Richard is a barnstorming pilot who earns his living flying people on short trips around their towns in the American mid-West. One day he meets another pilot, Donald, doing the same job and they tour together while Richard hears Don's version of how the world works. As the days pass, Richard realises that Don was once known as the Mechanic Messiah, the American Avatar (until he announced one day that he quit and disappeared in front of twenty-five thousand eye-witnesses) and probably holds the answers to some fundamental questions. In this (long - I'm sorry!) extract, Richard is feeling lonely and has asked how to attract a lady into his life.
The hamburgers in this place were wrapped half-over in thin oiled paper, and when you unwrapped them you got sesame seeds everywhere useless little things, but the hamburgers were good. He ate in silence for a time and so did I, wondering what he would say.
"Well, Richard, we're magnets, aren't we? Not magnets. We're iron, wrapped in copper wire, and whenever we want to magnetize ourselves we can. Pour our inner voltage through the wire, we can attract whatever we want to attract. A magnet is not anxious about how it works. It is itself, and by its nature it draws some things and leaves others untouched."
I ate a potato chip and frowned at him. "You left out one thing. How do I do it?"
"You don't do anything. Cosmic law, remember? Like attracts like. Just be who you are, calm and clear and bright. Automatically, as we shine who we are, asking ourselves every minute is this what I really want to do, doing it only when we answer yes, automatically that turns away those who have nothing to learn from who we are and attracts those who do, and from whom we have to learn, as well."
"But that takes a lot of faith, and meanwhile you get pretty lonely."
He looked at me strangely over his hamburger "Humbug on faith. Takes zero faith What it takes is imagination." He swept the table between us clean, pushing salt and french fries out of the way, ketchup, forks and knives, so that I wondered what was going to happen, what would be materialized before my very eyes.
"If you have imagination as a grain of sesame seed," he said, herding an example seed to the middle of the clearing, "all things are possible to you."
I looked at the sesame seed, and then at him. "I thought the thing was faith, when the world goes against me."
"No. I wanted to correct that, when I was working, but it was long uphill fight. Two thousand years ago, five thousand, they didn't have a word for imagination, and faith was the best they could come up with for a pretty solemn bunch of followers. Also, they didn't have sesame seeds. "
I knew for a fact that they had sesame seeds, but I let this lie go past. "I'm supposed to imagine this magnetizing? I can do that, but that's all that is, that's just my imagination. "
He looked despairingly to heaven, represented for the moment by the tin-plate ceiling and cold lights of Em and Edna's Cafe. "Just your imagination? Of course it's your imagination! This world is your imagination, have you forgotten? Your imagining doesn't change the Is one whit, doesn't affect reality at all. But we are talking about Warner Brothers worlds, MGM lifetimes. All dreams with the symbols we waking dreamers conjure for ourselves. "
He lined his fork and knife as though he was building a bridge from his place to mine.
"If you dreamed about airplanes, what would that mean to you?"
"Well, freedom. Escape and flight and setting myself free. "
"How clear do you want it: The dream awake is the same: your will to be free of all things that tie you back--routine, authority, boredom, gravity. What you haven't realized is that you're already free, and you always have been. If you had half the sesame seeds of this . . . You're already supreme lord of your magician's life.”
The waitress looked at him strangely from time to time, drying dishes, listening, puzzling over who this was.
"Show me what you mean give me a little miracle of the magnet. . . I do want to learn this."
"You show me," he said. 'To bring anything into your life, imagine that it's already there."
"Anything. Something small, at first. "
"OK. . . . A blue feather. "
He looked at me blankly. "Richard? A blue feather ?"
"You said anything, something little."
He shrugged. "Fine. A blue feather. Imagine the feather. Visualize it, every line and edge of it, the tip, V-splits where it's torn, fluff around the quill. Just for a minute. Then let it go. "
I closed my eyes for a minute and saw an image in my mind, five inches long, iridescent blue to silver at the edges. A bright clear feather floating there in the dark.
"That's it. You can open your eyes now. "
I opened my eyes. "Where's my feather?"
"If you had it clear in your thought, it is even this moment barreling down on you like a Mack truck."
"My feather? Like a Mack truck?"
All that afternoon I looked for the feather to appear, and it didn't. It was evening, dinnertime over a hot turkey sandwich, that I saw it. A picture and small print on the carton of milk. Packaged for Scott Dairies by Blue Feather Farms, Bryan, Ohio. "Don! My feather!"
He looked, and shrugged his shoulders. "I thought you wanted the actual feather. "
"Well, any feather for openers, don't you think?"
A spooky strange feeling. It worked! I had consciously magnetized my first thing! "Today a feather," I said, "tomorrow the world!"
"Be careful, Richard," he said hauntingly, "or you'll be sorry . . . "