Mr. Mojo’s Magick Emporium
It wasn’t the smudged glass jar full of frog’s eyes sitting next to the cash register that unnerved Evan, at least, not fully. In truth, Evan had not only expected to see some weird shit in Mr. Mojo’s Magick Emporium, he had been secretly hoping for it. If anything, the fact that the musty shop looked less like something out of a Rowling or Goodkind novel and more like a run-of-the-mill antique and curio shop had slightly discouraged him.
No, what made Evan feel especially uneasy was the fact that the shopkeeper — or any sort of clerk or sales associate — was nowhere to be found. If he had wanted to abscond with a jar of frog’s eyes, or a plastic novelty wand, or a deck of rigged playing cards, Evan would have faced no opposition. Still, he had come to this shop, the same one he had driven past countless times on his commute to and from work, for a very specific reason.
Evan rang the dingy desk bell for a third time.
Behind the counter, a set of dangling neon beads designed to look like moons, stars, and other planetary shapes served as an ineffective barrier between the front of the shop and what Evan imagined was an employee lounge or perhaps a small office. The beads parted, revealing an elderly man, easily in his 60s, wearing an ill-fitted black suit, a cape with red satin lining, and an oversized top hat. He looked ridiculous as he posed majestically in the door way, even more so when he made a sweeping gesture with the cape that culminated in an elegant bow.
‘Ahhhh, welcome, patron of the magical arts, connoisseur of the mystical. My name is Mr. Mojo, and if the arcane is what you seek, then you’ve come to the right place! What can I do for you today?’ The man’s voice carried an affectation, as if the role of ‘magical shopkeeper’ required no less than three alternating accents.
‘Um, yeah,’ Evan began, arms crossed to stay his nerves. ‘I’m looking for a… a love spell.’
Mr. Mojo blinked. ‘A love spell, you say?’
‘Yeah, like… I want someone to love me. There has to be a spell for that, right? Or a potion? Or something like that?’
‘For liability reasons, I need to make sure you realize that forcing someone to fall in love with you against their will, that’s, well,’ Mr. Mojo paused, searching for words that wouldn’t cost him a potential sale. ‘It’s within the realm of murky ethics at best, and illegal at worst. Just ask Bill Cosby, am I right?’
Evan didn’t crack a smile at the clumsy, inappropriate topical humor. He shifted his weight, flicked a quick glance at the front door, and considered a hasty retreat from the awkward conversation.
‘What I mean to say is that one must be careful when it comes to affairs of the heart. That said, there is a world of difference between magicks guiding — no, no, influencing — love in subtle, completely morally acceptable ways and pharmaceutical products administered by famous comedians.’ Mr. Mojo quickly rebounded. ‘Besides. Cosby never shopped in MY store, no sir, not at all.’
‘Look, can you help me or not?’ Evan was losing his patience.
‘Yeah, yeah, I can… I mean… Of course, Mr. Mojo has the cure for what ails your broken heart. But, I’ll need you to be a bit more specific about your amorous intentions. I mean, there are tons of ways to make someone fall in love with you. Can you tell me a bit about the special lady?’
Evan bit his lip, hesitating. A wave of understanding washed over Mr. Mojo’s face. With a sly grin, he shot Evan a quick wink. ‘Ahhh, or, tell me a bit about the special fellow. Here at Mr. Mojo’s Magick Emporium, we judge not based on your predilections or preferences, and are fully compliant with all guidelines set forth by the Better Business Bureau and state and local regulations. Just so we’re clear.’
‘I’d rather not say,’ Evan replied slowly, cautiously. ‘Do you need to know? Can’t I just pick up something general, something that might work on anyone? I’m willing to pay good money, just so long as this works.’
Mr. Mojo drummed his fingers across the counter as he considered the request posed by the potential client.
‘Very well! Far be it for Mr. Mojo to stand in the way of true love. Let’s look at a few options.’ With a snap of his fingers and a flourish of his cape, he stepped from behind the counter and beckoned for Evan to follow him.
‘You see, love spells are tricky, tricky business.’ Mr. Mojo began walking to the far end of the shop, navigating the cluttered aisles and dusty shelving units with familiar ease. ‘If we’re talking Voodoo, there’s a religious element that would probably be hard for you to recreate. Nix the religious element and you’ve got hoodoo, which might be more up your alley. Now, I’m sure you don’t have a voodoo doll or mojo bag laying around. Of course, I’d be willing to sell you one.’
Mr. Mojo stopped at a shelf, picked up a red flannel bag, and held it out towards Evan. The bag smelled of patchouli and lemongrass, and Evan wondered if the bag were a legitimate source of magical power, or a con crafted with a bit of help from the organics aisle of a nearby grocery store.
‘This, my friend, is a mojo bag.’ Mr. Mojo paused dramatically. The effect was lost on Evan. ‘You want powerful hoodoo love magic, this little guy is going to be your best friend. This is the same kinda magic that got Jim Morrison’s mojo risin’, if you catch the reference. You fix the bag up with a pair of lodestones, add the right kinda oils, and presto! The love of your life will appear within three days. Lodestones and magic oils sold separately, of course.’
‘What else is there?’ Evan handed the bag back to Mr. Mojo, who shelved it with a bit of a sigh.
‘There’s always using a voodoo doll and a lock of your lover’s hair — ‘
‘Pass,’ Evan interjected. ‘That sounds a bit creepy. Plus, I don’t think voodoo’s really my style.’
‘Let’s try Wicca.’ Mr. Mojo lead Evan to a nearby shelf. He picked up a book, White Magic for the Modern Wiccan, and handed it to Evan. ‘The magics in this tome are ancient and powerful, yet carefully tailored for the modern witch on the run. The book’s foreword tells you all you need to know to be a witch, but the most important part is chapter seven. See here? A whole chapter devoted to love spells. A lady was in my shop last month, no lie, and she picked up a copy of this book. Came in a week later, told me about how this incantation made to invoke… I believe it was Aphrodite, yes, Aphrodite… had delivered her the man of her dreams! You’ll need some rose petals, a few candles, and a special herbal tea, but we sell all of those items here. Can I take this up to the register for you?’
Evan considered the book, thumbing through the pages. He doubted that this particular book contained ancient and powerful magics; the 2007 copyright at the front of the book lead him to that conclusion. He doubted the story of the woman and the man of her dreams, too. In fact, he was beginning to believe that the only real magic found in this place was in its ability to somehow stay in business.
Still, he needed to try. A part of him, a distant voice buried beneath the cold logic that steeled him, buried beneath the carefully cultivated skepticism that had served him well for the past twenty eight years, that tiny part of him yearned for love. Not just any love, either. He had someone special in mind.
‘Okay. I’ll take it. I’ll take the book, and I’ll take petals and the candles and whatever else it is I need. You promise this will work?’
Mr. Mojo nodded emphatically. ’Of course! The magics found in my shop are without equal, my boy.’
After scooping a few items off of the shelf, the shopkeep lead his customer back towards the register. ’The spell itself is easy, at least as I understand it. First, you create a circle with the rose petals. You say the incantation listed in the book, while lighting the candles. If there is a specific lady — errr, person — that you have in mind, lock eyes with them. If they aren’t present, a picture will do. Then, you drink the tea, blow out the candles, and let the magic do the rest of the heavy lifting. Pretty easy, eh?’
‘Sounds easy enough,’ Evan replied, casting his eyes around the shop once more. Mr. Mojo noticed the young man’s nervousness, then reached beneath the counter and produced yet another book, this one titled How to Talk to Women. Mr. Mojo slid the paperback across the counter to Evan.
‘Hey, I can’t help but notice that you look a bit on edge.’ For the first time since Evan had entered the shop, Mr. Mojo’s forced, overly dramatic accent fell away. ‘Magic is pretty heavy stuff, kid, and I know what it is like to be your age. It’s hard to be lonely. Just in case the spell doesn’t work — and mind you, I guarantee all of the products we sell here — but just in case, I want you to have this. Free of charge. I think there’s a certain kind of magic to be found in being able to confidently talk to people. Charisma, charm, self-confidence, and wit — they don’t put those in a mojo bag, but maybe they should.’
Evan stared at the cover of the paperback, dumbfounded. ‘Uh… thank you, Mr. Mojo. I appreciate it. I’ll, um. I’ll give it a try.’
‘Good. I want you to be successful with this, young man. I want you to find the happiness you are looking for. Also, that’ll be $54.99. Will that be cash or credit?’
Evan chose credit, made his purchase, and drove home, accompanied only by his storm cloud thoughts and tumultuous emotions. He turned on the radio, hoping serendipity would deliver ‘L.A. Woman’ by The Doors, but instead, his ears were assaulted by upbeat tween love songs. Evan drove home in silence.
Upon entering his apartment, he went through the routine of putting things where they belonged. A place for everything, everything in its place, that sort of thing. The keys went on the hook by the door, his shoes on the rack near the welcome mat, and the book on self-confidence given by Mr. Mojo found a home in the waste bin in the kitchen.
With the lights dimmed, Evan spread the rose petals in a circle in the bathroom, and set the candles on the formica countertop. He struck a match, lit the candles, and looked in the mirror, eyes locked with his own reflection.
‘Aphrodite,’ he incanted solemnly. ‘I invoke thee.’