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“Enchanting” is a descriptor thrown around a lot in Vegas, home to one thousand and one magic shows. But I can’t think of a better word for Lacunae, the one-man show by British illusionist Hyperion Greengrass. Part fairy tale, part daydream, part Joy of Painting, Lacunae tells the story of a man literally missing his memories and the extraordinary feats he undertakes to recapture them. Teatro Verità at Wynn Las Vegas is the ideal venue for this show, as the intimate two-hundred-seat theatre-in-the-round puts the entire audience amid illusions such as thoughts that manifest as silver wisps of smoke, rain that falls but is never wet, and painted flowers that bloom and fade before your eyes.
Yelp review by Candace W., Dallas, TX, July 5, 2017

 

Occasionally, the puck careens off Parson’s stick and seems to defy gravity, hanging aloft for a millisecond too long before smacking the back of the net. “What wicked magic is this!?” NBC’s play-by-play announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick famously exclaimed during the 2015 Western Conference finals. Parson’s response had been typically understated, a manner that makes him popular with teammates and fans alike: “I’m uncomfortable with that perception—that there is something mystical about my skills. I just work harder than most the guys on other teams—nothing special about it. Really.”
From “Wicked Game” by Mitch McCann for Rolling Stone, June 29, 2017

 

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“That was a lot more intense than I thought it would be,” I say to Swoops as the lights come up in the tiny theatre. The stage, which five minutes ago had appeared to be heavily painted with a vibrant garden of roses, is now empty and dark. “Probably better for a date night, though. Hella romantic.”

“It was supposed to be a date—just not with you, Parse.”

“Man, that hurts,” I say with an exaggerated pout that earns me a none-too-gentle slug to the bicep. “Ouch.”

Swoops rolls his eyes. “I did offer to take Porgy to the emergency vet, but I was told that this was ‘integral to the narrative,’ whatever the hell that means.”

“Joni Johnson is a weird chick.”

“Yeah,” Swoops says with a besotted grin. “She also reminded me that the fucking dog still mostly hates me, so there’s that.” Apparently six months of cohabitation aren’t enough to overcome a corgi’s jealousy.

As the audience closest to the exit starts to file out, I stand and slip on my leather jacket, although it’s probably still close to 90 degrees outside the air-conditioned building, and absently pat the pocket where I stash my wallet and phone.

Although I’ve lived in Las Vegas since I was nineteen, I’ve successfully avoided the usual scene: gambling, hookers, drugs, tourist attractions; so a magic show on the Strip is the last place I expect to be the week of my twenty-seventh birthday. Magic shows aren’t my thing. For good reason.

But Lacunae is being billed as “the Hamilton of Vegas illusion shows,” not just because it’s nearly impossible to get tickets, but because it’s really damn good. And since subbing on a romantic dinner and show with my teammate is likely to be the only “date” I go on this summer, I allow myself to enjoy it: five-course prix fixe at the chef’s table with spectacular wine pairings, easy conversation with an attractive man, and then the extraordinary performance that leaves the audience speechless with wonder. The only downside is that I’ll be going home alone.

Unless.

I glance at my watch. Maybe I should explore other options.

“Are we staying?” I ask. Our VIP tickets entitle us to champagne and an opportunity to meet the performer.

“You smell expensive, so we shouldn’t let that go to waste.”

“Whatever,” I say. Then admit, “It’s Tom Ford.”

“Like I said.”

Before I can suggest that we take off anyway, my costly aroma be damned, we’re each handed a flute of champagne. Swoops shrugs to indicate that we should hang for a bit. Fine. Another half an hour will help me decide if hitting a club is worth the risk.

Hopefully in the next thirty minutes, I’ll realize it’s not. That whole “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” is only true if you plan to leave soon after. For those of us who live here, what happens in Vegas is our actual lives. And I try very hard to keep Deadspin and TMZ uninterested.

Besides, I’d just spent most of June in Miami, where I’m anonymous enough to get tan and drunk and laid without causing a scandal. I can make do with my right hand until my next trip out of town.

About two dozen people are left milling around, sipping their wine and talking about the illusions they just witnessed. One woman is gesturing with her hands and I can tell she’s describing the dazzling silver fox that seemed to spring from the magician’s paintbrush, circle the stage, and fade into a haze. I’ve got to give it to them, this show has A++ production design—particularly noteworthy because the entire thing seemed to be just one guy on stage and another on lights.

Hyperion Greengrass slowly makes his way through the small crowd, accepting accolades with grace. He’s still wearing his stage costume: black pants and a white button-down shirt with red suspenders. The sleeves are rolled up to his elbows. He’s unconventionally good-looking: sandy hair slicked back with gel, thick round glasses, a mouth that’s much too large for his face. He keeps smiling and nodding, saying a few words I can’t hear, moving to the next knot of people. I wonder if anyone else notices that he’s not shaking hands, that he holds himself slightly apart, even while appearing to be completely engaged.

I realize I’m staring, and then think it might not be my imagination that he also keeps looking my way.

When he finally reaches us, I see that he’s probably a couple of years younger than I am. He’s about my height, but very thin, and too pale to have lived in Vegas long. His eyes, magnified by the glasses, are breathtakingly blue. And I’ve always had a thing for blue eyes.

“Thank you so much for coming, mister…” His accent is decidedly English, crisp and upper crust. The only time I’ve ever used the term posh is to refer to David Beckham’s wife, but it definitely applies here.

“Parson,” I say, which fills in the blank left in his greeting. But then I follow with “Kent Parson,” like I’m fucking James Bond. His face doesn’t change, so maybe he didn’t catch the unintended reference. Beside me Swoops is smiling too loudly, because he did. I barely refrain from elbowing him hard in the ribs. “And this is my friend, Jeff Troy.”

“The hockey players?” Hyperion’s eyes flicker to Swoops, as if to confirm what I said, and then back to me. He looks honestly surprised. “I see your billboard every day; I guess I should have recognized you. It’s just, I had no idea you were…into magic shows.”

“Actually,” Swoops says, “I had to bribe him with ridiculously overpriced scallop ceviche, just to get him to take my extra ticket.”

“I may be easy, but I’m not cheap,” I say automatically. It’s my canned response to my team’s well-worn chirps about my high-brow tastes. But it’s still not classy to say in front of a stranger. An attractive stranger. I can feel the back of my neck prickle with faint embarrassment.

The guy just laughs like I might actually be funny, and I’m startled into a genuine smile. There’s a pause and I know he’s subtly checking me out. It’s a common enough occurrence, from both women and men, but it honestly makes me squirm a bit. I spend my career being a piece of meat that does what it’s told: train, practice, travel, play, win, repeat. So on the occasions when I’m open to hooking up, I prefer to be the instigator. I glance away.

“I’m not driving, so I’m gonna get more champagne,” Swoops says suddenly, looking between us. “Excuse me.” He throws a wink at me as he heads toward a waiter.

There are a few things about myself that I’ve always shared with my very best friends. (And a few things I haven’t.) The fact that I’m gay AF is a secret I told Swoops years ago. I don’t usually regret it.

The man holds out his hand. “Hy.” His smile is warm; his hand is warmer.

“Hi,” I say stupidly in return, and then roll my eyes when I realize he’s introducing himself. Real suave, Parser.

“So, Kent, you enjoyed it? The show?” Hy asks, ignoring my misstep, and I get the feeling that he sincerely cares about my opinion.

“10/10, would recommend.”

“I’m so glad. Some in our community would find it a bit…tawdry.” Before I can wonder what he means, he lowers his voice. “And here I thought I’d already met all the younger wizards in Vegas.”

I nearly drop my champagne flute. I look furtively around the room, relieved to see that no one else seems to be paying any attention.

“What the fuck? How did you know? So you’re…?” I ask, forcing the words through my closed throat. I’m so shook, I can’t even begin to form some sort of denial. Although that certainly explains some of the show I just saw.

“Just intuition,” Hyperion soothes. He steps a little closer. “I can always tell.”

Trying to cover my fluster, I take another sip of my champagne.

“My gaydar is infallible too.”

That sends the champagne bubbles both down my throat wrong and up into my nose. It’s that feeling when you bite into too much wasabi on your sashimi, and your sinuses blow wide open. With added unattractive sputtering.

Hy reaches over to pat me on the back. “You okay?”

“Yeah, yeah. I just…don’t talk about it in public. Any of it.”

Hy rocks back on his heels, considering, and then turns slightly and does something with his hand. The chatter in the room immediately quiets, as if we’re in a private bubble. No one else seems to notice.

“So I guess you know Astrial Zorbas?” Hy continues, as if he hasn’t just witchcrafted an entire room full of people. “Her husband is one of my best mates. She probably would have been at Ilvermorny when you were.”

I twist the championship ring on my right hand, a nervous habit. It’s a little too loose, but it had to be sized up to fit over the knuckle Marchand crushed in 2010. “What the fuck,” I say again, indicating the other people in the room. “What did you do to them?”

“A mild muggle-repelling charm with the addition of Muffliato,” he says, as if I should understand any of those words. He must recognize my confusion, because his brows draw together as he explains, as if to a child, “If any of them look this direction, their eyes will just skip right over us, like we’re not here. We’ve got about ten minutes of privacy before it wears off.”

That sounds harmless, so I admit, “I actually didn’t go to the school. I…opted out.”

“Homeschooled? That’s an unusual choice in Britain. Is it more common here?”

I shrug because I really have no idea what the typical thing is. “I’d already been playing hockey for six years by the time I found out about the magic, so I didn’t want to go to a school where I couldn’t play.”

“Found out?…You mean you’re mugg…no-maj-born and you didn’t go to a wizarding school?” He sounds a little panicked.

“It’s cool, man. I basically got my GED in wizard shit.” Blank look. “I had some private tutoring and then took a test,” I tell him, “to prove that I’m not a danger to myself or anyone else and they let me get on with my life.”

“And your life is playing a no-maj sport.”

“Essentially.”

“But you do socialize with others of our kind, yes?”

I’ve been keeping my secrets—all of them—so down low that lying is second nature. “Sure. I have…wizard…friends.” I stumble a bit over the word, a word I keep locked in a box in the back of my mind. Along with other things I don’t want to think much about, such as suicide attempt and career-ending injury. “Back east. I hang with them during the off-season mostly.” Nevermind that this is the off-season.

Hy tips his head like Porgy the Corgi and peers at me. “Liar,” he says, but it sounds more friendly than accusing. “I don't think you know any other wizards. At least that you’re aware.”

He’s not wrong. I’ve spent sixteen years hiding my magic from normal people, and hiding myself from magical people. “The thing is,” I say, putting my hands in the pockets of my jacket to keep them still, and hoping the subject will be dropped, “I’m not very good at it. Magic, I mean. So it’s NBD to ignore it.”

This confession causes Hy to look at me like I might be a magical atom bomb. “Repressing magic can make people go mad.”

I chuckle uncomfortably, thinking of the time I woke up without pubic hair and had to laugh it off in the locker room. “Oh, I learned pretty quick I needed to take the edge off once or twice a week—or risk popping off in my sleep. Thank god having a private room is one of the advantages of being team captain.”

Hy smirks, all toothy. He has nice teeth. “Are we still talking about magic?”

Again with the flush up my neck. I’m not usually this easy to embarrass, but Hy has me completely off balance.

“I think,” he continues, “if you were a substandard wizard, I probably wouldn’t have recognized you so easily. Maybe you just need a coach. You could come to mine for lunch next week—and we could see where it goes.”

So is it a magic lesson? A date? Am I interested in either?

“At least, give me your mobile number,” he says as I hesitate. I guess nothing forces me to respond to a call or text; it wouldn’t be my first time blocking someone who was a bit too eager—or who had a high probability of indiscretion.

As we’re exchanging numbers, the volume in the theatre increases and I catch Swoop’s eye from across the room. He gives me a thumbs up; I give him the finger.

 

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I place my wand carefully back in the secret drawer in my dresser. The master bath is lush with the scent of lavender, and under the thick blanket of rich bubbles, the water is just this side of too hot to stand. I may not know a lot of magic spells, but Effervesco makes epic bubble baths. One time, a date proved my charmed bubbles sliding across his body could make him come untouched, and I nearly asked him to stay the night. True story.

Since the evening of the magic show, I’ve ignored two texts from Hy and let a call go to voice mail, even though I was holding my phone at the time. That should be enough for him to get the hint. I wish things were different. He seems chill, but getting involved with a wizard is just asking for trouble. I don’t know how it would work, but I’m sure that I could get banned from hockey if it ever comes out that I can do magic FR. There are rules about that sort of thing.

I’m drying off when there’s a tap on my balcony door, scaring the shit out of me. Because my condo is on the tenth floor.

But somehow I’m not surprised to see an owl perched on the railing, holding its foot imperiously in my direction. I pull on a pair of sweats and open the sliding glass door. I may not participate in the wizarding world, but I know about Owl Post.

The roll of paper is sealed with green wax embossed with something that looks like a crown. And then I get it. Greengrass. At least it’s from Hy. I’d be totally screwed if it were from anyone else.

As Kit looks on from her cat tower, bored baby blues never leaving me, I toss the owl one of her freeze-dried liver treats and shoo it away without a return message. I’m not interested in perpetuating this form of communication. It’s fucking creepy. But I do appreciate Hy’s tenacity, so I answer by text.

And that’s how I find myself two days later dithering in front of my closet, trying to decide between a violet button-down and dark green henley. Swoops is on speaker and his voice sounds hollow and far away.

“I tell you, there’s nothing west of Mountain’s Edge,” he says. “It’s just mountains. That’s the edge. Are you sure you have the right address? Did you look it up?”

I can’t really tell him that Google Maps is not exactly going to show an entire magical neighborhood in the suburbs of Las Vegas.

“Do you want me to text you when I get there safely, dad?”

“Don’t be a dick. It just seems sketch.”

I put the button-down on again. It’s a little dressier, but Hy seems like a dress-up kind of guy. Maybe it’s the accent. Also, I know the shirt looks damn good—all my clothes do. The exchange of multiple flirtatious texts hasn’t confirmed that this is actually a date, but I’m willing to let it play out.

“Dude, I’m a pro hockey player, I think I can handle this. I’ve got, like, 40 pounds on him. Easy.”

“Yeah, okay,” Swoops concedes. “What’s he going to do, turn you into a singing candelabra?”

Not impossible, I think, but highly improbable.

 

Mon, July 17, 2017 11:22 AM

Kent: Need me to bring anything?

Hyperion Greengrass: Just yourself and your wand

Kent: Eleven inches and freshly polished ;)

Hyperion Greengrass: Congratulations! You’ve just made the wizarding world’s oldest joke ever

 

West of Vegas on Blue Diamond Road is Mountain’s Edge, an enormous planned community with cookie-cutter houses and heavily irrigated lawns. The neighborhoods all have names like Sage Canyon and Vista Pines. I’m looking for Evanesco Park, which, previously unknown to me, is the locus of Nevada’s magical community.

The air shimmers slightly as I drive my Porsche past the stone entry sign and I vaguely recall something about wards.

At first glance, there’s nothing different from this neighborhood than any of a zillion others in Las Vegas: red tile and stucco, backyard swimming pools and palm trees. But then I notice the little things and I have to slow down to take a closer look. One yard has a bushy tree covered in orange fruit that actually float above the branches, tethered by their stems. In another, a woman plays with two young children while the laundry hangs itself.

There isn’t a driveway (or garage) at 701 Snakefly Court, so I park on the street. When he opens the door, Hy steps forward and brushes a kiss across my cheek, so I guess that answers that question. I hand him a six-pack of chilled microbrews. Because I’m a gracious guest. Also because alcohol is the social lubricant, and I’m a little keyed up about the whole real magic business.

I’m surprised to see that Hy is dressed in a black t-shirt, mustard-colored skinny jeans, and Toms. The t-shirt says WIZARDS ARE CHARMING in sparkly purple letters. His hair falls softly over his forehead and his glasses are different: rectangular, not round. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t recognize him if I passed him on a sidewalk. I also never thought I’d go for the queer-wizard-hipster-waif look, but it’s working for me.

He laughs when I mention the other glasses. “Those are sort of a wizard in-joke. Savior of the World, and all that tosh.” He laughs again at my obvious cluelessness and indicates the beers. “Nevermind that right now. Let’s ‘crack open a cold one,’ and then we can eat.”

Okay, I’m beyond surprised. I don’t know what I thought magical people would be like—maybe half sorcerer’s apprentice, half Miracle Max, half Doug Henning. Which is too many halves, I know. I can fucking do math.

“So you’ve never been in a wizard’s house?” I shake my head negative. “I’ll plate our luncheon, and you can have a look around. Feel free to ask questions.”

“What’s on the menu?” I start, hoping it’s not something weird. Today is not the day I want to try dragon steak. If people even eat dragons.

“Chicken,” Hy says.

I relax.

“With self-peeling sprouts.”

I turn and leave the kitchen before he can comment further. His amused laughter follows me into the living room.

Hy’s home is a mix of the ordinary, the unusual, and the magical. A wall full of books: ordinary. A massive fireplace in Las Vegas: unusual. Photographs that move: magical.

On the mantle, beside a transparent urn filled with glittering powder, is a picture of two young women, both wearing black coats and green scarves, standing behind a blond kid with a blue scarf and a bowl cut. I’d swear it was Minkus from Boy Meets World, if I didn’t know better. All three are smiling and waving as fat snowflakes fall around them.

“My sisters: Astoria, the younger, and Daphne. This was my first Christmas home from Hogwarts, so I was eleven and they would have been 21 and 23.” Then, “Come have a seat.”

It turns out that “self-peeling sprouts” are indistinguishable from Brussels sprouts when steamed. Add some roasted lemon chicken, a bit of rice pilaf with mushrooms and geranium fangs, and a second (and then a third) weizenbock, and we’ve got a very passable home cooked meal.

“You know what’s funny?” Hy asks as we eat and make pleasant small talk. “I distinctly remember your eyes being green.”

“They probably were,” I answer. I flutter my fingers in his direction and announce, “Magic!”

“Now, that’s very interesting! Can you change any other part of your appearance?”

“No…can people do that? On purpose?”

“Metamorphmagi. It’s extremely rare, but there was one at school my seventh year. Never knew what color his hair was going to be from day to day. As a performer, I’ve always thought that would be dead brilliant.”

“Speaking of your show, how are you allowed to do real magic in front of an audience?” I finally ask, as Hy sends the dirty dishes into the sink with a wave. The question has been haunting me for the last ten days.

“Money, of course. I paid a niffler’s hoard for a performance permit.”

I assume that's a lot of cash. "I was told there was a strict policy about keeping magic a secret.”

“The Magical Congress of the United States—your government—is indeed very serious about limiting exposure. But the main segregation law was repealed in the 1960s under President Kennedy, and things are less black and white now.”

“John F. Kennedy was a wizard!?” The more I know, the weirder it gets.

Rosemary Kennedy was the president of MACUSA for many years. JFK’s sister—the one who ‘disappeared’ from public life.”

“Because she was a witch.”

“Yes. She was just as politically astute as all the other siblings and made a number of progressive changes. She’s many magical Americans’ favorite president.”

Hy sets his beer bottle on the kitchen table and claps his hands together. “So, show me what you’ve got.”

I’m prepared for this—also three beers in—and don’t even go for the easy innuendo. I pull my wand from its moleskin pouch and hold it in my hand, pointing toward the fireplace. I don’t know if that’s proper etiquette, but it seems like pointing it directly at someone is at the very least foolish, if not aggressive. It feels good in my hand, faintly warm, and with a little trepidation, I cast Lumos. I’m not usually prone to performance anxiety—in any aspect of my life—but I’m still glad when the tip of my wand sluggishly begins to glow.

I look at Hy for approval and he nods to encourage me to do more. I run through the basics I can think of: Nox, Accio, Wingardium Leviosa. Each time the spell works, but takes some coaxing. “That’s normal,” I tell Hy, with a shrug.

Then I point my wand at his bottle and try one more charm. The bottle rocks, unsteady, but nothing else happens. I do it again, this time really visualizing it growing larger, but it remains the same.

“I don’t usually have trouble with Engorgio. Especially not once I’m warmed up.”

There’s a snort and I look up to see Hy pressing his lips together, trying not to laugh.

“Ha ha,” I say, words not laughter, but I’m smiling. “Why couldn’t this one be ‘Embiggen’ or something? Engorgio just sounds dirty.”

“Imagine learning it in a room full of other eleven year olds.” Hy holds out his hand. “Do you mind?”

And I sort of do mind. No one else has touched my wand since I received it as a kid. But I hand it over. My palm feels cold without it.

He looks at it closely and I’m relieved to see he treats it with gentle respect. “What wood is this?”

“Maple with Jersey Devil heartstring. I always took that as a positive sign since the Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils are both NHL teams.”

He hands it back, goes to the wall of books, and pulls down a skinny book with a dark red cover. “Wandlore by Garrick Ollivander,” he explains, and then reads to me. “’Those chosen by maple wands are by nature travelers and explorers; they are not stay-at-home wands, and prefer ambition in their witch or wizard, otherwise their magic grows heavy and lackluster.’” He emphasizes the last words.

“I take my wand with me when I travel,” I defend, seeing immediately what he’s getting at. “And I’m plenty ambitious—ask my teammates, or my opponents.”

“But you’re not an ambitious wizard. In fact, you’re hardly a wizard at all.”

It’s ridiculous, since I’ve purposefully suppressed that part of myself for sixteen years, but his comment cuts me. Hy has been so likeable until now. I’d even been starting to think that we should move into the more date-like aspects of this date. Like actually touching.

I know I’m being immature, but can’t help it: “I am a wizard and I don’t need some kid with a magic show to validate my existence.” It’s the verbal equivalent of a foot stomp.

“Kent, wait. That’s not…” Hy starts, but I’ve already bounced.

 

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Over the next two weeks, I swing like a pendulum between wanting to be the best self-taught wizard ever, and renouncing the whole fucking thing.

I call my mom in Syracuse from my car as I leave Evanesco Park and ask her to overnight the box in the back of the closet in my childhood bedroom. Other than my wand, all my wizarding paraphernalia—my Ilvermorny acceptance letter, a few books, some expired potions ingredients, and a like-new cauldron—is kept in a single cardboard box.

“Is everything okay, sweetie?” she asks, and it’s a valid question.

I hesitate, and that’s like chum in the water to my mom.

“You’ve never wanted that stuff before. Are you in trouble? Did something happen?” I know if I don’t interrupt her, she’ll work herself into imagining a worst-case scenario. Blackmail, maybe. Or dragon pox.

“Off-season, mom. I’m just a little bored. Swoops has a serious girlfriend now and I don’t want to always be a third wheel.”

This seems to satisfy her. Back when I was a kid, she had been a lot more excited to find out I was a wizard than I was. And pretty disappointed when I decided not to go to magical boarding school. They have sports teams, she had pointed out. But who the fuck wants to be a professional quodpot player? That shit’s dangerous.

The box is waiting for me when I return from the gym the next morning. It’s only ten, but already so hot that just walking from my parking space to the lobby causes me to sweat through my fresh shirt. I can’t even with the heat this summer. ICYMI, climate change is real, people.

Looking through my old wizarding crap is less nostalgic, more surreal. It feels like it happened to some other kid, not me. I place the books on the kitchen counter and toss the puffskein hair and horseradish powder in the trash. When I put the box down on the floor, Kit comes to investigate. She’s very interested in something nestled in the cauldron. Wrapped in a piece of tissue paper is a Sneakoscope that I had totally forgotten I had. I set it on the floor and Kit sniffs at it with her little pink nose before batting it across the floor and scrambling after it.

Nearly everything I know about magic and wizardkind comes from these textbooks. I have Our World, Our Views Vol. 1, which covers basic civics and history, as well as Core Curriculum Spells for sixth through eighth grades. The book I used most, however, was Preparing for Your TOADS by Charity Wiseman. I had to pass the Test Of Appropriately Dependable Skills before I could quit my magic lessons, and I needed to do it by the time I was eligible for the QMJHL draft. I couldn’t really expect my billet family to allow a rando to come to the house every week for tutoring. Especially since it would be impossible to explain.

The margins of the book are covered in equal measure with scribbled notes and hockey plays. I flip through with no particular goal in mind and stop at Orchideous. It’s supposed to make a bouquet of flowers appear from your wand. Which might be convenient if you’re a whipped straight guy, but whatever. I guess it’s as good a place to start as any. I know I have to work my way up to spells I think would be particularly useful. Like Nozhbotnok, which would keep my skates sharp in perpetuity, or Episky, which heals minor injuries.

It takes me five days to get the Orchideous charm to work without fail. At first I couldn’t get it to do more than make wilted stems. No blossoms. But then I get sorta generic pinkish flowers. Eventually, I can successfully conjure a dozen long-stem red roses. Soon my condo looks suspiciously like a florist on Valentine’s Day.

That’s the day Swoops stops by unannounced.

I know there is a vanishing spell. But I can’t even remember the incantation, let alone do it.

So I just open the door.

And endure thirty minutes of chirping as he cuddles my cat. “You must be fucking phenomenal in bed, to deserve all this. Just saying.”

“Seriously, man, they’re not from Hy,” I insist. He raises his eyebrows. “Or from anyone else!”

“Yeah…so you bought yourself dozens of roses?”

“It was a mistake. They were accidentally delivered to me and the florist is coming to take them back.” My weak-assed story is highly sus and I know he doesn’t buy it, but I push on, digging a bigger and bigger hole. “So I’m just waiting for that. They said their delivery van is overheating, so it might be awhile. And in the meantime, I put them all in water so they’d stay fresh…”

“What’s that noise?” Swoops interrupts.

I look around and realize that the pocket Sneakoscope, abandoned in a corner once Kit had become disinterested, is glowing and whistling softly. Fan.Tastic. It has detected my own lies. I’m my own worst enemy—not that that’s news.

“Cat toy.” I snatch it up and toss it onto the couch where the throw pillows, carefully curated by a celebrity interior designer, muffle its sound. Kit glares at me from Swoops’ lap, as if she knows I’m low-key blaming her.

“Don’t you need to get home to your own pet?” I ask. “Keep him from stepping on another cactus thorn? Take him for a walk? Something…”

My phone vibrates on the coffee table. We both glance at it and then Swoops leers at me.

 

HYPERION GREENGRASS
Missed Call

 

“Sure, cap. I can take a hint. Call me when your honeymoon phase is over.” He’s still chuckling as he leaves.

Asshole.

My phone vibrates twice more in quick succession:

 

Sat, July 22, 2017 3:46 PM

Hyperion Greengrass: Are you ever going to accept my apology?

Hyperion Greengrass: Well you know how to reach me

 

Being able to get into a locked room seems like a useful skill. And won’t leave incriminating evidence behind. So the next afternoon I decide to tackle a basic unlocking spell.

My wand now seems more content. It’s even warmer than before and the wood has taken on a nice sheen. I’m feeling so confident about my progress, that I push the button on the doorknob inside the hall bathroom and pull it shut, locking myself out. Magic is the only way I’ll get into the bathroom now, short of removing the door handle.

"Alohamora!"

Thankfully, my apartment has other bathrooms. Because pride goeth before and all that shit. Instead of the satisfying snick of a door unlocking, I get slime. Bright yellow. Copious. Oozing.

Unlike the flowers, it’s not coming from my wand. The actual lock seems to be producing it, because it squelches from between the door and the door jam, and then slides thickly onto my tile floors. It smells like piña coladas.

I rush to my Core Curriculum Spells for 6th Grade because I know that Alohamora has a counter charm. Maybe the locking spell will get rid of the slime the unlocking spell produced. Or maybe that vanishing spell I wondered about yesterday would work.

But Colloportus, the locking charm, is unlikely to counteract what I just used. Because when I look more closely at the book, I see the spell I wanted was Aloho-mora, not Aloha-mora. Fuck.

And the vanishing spell, Evanesco—here I roll my eyes at myself because that’s the name of the wizarding neighborhood I just visited—is a transfiguration spell that I’m sure is waaaay beyond my skill level.

Fortunately by this time the slime seems to have abated. I survey the mess I can see: several cups of fruity smelling mucus on the hall floor. I poke it gently with my shoe and nearly lose my footing. It’s dangerously slippery.

I have to scrub the floor and door with regular no-maj cleanser—I don’t trust myself to even try Scourgify—before I can get a screwdriver near the door handle to remove it, since the slime seems to magically repel everything. Fucking enchanted sludge. Naturally, there’s a ton more to clean on the bathroom floor as well.

I’m beyond pissed by the time everything is clean and the doorknob has been replaced. Thank god it took nothing more than elbow grease and a screwdriver. And thank god I know how to do practical things without magic. I mean, realistically who are you going call when faced with something that looks a lot like ectoplasm?

This is the point where I do the complete 180. I’ve never been one to break my hockey sticks in anger; I take care of my possessions. I’m only self-destructive. So I don’t do anything stupid or melodramatic, like snap my wand in two. Instead I put it away and pour myself an oversized glass of Laphroiag 18, which I sip slowly as I plan what to do.

I take a shower (in the master bath), and put on my fave pair of 7 for All Mankind jeans and a white shirt. Then I leave the house and its lingering smell of bleach and luau.

That first night I get a little turnt at a bar I know in Boulder City. It isn’t cheap to take a cab all the way there and back, but what do I care? Have you seen my contract?

Boulder City is one of the few towns in Nevada that doesn’t allow gambling. So absolutely no one goes there. They also couldn’t care less about minor celebrities, so it’s a paparazzi-free zone, just 30 miles from home.

The next night, Monday, I hang with Duchamp, playing NHL 16 while his wife is at her book club. I never play as myself, which means that Ducky always takes me, just to be a dick. I’m not sure if I should feel good because I consistently win against my linemate, or bad because game-Parse is such a loser. Maybe I should have my agent talk to Electronic Arts.

On Tuesday, I treat myself to a fucking fantastic dinner at Joël Robuchon, where just the corkage fee is a Benjamin: quail egg crostini with caviar, salmon and avocado cannelloni, frog leg fritters, pan-seared halibut with heirloom tomatoes, and a poppy seed pavlova with lemon verbena-strawberry compote. My guest is a gorgeous woman I often take to special events where I need a plus-one. Her time costs me more than the dinner does. Worth it.

On Wednesday, I take Reichlin’s sister to see O at the Bellagio. He has a fear of clowns—coulrophobia, he tells me sincerely—but she’s in town for a few days and really wants to see it. It’s breaking my rule about tourist attractions (again), but the show is p amazing. And, as far as I can tell, done without magic. We also get photographed by paps, which is always good cover, nevermind that she’s got a husband and baby in Toronto.

On Thursday, I grab Checker, who just turned 21, and take him to some of the more exclusive clubs. He’s Czech (go figure) and doesn’t really speak English, so I don’t have to put in much effort beyond throwing my name around and posing for a bunch of selfies with our fans. He’s hot—yeah I noticed, sorrynotsorry—and young and gets a ton of attention. He can thank me later.

By this point, my week sounds like the Very Hungry Caterpillar, my favorite book as a little kid, so Friday, the sixth night after the Slime Incident, I stay home and eat a big salad. My whole body feels like it’s vibrating at the wrong frequency. I crash early, turning on the overhead fan and letting the soft noise lull me to sleep.

 

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I wake up Saturday morning to find sapphire eyes staring at me.

There’s a tiger in my bed.

Unfortunately, that's not a metaphor describing a lusty blue-eyed man sharing my sheets. I mean it literally. It’s large and white and striped.

“Holy. Fuck.”

I scramble away and manage to fall out of bed onto my ass. Hard. The tiger disdainfully licks a paw, then jumps from the bed, silent as cat feet always are, and heads, presumably, to the kitchen.

I give myself a moment to consider what might have happened. Clearly, this is a magical tiger. Or, at least, a tiger manifested by magic. Whichever it is, it’s a big problem. In my experience, accidental magic doesn’t spontaneously reverse itself.

Reverse. There’s gotta be a spell for that. Re-versum? But my spell books are still in the living room on the coffee table. And to get there I have to pass the kitchen, and the giant fucking predator lurking there. No doubt hungry.

Thinking of the tiger as a legit predator reminds me that Kit isn’t anywhere to be seen. “Kii-iit,” I call softly; I don’t want to attract trouble. “Here, kitty, kitty.”

I’m only a little worried that she doesn’t come when I call. After all, she rarely does. Kit Purrson is very intelligent and she suffers no fools. Especially me. She’ll allow the occasional IG pic, but really I’m more her pet than she is mine. That’s how cats are.

I slide into the hall. Peeking through the doorways, I see that Kit is not on the guest bed, nor in the office. I slink past the kitchen, back to the wall, and glance into the living room. No Kit. Not on the couch, not on the cat tower that looks like a piece of modern art. The thing with having an on-trend minimalist aesthetic is there are few places for an oversized housecat to hide.

Okay. I now figure one of two things has happened: either my suppressed magic transfigured Kit into a much bigger cat, or it swapped my cat with a real life tiger. Either way, it's a big fucking deal. Even if the tiger just needs to be returned to a zoo, it’s not like I can fit it in the passenger seat of my 911. Not even with the top down.

I need help.

It might seem obvious, since it's magic gone awry, that I should call Hyperion Greengrass, but it isn’t and I don’t.

Swoops picks up on the second ring. “I haven’t heard from you in a week, dude. Did you finally wear out your dick?”

“Jeff, I need to talk to Joni, but I don’t have her number. Is she there?” By weird coincidence, Swoop’s girlfriend just so happens to be the assistant director of communications at the Mirage, home of Siegfried & Roy's Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, where the Vegas white tigers live.

He must hear something in my voice—or maybe it’s my use of his given name—because he immediately hands his phone to Joni.

“Two questions,” I say without preamble. “First, are you guys missing a tiger?”

“No. And I would be one of the first to know if there was a problem with any of the animals.”

That makes me feel a lot better. I think I can handle my own cat in a tiger’s body. She can’t be any more heartless than she was before.

“Well, that’s good. Second question: what—and how much—do tigers eat? Asking for a friend.”

She laughs, light and unconcerned. She’s not the one watching a goddam tiger pacing the kitchen. “On the one hand, Parser, I did not see this coming. On the other, it doesn’t surprise me that I’m in a position to help.”

Joni Johnson puts me in touch with Eduardo, who is the head zoologist at the Secret Garden. I throw a lot more than a couple of questions at him, and by some miracle, he never asks why Kent Parson, captain of the Las Vegas Aces, has a sudden, inexplicable thirst for knowledge about big cats.

Kit the Tiger and I share the apartment for three days as I contemplate my options. But it turns out that a tiger eats fifteen pounds of upmarket lean beef every day. And shits what seems like an equal amount. Also, she’s still sleeping in her usual spot, the middle of my bed. Since I’m not about to argue, I’ve been crashing in the guest room and that mattress fucks up my back. Something needs to be done.

I now know that close to a thousand witches and wizards live in the greater Las Vegas metro area. But I’m only acquainted with one of them, and as much as it pains me, I have to admit that I have no other choice but to call him. At least it’s his day off.

I prepare myself to hear those four dreaded words: I told you so. But Hy is actually quite gracious. He says it will take him less than ten minutes to get to my place; he just needs to put on his shoes. It’s a twenty/twenty-five minute drive, depending on traffic, but I don’t ask. Because magic.

And sure enough, there’s a knock on my door before I can even straighten the living room.

TBH, now that I’ve reached out, I’m really glad to see him. I hated how I had left things between us. I’m well aware that I’m a hot mess of arrogance and insecurity, and I try to keep it under control. Last week was not my finest moment.

Also, I’d forgotten how hard he trips my trigger. I guess pale, gaunt, and British is now my type.

Today he’s wearing red pants, vintage Dr. Martens, and a shirt that says BUILD DROP RAGE REPEAT. He looks more prepared for a house party than a showdown with a magical tiger.

“Well, this is a right cock up.” He’s watching Kit sharpen her claws on the arm of the couch. She knows that’s not allowed, and is totally taking advantage of having 300 extra pounds with which to advance her agenda.

“Why did you wait so long to call me?” he asks, turning serious blue eyes my direction. I wish I had a good answer.

“Pride?”

“Actually, a group of tigers is called a ‘streak.’”

Such a smart-ass. Not gonna lie, I think I like him. “Can you put her back?”

“I got Outstanding in both my Charms and Transfiguration NEWTs.”

“Is that a yes?”

Hy pulls out his wand and I realize that I haven’t seen him use it since Lacunae, when it was disguised as a paintbrush. He sees me looking and smirks, “Scant twelve inches, willow...Curiously stiff.”

The actual transfiguration is anti-climactic. At least for me. "Felis!" Hy commands, pointing his wand directly at Kit and waving it in a sort of M shape. She shrinks before our eyes, becoming once again the cat that I’ve had since my first year in Vegas. She flexes her toes and then looks at me woefully. It must be a nasty shock to go from being a badass motherfucking tiger to being a mere kitty cat.

I’m about to go to her when Hy grabs my arm. “Oh, shit,” he says. “That’s not a cat, that’s a kneazle.”

I peer at her more closely, even though I have no idea what a kneazle might be. But she looks the same as always: an extra-large cat with fluffy white fur, pointy ears, and a tuft on the end of her tail. She stretches regally, jumps from the couch, and leaves the room.

“That was my cat. Kit Purrson. She’s sometimes shy around strangers,” I say.

“Kent, your cat is surely part kneazle—a magical animal can interbreed with domesticated cats," he explains. "More importantly, they're on the restricted list, so where did you get her?”

“She was a stray, hanging around the practice rink. She would only come to me, not any of the other guys, although now she really likes Swoops—Jeff. So I adopted her.”

Hy shakes his head in wonder. His warm hand is still wrapped around my bicep. “She probably trusted you because you’re a wizard.”

“Oh, so I’m a wizard now?” I mean it to be playful, but it comes out salty.

He lets go of my arm and takes a step back. I immediately miss his touch. “Look, I’m sorry I said that. You’ve obviously got a lot of power.” He waves his hand in the direction Kit disappeared. “But I do think you should consider working with someone to learn better control of your magic.”

“Yeah, I don’t know. I’ll probably just go back to playing hockey and making bubbles…” Hy raises his eyebrows in question. "Effervesco is my go-to charm. I’m good at those two things, not much else.”

“You can’t turn your back on your heritage!”

I stare at him for a moment. “You don’t get it. My dad played college hockey in the 80s. And in the 50s, my granddad played hockey—back before buckets were even mandatory. The game is my heritage.”

“Sorry,” he says for the second time. “I’m a sodding wanker. I’ve just never met a witch or wizard who lived so far removed from the magical lifestyle.”

The way he says it reminds me of the way conservatives say “gay lifestyle,” like it’s a choice. And that’s when it becomes crystal clear to me: I play hockey, I’m queer, and I’m a wizard. Only one of these things is a conscious decision—and they’ll have to rip hockey from my cold, dead hands. The other two are who I am. At my core.

Although I’ve kept my sexual proclivities out of the press, I’m too much of a hedonist to deny myself completely. I’ve just learned to be discreet. It’s a revelation to think it could be the same with magic.

“So any chance you know someone who’s good with magic and interested in spending time with me?”

Hy smiles. It takes up his whole face. “I’ve got a bloke in mind, but he’s a known poof, so maybe you don’t want to associate with him.”

“Can he introduce me to the magical lifestyle?”

“He knows some people you could meet. Some places you might like to go. Skills you need.”

That actually sounds good. “I’d like that. And I’d like to take you to dinner tonight. To say thanks for un-tigering my apartment.”

“I know a restaurant in the Wiz Dist that I think you’d enjoy. New, lots of hype.”

I know he knows I’m going to ask: “Wiz Dist?”

“Wizarding District. Go through the wooden door under the El Portal sign on Fremont and there are wizarding shops, restaurants, bars, some flats...All warded against no-majs, of course.”

That sounds like getting out of town, without actually leaving Vegas. Yes!

He turns away slightly, raises his wand, and says, "Expecto Patronum!" The silver fox I saw at his magic show leaps from his wand and springs away. “For reservations,” he tells me.

“You’ll just side-along apparate with me, if that’s acceptable. Quicker than a cab and much easier than parking downtown.”

Hy holds out his hand. I’ve never apparated, but I realize I trust him.

As soon as our hands clasp, I also realize just how much I want to kiss him. He must see my intent because he moves to meet me. I press my lips to his and place my hand on his back, pulling him even closer. This near, he radiates heat and it’s easy to imagine his skin bare against my own. We break apart and both laugh, slightly breathless.

When I lean in for another kiss, he hums with pleasure. I’m sure it’s only a moment before we separate, the unspoken promise of more to come hanging in the air, but it feels like the start of something…magical.

"I'm ready," I tell him.

“Hold on tight, I’m about to change your life.”

 

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Blind Item #2

This hottie jock, winner of more than one of his sport’s top awards, has been flying his broom so low that no one even knew he was a wizard. He’s now been spotted keeping company with our favorite confirmed bachelor from an aristocratic family across the pond, fueling rumors that magic isn’t his only secret.
Posted by VegaSwitch on tellmeall.maj, a wizarding gossip site

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