“No time.” Jimmy Wraith had no expectation of being listened to.
“Big presentation today. It’ll only take a minute.” Sharon pulled into the drive-thru and smiled when only one other car was ahead of her. “See, it’s fine.”
Jimmy sighed. Ever since Caffeine Plus opened, Sharon stopped every day, always offering an excuse for her daily fix.
Pulling forward, she asked, “You want anything?”
“No.” He thought for a moment and said, “Yeah, coffee, black.”
“But you could —“
“Fine.” Sharon turned to the intercom. “Gimme a medium White Chocolate Cheesecake Latte with a shot of orator. And a medium black coffee.”
“Yes, Ma’am. What do you want in the black coffee?”
“Really? How ‘bout a shot of charisma?”
“He just wants coffee.”
“Focus, confidence, courage. All good choices. Veracity, no one will be able to lie to the drinker all day. Great way to start a Monday.”
Jimmy leaned over Sharon and yelled. “Just coffee. No cream, no sugar, no shots of magic. Black coffee.”
There was a small shuffle before another, more dignified, voice came over the speaker. “Yes, sir. One black coffee and one white chocolate cheesecake latte with a shot of orator. Both mediums.”
“Thank you.” Jimmy slid back to the passenger side.
Sharon’s eyes shot daggers at Jimmy before she drove to the next window. At the pickup window, she said, “Sorry ‘bout my friend.”
“No problem. The black coffee is on the house.”
“There’s no need for that.” Jimmy leaned over again, embarrassed.
“Yes, there is. Your decision to live magic free should be respected. You’ve chosen a hard road. Know that we here at Caffeine Plus support you.”
“Thank you.” Jimmy leaned back and sipped his coffee, pleased that someone, even a stranger, understood.
Five years ago, wizards appeared and explained they would no longer allow the planet to be ruled by the greedy. At first, everyone was afraid. The wizards dismantled all governments and set in place simple rules that centered around treating others as you wish to be treated. As time went on, crime went down, health improved, and life was generally seen as better. Magic became the norm.
Cell phone still charging at home? A retrieval charm will make it appear in your pocket, fully charged. Stuck in the office late? Your dog’s collar, with a spelled amulet, will walk the dog on a pre-defined route. Woke up with a big zit? A drop of invisibility cream will take care of that.
The price for magic spells and potions was tracked. Everyone carried a debit card that magically totaled the fee when a spell, charm, ward, or potion was requested. Each week, anyone over the age of five was required to check in at the Magical ATM, MAT-M, for short, to pay up. According to his friends, like Sharon, it was painless. And he had to admit no one exhibited changes… except for those with evil intent. Shadow magic, also called black or blood magic, was addressed immediately and with extreme prejudice.
Even though Jimmy didn’t use magic, he had to check in, at which point he was offered incentives to use magic. He didn’t. No one knew what the debit cards tracked, but to him, it sounded like he might lose his soul.
At work, no one knew he didn’t use magic. Life was easier if he didn’t admit to that in public. Jimmy had barely sat down in his single-person cube when Adam stuck his head in. “Boss wants to see you.”
“Not our boss. The boss. Supreme Wizard Myron is in Franklin’s office now, and he wants to see you.”
Jimmy took a deep breath. The coffee must have raised a flag to someone. Jimmy approached the elevator with sloth-like speed. As the doors closed in on him, he punched the penthouse button, hoping he would arrive and discover Adam had played a joke. Problem was, Adam didn’t play jokes. The doors opened, and he was greeted by none other than Mr. Franklin.
“Jimmy, my boy. Good to see you. Supreme Wizard Myron is in my office. Don’t keep him waiting.” Mr. Franklin pushed Jimmy toward a set of double doors.
Mr. Franklin’s personal assistant opened the doors and stood back, announcing Jimmy’s name as he walked in. The doors shut behind him.
A tall man Jimmy had seen only once before stood next to a wall of windows looking out over the city.
“You were at Coffee Plus this morning.” Jimmy considered running but stood his ground. It wasn’t like he could outrun a wizard.
“Yes. I’ve been watching you, and today you proved yourself.”
“You understand. Magic must be respected. You’re ready to be trained.” Myron stepped away from the window and toward Jimmy.
Jimmy took a step back. “Trained for what?”
“To be my apprentice. You shall become the next Supreme Wizard of the Americas. It will be your job to keep the magical balance in our territory.”
“Don’t you have to be born magical to be a wizard?”
“Of course, but all creatures are born magical, my son. You simply have to believe.”