A story from the creative writing group

The lost property office

For a short time while I was growing up my Dad was in charge of the Lost Property Office at Victoria Station. This meant that he was occasionally part of the shift system manning the front desk. He would bring home amusing tales of what people had left on trains: there was a leg of lamb in a shopping bag more than once, an unplucked fowl tied by the legs with a label attached with someone's name written on it was occasionally abandoned and once a hare (fur still on) similarly labelled. There were umbrellas galore of course. I was more interested in a magician’s cloak. It was black on one side, my Dad described it in detail. He said that would render its wearer almost invisible, then went on to say that the other side was a luminous blue with shiny stars.

Every three months items that had not been reclaimed by their rightful owners were sent to public auction (edible leavings were put in a fridge and kept for a week before being disposed of). Items that received no bids at auction were first of all put in a sale where railway employees and their families had the option of buying the things that the travelling public had abandoned. The proceeds from the sale were given to charity. Items left over from the sale were then sent to charity shops to be sold. I wanted the magic cloak my father had described so very much that I kept my fingers crossed as much as I could over the days preceding the next sale, subscribing to a theory I invented that the magic of crossed fingers would reach the shadowy world of the magician’s cloak! Eager anticipation for my mother’s return from the sale had me hopping from one foot to the other as she opened the front door. When she told me that the cloak had not been in the sale after all I was devastated. Her sole purchase, to my disgust, was a brand new dustpan and brush!

My disappointment had not gone unnoticed by my kind mother: that Christmas the first present I opened was a majestic magician’s cloak which she had made. It had all the features described by my father. It reached the ground of my 10 year old self but I continued to wear it over black trousers right through my teenage years when I practised my magic acts for family and friends. I read about magic tricks enthusiastically and joined the Junior Magician’s Circle, eventually graduating to full membership of the adult Magician’s Circle. Now, all these years later, I still practise the art and am much in demand. I followed my father into a career on the railways and as I work shifts I am able to fit my one-man shows into children’s party times. I am often asked to perform at grown-up parties too. Occasionally I am invited to attend séances because of a mistaken idea that I have connections ‘on the other side’ but those invitations I always decline. I stick strictly to the rules of the Magic Circle. While I am not yet in the Darren Brown class, I am proud of my expertise which all began because a magician left his cloak on a train: Magical!

Gill Heather

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