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The Fourth Wish: Chapter 17 - Melanie's Theory

Melanie has a theory to explain Mrs Seraphina.s supposed magical powers - but does it hold water?

Elizabeth Varadan's imaginative novel for children of all ages continues to bring rich entertainment. To read earlier chapters please click on The Fourth Wish in the menu on this page.

Melanie jumped to her feet. She looked up and down the path and glanced around at the trees and benches. But Mrs. Seraphina was nowhere to be seen. She found herself gasping, as if she had been running hard. And then she did run, just as fast as she could, out of the park and then the two blocks to the apartment building, as if she were being chased every step of the way.

She slammed the door behind her, hurrying past Erin who was spraddled on the living room floor in front of the TV, chewing on a headless gingerbread man. In the kitchen, Cory and Arthur had littered the table with Vance Klorg, Space Detective picture puzzle pieces and soda crackers.

“Welcome, earthling,” Arthur intoned, tapping a jagged purple piece against the box lid, which showed Vance Klorg handcuffing a pointy-eared creature with three eyes and a snout.

“Guess who I just saw?” Melanie demanded. Breathless, she basked a moment in their instant attention, despite the fact that she could hardly wait to tell them.

“Travis Heart Throb,” guessed Cory, and Arthur guffawed.

Melanie pulled out a chair with a flourish and sat down. “Mrs. Seraphina.”

“No way!” Arthur dropped the puzzle piece. “At Jenny’s?”

“In the park. Sitting on a bench.”

“Mrs. Seraphina?” Erin came into the kitchen and wriggled onto one of the chairs, still nibbling on her headless cookie.

“It was like she was waiting for me. It was really kind of creepy.” Melanie leaned forward, elbows on the table, and told them every bit of the conversation she could remember. “And she showed me the fourth box,” she added. “So there really is a fourth wish.”

“Every situation needs a different kind of magic,” mused Cory. “Hmmm.”

“Maybe Pete needed Mrs. Seraphina’s magic for just a little awhile,” Erin said. “And now he wants his own magic back. But it won’t be a problem anymore, because you know what?”

“What? Pete won’t mind messing up?” giggled Melanie.

“No.” Erin licked cookie crumbs off her fingers. “After his friend hypnotizes him, he can do his own magic again.”

“She really had the fourth box?” asked Arthur. He leaned back in his chair, tilting it on its back legs.

Melanie nodded, thinking about what Erin had just said.

“See, that’s my box.” Arthur's smile stretched like a rubber band.

Melanie sat up straight, struck by a thought. “Maybe Mrs. Seraphina just hypnotized Pete, and his friend can snap him out of it.”

“We already know she hypnotized him, Melanie. We saw her,” said Arthur. “Remember? When he was chasing us?”

“Just listen, okay? Maybe she hypnotized us! Maybe all of it has been hypnosis. That would explain everything. Maybe all of that didn’t even happen!”

“Whoa,” said Arthur. “All of what?”

“In the theater. That’s why we saw a different act than Jenny. She saw the real one. Think about it. Who did Mrs. Seraphina talk to before we went to the theater?” She answered her own question. “Us. And who did she talk to before Pete forgot his magic?”

“Pete. That’s good,” said Cory. "You’d be a good detective."

“All this time we’ve been thinking we messed him up, when nothing was happening at all,” said Melanie. “Except Mrs. Seraphina hypnotizing people.” The idea was as comforting as popcorn and hot cider.

“But why was Pete chasing us?” Erin said.

“Oh.”

“And why did Mister Cottler fire him?” asked Cory.

“You’re all forgetting something else.” Arthur tilted back and forth on the chair legs.

Melanie eyed him crossly. “What?”

“The crullers,” he had time to say before the chair fell to the floor with a clatter and sent him sprawling. Cory yelped. Erin gave a shriek.

“Are you alright?” asked Melanie. When Arthur nodded, all of them burst into relieved laughter. He got up, rubbing his head and shoulder. Righting the chair, he sat down again with an embarrassed grin.

“Anyway,” he continued, “lots of people besides us saw the crullers.”

“Maybe it’s the way she does it,” Melanie persisted. “Like, you know how she closes her eyes and then does those blinks? Maybe those blinks hypnotize people, even across the room.”

“What about the people who came in after she left?”

“She could have been outside the door before they came in.”

But Arthur pursued his point. “How did she get the TV cameras to see them? She couldn’t hypnotize the cameras. Mrs. Sloan saw those crullers on TV. And so did a lot of people. That’s why they came into the shop afterwards. We ate those crullers, Melanie. Your mom did, too.”

“I haven’t worked that part out yet,” Melanie conceded. She stared glumly at the puzzle pieces heaped on the table then at the box lid. The pig-faced creature on the lid stared back at her, his three eyes so wide they seemed to run into his pointy ears.

“It was a good idea, though,” offered Cory. "It almost works.”

“Wanna hear my theory?” Arthur’s face was smug.

Melanie shrugged. “I guess.”

“Simultaneous universes.”

“Huh?” said Cory.

“Other worlds going on at the same time in other dimensions… like my dad was talking about yesterday. All those crullers came from another dimension. And the bunnies, too.” Arthur slapped the table edge. “Science fiction, man! Like Vance Klorg.”

Cory’s eyes widened. "Cool!"

Melanie sniffed. “This is not science fiction. And it’s not outer space.”

“Vance Klorg solves mysteries on earth sometimes,” said Cory.

“You just like to say that word," Melanie told Arthur. “You like to say simultaneous because it sounds smart.”

“Melanie, look at me.”

She stared in surprise. “I am looking at you.”

“Close your eyes.”

“Do what?”

“Close your eyes.”

“You are so weird!” Melanie made a little circle at her temple with her index finger, and then shut her eyes.

“Blink three times,” said Arthur.

Her eyes flew open. “How hard did you hit your head, anyway?”

“C’mon, just blink. Three times.”

Melanie shook her head. With a smirk at Erin and Cory, she blinked.

“Auugghh!” Arthur shouted, and Erin screamed.

“Your theory works,” Arthur moaned. “I can’t remember anything! I see rabbits! I taste crullers! Auugghh!”

“Shut up, Arthur,” said Melanie, trying not to laugh.

© Elizabeth Varadan 2006


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