Back in the study.
It’s typical that magic has disappeared. Cataloguing the now redundant books and bodkins, I find myself wondering what each item could have been used for, how my father would have used it, why he wanted it. It’s typical that just before I reached the age when he would have included me in this, this became less impressive than stage magic or dodgy séances. What Samuel straight-facedly calls my father’s legacy has all the value of the wisdom of Greek gods.
In one corner of the study I found some books that I could read. The blank books have post-it notes in them, so they’re numbered. The nonsense books likewise. I tried reading one out loud, but nothing happened. Some of them are an endless paragraph without a break, just continuous words for hundreds of pages. Samuel says that’s because the whole book is one spell. I thought Charlotte Bronte was a tough read.
Dad’s journals are stacked up on the desk now. I’m still looking for a key to the cipher around-about, but I’m going to try and crack the code myself. I figure the technical words are hieroglyphs, and the normal words are the shapes-for-letters. Samuel says most magicians devise their own system of encryption early on in their training, so there’s no standard practice. I asked him how many magicians there are in the world, but he couldn’t tell me.
The books that make sense are mostly natural history. I guess they helped him to find ingredients for his potions. There’s a guide to magic throughout world history, annotated by dad with exclamations and expletives. I don’t think he got much from it.
And then there’s another annotated book, with lists of ingredients and instructions, and dad’s handwriting, pointing with arrows to correct the printed text. At first I took it for a book of potions, because I’d learned not to expect sense from the words I read and only paid attention to the notes. Only on the third page did I realise I was reading a recipe for soup, and that the notes were feedback on how well the finished dish was received. The book contains some of my favourite meals from when I was growing up. This is what he used to teach himself how to cook when my mother died. So what kind of man does that make him now?