By Helen Hunt
Amaryllis Anderson had a problem. It wasn’t just that her job as a data entry clerk was boring, although it was. It really was.
It was more that she couldn’t help thinking that an Amaryllis should be doing something a bit more important and glamorous with her life. An Amaryllis should, surely, be a singer, a ballerina or a private detective. She could even be a doctor – Consultant Cardiologist had a certain ring to it – except that she couldn’t stand the sight of blood.
When her parents had christened her Amaryllis surely they’d imagined her name up in lights or maybe in the television news, not on the little plastic badge her employer made her wear for no discernible reason.
“Can I have these back by lunchtime?” Barry the Boss asked dropping a pile of forms into her in tray so hard that her desk shook.
Amaryllis looked at the pile of paperwork, looked up at the clock and then sighed. She was going to have to work like the clappers to get that lot done. She was a lot of things, but a defeatist was not one of them, so she got her head down, flexed her carefully manicured fingers and got on with it.
It was with a sense of triumph that she carried the pile of processed paperwork back to Barry’s desk and presented them to him on the dot of one o’clock.
“All done,” she said. It wasn’t that she particularly cared about pleasing Barry, but her parents had always brought her up to do any job she took on well, even one as boring as this.
And it was just as well she was self-motivated. Barry didn’t even look up from his computer, he just grunted and carried on playing solitaire.
“I’ll go to lunch now then,” she said. Barry didn’t even bother to grunt at that.
It was as she was sitting in her favourite café with a rocket and crayfish sandwich and a latte that Amaryllis spotted it. An advert in the local paper, tucked away at the back with the jobs that usually looked even more boring than her own.
DO YOU WANT TO WORK WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS?
Amaryllis caught her breath. There was no address on the advert, no further description of the job, nothing but a telephone number.
But there was something about it that intrigued her. She could certainly do with some magic in her life. Maybe it would finally make her parents proud of her. But what on earth did it mean? Where did magic happen? And what could the job be?
Amaryllis went off into a bit of a daydream. Magic. When she was a child, her parents had taken her to see a magic show, The Great Suprendo. All these years later the main thing she remembered was the magician’s assistant. She’d had flame coloured hair and the most amazing costume Amaryllis had ever seen; all heavy black velvet and diamante. The young Amaryllis had been convinced that it was the assistant that made the magic really happen.
Yes, Amaryllis thought, that must be it. A job as a magician’s assistant. And even if it wasn’t, it couldn’t possibly be as boring as her current job, could it? With a shaking hand, she picked up her phone and dialled the number.
“Yes, can I help you?” said a voice at the other end of the line.
Amaryllis swallowed. “I’m ringing about the job.”
“Can you come in for an interview?” said the voice.
Seize the moment, Amaryllis told herself. “Well, I’m on my lunch break now if it’s not far.”
The voice gave Amaryllis directions and said it would see her in ten minutes.
“Okay,” she said. “But what exactly is the job? What’s the magic?”
“You’ll find out when you get here,” said the voice and then the phone went dead.
As she walked to her interview, Amaryllis imagined her new life as a magician’s assistant, because surely that was the most likely explanation. In a sparkly costume with a deeply swishing cloak she would stride up and down the stage of each prestigious venue incanting the magic words abracadabra and hocus pocus! As she walked, she shimmied slightly with excitement.
When she arrived at the address she’d been given over the phone, Amaryllis couldn’t help feeling a stab of disappointment. The building in front of her was little more than a shed. A big shed admittedly, but still a shed. Even a magician needed to be based somewhere though, she told herself and the magic would actually happen elsewhere of course; on the stage at the Palladium or even on television on a Friday night.
But inside the shed was even more disappointing.
“You came!” said an elderly man bending over what looked like a pile of mud. “You wouldn’t believe how hard I’m finding it to fill this position.”
“What position?” Amaryllis asked, walking towards him. She couldn’t help thinking she’d never met anyone who looked less like a magician.
The old man leaned under the bench he was working at and brought out a huge tray of what looked like more mud.
“My assistant,” he said “Making magic happen.”
“But how is this magic?” she asked, pictures of herself draped in velvet disappearing rapidly.
“See this tray,” he said. “Doesn’t look very promising now does it? But in a couple of days it’ll be covered in tiny little seedlings which will eventually grow into strong plants in their own right. Then we sell them to people who need a bit of colour in their lives. What could be more magical than that?”
Amaryllis couldn’t help laughing despite herself. “Well, it’s not what I was expecting,” she said. But, as she looked around what she now realised was a thriving plant nursery, she decided that working here would definitely be better than working for Barry.
“Okay,” she said. “I’ll take the job. That’s if you want me. I don’t really know anything about plants. And I haven’t got any qualifications.”
“Don’t look so worried,” he said. “I’ll teach you what I know.”
“Thank you,” Amaryllis said, preparing to go.
She definitely wasn’t going to get the chance to dress up in a sparkly costume for this job. Dungarees and gardening gloves would probably be a better option.
But at least she’d be able to tell her parents she’d finally found a job that lived up to her name – helping to grow plants just like the one that shared her name.
“One last thing,” said the gardener as she headed for the door, carrying her head a little higher than she usually did.
“Believe in yourself. If you can do that, then that’s where the real magic happens.”