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Katie's Magic Scientist Dad

We have told you a little before about Katie’s Dad in the story Katie Moves House. He studies magic, although he does not have powers himself. One Halloween he wished that things could be different.

Hello, this is Natasha, and I am here with a Katie story for Halloween.

Story by Bertie.

Read by Natasha.

Proofread by Jana Elizabeth.

If you have been following Katie’s stories, you will know that her dad is a Professor of Extra Sensory Perception and Paranormal Phenomena. In other words, he works at the University and studies all sorts of spooky stuff. Wow! You’ve got to admit, that’s quite a cool job. He doesn’t live with Katie and her mum any more, but Katie does like to go and see him sometimes. 

Katie’s dad owns a fancy sort of car and likes to drive it rather too fast. In fact, Katie’s mum used to say that it was surprising that he hadn’t been banned from driving all together. Well, one day he was racing around the bypass, when he saw a blue light flashing in his mirror. He had to pull over for a police car. The officers had filmed him driving at 70 miles an hour in a 40 mph zone while holding an electric shaver in his left hand and running it over his chin. When he spoke to the two policewomen, he came across as a bit rude and arrogant, and they threw the book at him, not just for speeding but for dangerous driving too.

Katie’s dad soon began to worry that he might lose his driving licence. He went to see an expensive lawyer called Mr Loophole, but even he said that he couldn't get him off the hook. Later that day, he stood at the window of his laboratory, and ran his eyes over the elegant curves of his automobile.“How I love her, he thought to himself. He meant his car of course. And then a voice in his head said: ‘You know there’s one person who could get you out of this fix with a snap of her fingers.” And he replied to the voice: “Yes, but there’s no way I’m calling her and begging for help.” But when his day in court was just a week away, he swallowed his pride and called her. 

Katie’s mum was surprised to see her ex-husband’s name flash up on her phone. It only happened about once every three years. She was even more surprised when he said that he had called to ask for her assistance.

“Could you just do the teeniest, weeniest, piece of magic to put the Judge in a good mood,” he pleaded, “Let him see that the quality of mercy is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes, and all that rot.”

“So what you are saying,” said Katie’s mum, “is that you’ve finally been had up for dangerous driving, and you need my magical powers to help you in court.”

“In a word, um, yes,” admitted Katie’s dad. 

“Well since you’re a Professor of Paranormal, I hate that word, but that’s what you people like to call special powers, you should know that it is against the witch’s code to use magic to pervert the course of justice. It’s also against the law. There’s no way I’m doing something illegal to get you off the hook. Besides, the roads will be that much safer if you take the bus.”

“Humph!” said Katie’s dad. He wrote to the court to change his plea from “innocent” to “guilty” and he was duly banned from driving for a year. 

The weather turned colder, and he stood in the rain by the bus stop on his way to work. Occasionally he grumbled to himself, “Just one snap of her fingers. That’s all it would have taken her, but she wouldn’t do it for me.”

Sometimes it was frustrating to know as much about magic as he did, but to not actually have any power himself. He studied all sorts of people in his lab, like the woman who knew what he was writing down when she was in the next room, and the man who could levitate five inches off the ground, and the girl who could tell if somebody was rich just by smelling him or her. 

It was generally accepted that to have special powers you need to be born with them. Magic runs in the family. That’s why it is so rare. But Katie’s dad had a theory that somebody ordinary could learn to do magic. If he could prove that, it would be a huge breakthrough in his field. In fact, he thought, it would make him so rich and famous that he wouldn’t need to drive his car anymore because he would be able to hire a chauffeur. He had it all planned out. He would have a show on TV called “You Can Do Magic Too” on which he would teach ordinary members of the public to do amazing things like become invisible, or make objects fly around the room, or saw their little sister in half and put her back together again. Yes, he would be a celebrity Professor and a wealthy one too.

But could he prove his theory? He had already published a learned paper on it called “The environmental origins of supernatural power”…  which translated into ordinary English means something like: “Magic comes from surroundings and things.” He believed that if you grew up in a magical house, with magical walls, and a magical stream flowing under the garden, then some of that power would work its way into you. He had sensed it when he was living with Katie’s mum. 

For his experiment, he wanted to find an object that was full of magical force and see if keeping it close by could make a person develop powers.  

But what object could he get hold of? He knew of only one place where he should be able to find such a thing – and that was the magic shop that belonged to Katie’s mum.

One rainy Saturday morning, he took the bus into town. He slipped into the magic shop and cringed slightly as the bell on the door tinkled. He dodged down an aisle hoping Katie’s mum had not seen him. There, he found himself face to face with a tribal mask from Papua New Guinea. He had studied plenty of tribal magic and medicine at the University, and he knew that some of it was very powerful, but it wasn’t quite what he was looking for. He wanted something from the European tradition of magic because he felt it would appeal to a bigger audience. He walked around the shelves and into the kitchen section where various iron pots, pans, cauldrons, and magic knives were hanging up. He picked up a spoon and held it in the palm of his hand. It felt just like any old spoon. He sighed. A voice behind him asked:

“Can I help you?” He felt the charge of annoyance that shoppers nearly always feel when an assistant barges in with an offer of help. Then he thought: “That voice sounds familiar,” and he looked around and saw his daughter. 

“Hey, Dad, how nice!” she exclaimed. 

“Ah, Katie,” he said.  

“What brings you here?”

“Oh, looking for some sort of magical knick-knack to cheer up my office.”

“How about a tribal mask?” asked Katie.  

“They’re a bit expensive,” said her dad. “Um, Katie, do you have anything that might have a magical feeling about it? You know, gives off a few supernatural waves.”

“Not as such,” replied Katie. “Take that spoon that you are holding. Somebody like my mum would need to stroke it for half an hour with her finger before the magic could be released from it.”

“Could you do it?” asked her dad.

“It would take me much longer,” replied Katie. 

“Well I’ll keep looking,” said her dad. 

Eventually he decided to buy a bronze coffee pot with a bird on the lid. At least he could use it for his elevensies even if it did not give him any magical power. Katie was minding the shop while her mum was at the hairdressers. It was a novel experience to buy something from his daughter. While she was wrapping up his pot he noticed one of her hair clips lying on the counter. It even had some of her locks tangled up in it. He checked that she wasn’t looking, quietly placed his hand over it, and slipped it into his pocket.

“Yes,” he thought as he slipped out of the shop. If anything has had time to soak up witchy powers, it’s Katie’s hair clip.” It started to rain and he wished that a bus would come along right away. One did. He could not be quite sure if something so unusual had happened by magic or not, but he was glad anyway.

The bus took him up the hill to the leafy part of town where the University is. He hurried into his laboratory, and dropped the clip into his Centrifugal Enigmatis Machine. WRRRRRRRR!  The machine spun round, all the time magnifying the magical forces inside Katie’s hair clip. He gave it a full hour of the spinning treatment before taking it out and dropping it into his top pocket.  

For the next week, wherever he went, the hair clip went too. He even slept with it under his pillow. But did he sense that he was gaining any magical powers? Hmmm, if he was honest with himself, not really. He seemed to wait longer and longer for the bus, and then three came along at once – in other words, everything was just as usual. He looked at his finger and thumb and remembered how his ex-wife could just snap hers to tidy up the kitchen. He snapped. The plates did not move, not even a teeny-weeny bit. He heaved a sigh.

One dark winter evening he was walking back home from work when a clutch of noisy little ghosts and ghouls came running up to him and demanded: 

“Trick or Treat!”

“Of course, it’s Halloween,” he thought to himself, as he recognised his neighbour’s children behind the masks – proper little brats they were. 

“Sorry kids, I haven’t got any sweets,” he said. 

“Awwww! Then get ready for a trick,” their leader threatened. She levelled something that looked like a purple water pistol and took aim at him. It was way too cold for that sort of game. Katie’s dad took his hands out of his overcoat pocket to shield his face. As he did so, he inadvertently showered a whole load of sweets over the pavement. Where had they come from? It seemed as if out of his pockets. He was dumbfounded.  

“Thanks Prof!” called out one of the kids as they scrambled around to pick up the sweeties.  

He hurried home. As he switched the light on in the kitchen, he saw that the breakfast things were still on the table. “I wonder,” he thought as he snapped his fingers. And Wow! The dirty dishes and cutlery flew into the sink and washed themselves up. 

“It must be the power of Halloween that amplified the magical force in Katie’s hair clip,” he concluded. At the moment of such an amazing discovery, many professors would have been composing the opening lines of a learnt dissertation. But he did a little dance in the middle of the kitchen and sang, “Yippee! I’m going to be so so rich and famous!”

He took out his wallet and concentrated very hard on turning a five pound note into a fifty, but he could not quite manage that yet. “Just need a little practice,” he reassured himself.

That night he was not sure if he was asleep or dreaming. He felt like his bed had been picked up by a kind of whirlwind and was flying at great speed over the roof tops. It was a relief when his alarm clock rang.

He was suppressing yawns the next morning as he sat through a meeting of all the professors at the University. The voice of the vice chancellor droned on and on like a bee with flu. “It’s high time he shut up,” thought Katie’s dad. A moment later the vice chancellor started to cough. Somebody brought him a glass of water, but it helped little because his voice was gone, and the meeting came to an end.

Katie’s dad wondered: “So, will all my wishes come true now?” 

It was a bright winter’s day and as he walked across the campus he thought how especially beautiful it was. But hang on a minute, something was a bit odd too, but he could not quite put his finger on it – no time to fret about it – he had to get ready for the class he was taking.

He waited in the seminar room for his students to turn up. Everyone was fifteen minutes late, and he began to wonder if he had got the time wrong. He checked on his smart phone and saw that yes, he was in the right room at the right time.  But where was everyone?

He phoned the bursar’s secretary, because she was the one person in the entire University who was thoroughly organised and dependable. 

“All the classes are cancelled,” she told him.

“Why?” he asked. 

“We don’t understand it,” she said,”but none of the students have turned up today. Not a single one. We are wondering if it’s some sort of giant practical joke.”

“Oh dear,” thought Katie’s dad. He thought he knew who was to blame for the absence of the students, and that was himself. How often had he wished that there were no pesky young University students to spoil his day and interrupt his studies?  How often had he said that University would be the perfect society if it wasn’t for all the students? How often had he wished that all those skinny young know-it-alls would just go away? And now they had and he would soon be out of a job.

He sat at his desk and tried to wish the the brash, spotty, and surly students back again, but they wouldn’t come. It seemed like his unconscious wishes were the most powerful ones. In short, anything could happen, and it probably would. This was scary.

He was in no mood for work, and decided that he might as well go home. On his way out, he bumped into Professor Pericles the head of Classics.  

“Hello Bernard, you wouldn’t have anything to do with the missing dormitory would you?” asked the dome headed sage of ancient literature.   

“No, why do you ask such a thing?” replied Katie’s dad. 

“Well seeing as mystery and occult are your department, people are naturally asking if you might have cooked up something in your lab?”

“I’m a scientist, not a cook,” replied Katie’s dad. As he hurried for the door, he could not help wishing that the classics department would have its funding cut, but then he felt guilty because his wish might come true. 

“No, no, what I really wish is to see lots of students hanging around the campus,” he said, but as he stepped out into the open air, there were still none about. What he did see was a TV camera pointing at the new lawn and fountain that covered the ground where the student dorm stood until only this morning. The entire building has disappeared, along with the sleeping students.

“Excuse me,” called out a reporter. “Are you Professor Bernie Meddle?”  

“No,” lied Katie’s dad, “he’ gone home.” He had wanted fame, not notoriety.

He could see that the camera had turned around and was tracking him as he stalked towards the gate. He quickened his step, hoping that he did not look furtive. 

When he got to the bus stop he gazed forlornly at a long line of stationary traffic on the hill, and no sign of a red double-decker. “Oh, how I wish I could be home,” he thought. And then he wished that he had not wished that, because he felt himself start to lift off the ground and fly. He could see a kid pointing up at him and saying. “Look mummy, it’s Superman,” and it definitely was not a dream because he knew that he had got up and gone to work that morning.

He flew into his house through the upstairs backroom window and landed on the bed. Still shaking, he took out his phone and called Katie’s mum. “Doreen, you’ve got to help me,” he pleaded. 

“I’ve already told you, no way,” said his former wife firmly. 

“But only you can save me,” he begged, before he realised that she had hung up. “I wish, I wish,” he thought, before thinking: “No, I had better not wish for anything because it’s not safe to do so.” He sat miserably for ten minutes before his phone rang. It was Katie.

“Oh Katie,” he said, “Please help me. I borrowed your hair clip as a momento of my darling daughter and all sorts of strange things have started to happen.”

“We’ve just seen the University on the news,” said Katie. “They are saying it is the only University in the country with a department for paranormal, and now all sorts of spooky stuff has started to happen just around Halloween. Mum’s sorry. She thought you were asking her to help you with a traffic offence again.”

“No, no this is much worse,” said her dad sadly. “All my wishes are coming true and it’s a total disaster.”

“You should know better than to dabble in magic,” said Katie sternly. “If you are not born into it, and haven’t trained in it all your life, you’re not going to be able to control it. Anything could happen.”

“It already has…. and yes, Katie, I am truly sorry. Now can you help me?”

As it was an emergency,  and it was already getting dark, Katie took the risk of flying by broomstick, and hoped that nobody would catch sight of her. She needed the hair clip to cure her father of the magic powers that he had absorbed from it. She placed the hair clip in a glass of water,  asked her dad to sit in a chair, and she held his head for two hours while she absorbed the magical powers out of him. Just before midnight, she whizzed over to the University and made the dormitory and all the students inside it come back from the parallel universe where her dad had inadvertently sent them. When she returned to her dad’s flat in the morning, she found that he was fast asleep. The magic had strained his body and his mind, and he would need a few days solid rest to get over it. “Yes, thought Katie. “Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to anyone is that all their wishes come true.” 

And that was the story of Katie’s Halloween Dad.

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