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of magic when he’s smashed. He’s pissed away his craft but it’s us who’ve counted the cost.’ The magician weeps and gropes into wet grass. An elder Gypsy rises from his heels: ‘You will not join in laughing at the man. It is gentle of you: to read past his sadness and madness. We forge our memory of what he was, not what he has become. He was the first magician and fortune-forger of our tribe. The leaf-teller and palm-reader of his time. The man could take your hand into his fist, and read you like a book. He would wrestle your heart and rummage through your soul. The elder holds out his work-worn palms. “Our hands are the books of what we have lived” – This is what the magician preached on Sundays – the one day he was dry. It was holy to him in saying, and to us. “One palm”, he would cry, “is scripture we have yet to write.” Life lines and Fate lines. Love lines. Marriage lines. Yet the man, like us, could read no book-words. He reads himself in the speech of his tears. Get this tortured creature to his bed.’ They haul him tottering and lurching to his feet and, half-joking, coaxing, carry him legless to his caravan. The magician stares through me: ‘I cannot hear the nightjar: my heart’s bird, the thrown voice, his song of no words. All my animals moved on from me as if I were an ark axed to splinters

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