27: Anaximander Smith

The hair of Anaximander Smith is a threadbare gray cap, worn down to greasy strands by years of hard use. His wrinkles have become etched and jagged with years of single-mindedness, so that his face has become a caricature of itself. His cheeks are almost diamond-shaped now, his nose hooked and cragged like a hag’s. His eyes have the milky blueness of cataracts, but they follow every motion of the world outside the bus with rapt attention. His cracked lips work ceaselessly, forming silent incantations.

Anaximander is a wizard, as anyone can see. In his right hand he holds his staff, made from the neon refuse of the city – what would in a different time have been the legbone of an ostrich is instead a CB Radio antannae, what might have been a shaft of strong, wild Elm is instead a greyed and fallen branch found in the grass of Humboldt Park. A score of many-colored rods make up the staff; K’Nex, conduit, antennae of a half-dozen other types, silly straws and surgical tubing. The bundle is held together at intervals by rubber bands, twist ties, bits of twine. His wand, half as long as his staff and as big around as a summer sausage, protrudes from his disintegrating backpack. He carries a handful of others, works in progress, strapped to his backpack or stuffed inside. Each one bristles with feathers and dried flowers.

The bus stops, and Anaximander lurches suddenly to his feet, dashing out the door as if summoned by a secret force. Anaximander is a wizard, yes, but this is no world for wizards, and he has yet to find a young apprentice to carry his bundle of wands.

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