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by Seuzz
Rated: GC · Book · Occult · #2180093
A high school student finds a grimoire that shows how to make magical disguises.
#952138 added March 3, 2019 at 10:33am
Restrictions: None
Opinions Sought, and Opinions Unwelcome
Previously: "The Fake Book

"So I hear Walberg is having you guys put together a time capsule," Carson Ioeger says the next day at lunch. You're eating on the quad out front of school with him, James Lamont, and your best friend Caleb Johansson. Your other best friend, Keith Tilley, is off behind the school, hiding from the basketball team, several members of which have taken to treating him like an elongated tether ball since the start of school. "What'cha puttin' in it?"

"Give him an electric razor," James suggests. He wrenches a huge bite out of an apple.

"How come?" says Caleb.

"I'unno," James mumbles after swallowing. "'Cos it's dumb?"

"You and Lisa doing a joint entry?" Carson asks you. There's a twinkle in his eye.

And it's all you can do from screaming Fuck you! and throwing your lunch in his face. "No, we're not coordinating," you mutter.

"That's too bad," Carson says. "I guess she's coordinating with Mansfield then."

Your heart skips. After a pause, Caleb says, "Why would she?"

Carson shrugs. "Lisa seems like the kind of girl who's all into joint projects and stuff."

"So maybe she's coordinating with Brooke Galloway, or one of her other girlfriends," you retort.

"Yes," Carson says. He rolls onto his back and stares at the sky. "With one of her girlfriends." He presses on the syllable girl.

Caleb changes the subject, and you do your best to forget that the topic of Lisa Yarborough ever came up.

But on your way out to the parking lot after school, you catch a glimpse of her. She's standing in front of the drama building with the sun blazing off her cream-white dress and sparkling off the highlights in her raven-dark hair.

Your ex-girlfriend is smiling up into the face of Geoff Mansfield.

* * * * *

So you're in a mood when you get home. In fact, you're in the kind of mood where you want to dig and pick and gouge at yourself because it will make you feel even worse. So even though it's Friday and you've the whole weekend ahead, you throw yourself into your homework. You slash your way through a tangle of calculus problems, tearing the paper with your eraser when you have to redo each problem five or six times. You jot down cryptic, meaningless notes about Virgil for English. You slump at your computer and glower your way through a dozen Wikipedia pages, looking for something—anything—interesting to say about the Moon for Astronomy.

You've got most of it done by six-thirty—done though not done well, as even you can tell—when you stomp downstairs for supper. Halfway through the very silent meal, your father clears his throat and says it's nice to have a meal in peace for once. You look up at him from under lowered brows, to find him glaring at you.

Back upstairs after helping to clean up the kitchen, you hurl yourself at your desk with such force it knocks over a pile of papers, and that crazy book you found at Arnholm's bobs to the surface. You blink at it a couple of times, then remember you were going to show it to your dad.

He's in his study, and though he doesn't look happy when you knock at the open door, he doesn't yell at you. "I remembered I wanted to show this to you," you say as you drop the book—which seems heavier than it should be—in front of him. He rubs his forehead, but doesn't say anything. "I found it at the used bookstore yesterday," you continue, "when I went up there after school."

"Yeah, what's it about?" he says, and lifts the cover. He sniffs at the ornate lettering of the title page. A moment later he lays a finger against one of the faces at the bottom of the page

"I don't know. It's in Latin. I, uh, just bought it on a whim. It was only two dollars," you hasten to add.

"Yeah?" He brushes his fingertip over those faces, which like an animated optical illusion are shifting and changing their aspects and expressions.

"Yeah. It's— Well, try opening it up to the middle." You would be amazed if it did open up to him, so you're not much surprised when it doesn't. Like Ted Arnholm tried yesterday, your dad tries slipping a thumbnail between the pages without success.

"It's a fake," he declares after a moment's examination. He closes it and turns it over and over in his hands, peering at the covers and at the faded gilt that decorates the paper edges. "There'll be a lock mechanism or something hidden in it." He holds the book up so he can peer down the length of the spine. "And a hidden compartment inside. It's something that collectors like to do, sometimes. The way they'll have a sliding panel that looks like a row of books, when it's just a flat piece of wood with a bunch of spines glued to it."

"Like, for hiding a safe or something?" you ask.

"Usually it's for hiding a liquor cabinet. There wouldn't be any liquor in this, though." He shakes the book, then puts it to his ear and shakes it more vigorously. "If there's a hidden compartment, it must be empty. You got it at Arnhom's?" You nod. "What did they have to say about it?"

"They thought it was a regular book. They had it in the special collections cabinet, were charging two hundred dollars for it." You grin as your dad's eyes pop. "Then I showed them you couldn't open it, and they marked it down to two bucks, told me it'd make a great paperweight or something."

"That's bizarre," your dad says. "Not much gets past Ted Arnholm."

"Could you take it in to work, maybe X-ray it?"

He snorts. Then his expression turns thoughtful. "You mind leaving it with me?" he says. "I could give it a closer look over the weekend."

That's fine with you. At the door, as you leave, you turn to apologize for being so sulky at the dinner table. "Forget about it," your dad says. "I'm sorry I said anything." He leans over to glance past you through the open doorway. In a stage whisper he says, "I was mostly glad your brother was behaving."

You grin in embarrassed complicity, and go back upstairs.

* * * * *

Your weekends ought to be full. They ought to compress a seven-day week of summer vacation into two days.

And maybe they do, because you can't remember what you did over your summer vacation either, and your weekends are shaping up to be just as empty.

Saturday morning, for instance, presents you with the choice of waiting for Caleb to get back from running errands for his mother, or waiting for Keith to get off work at Don's Donuts. Neither kind of wait appeals to you.

So you text Carson. He's not your favorite person—and you're still a little sore at him over what he said Friday at lunch—but he can be fun when he's not trying to have fun at your expense. He calls you back directly. "You're just the man I wanna hear from, Prescott," he honks. "Your backhand still holding up?"

"Tennis?" It was the one sport in P.E. that you were semi-proficient in.

"You use it for anything else? Hennepin's looking for someone to play doubles with. I'm willing, but I need to scare up a partner of my own. James can't handle a tennis racket without tripping over it, so you're elected if you're interested."

You are, and an hour later a faded sedan pulls up at your house. Karl Hennepin is driving, with Carson riding shotgun. You get in the back with Braydon Delp and a pile of books. "The fuck are these?" you ask of them.

"Stuff I need to drop off at Arnholm's later," Karl says. "Books I scored over the summer by hitting garage sales."

"Yeah? I got a book out there yesterday. Or was it Thursday? You'd be into it," you tell Braydon. "It's full of old Latin magic stuff."

But Braydon—who wears a ton of silver, paints his lashes with mascara, and is rather famously into the occult—only sniffs. "Arnholms never has anything good. No one does. The real stuff is all locked away." He looses a heavy sigh, like the kind that Mrs. Epstein used to give at the end of Shelley poems in your junior-year English class.

You hesitate to argue with him, and Carson leaps into the silence with some bitchery or other about how lame Arnholm's science-fiction section is. It's probably just as well. As you eye Braydon's black t-shirt, with its pentagram and its horned goat skull, you reflect that he might be the last person you'd ever want to share something genuinely magical with.

* * * * *

Monday morning. You are in the living room, with one arm tucked through the strap of your backpack while flailing to get the other arm through the other strap, when you remember that you still have to give something to Mr. Walberg for the time capsule. Today's the due date.

Shit. You totally forgot to ask your dad's permission to take his old, busted electric razor in. You briefly consider taking it anyway, then quail as you imagine the consequences.

You're just passing your dad's study on your way back upstairs when you remember that crazy book you picked up at Arnholm's. You peek into the study, and see it's still sitting on your dad's desk. You go in to pick it up, and heft it thoughtfully.

You bought it with the idea of putting it in the time capsule, and you can do that yet. It's still technically yours, even if your dad wanted to look it over.

Yet, now that you have it back in your hand, you remember the way it opened another page for you. Wouldn't it be great if it turned out to actually be magical? (Yeah, as if.) Anyway, the fact that that page did open up maybe proves it's not a complete fake. Maybe if you took it back up to Arnholm's you could talk Ted Arnholm into buying it back for more than the two dollars he sold it to you for.

* To take the book in to school for the time capsule: "The Hot Potato
* To hang on to the book and study it: "The Project Master

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