"So, I hear you grandmother is a big-shot magician."
I peeked up from dusting the Gesso cans in Aunt Leslie's Frame Shop and Art Supply Store just in time to see Amanda Droober saunter in like she owned the place.
"Ms. DesJardin is at lunch," Josie said with a big smile. "Perhaps my associate and I could assist you with your framing needs?"
I scrunched down under the counter a little further, hoping if I was lucky Amanda would go away.
Josie cleared her throat.
"...That is, if my associate is around?" she said, kicking me lightly in the ribs.
"We're having a special two-for-one sale on snitch!" I announced, suddenly standing up as nonchalantly as possible. "I mean, kitsch. Um. You know, like Velvet Elvis paintings and stuff."
Amanda frowned, ignoring me. "I mean your other grandmother. Is she or isn't she J.P. Taylor?"
"And seeing as my parents say she was famous about a million years ago for pulling rabbits out of hats -- I guess it didn't take much to get famous before they invented TV -- is it safe to assume that there's some connection between her being a magician and all the weird things that have been happening in school since you showed up?"
"It's never safe to assume," Josie said in her best lecturing-adult voice.
"Don't play dumb with me!" Amanda fumed.
"My mother used to tell me never to compete with a world-champion," Josie said.
"Listen," Amanda slapped her palms down on the counter. "Last week at the school assembly the podium exploded into butterflies, and the week before that every single word generated by our Spelling Bee computer was 'prestidigitation.' Are you going to tell me that was all a complete coincidence?"
"Actually," Josie said, leaning in confidentially, "They say coincidence is the raw material of magic."
Amanda made a squidgy face. "And I say that you're a big faker. And your grandmother is a big faker. And I'm going to tell everyone to stop playing along with your stupid tricks."
Josie narrowed her eyes. "What if I can prove to you that I'm not faking -- that it's real magic?"
"Oh yeah?!?" Amanda demanded, leaning in till she and Josie were almost nose-to-nose. "Anytime, anyplace!"
"Woh, woh, woh!" I stepped between them. "Excuse me. Hi. Can I just talk to my associate for a moment, please? Official Frame Shop business." I grabbed Josie by the paw and dragged her outside.
"And just what do you think you're doing?" I asked her. "I told you Amanda would go on the warpath if you messed up the Spelling Bee, which she wins every year."
"She insulted the Magi," Josie said, shaking with anger.
"I thought you weren't supposed to call her 'Magi' outside of class. Anyway, what would the 'Magi' say if she knew you were about to break the Second Rule?"
"I'm not trying to impress anyone!" Josie protested. "I just don't want to lose my test subjects!"
I folded my arms across my chest. "I don't think the Magi would be too happy about you calling the other kids 'test subjects,'" I told her.
"Okay, but listen," Josie began, flipping open the book. "Only a magician who has completely learned, understood and mastered every stage trick in this book should even think about attempting Real Magic," she read aloud. "I've already done about half the tricks in the book. How can I learn the other half if Amanda convinces everyone to stop cooperating with me?"
I frowned. "So you're only doing this so you can hone your craft?" I asked suspiciously.
"Honing my craft," Josie agreed, making an "I agree" gesture.
"And you don't want to get back at Amanda for insulting J.P.?"
Josie put both hands on her heart. "Furthest thing from my mind," she assured me.
I opened the door. "I still think it's a bad idea," I told her. "But I know better than to try to talk you out of anything."
"Think of a number," Josie said, settling down on a stool behind the counter. "Any number between one and ten."
"All right," Amanda said, drawing herself up. "I've got one."
Josie closed her eyes and made a humming noise.
"What the heck are you doing?" Amanda asked.
"Shhh. Transferring. Very delicate," Josie said without opening her eyes. She returned to humming, and even rested her fingers on her forehead, as though concentrating very intently.
Amanda made a squidgy face at me, as though I was somehow responsible.
"Transferring," I reassured her. "Delicate stuff."
"Look," Amanda protested, "If you think I'm just going to stand here while you..."
"Finished," Josie announced suddenly, snapping her eyes open. "What number were you thinking of?"
"Can't you read my mind?" Amanda asked sarcastically.
"Sure. But then I'd not only see the number, but I'd know why you follow Todd Raskin around like a puppy. And frankly that's something I'd rather not learn."
Amanda was really getting a really good workout of her squidgy muscles.
"Anyway, that would be an invasion of privacy," Josie continued. "So instead of reading your mind, I've magically transferred the information, which I'll explain in a moment. Now, what was your number?"
Amanda looked at me as if asking permission, so I nodded.
"Ah," Josie said. "Ah, yes. Five. Yes. Now if you wouldn't mind looking on the bottom of the placemat, which you've been leaning on this whole time?"
Amanda pulled her hands away from the placemat suspiciously, then flipped it over. Written on the bottom was an enormous "five."
"How did you....?"
Josie made a show of blowing on her nails. "Magic," she answered smugly.
Amanda poked at the placemat a few times, as though making sure it was real. When she put it back on the counter she had a very different expression.
"Wow. Maybe... wow," she said.
"No hard feelings," Josie said, shaking Amanda's limp hand vigorously. "I'll check in with the Powers That Bee about fixing the spelling computer." (I'm pretty sure Amanda didn't appreciate the pun.) "Don't be a stranger."
Amanda swallowed hard, but didn't say anything.
Of course, Josie always pushed everything too far. "At least, no stranger than you already are," she added, for which I kicked her under the table. Amanda slowly moved towards the door without really paying attention, as if she were sleepwalking.
"Sure you don't want to buy some art supplies while you're here?" I blurted out before Amanda left. Josie glared at me and shook her head "no," but I thought she just didn't feel like running the cash register. "We've got a half-price sale on Velvet Elvis and stuff," I added.
Amanda wandered back to the counter in a daze. "I was wondering what this gesso stuff was...," she mumbled. She picked up a jumbo-size can from the counter and turned it over in her hands. Josie made a holding-her-breath noise.
Suddenly Amanda looked awake again. Her eyes narrowed to their usual Doberman-pincher-in-a-bad-mood size, as she turned the can upside-down and replaced it on the counter.
Written on the bottom of the can in huge black marker was the number six.
go to chapter six | return to josie homepage
How did Josie (almost) seem to know what number Amanda would guess ahead of time? See "Number Transference" on the page with all the answers.