Coming of Age Fantasy Fiction

Petre Vandomeir gazed out a cheap hotel window overlooking street lights and illuminated gas station signs, customary nightlights in a small town. 

“I’m not sure what to tell you, Poe.”

Poe had been busy cleaning his face with rabbit paws, circular motions, swiping one long ear at a time, licking, preening, thorough; old habits that die hard.

Petre turned a padded chair to face the window.

“Poe, come.”

The whiter-than-snow bunny stopped mid-stroke and flounced, the way rabbits do, over to Petre's chair, then nestled into the cradle of Petre’s elbow. 

Petre cuddled his companion, then fixed his gaze on something only he could see. 

“I may soon be calling upon you, my only friend, to assist me in facing the fact that I have failed in my one self-proclaimed purpose. I frankly don’t know how I shall survive the disappointment.”

*  *  *

Earlier that day:

Henry and Sean sat on the floor in Henry’s bedroom, their backs against the bedframe. The lights were out, blinds down. Stars and planets orbited around the ceiling and walls. The room was lined with posters of famous magicians: Houdini, Penn & Teller, David Copperfield, David Blaine, and most revered of all, Maestro Petre Vandomeir.

The boys couldn't stop staring at the announcement.

Master Illusionist Maestro Petre Vandomeir and his faithful assistant, Poe the Magic Rabbit, appearing at the Wellington Mall this Saturday, 11:00 a.m. at the Food Court. Prepare to be amazed! All are welcome!

When they heard a knock, Henry and Sean smiled.

“Come in and . . .”

A blonde, freckle-faced kid swung the door open and bounded into the room, joining the other two in their club motto.

“. . . Prepare to be amazed!”

“Stevie, get in here!  Look at this!”

Stevie stared at the announcement and began to sway, preparing to fully swoon.

Henry grabbed his arm.

“Steady, bruh.  We’re still waiting for one more member.”

Stevie turned curious. “When's the last time we all got together?”

Henry continued, “When Maestro was last in town; years ago.”

“We were such little kids back then.”

Sean laughed. “We couldn’t go anywhere on our own.”

Henry shook his head, “I wish I could laugh. Your brother got stuck driving us. He hated me ‘cause of that.”

Sean looked at Henry, grinning. “Well, there were plenty other reasons.”

Henry gave Sean a shove and Stevie raised a fist. 

“But now we have bikes! Independence!”

The door open. A girl in a baseball cap and jeans burst into the room, arms outstretched.

“Prepare, mortals, to be amazed!”

“Right on time, Ash. We’re just getting started. Close the door and have a seat.”

* * *

The Wellington Mall was bustling with weekend shoppers. At the far end of the food court was a play area featuring an antique merry-go-round that offered free rides. A small platform, normally reserved for toddler gymnastics, was set up for a magic show.    

Petre inspected his appearance in an employee washroom as he waited for his introduction. Poe was already in his hidden compartment on stage.

“This is the last time I subject myself to this humiliating dog-and-pony show.   Has it truly come to this?” Petre mumbled. As he studied his reflection, it changed before him to that of his father.

You are a foolish boy. You know you should have listened to me! 

Petre frowned at the hallucination. 


A knock.

“Mr. Vandomeir? You’re on in two.”

The door opened.

“Maestro Vandomeir.”

A kid with a sheepdog haircut and confused demeanor stood back and let Petre pass, then spotted the broken mirror.

“Wow, what . . . uh, Maestro?”

“Take it out of my earnings.”

Petre continued to his mark to await his introduction. When it came, there was a giant puff of smoke in an array of bright colors. As it cleared, he appeared, arms outstretched. He took his traditional bow to minimal applause. 

Petre tried performing over the din of shoppers and diners. It doesn’t take long to recognize an accidental audience, one where fan familiarity is all but superseded by the callous curiosity of strangers who just happened to be there. 

Petre could immediately see where all this was headed. With the best shows, you will be swept away by the energy in the house. With the worst, you die along with the indifference. Petre sighed.  

Attracting this crowd’s attention will be like raising the dead.

That gave Petre an idea.

“Ladies and gentlemen, no matter what has brought you here, welcome! Whether you know my work, fan, foe or do not know, I am a magician and this is my final show. You will witness things that have never been revealed before! You are more fortunate than you will ever know.”

Poe was becoming increasingly fidgety as Petre continued talking off-script, and decided not to wait for a cue that might never come.  He hopped around to where Petre was standing and tugged at Petre’s pant leg.

“Why, it's Poe!”

Petre gestured and Poe jumped into his arms. This prompted some of the younger children to gather in a half-circle.

“You know, there was a time that people were amused and, dare I say, even amazed by the conjuring of a coin from behind an unsuspecting ear.”

At this, Petre produced a shiny half-dollar from behind Poe's ears. He then flipped it into the air where it vanished in a poof and was replaced by a white dove. The room quieted as the dove rained confetti over the children.   

Petre held Poe in one arm and, with the other, opened his jacket. The dove flew straight to him and disappeared.  Poe squirmed. These were spells quite apart from what they’d rehearsed.

Petre leaned slightly and whispered, “Follow my lead, Poe. I’m about to blow the lid off this act.”

The rabbit’s eyes grew large with alarm.  He looked around quickly, then lunged at Petre’s neck and bit. As children screamed and mothers ran to collect them, Poe dislodged from Petre and scampered away.

When the rabbit was sure he was out of sight of the others, he disappeared in a cottony poof.

*  *  *

“Damn! Look at the time.”

“The show’s already started.” 

“I can’t believe it. Maybe it's not over.”

The Magic Club members were nearly to the mall.  Three rode bikes slowly to keep pace with the fourth bike being walked because of two flat tires.

Stevie groused. ”Look, I said I was sorry. How was I to know there were nails under there?”

Ashley mused, “Hmm, let's see. Demolition site, puddles, nails visible. Might there be some you cannot see, perhaps lurking beneath standing water?”

Henry laughed. “Harsh, Ashley! You can be a real . . .”

“Thank you.” 

Sean stopped.

“Guys, wait. I hear something.”

* * *

“Poe? Where are you?  I’m not angry.  I know you’re here.”

Petre had followed Poe. He’d been furious at first; he’d never left a performance dangling like that.  He imagined he’d heard cheers as he left the stage but he couldn’t be sure what it meant. The combination of being away from the mall and outside in the air helped clear his head.

“Poe? Not only am I not angry, I owe you an apology. You were right.”

“Yes, of course I was.”

Poe hopped out from behind a tree, and continued.

“And just what was it that suddenly possessed you back there?”

Petre shook his head. Walking over to a log, he sat.

“How long have we been doing this?”

Poe followed, calculating.

“One hundred twenty-three years, two months, one week, three days. Would you like hours and minutes?”

Petre rubbed his eyes.

“Do you see my point, Poe?”

“Not enough to give away everything at a suburban mall to a floor full of rug-rats.”

“Did you see their faces with the dove?”

“Better hope nobody recorded it.”

“Who cares? No one’s figuring that one out.”

“Oh, that spell, you mean? Haven’t you gotten us in enough trouble?”

“Wait, Poe. I hear something.”

A voice, very close:


Poe dashed behind the log as two boys emerged from the brush. They both froze.



Petre closed his eyes tightly for a second, then leaned back and gave Poe a glance. Poe looked back, shrugged.

“Why, yes, hello. It is me. Bet you’re wondering what I’m doing out here in the woods, sitting on a log . . .”

“We’re sorry to bust in on you like this, Maestro. We came to see your show. I’m Henry.”

“Did we miss it? How do you do, Maestro. I’m Sean.” Sean gave a clumsy star-struck bow.

Just then, Ashley and Stevie came through the same opening. Ashley broke into a wide grin. Stevie made a show of swooning and pretended to stop himself from falling.

Henry gestured to the two. “This is Ashley and Stevie. We’re all big fans. We’ve had a Magic Club for years and you’re our hero! I can’t believe I’m talking to Maestro Petre Vandomeir.”

“Well,” Petre relaxed, “I’m flattered. It’s good to meet some young fans.”

Sean was giddy.  “We see your shows every chance we get, Maestro.”

Henry looked back at Ashley and Stevie. “But not this time.”

Ashley’s face fell, “Oh no, we’re too late?”

Petre stood up.

“Never mind that. It was, by far, my worst performance. I’m glad you didn’t see it.  So, how familiar are you with my tricks?”

Stevie came forward. “Are you kidding? I’ll never forget when you turned that elephant into a peanut, and then that gorilla into a banana? I like to try to figure out how the magic works but I couldn’t begin. . .”

“I’ll admit,” Ashley joined in, “I like to debunk what I can but I honestly can’t touch your stuff. I can’t begin to understand how you . . .”

Henry broke in. “We all have our favorites, Maestro, but look, if we’re bothering you . . .”

“No bother.” Petre glanced back at the log. “Poe?”

All four, in unison, turned to look.


Poe appeared from behind the log, dipped his head in greeting and then glared at Petre.

“Poe, I was just thinking. Why don’t we perform the act, right here, right now?”

Ashley pressed her hands to her face. “Right here?”

Stevie’s jaw couldn’t fall any farther. “Right now?”

Poe wanted to protest but surrendered. “Oh, if you insist.”

All eyes, guarded, disbelieving, turned to Poe.

“You heard that, right?” Stevie sidled up next to Sean. "Did you see his lips move?” Sean shook his head.

Petre softly clapped his hands.  “Find your seats. Find your seats! The show is about to start.”

Ashley leaned over and whispered to Henry. “I don’t think I can be any more amazed.”

They might easily have been at the finest venue on the planet, their host could not have been more grand or engaging.

“Lady and gentlemen, you have entered a new realm, a different dimension, as it were. While you are with us, we invite you to suspend your logic and stretch your imagination to its very limits. During this time we are together, we do, at a minimum, wish to entertain you, but our greater purpose is to dazzle your senses, challenge your perceptions and rattle the foundations of your world!  So, sit back and prepare to be amazed!”

The woods went dark, as if they were in a theatre.  Stevie, who’d sat nearest the “stage” quickly moved and joined Henry, almost in his lap. “What's happening?  How did he do that?”

Henry gave him just enough of a shove to get him away, but not far. “I don’t know.”

Sean sounded small. “I don’t like this.”

A spotlight appeared and centered a white light on Petre. He sat on one end of the log with his top hat propped on the other. 

“You know, it’s one thing for a magician to pull a rabbit out of a hat; it is quite another for a rabbit to stuff a magician into said hat. Can it be done? Poe?”

The kids watched as two rabbit ears appeared out of the top hat. They rose, along with the rest of Poe, who proceeded to do a bunny back stroke overhead. He was literally floating on air.

Poe swooped down, grabbed Petre by the collar and, gaining speed, whipped him around in a circle over the children’s heads until he blurred and elongated and sounded like a train in a wind tunnel.  With a flash, the circle formed a high arch and zipped into the hat. Triumphant, Poe landed.

Stevie looked sick. “Th-that’s not possible.”

All four kids appeared to be in shock, chalk-white.

Poe leaned onto the hat. “Nice work, Einstein. You traumatized the audience. There's your legacy.” 

Ashley whispered to Henry. “Legacy?”

A beam of assorted lights burst from the hat and – poof – Petre sat on the other side of Poe, shamefaced.

“Too much?”

Henry was visibly shaken. “Too much. . .what? What was that?”

Sean’s voice trembled. “That wasn’t magic; that was something else.”

Ashley covered her face. “It’s not humanly possible.” 

Petre looked at Poe. Poe relaxed into himself.

“Tell them.”

“Well. . .”

“Better with lights on, I think.”

The forest went back to daylight.

Ashley’s eyes closed tight. “Not possible.”

“Where do I start?” Petre asked no one.

Stevie slowly raised a hesitant hand, “Question?”

Poe nodded. “Q and A, brilliant! What’s your question?”

“So, why a talking rabbit all of a sudden? And when did you start throwing voices?”

“I’ll have you know,” Poe puffed out a fluffy chest, “my voice is neither thrown, nor does Mr. Magic over there have a thing to do with it.”

Ashley shook her head. "Not possible."

Poe glared at Petre.

“Are you telling them?”

Petre rubbed his chin.

“There simply is no easy way to say this, I suppose.  Poe and I, we’re dead.”

Henry startled. “You’re retiring?”

“Well, that, and we are ghosts.”


“Yup, been that way for a century or so,” Poe added.

“Well, well, now, isn't that amazing,” Stevie whispered.  Ashley wouldn't look up. Henry and Sean looked at each other, confused, then both laughed nervously.

“Don't laugh at me!" Petre covered his face.

Henry looked concerned. “Are you serious?”

“My father laughed at me. So what if I didn’t want the family farm. How can you honor a duty that takes you so far from your dreams? He never forgave me. To this day, he hasn’t forgiven me.”

“I meant about the ghost thing actually, but to this day?  How would you know that?”

“I see him sometimes; I can feel his disapproval.” 

“That’s all in your head, Maestro.”

The silence that followed lasted half a minute but seemed longer.

Ashley had regained some of her composure. “M-maestro? How do you know you’re d-dead?”

Petre scoffed, “I was there when it happened. Oh, trust me, when you’re dead, you know it. It simply couldn’t be anything else.”

Stevie asked, “But if you are dead, what are you doing here and why can we see you?”

Henry added, “And communicate?”

Poe was inspecting his paws. “Unfinished business.”

Henry continued. “So, you mean you’re still here trying to prove something to your old man?”

Petre bristled. “If you are referring to papa, I might remind you, young man, nothing could be more important. I simply cannot rest knowing I failed him.”

The four kids looked at Petre quizzically. “Failed?”

Henry cleared his throat.

“So, let me understand.  Your dad didn’t like your career choice, so you stood up to him by pursuing your dream of being a magician. You now have before you four kids who formed a club for you, because of you, all about you. How many magicians in these woods do you know can say that?”

Petre grew quiet.

“A question?” Ashley began.

Petre nodded.

“What would it take for you to be released?”


“Ghosts on earth with unfinished business ultimately want to go home, don’t they? Or move on?”

“Well, sure, but my father . . .”

Sean slapped his forehead. “You’re still letting your father control you, from the grave? Don’t you know parents only want you to be happy?  They don’t always say it but it’s true.”

“Not in my case.”

“In your case, or in your head?”

Petre felt five sets of well-meaning eyes burrowing into him. He sighed and took the equivalent of a deep breath.

“So, you're telling me I should just cozy up to a man who’s demeaned me for my entire existence, forgive and forget, and let that be that?”

Ashley added, “You don’t necessarily have to forget.”

Henry continued, “The rest is yes.”

“I have a question.”

Stevie hesitated before speaking again.

“Do you want to go . . . home, that is?”

Petre was quiet for a moment. He looked at Poe and invited the rabbit into his arms.

“I’m amazed by how intelligent kids are these days. Let me say it’s been an adventure knowing you, Henry, Sean, Stevie, Ashley.”

Petre went to retrieve his top hat and offered it to Henry.

“Take care of this for me, will you?”

Henry checked, “There’s nobody in here, right?”

“Not at present.”

Henry smiled. “Good show, Maestro. Thank you.”

“One of my better experiences, yes. I’m glad you enjoyed it. So, without further delay, until we meet again. . .”

A beam of sparkling gold enveloped the pair and, in a blinding burst of white light, they disappeared.

The Magic Club stood silently. Ashley was the first to break the silence.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t prepared for any of that.”

July 21, 2023 16:48

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Michał Przywara
20:42 Jul 27, 2023

A fun adventure, with an unexpected twist :) I thought he might be a real wizard, but it turns out he's a ghost, which is another layer. Poe too. We learn a lot about Petre's history, and the things still anchoring him to the living world make sense. Remorse, a burning sense of failure, shame - unfinished business. But the biggest question of all remains: when Poe was alive, could he still talk? :) "In your case, or in your head?" I like that. Under the hood, sometimes we get stuck in a rut, and not even our best friend can get us out....


Susan Catucci
23:46 Jul 27, 2023

Thanks, Michal - You know, this is the second bit of feedback that you've pointed out something that shouldn't have been overlooked. (last story, changed tenses mid-stream - arrrgh) and this one I said Poe was indignant at the very notion that Mr. Magic was responsible for his voice when, in actuality, Poe began speaking following admittance into the next world due to all those spells subsequently learned - dang it! I could have made that plain. Can't get anything by you. I'm always grateful when you stop by because I always learn, ...


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Mary Bendickson
09:06 Jul 22, 2023

🐰Delightfully charming. Good luck to Petre pleasing his dad. Liked liked it. Fan of the fan club. They got their own private wow show. Bunny was funny. Petre petrifying. Magical magic.


Susan Catucci
13:27 Jul 22, 2023

Oh, thank you, Mary. Wouldn't it be fun to have a hop-along sidekick? PS. Did you like it or did you "like" like it? - forward me!


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Delbert Griffith
22:23 Jul 21, 2023

Loved it! Susan, you have a knack for spinning a ripping yarn, no matter how fantastic the premise, and still have me on the edge of my seat. I was so invested in the magician, and I love love love the rabbit. I hope this little guy makes another appearance in another tale somewhere down the line. Great characterization without overdoing it. As per, you bring forth some significant themes. The father/son relationship. The meaning of success. What it means to live a worthy life. It's all there in this sharply funny tale. Nicely done, my goo...


Susan Catucci
23:17 Jul 21, 2023

I'm coming to the quick conclusion, Del, that my inner child needs nature to express what I'm not sure I - or humans in general - have the words for. Whatever the outcome, the exploration adds to the education. Thanks for all the valuable advice, support, all things good. :)


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