Mentalist

Alba said, “I saw you perform at the Transparent Temple last week. It’s nice to see that you’re still here. You must like our little Village.”

“Thank you,” said the Great Shakra. “Yes I do like your Village; I’m staying for a week.” It was strange to see him at the grocery store after all that smoke and mirrors. A man in a top hat and tails was not common in the produce section.

“Oh goody. Will you be doing another show? I’d love to come again.”

“No, just one show per week,” said the Great Shakra. “That’s all I can manage. It takes a lot of effort you know. My job is to make it seem effortless, but there’s lots of hard work involved.”

“Oh, I wasn’t implying that it was easy,” said Alba. “I just meant that…”

“No, no. It’s fine. I appreciate your enthusiasm.” He smiled like he had on stage, his beam like that from a lighthouse, flashing all around. She was caught in its glow – flash-frozen – and then released. “Tell me,” he said. “What did you think of the show?”

Alba recalled the poster in the ATM lobby. It said, “June 21st – First time in Lucerne Village – The Great Shakra – Mentalist Extraordinary.” Tickets were pricey considering it was a local event, but she’d loved magic since childhood and couldn’t resist. Her friends said, “Fifty bucks for card tricks – get out of here! We’ll play snap with you for ten bucks, including lunch.” So Alba went alone to the show. “You blew my mind,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. I mean, I have on TV, but never in real life. How do you do it?”

“Well, I don’t usually reveal my secrets,” he said. “But it’s always a pleasure to meet magic fans. I’ll give you a little snippet. What would you like to know?” He moved out of the way of a trolley, tickling the baby’s head within it. The baby began crying.

“Right at the beginning you sent us all joy; sudden joy. How did you do that?” Alba believed that real magic existed.

“It was really very easy. When people closed their eyes, I turned up the lights. They felt the extra brightness through their eyelids, which they interpreted as joyous.” Alba looked annoyed, but also amazed. “I possess no supernatural powers. What I am is a communications expert. I send and receive messages. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.”

“I’m sure you’re being modest. How did you know that East Indian man had a silver Frontier?”

“I’m afraid that was my least impressive feat of the night. When I asked him for a handkerchief for the dove trick, I saw his key ring. That was all.”

“But then you read people’s tea-leaves and told them where they’d been on holiday.”

“Again, no magic there. I am a communications expert. The tea-leaves were just a distraction, giving me time to discover their income bracket. Manual workers go to Mexico; office workers to Hawaii; and business owners to Europe. Everyone aspires to something, it’s just a matter of demographics.” Alba looked unhappy again. “Knowing where they may be going this winter was also easy. I saw a poster in the ATM lobby for Christmas deals to Florida. Many people would be considering those.”

“Why did you ask people for 4-digit numbers?”

“Oh, no reason really,” he said. “Picking up more non-verbal cues.”

Alba was disappointed to hear the Mentalist Extraordinary’s mundane explanations for his feats. Is that all there was to it? she thought. She said, “Thank you for telling me. It was nice to meet you. I’d better get on with my shopping now.”

“It was nice to meet you too,” said the Great Shakra. “You may want to avoid the spring onions and cilantro; they’re looking quite wilted. But they’re not beyond salvation. Let’s see if we can freshen them up.” He twirled his hands at the herbs in the fridge. Immediately the misters began spraying, and double-rainbows appeared beneath the bright lights. The greens looked like they were growing in a little heaven.

“Wow!” said Alba. “Did you just make that happen?” She stared at the rainbows like a little girl dreaming.

“Maybe,” said the Great Shakra. “Your father would have loved to see the amazing variety of food here. He used to plant his own garden, didn’t he? But with a much smaller range of crops in The Yukon, of course. I’m sure his oregano and basil did well though, and tasted great in his pastas. He misses making them for you, bambina.”

Alba’s mouth fell open. “You know that? Are you psychic too? A medium?”

“Well, sort of. Come on, you need to get your shopping done. Why don’t you start with this aisle? Oh yes – artichokes, salsify, and organic mangoes, yum yum; and let’s go there – tiger prawns, tuna steaks, how about some surf and turf – let’s get filet steaks; get two packs; and yes, these special breads, made with sprouted ancient grains; this hand-toasted muesli, get the cashew and macadamia one; you can’t beat artisan goat cheese with caviar crust; its divine.” They strolled around the store, filling her cart with Lucerne’s finest foods. When they reached the till he said, “Throw in some mints and a National Enquirer and this will come to….. $360 exactly.”

Alba was amazed. She shouldn’t have doubted. He truly possessed magical powers

He didn’t really though. The Great Shakra had figured out the greens’ spraying schedule. That Alba was from a poor Italian family in The Yukon. His groceries cost more or less the same in these centrally-managed stores; he just needed to balance the cart with some impulse purchases. He was however skilled at sleight-of-hand, sensory overwhelming, and hypnosis. So he used Alba’s credit card – using the 4-digit PIN number he’d gleaned from her at the show – to pay for what were now his groceries, and then made her forget that she had ever met him.

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