The Luck of Three

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His father told him good things come in multiples of three. Then, he left his third son at the crossroads. Taking a contemplative path into mountains and mists, the youth finds an ox, a horse and a royal ring. Riding the horse, leading the ox and wearing the ring, he’s stopped by a bailiff. The man’s skin and bones poverty cries out for help. The youth hands the man the ox’s rope.

Giving the horse its head, he arrives at a castle where the glint of the ring summons the queen. Three well solved quests later, she makes him king.

Don’t You Believe It

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An elderly lady, squeezing tomatoes in a pre-pandemic way, pulls her mask down. “You’re almost out of the woods.”

Whatever does she mean? “I’m healthy.”

“Yes, my darling, but stifled.”

Your father, reading Lang’s red collection with a Grimm smile, would say, “Poppycock.”

Imagining him in the library, a hole in one stocking, propping his feet on a worn stool sets something tingly-strange a-move.

Dozing later, you dream of the tomato woman, who waves her wand and turns you into the fairy tale of your choice. In a surprise move, you choose Into the Woods. Four stories, one price, music included.

Magic Eight

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Magic was in the air the day Maureen’s father retired. A charmed life was how he told it. From that first rabbit he’d pulled out of a hat, he had an itch to travel. He took to the road, bringing his family along from one carnival to another.

Perhaps that’s why Maureen stayed anchored. “When will you settle?” Maureen lit a seven decade birthday candle.

“Oh, someday, maybe.” He pulled a quarter from behind his grandson’s ear and handed it to him.

At eighty, he moved into care, where he roamed the halls doing card tricks. He never grew old.

She Always Gets Her Man

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Z.Z. had a sixth sense. A magician, he bungled through many close curtain calls. On a rainy Seattle night, Interpol surrounded the stage where Z.Z. was performing. Once again, he disappeared.

The trickster took a cab to the train station. He caught an express to Canada. Amelia, fetching in black lace, bewitched him in the dining car. Upon arrival, they checked into a Vancouver motel.

Within days, she’d talked him out of his fingerprints, tax returns, and aliases. “Can’t be too careful with magicians,” she said running her finger along his spine. Ten minutes later, the Mounties got their man.

Moving Mountains

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Kat hadn’t thought about the ant tattoo in years. Small and hidden, she’d forgotten about it until Grant found it accidentally. He renewed her interest, stroking it when massaging her shoulders, licking it during sex.

She’d gotten the tattoo at a beach town on a drunken dare. Now she wished she hadn’t. A reminder that love has unexpected consequences. That even family can’t be trusted. For Kat, the tat symbolized both escape and surrender. She considered removing it.

Knowing it’s the scars inside that matter, she didn’t. Repairing the surface is just the beginning of a journey to the self.

Maya

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Maya had escaped death more than once. Fired from a cannon during her act with the circus, she had been mesmerized by shallow praise from the man who lit the fuse and held her cape. In the moments before ejection, her life flashed in front of her eyes.

More and more memories from her childhood emerged. It hadn’t been good. The slender thread of connection with the other performers broke. Seeking relief from her moody reverie, she fell in with a troop of acrobats who lived together in communal harmony and mindfulness. Cautiously, she explored her past. Joyfully, she recovered.

Self-Enlightened

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Angie wanted to act in Hollywood. She moved to LA, took a job at a cafe, and waited to be discovered.

Yoga strengthened her, put her in touch with her chakras. She realized that acting had brought her a shallow kind of security. Now she wanted more. At least enough to pay the rent.

Meditating her way into a sales career, she found that she was good at persuading people to buy what they wanted, whether they needed it or not. Convincing herself that the path to enlightenment had led her to this point, amassing things became her life goal.