(14 Jul 2015)
Paulo was not a very good wizard. He was still young, it's true, and still learning. But even at this stage, people could tell he was never going to be a great wizard. He had the spark, but not much more.
In school, he suffered the ridicule of his classmates, who loved to demonstrate their superior abilities at every opportunity.
But Paulo had something few people ever have: a true friend. Her name was Emerelda, and she was not a wizard - at least not the kind with magic. She lived in Paolo's neighborhood, and they met often at the playground.
"Do one of your tricks!" she would so often say. For even before Paulo knew he was a wizard, he had made small magics for Emerelda. He would make a swing move without touching it, or change the sound of a chirping cricket to a croaking frog. Emerelda would laugh and clap with delight, and Paulo's heart would sing.
In school the young wizards learned to lift heavier and heavier objects with their minds - first feathers, then small stones, then boulders and huge carved stones. Paolo progressed much slower. His teacher finally said "I think you'd best stick to feathers, my boy." So Paulo practiced and practiced with his feather, lifting it and tumbling it through the air.
In the playground he showed Emerelda the dancing feather trick. He raised it slowly, pretended to let it drop, then brought it swiftly back up again. It twisted and danced in the air between them and Emerelda gasped. "It's magic!" she said. And Paulo felt a little happy but also sad, because he knew this was only small magic.
In school, the other children learned to control water. Gradually they worked up from making little ripples and waves to creating huge tsunamis that crashed on the shore of the lake, soaking the whole class. Paulo could only make bubbles, sweet rainbow-colored orbs that he collected on the water's surface. His teacher came by and tsk'ed, unimpressed. The other children snickered at him.
But later, Paulo met Emerelda in the playground. They went to the edge of the little pond, where he made dozens of small bubbles on the water's surface, like translucent pearls, and collected them together into shapes: a swan, a boat, and a little heart. Emerelda sighed and put her hands in his. "Magic," she said.
But Paulo knew his magic was no good. In school the other children were learning to control fierce animals: eagles, bears and werewolves. They made them hop on one foot, and eat ice cream, and occasionally set them on each other, to a chorus of screams and laughter.
Paulo concentrated on controlling butterflies. He could do no more. And later, in the playground, he showed Emerelda his masterpiece. The butterflies all lined up in a row, took a bow, and then began pirouetting and tumbling in an elegant ballet, while a cricket chirped (and ribbeted) the Ode to Joy.
Emerelda was so pleased, she clasped her hands to her heart and wept. "Oh, Paulo, it's wonderful," she said.
At the end of the year, there was a festival, where the wizards did great magics to please the crowds and collect money for their school. Emerelda begged Paulo to take her, so he did. But he feared what she would say when she saw how pathetic his magic really was. "She won't want to be my friend anymore," he thought miserably. But he could not say no to her.
At the festival, the other students did magnificent tricks, as Paulo had expected. One child crashed a tsunami into the audience. Many people applauded, but Emerelda was frowning, shaking water off her new dress. Another wizard lifted several great standing stones, then let them crash back to earth, covering the audience in dust. Emerelda coughed.
The third act was a controlled werewolf, who rode a tricycle and ate a hotdog, then rampaged through the audience. Everyone screamed, but when it was over, they laughed and applauded - all except Emerelda.
When it was Paulo's turn, he did the best he could. He summoned the butterflies, lifted some feathers, and had them dancing through the air together surrounded by a swirling stream of iridescent bubbles. When he was done, he used his mind to gently place the feather in Emerelda's hand, the butterflies settled on her hair, and the string of water pearls lay splendidly around her neck. The audience ooooh'd quietly.
Paulo dropped his head in shame and walked up to his friend.
"Oh, Paulo," she said, "your magic was the best of all."
He stared at her. "How can you say that?" stammered Paulo. "Theirs was so much better."
"No," said Emerelda. "Because their magic was for themselves. But yours... was for me."