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Four Lilies

The Magic Formula

Fernando Sorrentino
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On Saturday night I dreamed about a sorcerer. He was dressed like sorcerers always dress in tales, with a black gown and a high pointed hat. There were half moons and silver stars printed on the gown and hat. The sorcerer was very thin, very old with a bony pointed nose and a very long, very white beard. And the important thing about it all was that he told me the secret formula of invisibility. Obviously I dream these things because my Dad’s a pharmacist and I’m used to hearing about formulas.

As soon as I woke I jotted it all down on a piece of paper and went looking for my friend Marcelo to share it with him. We shut ourselves up in the lab behind the shop and got to work on a regular army of flasks, test tubes and stills, pouring from one to the other all the acids and powders and other muck the place is full of and heaven knows what they are used for. We got really enthusiastic and, to tell the truth, didn’t follow the sorcerer’s recipe any more: we’d taken off and were using our own initiative adding more and more ingredients, mainly until we’d got a huge flask filled with a thick, black, boiling liquid. Marcelo stirred it with a wooden spoon and poured some of the liquid into a test tube.

Then I pulled my little dog Lucas over, by force because he tried to get away as best he could, so I held him down by the nose and made him drink the whole test tube full. The glass was very hot to my fingers and Lucas opened his eyes very wide. When I let him go it was very odd, he gave something like a series of coughs and sneezes, then was still, barely breathing. Marcelo and I watched him for over an hour but nothing noticeable happened.

“It isn’t a prescription meant for dogs,” I said when I saw that Lucas was dead.

“Well,” Marcelo answered, “let’s see if the wizard’s spell works on us then.”

We filled the test tube twice, and first I, then he, drank a good deal of that black, steaming liquid. Sometimes it tasted like cough syrup, other times like sulphur or gunpowder. Marcelo, as Lucas had done, choked a bit and sneezed several times, but in my case my eyes filled with tears and I felt a blaze of fire in my face and in my stomach.

Very patiently we waited for an hour, then another, and another. Since we could see that nothing was wrong with us, we went to watch TV and had to admit the sorcerer had made fools of us.

Translation: Alita Kelley
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Copyright ©Fernando Sorrentino, 1984
By the same author RSS
Date of publicationDecember 2004
Collection RSSThe Fictile Word
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