You never find salvation where you want it, and certainly not when. We live in a mutable world; we change, we are changed. Salvation is a river we dip into from time to time, if it is anything at all. Nothing stays saved, nothing remained damned. Crude terms for complex interactions. That’s often ow it is. These aren’t safe thoughts, but sometimes safety is as far from safe as one can be. I get myself a beer, sitting at the bar. I don’t come into bars often. I don’t find anything of salvation in them, but places can be a kind of salvation too. The rush of voices is a ward, laughter an easy magic for a magician to draw upon.
And Jay is not here. I gulp back beer, letting it settle into me. Using it to ease into a kind of relaxation. If we have chakras, the point is never to wake them up. They are always awake. The point is to deaden them. To make a river. To let things flow. The anger is tight between my shoulder blades. I drink, let some go. Drink some more.
There had been a creature. Winged, made of shadow more than substance, something so old human magic could barely touch it at all. And I am human, for all else I might be, for every story about the wandering magician that verges into fancy. I am also a little buzzed to be using the word verges even in the silence of my own head. The entity had woke, was hurling across the face of the moon, mad with alien hungers, woken in a world too alien for it to know.
I yelled for Jay to bind it. Because Jay is from far Outside the universe, for all that he is eleven. Because his power dwarfs anything I can do, though he refuses to believe that. Instead he watched it move past, and happily told me he’d just had a misadventure, because missing an adventure is an adventure too. I told him he’d miss two suppers as an adventure instead, and to bind that creature.
And it was bound, in a snow globe in my hand, between moments. Handed over, and then Jay vanished in a sulk. I haven’t seen him for hours, which even for Jay is an impressive sulk. There are bindings between us so deep that even Jay might not understand all of them. He knows how angry I was, for all my calm command. How close I came to saying words I know better than to say at all.
I finish the beer slowly, considering another drink when there is a coaster on the bar in front of me that wasn’t there a moment ago. Knitted, I think.
I look up from my drink even more slowly. Jay is behind the bar, radiating pride. He’s wearing a white shirt, tie, formal pants.
“Do you want another drink?” he asks excitedly. “I have drinks!”
“Jay. Eleven year olds don’t tend bars.”
“But I asked really jaysomely, and the bartender said it was okay!”
At the other end of the bar, the bartender is pouring drinks, looking taken aback at the results and trying to understand why he said yes at all.
Saying no to Jay is dangerous; people understand that instinctively.
“And the drinks?” I ask.
“Oh, it’s all really nummy water. With flavours. And and and I have hot chocolate,” he says proudly, pouring me one and handing it over.
“Water and hot chocolate aren’t normal bar drinks.” I pause. “Please tell me you didn’t make snacks.”
“Nope! I had a whole list of things to do, and I did them but forgot that only I’m giving out hugs, which is like a snack but it’s also a hug!”
“A list of things.”
“I got black shoes and everything. Oooh! And a towel!”
The towel he holds up has teeth, and is trying to eat his hand. Jay doesn’t even notice.
The hot chocolate is excellent. Jay moves in a blur down the bar, chatting to people who are more than a little confused about the state of their beverages. They’re left dazed and confused at the onslaught of his irrepressible joy. One person at the back of the room demands a proper drink, and is quiet as a coaster zips through the air and impacts into the wall beside him.
“Drink coasters don’t normally double as throwing stars,” I remark.
“He was getting all rude-face and about to do meany bindings,” Jay says firmly.
“Ah.” I finish my drink quickly. “You’ll have to throw a lot more soon as people are going to get cross.”
“Really?” Jay bounces from foot to foot. “I’d be like a Jayninja!”
“Yes, but the point of ninja was to be unseen. And unnoticed,” I add as Jay vanishes from sight. “I doubt jaysome can avoid being noticed.”
“Oh.” Jay reappears. “Wow! I doubt jaysome could do that at all.”
“I doubt it could either.” I head toward the door. “Perhaps you can end your shift early?”
The bartender looks so grateful when Jay asks that some patrons almost start laughing. The wise ones stop the others from doing so. Jay thanks everyone for being jaysome and then follows me out of the bar. No one breaks the silence we leave behind us.
I glance over at Jay. “Is there a reason you decided to tend a bar?”
“Cuz I’m not allowed in them since I’m eleven, but I am if I’m working and! I sulked for over two hours and thought you might be worried!”
“I am often worried where you are concerned,” I say dryly.
Jay beams proudly; the sarcasm, as ever, misses him entirely, but sometimes I can’t stop it from emerging.
“I assume you’ve learned a lesson from all this?”
Jay thinks that over. “Uhm! I’m not sure, because lessons are kinda hard to learn? But I’m definitely not missing an adventure again!”
I nod and ruffle his hair gently. As long as he doesn’t decide to become a ninja, this has turned out better than I’d have hoped it would.