I was ten when I saw Mr. Wizard shoot down past our window from the sixth floor, that red checkered vest he always wore in a blur. I gasped and pointed. “Mr. Wizard…” I said, barely able to get the words out.
My father was a few feet away talking to a guy in a black leather jacket about a hot TV the man was selling. He said there was a truck outside filled with them. They were going back and forth about the price.
“Not now,” my father told me when I persisted. My father knew how to get the price down on anything.
Mr. Wizard was a name my father gave him. Taken from the guy on that TV science show I liked to watch. It stuck. He was a quirky man with a red goatee, and never without that red checkered vest. He was an inventor and the building’s misguided Mr. Fix-It. My mom would have me ferry a broken toaster or radio up to his apartment. It would come back fine for a week or two, then go on the fritz again. When our toaster finally sparked and went up in flames she cut short those small appliance repair visits. And I wished just once he could get it right because I missed going there. That apartment crowded with oddly shaped contraptions on work benches. A magical place when there was little magic elsewhere to be found.
He had a musical pillow with a recorder in it that had a voice (his) counting sheep, that kept skipping and was too uncomfortable to lay a head on. There was a mechanical back-scratcher with a metal finger at the end of it. He tried, but could never get it to move slowly enough. There was always the threat of impalement.
I never knew where he was from, but Mr. Wizard had a heavy accent. He’d say, “Someday I’m going to win the Newbell Price.”
My father plugged in the TV. It was brand new and worked fine when you adjusted the rabbit ears antenna just so.
“Dad!” I said.
“Not now,” he said. Swung around pointing a finger at me.
I wanted to go to the window and look down. I didn’t want to go to the window and look down. I wished my mom were home. She’d listen. I remember her saying Mr. Wizard was a kook. But a kind-hearted one. My dad said he was a know-nothing and left it at that. To me he was the coolest person alive. If only he could get those things to work, he just might have won that Nobel Prize.
There was a comedy show on the new TV and my father handed the man a bunch of bills, and he left.
“I love this show,” my father said, putting his arm around me and pulling me into his pride. “Ain’t this great?” he said.
I nodded and we both sat on the couch and stared at the screen. I could hear the sirens getting louder, and saw my father turn to listen. Pretty soon everyone in the world would know what I knew. He turned back.
“Get up and move that antenna a little, would ya?” he said. Then, “Boy that’s some picture.”
‘Mr. Wizard’ was originally published in Fictive Dream; May, 2019.
It received a nomination for ‘The Pushcart Prize’.