from the joint, and when he started chuckling, it
was hell to keep holding. Blue-gray smoke puffed out with each hack,
swirling about Jerry Wright like a miasmic cloud.
“Male witches are warlocks, buddy,” Billy said, passing the joint.
“And dude, Rufus Thurston is a lotta things, including the worst
math teacher ever, but he ain’t no warlock.” They stood beneath the
overhang of a service door at the far side of Evervale High’s fifth
wing, far from the student travel areas. They were at the edge of
the thick Maine forest, where curious eyes wouldn’t see them near
the shadowy pines.
is,” Jerry said, and he really sounded like he meant it. “And he’s
not just a math teacher. Thirty-five years ago, he taught English
here around the time Evervale expanded its English curriculum. We’re
about the only school where you can find courses like Creative
Writing, Arthurian Legend, and Fantasy and Science Fiction.”
“You’re going to tell me he taught Beginning Black Magic and
Spellcasting 101, aren’t you?” Billy said with a lopsided grin.
“Damn close,” Jerry said, sucking in a deep, nervous breath.
Billy sighed. “Okay, let’s hear it.”
Jerry’s face lit up with the small victory. “Okay, so he gave me
detention yesterday, and had me cleaning windows in his classroom.
When I finished, he aid I could go, and he packed up his briefcase
and took off. I was getting my gym bag and happened to notice those
books on top of that big bookcase in the corner—the ones covered
with so much dust you couldn’t even read the bindings. I’d always
wondered about them, and I finally had the chance to check them
He looked around
nervously, then said, “There were books on black magic. Spellbooks
for witches… druidic rituals… voodoo. And plenty of weird New Age
stuff. There were books on divination, dream study, astral travel.
You name it, it was there.
“So I was standing on a desk going through them when he came back
for something. I made up some excuse that I was dusting them, but I
wasn’t very convincing. He said, ‘Are you interested in those, Mr.
Wright?’ So I told him the books were cool, and he actually smiled,
kind of sideways and dark-eyed, and he said—get this—‘I used to
teach that to students, many years ago. Come to me privately if you
ever have questions.’”
“No shit,” Billy said. “You’re serious?”
“Completely. Check them out yourself. But don’t piss him off. Not
Billy managed a
laugh. “Jerry, buddy, I’ve made an academic career out of pissing
that man off. I’m not worried.”
From the moment he walked
into Algebra II, Billy’s eyes jumped to the bookshelf like magnets
to steel. The stack of books was there, tantalizing him. He supposed
he’d seen them before, but like trees in the forest, he’d never
The bell rang
and the students found their seats. The bell’s echo hadn’t quite
faded when Thurston strode in, stiff as if his skin were starched,
briefcase in hand. He was dressed in a conservative gray suit, ivory
shirt, and charcoal tie that seemed a bit too tight. He was bald
save for a wreath of gray-brown hair circling his head, and his
glasses were square and plain. He set his briefcase on his desk,
snapped it open, and began riffling through papers within.
Billy watched Thurston, who was bent over with his face in his
briefcase, and wondered fleetingly what kept the man’s glasses from
falling off his face in that position, and suddenly a thought
intruded: Maybe it’s a simple little spell, something to keep a
little nuance at bay.
shook himself out of it, grinning. Jerry had him going, all right.
But even as Thurston cleared his throat and began passing out the
day’s quiz, Billy couldn’t stop thinking about it.
The quiz took twenty
minutes; the rest of the class seemed to last eons. Thurston
lectured, droning on in that monotonous, slightly nasal tone which
drove Billy completely nuts. He wasn’t the only one. It was easy to
tell who cared and who didn’t, and most of the class didn’t.
Thurston never seemed to notice when students didn’t give a damn,
but he sure noticed when somebody was whispering, or when a rubber
band twanged across the sea of desks, or when someone flipped him
off behind his back.
things ate at Billy. The guy had a knack for seeing things he
shouldn’t be able to see, hearing things students were sure he
couldn’t hear. Not only did he always manage to hear the whisperers,
but he was able to whirl around and point them out without a second
guess. When a rubber band flew, he either heard the thing snap and
from where, or he about-faced just as it was leaving the perp’s
fingers. The ability the man had for always knowing what was going
on it was almost like—
surprised the word had jumped into his mind. He was thinking more
along the lines of “incredible luck.” He shook his head, trying to
banish the thought.
class and Thurston’s lecture dragged on, the books atop the bookcase
were there, almost calling to Billy. His gaze kept drifting from
whatever he was looking at—his doodles of goofy cartoon characters
and marijuana leaves, Sludge Branson’s brown sneakers thumping to a
tune known only to Sludge, Susan Carmichael’s panty line clearing
visible through her sheer skirt—to the books. He swore he could feel
energy emanating from them. What if Thurston really had mastered
such magic powers?
was silly. Thurston was old, dull, and an asshole, but he was
nothing more than a math teacher at Evervale High School. That was
When the bell sounded like a victory alarm, Billy bolted for the
door. The whole class did the same, but monotonous Thurston suddenly
reared his true, ugly head.
“Be seated!” he hollered. Everyone hit the brakes, including Billy,
who was at the door. Back-to, he waited, impatient. He just wanted
to be free of Thurston and get to baseball practice.
Somebody in the room complained about wanting to leave. “That’s too
bad,” Thurston barked, and Billy sighed and leaned against the door
frame. “This is my classroom. And if I say you’ll stay here after
the bell rings, then stay you shall!”
Thurston’s eyes were wide behind thick glasses, his nostrils
flaring, his bald pate glistening with sweat. It was time for Billy
to up the ante with the angry man. He turned around, clearing his
throat, and said, “Bell rang, Mr. Thurston. School’s out.”
The room was silent. Thurston versus Goodman matches were not
entirely uncommon in Algebra II, and everyone loved them. And Billy
loved that they loved them.
“As I said, Mr. Goodman, I make the rules,” Thurston said, glaring
at him. “We’ll stay a few minutes longer.”
“Not me, pal,” Billy said. “I have batting practice.”
“It will wait,” Thurston said, dark eyes boring at him, thin lips
tightly pursed. “This test is big. You must be prepared for it.”
“We’ve been priming for it all week,” Billy said. “I think it’s safe
to say we have it down, Rufus.”
Waves of tittering bubbled through the classroom.
“Really?” Thurston said with a crooked smile. “I suppose you’ll pass
with flying colors.”
I’ll pass,” Billy said with a broad smile. “That’s what matters.
See, I don’t know what anyone else is planning to do with their
lives after high school, Thirsty, but I have grander plans than
this.” He loved being ignorant to the man’s face, and he already
knew the ace card he’d play once Thurston blew his gasket. “Most of
us will do something useful—not, say, teaching algebra.”
Not a student made a sound as Thurston stood silent, taut, his eyes
softening behind his glasses. “Mr. Goodman,” he said, his voice
quiet and even, “you have earned a detention.”
Time for that ace card.
“Taught any witchcraft lately?” Billy snapped, with a mild dose of
ferocity. He could feel the stares from the confused students, feel
the hate from Thurston.
beg your pardon?” Thurston asked, perhaps sounding too innocent.
“I hear you have quite a collection of books on magic,” Billy said.
“You tried to recruit a student into the black arts.”
“Okay,” Billy said, and then he was striding across the room, past
the stone-faced teacher, past the rows of desks, and to the back
corner. All eyes tracked him as he went, as he leaped up on a desk,
grabbed one of the books. “So what’s this?”
He flashed it up, and the whole class gasped. Thurston was stolid as
ever in the face of Billy’s triumphant grin.
“An algebra book,” Thurston said.
Billy snapped the book around and felt the color drain from his
face. It was, in fact, an algebra book. He tossed it back, pulled
two more out. Calculus, trigonometry. He ran his eyes over the other
spines; they were all math books. Billy felt his confidence melt
away like a candle in a house fire, felt his face burn red. The
students were snickering.
“The rest of you may leave,” Thurston said.
At that point, nobody wanted to miss any of it, but they knew
better. A minute later, Billy was alone with Thurston and the math
“Been meaning to clean
that bunch up,” Thurston said.
From his desk perch, Billy glared at the man across the room. “Jerry
told me what happened.”
Thurston raised a smug eyebrow. “Mr. Wright must have been pulling
But Billy knew
better. He’d seen the fear in Jerry’s face. “No, he wasn’t. You just
moved the books.”
“Let me put
it this way,” Thurston said from the front of the empty room. “If
there had been such books up there, they would have been innocent
but easily misconstrued and I’d have removed them long ago. But
there were never any voodoo books up there, Mr. Goodman. No
divination, no astral travel, nothing of the sort.”
“I never said voodoo or divination or astral travel,” Billy said. “I
only said witchcraft.”
Thurston smiled up at him. “Of course. Now, come down from there,
and serve your two-hour detention.”
“I have batting practice.”
“Not anymore,” Thurston said, and his face was chiseled and dark.
“We’ll see about that.”
“...and, as we continue down life’s long road, events such as these
unfold—Bill, you have to take it in stride, roll with the punches.
Who said life was a walk on the beach? I can tell you, it isn’t.
You’ll meet many people, Bill, and you’re going to have to learn to
deal with them—and they with you. It’s a two-way street. You scratch
my back, I’ll scratch your back. Simple as that.”
WESLEY GYVERS, PRINCIPAL, read the nameplate on the desk. Billy
fought the urge to roll his eyes, shifting into a more comfortable
position in the sticky vinyl chair. The title should have read CHIEF
CLICHÉ OFFICER, but Billy was used to it.
“...do you see where I’m coming from, Bill?” Gyvers was middle-aged,
wearing a perpetually uneven haircut. He was lanky, like a grown-up
version of a chess-club geek, and his lips jutted from his face like
a duck’s bill. He gestured constantly, symmetrically, as he talked.
“Am I hitting anywhere near the infield?”
Billy was missing batting practice, but he had handled Gyvers
before, knew just how to deal with The Duck.
“Definitely, sir.” He manufactured a broad smile and leaned
excitedly forward in his chair. “You always know just how to explain
things. I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
“Why,” Gyvers said with a smile of admiration, leaning back and
curling his bill up into a ducky smile, “that’s marvelous.”
Billy did his best to dazzle Gyvers with sparkling eyes and a
respectful nod. “May I report to Coach Wallace now, sir, for batting
practice? You know how Old Wally hates to have his star players
trailed off, brow furrowing. “Mr. Thurston seemed rather intent on a
Billy sighed. “I
do like Mr. Thurston. He has so much to give. I only wish I had the
skills to absorb it all... he and I are different people, and
sometimes I think we don’t quite understand each other. I feel
terrible that he misunderstood me, but it’s my fault for not
explaining myself very well.” Billy gestured to Gyvers’ diploma on
the wall, right next to the man’s psychology degree. “Class of ‘76,
huh, Mr. Gyvers? Our bicentennial year. Wow—they don’t come with
more school spirit than you, do they?”
Gyvers smiled. “Well, I’ve always been attached to Evervale, but...
anyway, Mr. Thurston was terribly concerned, you know, about this
Billy feigned incredulity. “A cruel joke on Jerry’s part, and I fell
for it. I thought Mr. Thurston would laugh with me, but I think he
was a little down today. I wish it hadn’t happened. Just trying to
put a laughline into his old face.”
Gyvers listened as if he were contemplating the universe. Billy
snapped himself out of his theatrical reverie. “Well, if it makes
Mr. Thurston feel better, and makes peace in the halls of Evervale
High, then I’ll go clean his blackboards. Perhaps I could run out
first to let Wally know I won’t be pitching in tomorrow’s game,
though? I won’t be much use without a good afternoon of practice.
Say, Wally was coaching when you were a student here, wasn’t he?”
“Why, yes,” Gyvers said, beaming, lost in some world of his own now.
“Quite a pitcher yourself, I see,” Billy said, nodding to the awards
on the walls. “Did you really pitch a no-hitter against Bangor your
senior year? Man, talk about ‘for the glory of Evervale High,’ huh?”
Gyvers nodded, deep in thought, and then his mind seemed to be
suddenly rubber-banded back into its body. “You know, Bill, it is
about the glory of Evervale High. You need to go to that practice
and serve your school.”
sir,” Billy said. “The detention.” He was on a roll now, and
almost hated to leave.
worry,” Gyvers said, and Billy half expected the psychology degree
to crack or burn or fly off the wall at any moment. “It’s obvious
Mr. Thurston misinterpreted the situation. I’ll talk to him. You get
going, before Wally misses you.”
Billy flew out of the front office and came face to face with a
smirking, waiting Thurston. “Now then, Mr. Goodman, you can begin
your detention in my classroom. I’ll be back there momentarily.”
“And I won’t,” Billy said, and that was all he needed to say, but he
lingered long enough, grinning, to see the look of understanding
overtake Thurston’s confident face.
“What?” Thurston said, voice cracking, but Billy was off, jogging up
the corridor, towards the locker rooms.
“Later, Thirsty!” he called back, enjoying the image of Thurston
reddening from chin to bald pate.
Coach Wallace was indeed
missing his star pitcher, since Billy’s 1.67 ERA the previous season
had made it possible for the team to go to and win the state title.
Jerry “First-Base Ace” Wright stayed well away from Billy; he’d
clearly heard about the episode in Thurston’s class, as Billy was
sure most of the school would by tomorrow. Billy made sure he put
some extra angry power into his throws to first.
Practice was over by three-thirty. Billy kept his cool until Wally
was nowhere around and everyone else was soaped up in the showers.
Still in his pinstripes, Billy strode into the shower, splashing his
cleats through the water. Everyone but Jerry saw him coming, and
when Billy body-checked the naked Jerry hard into the tiled wall,
Jerry yelped like a scared kid. Billy grabbed his chin and squeezed,
angling his head to face him.
“You made a fool out of me, you lying bastard,” Billy growled.
“I swear to Christ the books were there!” Jerry yowled through
scrunched-up fish lips. “I’m telling you, witchcraft, voodoo,
spells—they were all there. The guy’s a fucking witch and I don’t
care what you or anyone else says!”
The water poured over them as the whole team looked on in shock.
Billy locked eyes with his friend, and he knew his instincts during
his private conversation with Thurston were right: Jerry really
hadn’t made it up. There was no way he was lying—not being held
naked in the shower with twenty guys watching. Billy let him go and
stepped back. He hesitated, then turned and sloshed off.
“Just be careful, Billy,” Jerry called, his voice echoing through
the sprays of a dozen shower heads, and Billy turned back to him.
“You’ve pissed Thurston off more than anyone ever has, and you might
have gone too far today,” Jerry said. “So… watch out.”
He’d pitched poorly that
afternoon, with the witchcraft thing hanging across his mind like a
banner across Main Street. He needed to get home and relax in a
major way, so he hopped on his twenty-one-speed and pumped the
The cool wind against
his face was refreshing, cleansing him of the Thurston situation.
Jerry had seen the books, but they were just books. Even if Thurston
were a warlock, there were no spells to cast, no Billy Goodman
voodoo dolls to jab with pins, no goat sacrifices to convince a
demon to eat Billy’s soul.
released the handlebars, running his fingers through his sweaty
hair, coasting lazily through the school parking lot. It seemed
surreal how often he pulled off what he had with Gyvers, which was
tantamount to getting pulled over for drunk driving and having the
cop let you off with a warning. It was almost a magic in itself, a
sort of supernatural gift given by some feckless god who didn’t give
an ichorous shit what the rest of the pantheon thought. Certainly,
Gyvers was slow-witted; if ever there were a finer combination of an
idiot teacher and a principal who could likely be conned right out
of his underwear, he couldn’t imagine—
The car appeared out of nowhere, from around the row of parked cars
nearest the road. Its horn blared and tires squealed. Billy grabbed
for the brakes and he skidded the back tire sideways and almost
dumped the bike. The car halted inches from him.
It was a beige four-door sedan. “Watch where you’re going!” Billy
Goodman!” came the reply, and Billy could see the fist shaking out
the window. There was no mistaking the bald head.
“You asshole!” Billy yelled, righting his bike. “You tried to run me
Thurston laid on the
horn. “Get out of my way!” Now, the bald head poked out the downed
window, and Billy could clearly see the dark eyes—
Were they that dark before?
—burning at him.
what—you’ll run me down?” Billy said. “People are watching.” Several
were, all over the schoolyard, some close enough to hear. Billy
wondered if they really were all that kept Thurston from flooring
the gas pedal.
Thurston’s face flamed red. He laid on the horn again. “Move it, you
Billy echoed, and laughed. “For a ‘kid’ you can’t seem to get in
detention, I’d say I smell pretty sweet.”
Something seemed to visibly click on Thurston’s face. Billy couldn’t
help but shiver then, despite the low-80s temperature, as the anger
on the teacher’s face took on a whole new dimension. Psychotic,
maybe, or evil—or something worse.
“That is it!” the man yelled out. “I’ve had it, Goodman! You think
you’re invincible, don’t you? You’re wrong!” He was half out of the
window now, arm flailing wildly, tight tie fluttering. “I’ve put up
with your crap for three years, you miserable little bastard, and
I’m not putting up with it anymore! I will get you, Billy!” His
eyes, burning black fire, seared all the way to Billy’s bones. “I
will get you!”
a sudden blazing terror erupt within, lighting every nerve in his
body afire. He had to get out of there. He threw his bike forward
and jumped on the pedals, zipped out of the parking lot and into the
road. He could hear Thurston laughing maniacally like the insane bad
guy in a really bad B-movie—
Or is that in my head?
—as he shifted the bicycle and pumped the pedals hard down the hill.
He needed to get home, to do something to calm his electrified
nerves—to do anything to kill the intense fear that growled within
like a swelling black demon.
Billy lay on his bed,
swam through his head like a school of zombie fish. He felt weak, as
if a vampire had drained a little too much blood. It was no wonder,
considering the incident in Thurston’s room, baseball practice,
almost getting run down, and a record-breaking speed-ride home.
I will get you. The prophetic words hovered eerily in his
head, fiery letters like burning bushes.
He was angry at his silly fear. Thurston could do no worse than
flunk him. Billy didn’t need the credit for the class; he attended
mainly because he got such a kick out of dueling with Thurston. But
today was it; he’d drop the class.
It wasn’t just Thurston’s foreboding words, or his dark voice, or
the insane look on his face. It was all those things, wrapped up in
a sinister little package. I will get you, he’d said, and he’d meant
it. Maybe Thurston would do more than flunk him—and Thurston didn’t
need to be a witch or warlock to exact revenge. Maybe Thurston would
simply snap and blow him away.
Billy couldn’t get that terrible phrase out of his head. His
imagination was severely out of control.
I will get you.
and spun his head about. That hadn’t been in his head; he was sure
he’d actually heard Thurston’s barely audible voice. But that was
I will get you.
There was no mistaking it this time. It had come from directly
beneath him—from under the bed. Ever so slightly, he felt the bed
tremble, as if the washing machine in the basement was on an
imbalanced spin cycle.
way,” he whispered to himself. “Thurston is not underneath my bed.”
Yes I am, Mr. Goodman, came the reply, muffled but clear.
I’m here to get you.
“No,” Billy whispered, but he felt a life force beneath him,
radiating through the box spring and mattress. Fear gripped him
again like a giant, invisible fist.
I’m under your bed.
closed his eyes, focused, and started counting well-hung pink sheep
leaping over barbed wire. He grinned at the image. Every now and
then, his imagination got the best of him, and one of the pink sheep
would catch it’s ramhood on a barb and make a horrible
BAAAHAHAHAHAing noise, falling with a wooly SPLOOF sound. He laughed
“No,” Billy said
again, the sheep forgotten. “You are not under my bed.”
He sat up,
sweat streaming down his face. He hadn’t been aware of his
perspiration, but he was soaked, slick and gleaming like oiled
glass. Thurston wasn’t some magic folklorist, incapable of anything
more than a card trick or pulling a rabbit out of his ass. He was a
warlock, all right—how else could he be under the damn bed?
His breathing was shallow through his parched mouth, and his vision
was blurred. He had to check under the bed, no matter the
consequences. Slowly, he swung his shaking legs over the edge, and
looked down at the floor.
There was a flash of something on the blue rug, skittering out of
sight under the bed.
yanked his feet up, sucking in his breath. A hand. He was sure it
had been a hand, but it was gone just as fast as he’d thought he’d
seen it. And had there been the flash of a gold Timex watch, like
the one Thurston wore?
didn’t make sense, but somehow, the bastard was under there, and
Billy resolved he wasn’t getting dragged into some under-the-bed
hell with his algebra teacher. He kicked his feet out, clumsily
leaping off and away from the bed. Nothing grabbed for him. He eyed
the hanging bedspread from a safe distance, sinking slowly to a
squat. His heart beat against his chest, threatening to splinter his
ribs. He could see only shadows beneath, so he dropped to his knees
and leaned in, reaching for the quilt, and then he snatched it and
yanked it up.
nothing there. Just the blue rug. He leaned closer, as cautious as a
proctologist with a flatulent patient. All he saw were bits of
paper, lint, a few random marijuana seeds, foil from a Trojan
wrapper, and his old teddy bear. He shuddered in relief, falling
back on his ass.
The room was
silent save for his thick, heavy breathing and the steady whirring
of the clock on his wall. On impulse, he checked his pulse over
fifteen seconds, watching the spinning second hand. One-forty. He
instinctively clutched at his chest, as if his heart was about to
smash through his ribs and rampage around the room.
Maybe that was it, he thought. Maybe Thurston was making
Billy hear and see and feel things, trying to give him a heart
The bad experiences are just beginning for Billy Goodman, who
perhaps should have just served that detention...