Impractical Magic
By Megan Vaghy 
I stopped watching the news ages ago. I had to. A person has a limit on how many times they can stomach the word, ‘Unprecedented.’
“Did you hear the latest about what happened down here?” my mum asks me one morning. My parents are currently living in the States.
“No, and I don’t want to.”
“Some guy took out a whole preschool.”
“Jesus. I said I didn’t want to hear!”
“Isn’t it awful?”
“Obviously. But is anyone surprised? They didn’t have gun control before, why would it be any different now?”
“What are things like in BC?” she asks.
“The usual. Not too bad. Except for the flood. That wasn’t great. Gas is back up to $1.80. Supply chain is cut off.”
“What happened?”
“Pro-life group called up a monsoon over an abortion clinic in Abbotsford. They were a little too vengeful and flooded the whole Valley.”
“Maybe it’s time to think about moving east. What about Toronto.” She’s been attempting to solve my problems for 33 years now. It’s getting old.
“Things aren’t any better anywhere else, you know! An actual clown is running the show in Ontario! Floated right out of the sewer with his balloons and everything! Literally anything is possible right now! At least there’s some semblance of order in BC.”
“What about Calgary? It’s cheaper to live there and you guys could get a house.”
“That’s a heck of a commute for Tom,” I reply. My husband is a pilot based in Vancouver. There’s no need to make his job any tougher.
“It’s not that far. Only an hour’s flight to Vancouver.” She’s got a rebuttal for every argument.
I think of my cousin living in Edmonton and what she told me over the phone, “I talked to Michelle yesterday.”
“Oh? How are they doing?”
“Not good! Their hospitals are completely overrun. The whole healthcare system is collapsing. People showing up in the ER with elephant trunks, boils, you name it. Her neighbour down the road just got arrested this weekend. The woman has a horse fetish and turned her husband’s entire hockey team into centaurs. How do you even fix that? It’s the wild west over there.”
Our phone chat is interrupted by a powerful explosion that appears to have originated in my living room. I glance upwards as the kitchen ceiling begins to glow orange.
“Hells bells, not this again, I gotta go,” I say to my mum, and swiftly move to safety as lava begins pouring onto the kitchen table, like cake batter oozing off a spatula. Some kid in my son Calvin’s class taught him how to conjure volcanoes—a skill Calvin has perfected with dedication like we’ve never seen before—and now we’re contending with daily earthquakes, effusive lava flows, and even the occasional pyroclastic cloud. The whole house smells like rotten eggs from the sulphurous gasses and no matter how long I keep the windows open, it never goes away.
On my way up to the living room, I collect armfuls of self-multiplying socks that have found a home on the stairs. The self-multiplying socks were Tom’s brilliant idea.
“The kids will never complain about not having any clean socks again, and I won’t get mad when you do the laundry and lose my matching socks!” he had exclaimed proudly. Socks were always a problem in the house. No one could ever find any when they needed them—
something I chalked up to everyone simply throwing their socks confetti-style whenever they took their shoes off—and I always wound up finding them under chairs, tables, inside the sofa, on top of the fireplace and so on. Naturally I got the blame when there wasn’t a sock to be
found. Socks are my kryptonite. And now they procreate. Like bunnies. Or viruses.
Calvin is on top of the coffee table, gazing in wonder at the little volcano near the bar cart. He too is proud of his handiwork.
“Check it out, Mum! Eddy taught me how to do historic eruptions!” He is about to snap his fingers and I beat him to the punch, snapping my own fingers with the reflexes of a gunslinger. The volcano disappears, as does the lava and the ash all over the living room carpet. The smell remains, and I open both living room windows.
“Mum! I was just going to do Krakatoa!”
Through gritted teeth I grumble, “We. Don’t. Need. Historic. Eruptions.”
“Can I go up to the store and get some candy then?”
*Snap* The volcano reappears, slightly bigger this time, and begins burping out lava.
*Snap* I make it disappear again.
*Snap* Volcano. *Snap* No volcano. *Snap* *Snap* *Snap*.
“ENOUGH!” I shout and my rage binds Calvin’s hands in oven mitts so he cannot snap his fingers again.
“You can’t keep me like this forever!” he fires back angrily.
“Watch me,” I reply, and pick up another armful of socks. I’ll leave him like that for a little while. It won’t hurt him, and it will buy me some time to figure out a more permanent solution.
My daughter Olivia is coming out of her room as I reach the top floor.
“It stinks in here,” she complains, “Can’t we do something about the smell?”
“Open your window.”
“It’s already open.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. He can’t do it right now. Here, put these socks away.”
“I don’t have any room in my closet.”
Olivia drags me into her room and opens her closet door. An avalanche of socks comes tumbling out, knocking us both over in the process. There must be hundreds. Thousands even. I snap my fingers and they disappear. Now she has no socks. But on the plus side, she can get to her clothes.
“Just wear flip flops for the next few days. Ok? Just until I can get Dad to fix his stupid spell?”
“Mum, it’s January.”
Olivia goes downstairs. Shortly after she leaves the room, I hear Calvin hollering, “MUM! LIV CONJURED UP ROGER AGAIN!”
Olivia is a marvellously powerful witch. Even before The Change, you could tell she’d be a natural. When we could only dream of telekinesis, Olivia was the kind of person who you’d suspect could hurl objects across the room with just a look and was simply choosing not to. When Calvin used to pick on her, she would get mad. Now, she gets even. The girl can conjure up a category 5 hurricane in the time it takes you to blink, and now and then, she does. However, she prefers a creative approach to vengeance and has taken to conjuring up a ferocious wasp she calls Roger. He never hurts anyone—he doesn’t have to. He just hovers malevolently nearby, raising cortisol levels and blood pressure with his sword-like-stinger.
I snap my fingers and Roger disappears.
“Come on. We have to go up to Whole Foods and get something for dinner,” I tell them.
Whole Foods is only a two-block walk. I’m grateful I don’t have to get in my car. Traffic is terrible today. Bridge traffic, I think. No, it’s for the Petro Can. Gas rationing from the Pro-Life Monsoon has caused pandemonium at the pumps. A lone attendant is standing outside beside the tire pumps, appealing for calm. I hear raised voices and then the unmistakable snap of fingers. *Snap* There’s an ostrich where the attendant was standing. *Snap* Now he’s a duck. *Snap* Now
he’s frozen in a block of ice. *Snap* *Snap* *Snap* Now he’s lying face down on the ground. Too many spells have caused his body to go into shock, and he’s imminent danger of cardiac arrest. I call 911 from across the street, then the kids and I make a swift exit. Tempers are volatile and it isn’t safe for us here.
At Whole Foods, I smack head first into the glass door and bounce
backwards. Rubbing my head, I see a young woman clad in a Whole Foods apron approach from the other side. She snaps her fingers, and the doors open.
“Are you guys closed?” I ask.
“Oh no!” she says cheerfully, “Didn’t you see the sign though?”
She points at a laminated sign. It states, “Magic Door.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” My head is absolutely throbbing and I’m in no mood.
“It’s a magic door.”
“We’ve transitioned to only magic doors. That means, when you approach the door, you just snap your fingers, and it will open for you. See?” She gives me a helpful demonstration.
“Wait, wait, wait. You’re telling me that you guys got rid of your automatic doors that opened without magic and put in doors that open only with the use of magic?”
“That’s…That’s baffling. You’ve just added an extra step for people. What was wrong with the old way?”
Her eyes narrow and she becomes self-righteous in a way that grates on my last nerve, “Excuse me, ma’am, but I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“We have a zero-tolerance policy for harassment.”
“Harassment? I was just asking a question.”
At this moment, a man I recognise as the manager appears at the girl’s side, “Is there a problem here, Justine?”
“This lady was harassing me!”
“I really wasn’t trying to,” I protest, “I hit my head trying to get into the store. I didn’t realise you guys had changed over to magic doors here.”
“It’s the world we live in now! You can let her in, Justine,” he says and walks away, calling over his shoulder to me, “Be more careful next time.” I can tell Justine would prefer that the kids and I leave. I hear Olivia softly snap her fingers. I glance back and muffle a laugh. Roger has appeared in front of Justine and is glaring at her through his waspy eyes.
We wander through the store, eventually arriving at the hot bar. I gaze at it in awe: with all the magic at our fingertips, they’re still serving up overcooked mac and cheese, mashed potatoes that look like the inside of a stomach, and soggy brussels sprouts? We settle on baguette, salami, and cheese (it’s both safe and comforting) and head for the check out. As we get closer to the front of the line, I notice a mountain of groceries behind the express cash desk. Every now and again, it gets a little bigger. When it’s our turn, the cashier rings through our items and I pull out my debit card.
“We don’t accept debit anymore, unfortunately.”
“Well we’ve transitioned over to full magic now.”
“So I’ve heard. How am I supposed to pay?”
“With magic.”
“Like…with a spell?”
“No. The magic currency. You need to get the app on your phone. Then you can use the app to pay each time you’re here.”
I quickly look up the app on the App Store. It costs $23.99.
“It costs more than my groceries combined!”
“Sorry, that’s the only currency we accept.”
Out of principle, I leave the groceries on the counter and tell the kids we’ll have soup at home. As we walk past Justine at the customer service desk, I hear her swear under her breath at me.
I don’t bother to dignify that with a response, but I lean down to Calvin, “I’ll undo the oven mitts if you promise to do your worst.”
He grins, “Pompeii?”
“Pompeii,” I agree.
We leave the store.


Megan Vaghy 
Megan spent much of her childhood moving internationally, armed with a suitcase, a notebook, and a wild imagination. Writing got her through the doldrums of airport layovers and the endless slog of long-haul flights, back in the dark ages when we all had to watch the same movie on the same aisle-mounted screens. These days, she’s a mostly stay-at-home mum, a part-time sales associate at a specialty wine shop, and champion Cap U ABE math procrastinator. Megan is also a former flight attendant, with a Diploma of Wine (it’s a real thing—not just code for ‘heavy drinker’), and she’s upgrading courses so she can go to nursing school. Her dream is to one day have a fold-out business card that contains a series of totally unrelated credentials.