“Fishing. What on earth does fishing have to do with wizardry?”
I sat at the end of the Navy Pier. The noon light was pretty, but the
wind blowing from lake to land was cold at my back, and I wished I’d
had a cloak. A nice warm cloak. All I had was a sweatshirt, this fishing
pole, and this old lady beside me, her hands and face browned by
She also had a fishing pole, and was reeling in slowly. I didn’t
exactly understand what that was about, but hey, if reeling in was
supposed to do something…I wound my line back in with all deliberate
She put her hand on mine and said, “Patience. Reel the line in slowly, a little bit at a time. You want to make your bait look like it’s moving naturally.”
“Am I even going to catch anything?”
“Who knows? The proper
way to fish, with a pole and a line, you never know if you’ll get
anything. You just have to be willing to sit there and bring the bait in
slowly. You have to have – ”
I stared out at the water. Not too much junk floated in it, for being the lakeshore of a major city. I’d seen worse in the Hudson.
“I suppose you have to have patience to handle sheep, too.”
She snorted. “That’s a different kind of patience. That’s the "what
am I willing to put up with today” kind, not the “I’m willing to sit
here and wait” kind. You’re going to need both, really, if you want to
be a wizard – sometimes your efforts will run away from you like a
sheep runs from the herd. Sometimes things just don’t work, out, and –
“And that’s when people explode.”
The water slapped softly against the concrete of the pier.
“Right. Right. Which is part of why I’m starting you out with this
lesson in patience. Fishing. All that work, and the fish can just slip
off the hook, and all your effort can be a waste. You have to be willing
to try again, then. Not to throw down your spindle in frustration.”
I had, in fact, thrown down my spindle in frustration. Drop spindles
are not easy to work with, not for beginners. I might have handled the
spindle more gently if it hadn’t come after long attempts at getting the
wool to twist properly, and many failures, in which the developing yarn
broke again, and again, and again. And all that had come after a lot of
washing the wool, and carding the wool, and getting lanolin
all over my hands, and the climax of it all was me staring at the
shattered remains of a drop spindle, scattered over the floor of the
I think the reason the statues hadn’t turned to look at me was
because they’d witnessed so much frustration from students already. This
was a school, after all. Frustration comes with the territory. But my
new mentor, the lady Masie Sani, had looked at the pieces of the drop
spindle in anger, then up at me, and her expression had changed to
confusion – it was not as though I looked like I had the muscles to
break a bottle, let alone a wooden drop spindle. But she hadn’t said a
thing. She just pursed her lip, rose, and stepped into the hallway,
beckoning me to follow.
And she’d strode to a familiar office, and informed Instructor Hurley
that she was taking me on a field trip, and now here we were, trying to
catch fish on the edge of a major city.
“It’s all right,” said Ms Sani. “I really ought to have started you on the spinning wheel.”
For a long while, we said nothing, and caught nothing, despite our most careful efforts. Nothing biting today.
“Speaking of wool”, I said, “Why do you raise Merino sheep?”
“As opposed to…”
“The sheep that Sam said…um…something about Navajo sheep.”
“Diné, if you want to be polite. Churro sheep. Good for making rugs. You wanna buy a Wizard rug?”
I shook my head. “I have no idea what that would do.”
“I do. Not that I’m concerned with rugs. Right now, I’m providing the supplies for Wizard CLOAKS. Finest Merino.
Anything else, and I suppose the students would complain. Perhaps they
expect fine merino wool, now…ah well. maybe I should make the next
batch out of Churro wool just to keep them on their toes.”
I chuckled. “Maybe you should make my cloak out of scratchy wool, just to make my boarding school
experience more miserable. You know, like in the stories where the kid
goes to boarding school and the people there go out of their way to make
the kid’s life miserable, but the kid…uh…I never actually finished
reading those, come to think of it, but I think the idea was that the
kid is tempered and made a stronger person by the experience. Or
Ms Sani said nothing, but stared out at the water for a while, not
reeling her line in. Then she said, “I don’t know those kind of stories.
I know the sort of story where the kid gets sent off to the boarding
school and it literally destroys their soul.”
“That’s pretty bleak, for fiction.”
“I didn’t say it was fiction.” She shook her head, as if clearing out
bad thoughts. “Ah, but that’s a heavy topic, and we were talking about
wool. And cloaks. Right. Your own cloak. Which you do not have. Yet. You
will, though.Tell me – why do you think I had you start out by
cleaning the wool?”
“A test of patience?”
“One purpose. Not the primary one, though.”
“You needed a pair of young strong hands to help?”
“Yours are the strongest I’ve seen in a while, but that’s not it either.”
“So what then? Was I supposed to understand every step of the process? How tedious it is? How much effort goes into it?”
“Effort,” said Ms Sani, “That’s the key word. How much effort goes
into it. Also WHAT goes into it. I have discovered that it’s not just elbow grease. Or maybe it is…but it doesn’t exactly come from the elbow.”
I raised an eyebrow.
Ms Sani sighed, and said, “This all started when I was helping my
mother weave rugs. Just after I’d graduated from this school and come
home. She didn’t want to hear about no Wizarding fooforal – mostly
because she’d wanted me to stay at home and help with the rug business
in the first place. But I kept up my practicing, and one day when I was
wearing my Wizard gl – excuse me, my ontoscopes…” She
chuckled. “Mom called me in to help her spin some wool, and I forgot to
take the glasses off. She didn’t exactly say anything, but with the
glasses on I could see the disapproval radiating from her.
"What I could also see was a trail of beads, red beads, shining,
glowing blood-red beads, moving from her sternum, down her arm, down her
fingers, and into the yarn, which shone with a warm light.
"And as I spun wool with her, I saw the same thing happening to me –
something was coming out of my heart and it was going right into the
"I stayed up late that night, spinning more and more yarn, and the
effect never stopped. I woke up the next morning and saw mom out there
tending the sheep, and the sheep were shining with the same color, as
she worked with them. And I turned back to the hogan, that Mom had built with my help, and that shone with the same light. And so did the rugs inside.”
“You were pouring yourself into the things you made.” I looked back
at the great towers along the lakshore, shining in the noon sun. “I
wonder…Oh, but go on.” I turned back to Ms Sani. “Your rugs were full
of something. What did that do? Did you turn them into Magic Carpets and
fly around? Can you make me one? I’d love to fly high in the sky and –
“And get a scolding from the FAA like I did? Pffft. Teleportation is
so much more efficient. If less safe.” She shuddered. “I knew some
students who learned that the hard way.”
She fell silent again. The wind had died, and the surface of the
water was still. Save for a few waves, here and there, where something
stirred beneath the surface.
But it didn’t break the surface, and
after a while there were no more waves. All that was left was the tiny
wakes of our fishing lines.
“So what did you do with your newfound knowledge, then?”
I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it, until I called up Mister
Hurley. He kind of sounded excited over the phone, and…I remember
hearing him drop something heavy. Then he was standing right in front of
the hogan, with his Ontoscopes on, demanding to see the rugs. brushing
right past my mother. She didn’t like that, and they kind of got into an
argument. Something about him with his fancy high-mindedness barging in
without asking, versus wanting to see a possibly exciting discovery. It
only ended when I brought out one of the rugs and a spool of yarn – his
face lit up then. He said, hey, we ought to test this, let’s get a
bunch of people all together spinning yarn at once. He wanted to test it
in a lot of different ways – comparing Diné spinners to White folks, testing conditions, et cetera.
"Mom told him he’d barged into things enough, and that if he wanted
to test the effect, he could do it on his own land. Which he did, in
fact. I got a call from him three weeks later saying he’d gathered a
bunch of his students and had them learn to spin wool, and he’d looked
at them with his Wizard Glasses and he’s seen the same red beads flowing
from the sternum to the yarn – but the yarn wasn’t shining. Not as
bright as what he’d seen. He told me to come back to the Academy and
spin some wool for him.
"Which meant leaving my mother and my people, again. Mister Hurley
kept stressing that there was a discovery to be made. So I was, with
great effort on his part, convinced to journey back to Chicago.”
“When I got to Hurley, he was sitting in the main courtyard,
concentrating on his cloak that he’d removed. Re-enchanting it, he said.
You know how it is, he said, how spells slip off the cloak every few
years and have to be redone. Like painting a house. No getting around
it. Wool amplifies the spells, to a slightly greater degree than silk,
but magic runs off it like water off…wool.
"I told him, what do you mean re-enchanting? I never had to
re-enchant my cloak. The spells I used had stuck since the first time I
made them. In fact, it had been impossible to get those enchantments
OFF. And any new ones had slid off like water off an oiled duck. I said
to him, maybe my cloak is higher-quality than yours? He said he didn’t
know, that he’d just bought the wool from a mail-order catalog. I told
him, I made my cloak from the cloth I’d made, from the yarn I’d spun,
from the wool I’d gathered, from the sheep I’d helped my mother raise.
Scratchy Churro wool, but solid.
"He said that was it, then. I’d been pouring myself into that wool
since it was in sheep form. No wonder the students hadn’t got the wool
to shine. They hadn’t spent near enough time with it. And as for the
"I found myself raising a different flock of sheep, a new flock, back
on the Diné grazing lands. Hurley had said, try it with different wool
and see if that changes anything. So, in the course of a year, I got the
new wool – merino, nice and soft – and I looked at it with the
glasses, and it shone like my mother’s rugs shone. I decided to enchant
it with a nice little air-conditioning spell to keep it cool in the
summer. There was space for one more spell, so I chose a flying one –
one that would let the user of the cloak flap the thing like big wings
and go soaring into the sky. Just for funsies, I suppose.
"And when I tried to get those enchantments off, they were stuck. I
tried to add some more. No good. The new cloak had the same limitations
and strengths as my own. Clearly it was me that was the key, it was my
effort, how much of myself I’d put into raising those sheep and getting
that wool. I told Instructor Hurley as much. He said great, he’d take an
order of fifty cloaks for the school and pay handsomely.”
“Fifty! Ho! That was a lot of cloaks for me to make. Too many,
really. I told him, you know what, I’ll sell you the cloth and you can
do with it as you like, how’s that? I’ll go into business selling my
Merino wool and you’ll order cloth from me properly, and if your
students want cloaks they can sew them together on their own, and they
can put their own enchantments on them as they please.
"So I opened my shop, Masie’s Munificent Merino, for the supply of
the school and the mundanes. I sell regular Merino to the Mundane
buyers, with the help of Jim who runs the shop itself – I’m usually
back on the reservation keeping an eye on my special flock. Making sure
my effort is translating into a wool that Wizards the land over adore.
Hell, I ought to be with them right now, but SOMEONE decided I ought to
be your special tutor, miss Not-A-Wizard.”
“And you accepted the job.”
“I took the opportunity to have an apprentice.
Someone to help me raise the sheep and spin the wool, besides Jim, and
while teaching you how to do wool I can teach you how to do Wizardry.
I’m barely losing any time out of my day, really. You might be losing a
lot out of yours, though, because there’s a lot of work to do. But,
while the sheep are safe and sleeping, your work schedule is flexible.
"Work Schedule. Right. I feel like an intern.”
“Interns don’t get room and board, do they? The nice thing about apprenticeships is that your employer has an actual responsibility towards – whoops, looks like you’ve got something.”
My pole was jerking forwards as something tugged the line. I reeled
in, not worrying about the strength of the fish. No fish could match me,
not here in Chicago where I was solid and strong.
Which is why I became concerned when the thing at the end of the line
nearly pulled me into the water. I heaved with all my might as Ms. Sani
grabbed me around the waist.
With that heave, a big fish rose from the water, and with it,
grasping its tail, was a green scaled hand. At last I jerked the fish
free from the hand. It flashed me a one-fingered salute and vanished
into the deep.
I sat there panting for a while.
“Huh,” said Ms. Sani, as she let go of me. “Looks like Mother Carey’s
folk have come back. That doesn’t bode well.” She stared out at the
“Oh, Mother Carey. One of the beings that arose when the White folks came. She mostly bothers them.”
“And…does Coyote hang around this city too? have you noticed him?”
“Have I – ” he head whipped around and she stared at me with wide eyes. “What do you know about Coyote?”
“He’s a trickster and he tricked me and I felt like I was fooling
myself and – you know what, it’s a really long story. Maybe it will
help you understand me a bit better. But it’s not for now. Now, I should
be back at the Academy. If Instructor Hurley think I’ve been gone too
long, he might get worried. He might fear that my delicate limbs cannot
handle the mighty winds of Chicago! He will worry that I will get into
trouble and get nabbed by the Wizard Police.”
“That’s about what he said to me when I suggested our little fishing
trip. So let’s get back and you can spin some more wool. And THIS time,
you won’t break any more spindles, correct?” Ms. Sani gave me the evil
eye. “I want you to be able to make your own yarn so you can make your
own cloak. Preferably, starting with raising the sheep.”
“But the sheep are in Nava – in Diné country, right? You said teleportation was dangerous.”
“I’ve got the hang of it by now. Maybe I can teach you.
Who knows? Maybe one day, the cloak you make will allow you to teleport
with not trouble at all. I don’t enchant the cloaks these days, not with
anything more than the air-conditioning spell. The rest happens slowly,
as the cloak grows with its wearer. And each cloak’s special ability is
different, based on who the Wizard is. Some people are sneaks, and
their cloak makes them invisible. Some are timid, and their cloak is a
shield. Some people are athletic, and their cloak increases their
endurance. I wonder, if you gain your own cloak, what will it become?
Who will you be, and what part of your personality will sink into the
“Hard to say yet.”
On the walk back to the Academy, I convinced Ms. Sani to
let me borrow her pair of Wizard Glasses, on the basis of needing
I looked through them at Chicago. The mighty towers of the Magnificent Mile,
the hustle and bustle of the shoppers, the determination and
desperation of the beggars, all shone in my sight, green and gold and
red. The sidewalk shone red as well. So did the towers, through
scattered windows and along the trim. I wondered if this was the same
color that Ms. Sani’s wool shone.
I tried to observe people’s sternums as they passed, to see if they
had any shining red beads running from their chests to their arms to
wherever, but I got a lot of funny looks. When you effectively ogle
someone’s significant other, that’s one thing, but if you’re doing it
with big colored glasses and taking notes…I have the feeling that more
than a few people wanted to tell me off but weren’t certain what to
The fourth time someone stammered their disapproval, though, Ms. Sani
glanced back at me and raised her eyebrow. I handed the glasses back to
her. There would be time enough, and other ways, to examine the city.
And once I got my own pair of Wizard Glasses, I could really get to
But that was tomorrow’s concern.