Hermes Beckons: Perhaps Another Manito Was Present
Chapter 12
© 2006 John Caris

The canary was singing when Gordon Russell entered Ocean Delights. Seeing the Garlands, he walked over to their table and, greeting them, laid his briefcase on a chair. While he was at the counter ordering, Shasta remarked that Gordon was exhibiting a rare exuberance. Returning with coffee and a raisin snail, Gordon put them on the table and, opening the briefcase, removed a pen, notepad, file folder stuffed with papers, and a cell phone.

Once the scholar was settled, Ralph remarked, “You seem especially cheerful today. What’s the occasion?”

“My course this fall has begun with a high-powered thrust. The class is at its maximum size, and everyone shows incredible motivation and interest.”

As Shasta expressed her delight and congratulated him on what could be a very successful semester, Ralph studied Gordon deliberately and detected a softness in his aura, a shadow area that required repairing, or so he thought. Shasta gasped when Ralph said, “I have this strange feeling about your pastry, Gordon.”

“You think there’s something wrong with it or are you asking for a piece of it?” He continued sipping coffee.

“It’s different, as if there’s hidden treasure.” The conjurer suddenly grabbed the raisin snail. With both hands he broke it open and a half dollar emerged from it. “See. You’re rich. This is your day.”

Gordon looked disgusted. “I’m not going to eat that now, not if a coin has been inside.”

“Don’t worry, Gordon. I’ll take it and buy you another. Want a refill on your coffee?” He picked up Gordon’s half empty cup and looked surprised. “Hey, this is our luck day.” He pointed at a quarter which had been under the cup. Amazement appeared on Gordon’s face. The magician lifted the notepad and indicated the half dollar lying there. “I’m hot!” Ralph moved Shasta’s cup and disclosed another quarter. Lifting the sugar container, he found a gold Sacajawea dollar. “I’ll replenish the goodies before our new found wealth vanishes.” He hurried over to the order counter.

Shasta was worried about Ralph. This trickery was pure foolishness and upsetting to their friend. What was going on in his mind? Was he trying to break up the friendship? She felt a need to comfort Gordon and rekindle a bond. “Where are you in the journey through hell?”

“We’ve left the medieval period and are entering the Renaissance when fallen pride is glorified.”

“In what way?” She was puzzled by the metaphor.

“We’re reading Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Faust, making a bargain with Satan, is a sterling icon for the Renaissance, when human pride loosened itself from the medieval bondage to unquestioned Christian faith. This is the beginning of the modern era and portends what’s to come.”

Ralph had returned with a tray of fresh coffee, a raisin snail, and two bear claws. “Ah, brave new world. The pact Marlowe’s Faust makes with Mephistopheles is quite different from the one Johann Goethe’s Faust makes, isn’t it?”

“Definitely. The pact is a typical medieval contract signed by Faust with his blood. Two hundred years later both Faust and Mephisto have changed. Now they make a wager, one that Faust composes. Mephisto, however, still requires the blood contract.”

“How does Marlowe’s drama express the radical change since its whole demeanor is medieval?” Shasta’s curiosity had been stimulated by discussion.

“In that famous scene, after the contract has been signed, Faust asks Mephistopheles where hell is.”

“The location of hell?” Her puzzlement increased. Surely a scholar like Faust would know that.

Gordon chuckled. “Yes. That question is the first thing he asks for; his first wish is knowledge of hell! Mephistopheles answers that hell is here. Everywhere under the heavens is hell. But Faust still believes that hell is a fable. That questioning, critical perspective is very Renaissance. And when Mephistopheles says that he is damned and so in hell, Faust begins to get the picture. Faust responds, ‘Nay, and this be hell, I’ll willingly be damned. What, sleeping, eating, walking, and disputing?’ If hell is life on earth, then he’ll be happy to be damned. This choice of earthly life over heavenly salvation is the radical change.”

“So what is the wager Goethe has Faust make?” Shasta was now totally engrossed in the play of ideas.

“Faust wagers that if he ever wants to stop or to hold onto the fleeting moment because it’s so fair, so delightful, then Mephisto has won his soul.”

“So, of course, Mephisto conjures the love affair between Faust and Margarete. What better way to force him to keep and cherish the moment.” In her heart she knew that love could be an unbreakable bond, yet Faust never lost the wager because of this affair. Margarete became the tragic hero in this earthly life and then gained redemption in heaven. It was she who assisted in Faust’s salvation, and Mephisto lost a soul.

“The Faust legend has certainly retained its popularity,” Ralph remarked.

“Very much so. The original German story was published in 1587. Marlowe’s play was staged around 1592. For the next two hundred years the story continued in puppet shows and as comic renditions in the theater. The dramatic tradition of Faust was available for Goethe when he began writing his version in the early 1770’s. In 1808 he published Part I, which centered on the romance with Margarete. Part II was published posthumously in 1832.”

“The Faustian bargain seems to underlie our contemporary attitude toward progress and technology.” Shasta perceived a deep cultural theme that was a major thread of modern society’s dominant myth.

“With all this talk of magic and occult powers, have I mentioned, Gordon, that I visited our Ocean Avenue psychic for a tarot reading?”

“Pay me twenty dollars and I’ll be happy to read your fortune.” Gordon smirked, his blue eyes laughing. He finished the last bit of raisin snail and carefully wiped his mouth with a napkin.

“Actually, the reading was very insightful. Something else, I’ve noticed my sensitivity has been increasing.”

Shasta glanced over to the doorway and saw Leila Lubec coming into the shop. Ralph had introduced them at the Produce Barn on Ocean Avenue several weeks ago. She waved and caught Leila’s attention. “Our neighborhood psychic is a kindhearted soul, Gordon. I think you’ll like her.” A positive approach, she reckoned, should encourage him to form a favorable first impression.

Ralph made the introductions and offered to get more coffee and pastries for everyone.

Shasta seized the moment and built a bridge among them. “Leila’s college minor was literature.”

“I majored in clinical psychology, but literature has always been very important to me.”

Gordon nodded in agreement. “What types of literary works interest you? Romances such as those written by our famous San Francisco author Danielle Steel?”

Leila detected a slight edge to his voice, the critical scholar mode. “A favorite contemporary writer is Louise Erdrich. So many wonderful insights. Some creative writers have a better understanding of human behavior and motivation than psychologists.”

“She’s excellent. I’m fond of Leslie Silko, too.” Shasta remarked.

“I consider Silko’s Ceremony to be one of the top ten American novels of the twentieth century,” Leila responded.

Gordon smiled in approval as befitting a scholar. “Erdrich’s stories are built on such marvelous ironies, especially between Native American and Christian beliefs. Her novel The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse was superb.”

Leila turned to Shasta. “I picked up one of your novels from the public library. It’s fascinating to read the works of those you know.”

Carrying a tray with four coffees and blueberry muffins, Ralph served his friends. With a twinkle in his eyes, he remarked to Leila, “Gordon is involved with the occult.”

She widened her eyes in amused amazement. “Really?”

“Yes, he’s teaching a course that takes the students on a journey through hell. He’s been telling us all sorts of things about devils and magic.”

Leila regard Gordon thoughtfully. “What literary works are you reading and discussing?”

The scholar-teacher beamed. With the enthusiasm gained from years standing at the lectern, he described in detail the journey he was guiding.

When Gordon had finished his recital to the praise of his listeners, Leila turned to Ralph and asked, “What type of literature do you enjoy?”

“I relish exciting, intriguing reading at bed time, like detective and mystery stories. Shasta is, of course, my favorite. In second place is Margaret Truman, who is a good stylist and conveys interesting insights. I was especially enchanted with her Murder in the CIA.”

“I’d place that book in the literature section. It’s so superior to most mystery stories,” Shasta remarked.

“Agreed.” Gordon nodded in approval. “She is very knowledgeable of the government’s machinations and all the little known agencies, power struggles, and conspiracies. On that point I’d compare her favorably to Dante, who also had immense political knowledge, although Niccolo Machiavelli, his Florentine ‘cousin’ two hundred years later, has had greater renown as the political insider.” Looking directly at the magician, he continued, “You might enjoy some of Joyce Carol Oates’ novels. The Barrens, written under the nom de plume Rosamond Smith, comes to mind. It’s a murder mystery, but rather than being a classic who-done-it, it’s a set of psychological portraits of two artists and their souls and, of course, the supporting cast.”

“John LeCarré is another who unshrouds the secret structure of government and its corrupt links with the corporate world, especially the dark world of crime. The Night Manager is one of my favorites,” Ralph added.

“Yes, I agree. The novel’s underlying tone and certainly its ending remind me of Voltaire’s Candide.” Gordon had a well-done gleam in his eyes as he smiled at Ralph, but before he could launch into a more lengthy literary critique, Shasta spoke up.

“Earlier you mentioned Danielle Steel, Gordon. There’s such a stark difference between Steel and Oates. Steel portrays an idealized romantic fantasy whereas Oates paints a warm, messy fantasy.” She looked at Gordon intently, waiting for his repartee.

“Oates is obviously more realistic.” Leila responded quickly before Gordon could. “One of her major themes is to describe the female adolescent urges as they surge into those of a mature woman. I wonder if men can really discern the difference between the two authors?”

As Gordon noticeably reddened, Ralph spoke up. “This discussion brings to mind the alchemical idea of bonding the female and male. Each must understand the other, not only intellectually but intuitively.”

“Especially intuitively,” Shasta affirmed.

Ralph smiled, muttering, “I’ll check out Oates’ novels.”

Breaking the momentary silence, the magician asked, “Shall we perform a little experiment.” He grinned at Gordon and then at the two ladies. “There might be something to this psychic energy phenomenon. So far the astral forces have been positive.”

He took a bundle from his coat pocket and placed it on the table. Unwrapping the purple cloth, he picked up a deck of tarot cards. He had journeyed on a special quest to The Golden Light, a metaphysical bookstore in Noe Valley, located a half block from 24th Street. Besides the tarot deck he had purchased several other items that might be useful when he performed a routine involving an occult theme.

From the deck he selected the twenty-two major arcana and spread them face up on the table. “Notice that these are regular tarot cards. There’s nothing tricky about them.”

“Ralph, the only tricky thing is you.” Gordon chuckled. “Okay, I agree. They look normal.”

Ralph swept up the cards and handed them to Gordon. “Please shuffle as much as you want.”

After shuffling the packet, Gordon placed it on the table.

The magician, looking at Gordon and Leila, remarked, “I’d like to do an experiment involving intuition, which is a primary psychic faculty of the human mind. Intuition, of course, is not infallible. One must be open to the fluctuation of the psychic energy waves. Wouldn’t you agree, Leila?”

“Well, that’s not how I’d describe the channeling of the astral forces, but I’ll go along with it.”

The conjurer pulled a pair of dice from his coat pocket and laid them on the table. “We’ll choose the card by a process that some will call chance and others the psychic force. Gordon, please roll the dice and state the number that comes up.”

Gordon picked up the dice and rolled them. “The number is seven,” he call out.

Leila and Shasta were carefully watching the happening.

Pointing to the packet of twenty-two cards, the mage remarked, “Seven is a sacred number and it will determine your prophetic card. Please take the packet and count out seven cards. Take the seventh card, look at it, memorize it, and show it to the others. I’ll turn my back while you do that. Let me know when you’re finished.”

Ralph turned around as Gordon looked at the seventh card before showing it to Shasta and Leila. After a few moments Gordon announced, “Okay, we’re done.”

The magician again faced his audience. “Gordon, please put your card on top of the packet and cut it.”

When he completed the task, Gordon sat back in his chair, smiling. The mage picked up the packet and, as he looked through the cards, said, “Gordon, concentrate on your card and sharpen its image. Good. Very good. Images are coming through. A wheel . . . strange creatures . . . some with wings . . . a serpent . . . . Why, it’s the card of good fortune.” From the cards Ralph pulled the Wheel of Fortune and displayed it to his audience.

Amazement exuded from Gordon. “How . . . how did you do that?”

Leila laughed. “Well, Gordon, maybe there’s some truth here.” ***

Arriving home after stopping at the Produce Barn for some vegetables, the Garlands went their separate ways. Shasta entered the kitchen where the kitties were waiting. She filled their munchy bowl and began fixing a pot of chicken noodle soup for dinner using her special herbal recipe.

Feeling pleased with the tarot routine he had performed for Gordon, Ralph went into his studio to prepare for the evening’s performance at Bayside Software. Rafé would be arriving at 5:30 P.M., and they would drive to the firm’s headquarters in Brisbane. They would have plenty of time to unload their props and set up for the main show after dinner and then be ready for their walk-around routines at seven when the company employees arrived. ***

Bayside’s employees were standing around in the company’s dining room in small groups, sipping wine and snacking on hors d’oeuvres. The two magicians strolled among them performing their close-up routines. Rafé had selected as her opening effect the reproducing rabbits. These were realistic looking rabbits, sculpted from white sponge and tinted brown on the upper part. She felt the presence of Great Rabbit at her side, and her nervousness subsided. Smiling at her lady assistant, she placed one sponge bunny into the assistant’s hand, and magically the one had become six bunnies when the lady opened her hand.

The forty-five minutes passed quickly, and at 7:45 everyone was sitting down for dinner. Although they could have joined the dinner party, the magicians had declined. Instead, they had enjoyed a bowl of Shasta’s chicken noodle soup before leaving because Ralph had discovered long ago that he performed better after a light, comforting meal. The two magicians waited in the lounge, a pleasantly-appointed room for the firm’s clients. Rafé was reading the textbook for her course on theatre backgrounds from 1900 to the present while Ralph was immersed in a biography of Adelaide Herrmann.

After dessert had been served, Diana McLean, head of the entertainment committee, introduced the magicians. Three utility tables were situated in a row on the small stage. Behind the middle table stood a four by six foot projection screen.

The magician stood beside the table on his right and began the performance. “This story is about Raven, a traditional Native American character who is not only a trickster but also involved in origin stories of some people, and an acorn, which has been an important food source for many indigenous people. One day Raven, who was very hungry, was sitting high up in a tree, searching the ground for food and, upon spying two strange-looking pods, flew down to investigate. They were acorns, but he had never seen them before and, of course, didn’t know their name. Picking one up, Raven sniffed it, licked it with his tongue and, satisfied that it seemed edible, cracked the shell and ate the meaty substance he found inside. Yumm, it was good. So Raven picked up the other one and then heard a voice say, ‘Raven. Stop. Don’t eat me.’

“Startled, Raven stared at the little pod in his claw. ‘I’m hungry and you taste good,’ Raven said.

“‘But if you eat me, I’ll be gone and you won’t have any more of me,’ Acorn replied.

“‘You’re right.’ Raven answered. ‘I’ll look elsewhere. There must be more of you.’

“‘No, there isn’t,’ Acorn stated emphatically, ‘but I’ll tell you how you can have more of me. If you follow my instructions, you’ll always have plenty of me.’

“‘Okay. What should I do?’

“‘Dig a small hole and place me in the ground. Then cover me with soil. Get some water from the creek over there and pour it on the ground where you buried me.’

“‘Yeh. I can do that. But what’s going to happen?’

“‘Come back in four days and you’ll be surprised.’

“‘Okay, but if you’re planning a trick on me, I’ll dig you up and eat you!’

“So Raven followed the directions carefully.” The magician picked up a small clay pot and showed that it contained soil. Taking an acorn lying on the table, he planted it in the pot and sprinkled some water on the soil. The magician’s assistant covered the pot with a brown cloth.

“Four days later Raven returned, and was he surprised because at that spot where he had buried the acorn was a small oak tree.” The magician whisked away the cloth, and a small potted tree perched there on the table.

“While Raven was inspecting the tree and marveling at its beauty, the oak tree spoke, ‘Please, Raven, fetch more water and pour it around my base and then return in four days.’” After Ralph watered the pot, Rafé hid the tree with the brown cloth.

“Four days later Raven returned and was amazed because the little sapling had become a mature tree bearing hundreds of acorns.” The magician snatched away the cloth, and a larger tree with several acorns stood on the table.

After the applause the magician started his second effect. “Coyote is another important character in Native American stories. Like Raven, he is a trickster and sometimes assists the Creator during the making of the universe. This story I’d like to share with you demonstrates several of Coyote’s traits. One evening Coyote was wandering about San Bruno Mountain and came upon the Creator placing stars in the sky. Following a specific design, the Creator put one here.” As Ralph pointed to the projection screen located behind the center table, a light appeared on its surface.

“Taking two more from the basket containing stars, the Creator set one here and another there.” Two lights emanated in sequence.

“Coyote was delighted with the Creator’s work and wanted to participate in the fun. ‘I’ll help, Great One,’ Coyote said, ‘and you’ll be finished sooner.’ Coyote grabbed a handful of stars from the basket and flung them into the sky. Then another handful and another. Before the Creator could stop him, Coyote had hurled most of the remaining stars into the sky, producing a chaotic disorder.”

As Ralph was narrating the story, large areas of the screen lit up until half of the surface was glowing. “This disorganized conglomerate of light is now called the Milky Way. According to many indigenous people, the Milky Way is the road that the soul travels after death, so Coyote unintentionally created an important part of the universe.”

As laughter permeated the applause, Ralph realized that the audience had bonded with him. He walked over to the center table. “My next tale still has Coyote as a character but also a new one, Gambler, who is a mythic figure for many people, the epitome of luck and scheming. If Coyote is wily, Gambler is even more cunning and deceitful. We’re at a festive gathering of people, something like a powwow. Indigenous people of northern California call it a Big Time.”

The storyteller pointed in front of the table. “The dance arena here is circled by vendors’ booths of all kinds. Coyote is browsing about the grounds looking at all the items on sale: jewelry, baskets, pottery, dreamcatchers, jackets, hats, and food. Then he sees a sign stating ‘WIN LOTS OF MONEY!’ His eyes open wide and a greedy smirk flashes across his face. He hurries over to where Gambler stands behind a small table. On it are three small baskets and an acorn.” The magician pointed to them on the center table.

“Everyone wins,” beckons Gambler. “Guess where the acorn is. Place your bets and the game begins.” He smiles at Coyote. “I can see that you’re a shrewd and careful observer. You can win thousands. I’ll give you a special deal, Coyote. Just watch the baskets and then bet.” Gambler places the acorn under the center basket and begins sliding the baskets around the tabletop. Quickly, they rotate and change positions as Gambler’s nimble hands move in an unpredictable pattern. When Gambler pauses, the three baskets are again in a row. He looks at Coyote. “How much would you like to win?” he asks.

Coyote takes a roll of bills from his pocket and lays a hundred dollars on the table. “The acorn is under the right basket—that one,” and he points.

“Are you sure now?” Gambler inquires.

Coyote nods, and Gambler lifts the basket. Coyote stares and a frown creases his face. The acorn is not there. Gambler picks up the center basket showing the acorn underneath it.

“Try again. Double up. Your luck will change,” Gambler intones. He replaces the basket over the acorn and again shuffles the baskets around the tabletop.

Coyote puts two hundred dollars down. Gambler’s hands move swiftly; the baskets flow across the tabletop. Gambler removes his hands and looks knowingly at Coyote. “Where is our little friend?”

Coyote thinks and then points to the center basket.

“Are you certain? Want to change your mind? No?” When Gambler lifts the center basket, Coyote is chagrined as he peers at the empty space.

The gambling sleight continues two more times until Coyote loses a bet of eight hundred dollars. Gambler now moves the baskets rapidly over the tabletop and then lines them in a row. “Coyote, take your time and study the baskets closely. I’m hungry for some frybread. I’ll be back shortly.” Gambler ambles over to the food vendor.

Coyote observes the baskets looking for a sign. He glances over toward the food vendor and sees Gambler ordering. Coyote quickly picks up the center basket and then the right and left ones. The acorn is not under any. Aha, he thinks. Gambler’s a trickster, but I’m one too. I’ll fool him. Coyote snatches an acorn from his pocket and, placing it under the center basket, lines all three baskets back into a row just as Gambler had left them. He smiles knowing his luck will change.

Gambler returns, munching on a piece of frybread. “This is delicious. You should try some, Coyote. Now, have you decided?”

Coyote puts down two thousand dollars. “The center basket.” His eyes sparkle anticipating Gambler’s unhappy surprise.

Gambler’s hand hovers over the basket. “Are you sure? No last moment changes?”

Coyote nods and Gambler picks up the center basket.

Coyote is astounded and then angry. The acorn is gone! Coyote grabs the right basket and the left one, but no acorn. He blusters, “Where is it? What did you do with it ?” He looks at Gambler’s hand. “In your hand, is it?”

“Which one?” Gambler inquires, pleased with seeing Coyote angry and upset.

Coyote points to the right hand. Gambler opens it showing it empty.

“Ha! It has to be in your left,” cries Coyote. Gambler opens it and Coyote stares in disbelief. “What happened to it?”

“Coyote, you tried to cheat. I know what you did while I was getting some frybread. Cheaters never win. That’s why the acorn disappeared. Acorns are sacred, and they would never participate in dishonest behavior.”

Gambler slides the baskets about the tabletop and positions them into a row. “I saw you place an acorn under the center basket. Do you admit to doing that?”

Ashamed, Coyote agrees, his tail hanging limp.

Gambler lifts the center basket and behold, there is the acorn. Coyote’s eyes widen in amazement. “Your dishonesty caused it to vanish, but it reappeared once you confessed. Don’t gamble, Coyote, if you can’t accept losing.”

The magician picked up the acorn, closed his hand into a fist, and then pulled from it a banner reading “DON’T GAMBLE WITH YOUR SECURITY” with Bayside’s logo prominently displayed.

After the hearty cheers and hand-clapping, Ralph walked over to the table on his left. “For my finale I’d like to demonstrated the truth of those words ‘don’t gamble with your security.’” He pointed to a wood frame, 12 inches long and 8 inches high, set in a wooden base. It had a sheet of paper tightly stretched within.

“This is a simple firewall, which can protect against pings traveling over the internet.” He tapped the paper several times with his finger, causing a pinging sound. “But this firewall will not be secure against a direct thrust by a hacker.”

The magician, picking up the wand with his right hand, remarked, “This is a plain, old-fashioned wand, not one of the new high tech self-spelling ones, so I still must utter the correct spell.” Standing on the side of the firewall, he said, “Abrapalabra,” and started to push the wand through the paper from the back. With his left hand he pulled the wand through from the front. The wand had penetrated the paper without leaving a hole or mark.

“A good hacker can pierce the firewall without leaving a trace, and the system administrator will be unable to detect the entry and so cannot take any precautions.”

When Rafé had placed a red cloth over the firewall, Ralph said, “Better security is given by this firewall.” Rafé plucked away the red cloth, and a new firewall had replaced the previous one. The second one, painted metallic gray, was a piece of solid wood held upright by a wood base.

The magician tapped the panel. “Notice, this has greater security. Direct attacks can’t break through.” He pushed the wand against it, showing its solidness. “However, some of these firewalls have weaknesses in their code which allow a hacker to enter through a backdoor.” Rafé, poised behind the firewall, held up four plastic worms, nightcrawler size, and then seemingly pushed them through the center of the panel. Ralph, standing on the side, grabbed each worm and pulled it through.

He commented, “Again the system administrator doesn’t realize the weakness until the alien codes have caused damage to the local network.” After the worms had been yanked through and were lying on the table top, he tapped the panel with his wand; yet the panel seemed solid: evidence of an opening was lacking.

After Rafé had again covered the firewall with the red cloth, Ralph announced, “According to that old adage, whatever company designs a better firewall will have the world knocking at its door.” Rafé removed the cloth. A clear Plexiglas panel set in a wood base had replaced the second panel. Ralph tapped the panel back and front. “Clearly, hackers aren’t able to gain entrance. Even worms waiting at the ports can’t find a back door.” Rafé tried without success to push a worm through the panel from the back.

“Another advantage is that the system administrator can ‘see’ through the firewall and detect any worms, viruses, or other hacker’s delights that might be waiting at the ports for an opening to invade the system.”

Ralph looked out at the audience and smiled. “Who makes this excellent secure firewall?” A banner with the name “Bayside Software” and its logo appeared in the Plexiglas panel. The audience erupted enthusiastically giving the magicians a standing ovation.

After the show Bayside’s CEO, Jerome Harris, followed by other members of the firm, approached the magicians and congratulated them on the fine performance. Harris indicated that he would be contacting Ralph for future events, both corporate and personal. His wife’s birthday was in two months, and they could discuss magical entertainment as part of the celebration. Diana was the final well-wisher, remarking on the delight and pleasure the performance provided everyone. ***

As they were unpacking the props back in the studio, Rafé commented, “I was surprised at the change you made in the gambling routine. The way we practiced the effect Coyote was supposed to find an acorn under the center basket when Gambler went to buy some frybread. I’m curious why you changed that part?”

Ralph shivered inwardly. “Rafé, I didn’t change anything, at least not consciously. When I as Coyote lifted that center basket, I was completely amazed. My expression was no act. I had left the acorn under that basket.”

Rafé’s eyes widened. She stared at him and then spoke in a hushed voice. “I sensed a weird presence throughout the evening, but I pushed the feeling aside because I assumed it was only nervousness for my first performance.” The presence of Great Rabbit had dispelled what she had thought was first time jitters, but perhaps another manito was also there.

“Yes, a definite strangeness pervaded the whole show.” Ralph paused, his thoughts flickered with images of eerie happenings he had been experiencing recently. He had felt that someone unseen was watching him, but . . . . He did not want to frighten his assistant with these crazy-appearing events. “So I improvised by having Coyote put another acorn under the center basket. I can’t explain it, but why worry. The routine was well received.”

Rafé was aware that he was deeply bothered by the bizarre happening. She wondered if a trickster manito had been present. She did not think Manabozho would behave in such a fashion, unless it were trying to help Ralph in a way unfathomable to her. She waited and then realized that he would not discuss it further, so she decided to talk about her walk-around performance, seeking the magician’s advice and insights.

Masking the evening’s weirdness and the anxiety associated with it, Ralph listened to Rafé, praising her performance and recommending several improvements.

Hermes Beckons Chapters Accepting What’s Invisible Is Difficult Suffering Is the Origin of Consciousness