“Damm it man, I did everything right, can’t understand it.” Keith was annoyed. He usually got annoyed when things did not go the way he expected, and things were definitely not going the way he expected. It was like this when I refused to move in with him (a good thing as it turned out). I liked Keith and we had good sex together but as for living with him, well, that would be another matter. A boy has to know when to say NO, and Keith is somebody who does not like to hear ‘no’. Despite that he was probably my best friend. Oh, let’s be honest: he was my only friend.
I picked up a stack of books from the floor and started to pack them into one of the cardboard boxes we had managed to scrounge earlier in the day. As I did so I looked up and caught Lyn’s eye. She smiled and shook her head. We both knew Keith well enough to not give too much attention to his ranting.
“This should not be happening!”
With that I had to agree, which was unusual. If Keith had given a bit more attention to the practicalities of living in the 1960s and a bit less to the esoteric study of the traditions of the whatever people he had been studying for the last few months (it was difficult to keep up), this would not have happened. But it was happening. He had not paid his rent and now his landlady wanted him out: today, now, presto.
One can’t really say it was a surprise; indeed the surprise was that it had not come sooner. For the last month she had been insisting that the rent must be brought up to date. How he had managed to stay as long as he had is something of a miracle; London bedsitter landladies are not known for their generosity. Then again, Keith’s life seems to be filled with miracles, mostly brought about by his charm and wit. Given his talents in that department I am fairly certain that talking a landlady around to giving him a bit more time had not been that difficult a job.
No matter what else is said about Keith (and a lot is) one cannot deny that he has both charm and wit, coupled with dashing good looks that he uses to every possible advantage. I should know — I fell for him the first time we met. Unfortunately that does not quite make up for his shortcomings. He has absolutely no sense of responsibility or respectability. He has a distinct lack of morals. When caught in bed with the husband of a popular TV star, his only response was to invite her to join them. Strangely enough it seems that she accepted, somewhat to the annoyance of the husband, and the resulting scene ended with the neighbours summoning the police. A complicating factor was that the husband was also his boss, so Keith subsequently found himself without employment.
It must be said that, other than the lack of income, Keith did not really notice any change. As before, he seemed to spend most of his time in the Reading Room of the British Museum investigating rare and arcane texts. Whilst anyone else would have gone out and looked for a source of income, Keith was quite happy to continue life as if he still had one. Not surprisingly this created problems when it came to paying the rent. I was quite happy to feed him when he came round to my place and to sort out clothing for him when it became a dire necessity, but rent was one thing I could not cover. After all, nineteen-year-old assistant sub-editors are not paid that much. I could barely cover my own rent.
I packed away another set of books, noting that the sale of one of them probably would have paid Keith’s rent for the next three months. Knowing what the response would be, however, I refrained from making such a suggestion. I had made that mistake a couple of weeks before. Despite the verbal lambasting I had received, I still found it difficult to understand why he needed three different versions of the same work.
Lyn, who was packing away the contents of the kitchenette, asked Keith about a rather battered teapot which, clearly, had seen far better days. Keith agreed that it could be disposed of.
I looked at the grimy copy of Dracula that I was about to put into the box — at least the third version I had seen of that book — and considered raising the point again. I had second thoughts. Keith might be my somewhat effeminate boyfriend and I may be a fourteen stone amateur rugby player, but I knew from experience that he could pack one hell of a punch. It seemed that not all those rare books he read were about the esoteric.
“I just don’t understand it,” Keith commented. “I did everything just as directed. For five days I fasted. Since then I have only eaten of those foods allowed according to Leviticus.” Lyn commented that she had not appreciated that he was Jewish. Keith replied that he was not, but that when undertaking a magical rite one had to follow the traditions of the rite to the letter. In magic, detail was everything.
That was when I made the mistake: I asked him what the rite was. I am not a student of the esoteric but I do have an interest in it.
Keith launched into a lengthy explanation. Rather than just saying what it was that he had been doing, and why, he started with a whole history of Cabbalistic magic going back to Sumerian times. I wasn’t sure that his understanding of the tradition was correct, but I had the sense not to raise that point. We were there to pack up the bedsit, not to have a debate about esoteric traditions.
It was, though, quite clear that Keith had decided that his time was far too important to be wasted on trivialities such as having to work. Therefore he had decided to use magic to solve his financial difficulties… specifically a rite he had found whilst delving into some of the more obscure traditions of a breakaway group of seventeenth century Cabbalists. The purpose of the rite had been to draw money to him, and it appeared to involve long periods of meditation during which he sat and visualised money cascading around him. Apparently he had done this every day for three weeks. According to everything he had read, it should have been fulfilled that day. Keith had fully expected the money to arrive and to be in a position to pay his rent.
I thought about the old saying that ‘God helps those who help themselves’. That may be true about God; it is definitely true about Magic. For it to work you not only have to perform the necessary rites, you also have to undertake the practical steps that will allow it to happen… like getting a job. If Keith had gone out and got a job after he started to work the ritual, then — allowing that he would have had to work a week in hand — he would have got his first week’s pay the previous day. He would have been able to pay the rent. As it was… well, here we were packing the place up.
It is surprising how many boxes it takes to pack somebody’s life away, especially a life like Keith’s. Sometime just after one the landlady popped her head round the door and asked how much longer it would take. She was a friendly sort, especially when she saw that Lyn was mopping the floor of the kitchenette. Shortly after that she appeared with a tray of tea and biscuits and told us to have a short break. It was clear that if Keith had only made some effort to pay the rent she probably would have allowed him to stay.
Once the tea and biscuits were finished there were only a few more things to pack —the main one being the pile of games on top of the wardrobe. Keith was a keen games player. He was the devil at Monopoly, which he played regularly and which he always seemed to win. There must have been twenty games up there… Cluedo, Scrabble, Link Word, and a host of others that I had never heard of. On top of the pile was his luxury Monopoly set.
Keith got a small footstool to stand on so he could reach the pile of boxes. When Lyn told him not to be stupid and to wait till she had finished with the steps he just brushed her off and reached for the boxes.
Rather than taking one box at a time, however, he tried to grab the whole pile. The Monopoly box slipped off the top, fell forward and hit the top of the wardrobe. The lid of the box shot off, allowing the contents to spill out. Monopoly money cascaded down upon Keith, and ten, fifty, hundred, and five hundred pound notes surrounded him… just as in his vision.
Then I knew it. Magic works.