Another piece of artwork broken! Wayne let loose with a string of obscenities. All that work, down the drain! He briefly considered flinging the remains against a wall, but the idea of having to clean it up was enough to stop him.

Why can't I get it right? he thought. Why does everything I do backfire? And, why the *&#^@% did I start this business in the first place?

He went to the kitchen to get a beer, but there were none left. His 'mad money' can was nearly empty, but he found a tightly folded twenty at the bottom. Throwing on a light jacket to cut the ocean breeze, Wayne set out for the store.

He didn't want to waste his money on gas, when the liquor store was only a few blocks away, so he walked. Unfortunately, his mind was focused on the broken artwork, instead of the unfamiliar streets he was now using as a shortcut.

Apartment buildings abounded in this part of town. He passed through a handful of security gates (none of which were locked), dodging forgotten toys and animal waste. His trek had him weaving in and out of alleys and buildings, until he was so turned around, he thought he was lost.

But, as he turned another corner, the alley fed into a narrow street lined with the usual tourist traps that could be found at any popular beach. Every other vendor touted T-shirts, 3 for $10, while the rest glutted the market with too many pairs of sunglasses.

In one booth, an ancient man sat, whittling. All around him were samples of his work. Gun handles, signs, canes . . . everything intricately carved with beautiful patterns. The polished wood caught and held the eye so well, it was hard to look away.

"I don't mean to bother you," Wayne said to the man, "but I'm a bit turned around. Can you point me to Atlantic Boulevard?"

The grizzled old man looked up from his work. His eyes were so filled with hopelessness that it made Wayne want to turn away.

But the Call of the Bud was stronger than his discomfort, so he stayed, making small talk to fill the embarrassing silence.

"I'm trying to get to the liquor store, actually," Wayne explained. "See, I was working on this piece of glass — sandblasting — and I blew a hole right through it. (he chuckled) I got so mad, I thought I'd better take a break. So, I headed for the store, but I'm new to this neighborhood, and I got turned around."

The man was watching him, openly interested now.

"You're a carver," he said.

"Yeah," Wayne said, "but I don't use knives like you. I sandblast, and I have an engraver for the detailed work."

"I see," the old man said.

The old woman next to him was pulling at his sleeve, and he kept swatting her away, like a bothersome fly. Finally, she got up and went into the building behind them, clearly frustrated.

"So . . . " Wayne tried again, "I was wondering if you could point me to Atlantic?"

"Have you ever heard the saying, 'Be careful what you wish for, for you shall surely find it'?" the old man asked.

"Yeah, I've heard that," Wayne answered, wondering what this had to do with getting directions to the boulevard.

"You know what it means?"

"Sure." Wayne shrugged. "It means that sometimes the things we wish for aren't good for us."

Like my business, he thought to himself.

The old man nodded, sagely.

"I'm glad you know that, son," he said. "You may need that advice someday . . . maybe sooner than you think."

Wayne felt a cold chill crawl up his back. This guy gives me the creeps, he thought. I have to get out of here.

He thanked the man (for what, he didn't know), and started to walk away.

"Young man!"

Wayne considered pretending he didn't hear him, and walking on anyway. But his upbringing took over, and he politely returned to the stall.

"The street you search for is through that alley," the man said, pointing to a passageway. "It's quite far. Just keep going. You'll get there."

Again, Wayne thanked him, and set off.

Watching him go, the old woman crept out of the building, to sit with her husband once more.

"Do you think he'll do it?" she asked, hopefully.

"Many have gone before him," the old man said, "and here, we remain."

The old woman wiped a tear from her eye, as she returned to the building.

"Still, one can hope," she said to herself, and quietly shut the door.

The alley was nothing more than parking garages and chipped brick walls. At one point, a cat came boiling out of a trash can at Wayne's approach, scaring a few years off his life. He stopped and leaned on another can for support, while he waited for his heartbeat to slow. But, the scratching noise coming from inside the can convinced him to walk on.

Where the blazes am I? he asked himself. Lord, I wish I would've stayed home.

Just then, amid the trash and rubble, a store front appeared. A small book store.

Who would come all the way down here, to buy books? Wayne wondered. There are two perfectly good stores in the mall. Clean, safe stores.

He peered through the glass. To his surprise, the store had quite a few patrons.

Must be a specialty shop, Wayne decided, and turned to leave.

That's when he saw it.

An orange kitten was in amongst the window display, batting at flies. The movement caught Wayne's attention just in time to see the hapless kitten knock several books over. Wayne chuckled at the surprised look on the kitten's face, and his eyes wandered to the pile of books.

On top of the pile, there was a woodworking pattern book.

About the Author
Although "The Magi" is S.E. Wallace's first published work, she has written more than 30 short stories (horror, fantasy, sci fi and inspirational), 18 poems and a novel entitled Micah. She is working on a travel guide called The South Hills: Southern Idaho's Best Kept Secret, and an author's guide entitled But, What Do I Write About? A sequel to Micah and another novel, Nathan are in the works, as well. Samples of her work can be seen at the S.E. Wallace Web site.
"The Magi" © S.E. Wallace
About the Artist
Jaxon Renick is a multi-talented artist of Native American descent with a long history in the comics field. (Besides reading them!) He has worked on projects with DC, Marvel, and a number of independent lines, and has done artwork for published articles. He studied various media and styles at the Kansas City Art Institute. Renick is many things to many many people — beloved by millions in Thailand, despised by several in the U.S., and (so far) ignored by billions elsewhere. He is also known to be a bit of a smartass, but with a heart of plated gold. Jaxon may be reached at: renegadelizard@ev1.net.

Artwork © Jaxon Renick