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Radio set

The lane was quiet this afternoon. Quieter than normal. The November mist had started its slow, funereal march earlier in the day and had apparently chosen to stay. No rays of sunshine dared to burn this final fog off. It sat, like an uninvited guest, curled around door steps, sprawling over topiary.

Paris in the spring was a glorious thing – a delight to the senses, a reason to celebrate being alive. Paris in late autumn was another matter. Once the glory of the oaks and maples in Père Lachaise had passed, the city resigned itself to the slow hours of decay and toil that were the hallmark of winter in the City of Light.

The name was a mockery in this time. Dull gray – all of it, all the time. The only relief came during those rare snowfalls, where the snow reflected what sun there was like a billion tiny mirrors. This was not one of those days. This was a day to retreat to my studio – not to paint or sculpt or knit but to curl up with one of the many books accumulated in piles like stalagmites around the dusty space. Perhaps the electricity was working today and tea could be had as well. If not, no bother. Mrs. McGillicuddy, the ex-pat neighbor would be by shortly to ask if I wanted for anything.

This was my secret space, my true home. Others – my friends, my spouse, thought it my folly – a studio to focus my attention on artwork as work and not play. Too many years of trying to create at home had taught me better. Home was much too comfortable, too cozy. Naps lead to snacks lead to futzing around on the Internet lead to a day wasted and nothing to show for it. Here was different. No distractions. A careful, considered focus. Here there was nothing to do but work on art  in one form or another.

Yet here too was the safety deposit box. That one – the one that required two slim keys but one lost all these years. I’d inherited it from my paternal grandmother, and I knew what was inside. There was no need to open it. It still worked even if I couldn’t see inside of it.

Inside was a pure Galena crystal and all the fixin’s for a radio – no battery required. All I had to do was hold this box in both my hands and it received a clear pure signal from beyond, or behind, or within. I wasn’t sure and Mama wasn’t clear about it. Maybe she didn’t even know. Either way, I could hear the messages clearly that way, sure as you please. No guessing, no having to interpret images and feelings and impressions. Sure, I could get messages without it, and did all the time. This was different. This was special. This was the best Philosopher’s Stone, the true magic, the real deal.

This was worth the eight kilometer walk from my home. Normally I’d have hired a cab, but they weren’t running today. Was it the weather? Or a strike? Or a civic holiday? It wasn’t worth the bother to find out why. It wouldn’t change the fact that there were no cabs to hail that gloomy Wednesday afternoon.

And it wouldn’t do to keep the box at home. It might get lost in the piles of stuff that accumulated like driftwood or snow banks. Or it might get accidentally picked up by the wrong person and they’d blow a fuse in themselves.

No moving parts in this special radio – but plenty in people. It took a lot of training to be able to hold the box without harm to yourself. Sure, some of that was natural ability, but the rest? Practice. All those magic tricks my grandmother taught me? Turns out she was training me how to use this receiver. It wouldn’t do to let it get in the hands of an amateur. They might end up catatonic, or worse.

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