I first learned a bit of a cantrip from my pediatrician, of all people. Children are always understandable nervous in a doctor’s office, because they have learned to associate those clinical surroundings with the pain of a shot in a way Pavlov would be proud of. So that particular small-town pediatrician would make the rounds in his small and shabby waiting room beforehand with a set of magic rings, making them dance and shimmer and disappear in midair as a way to captivate the young’uns before jabbing a needle in them.

My young mind approached this in what I felt was a very logical way: if I took the magic rings, the pediatrician would be unable to give me my shot, and I would take my chances with measels, mumps, or rubella. So I reached out with my hand, and muttered the incantation I’de heard the old doctor use. And sure enough, the magic rings suspended between his fingers wobbled a bit, just enough to throw off his usual practiced groove.

The pediatrician shook it off, but after my exam and my inevitable shot, as my mom was filling out insurance paperwork and only half-paying attention, the doctor passed me his rings. “That wasn’t bad,” he said. “What do you say I show you how to do a real spell?”

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