Old Mr. Rennels was a curious character to say the least. Everyone in the quaint village of Glenloe knew of him but not a single person knew much about him. For many years, the mysterious man lived a private life at the edge of the village in his disheveled cottage, which was almost hidden from view by the unruly grass that had taken over his front lawn. At first glance, anyone would believe that the house had been abandoned for years. But Glenloe was a tiny community where anybody who was slightly different stood out a mile. Everyone knew that this house was occupied and although nobody spoke to Mr. Rennels, he was certainly the subject of many conversations.
People would often spot him wandering about the town, loaded with bags of groceries or gazing curiously at the stream which trickled underneath the old stone bridge. The air of mystery that surrounded Mr. Rennels made locals unsure of the man, almost fearful. Thus, they avoided him. Middle-aged mothers whispered about him in hushed tones as he passed them outside of the local school. Local farmers avoided his gaze as they brushed by one another. Children glared at him, mesmerised by his long black overcoat that skimmed the ground as he walked. Everyone wanted to know more about him but not a soul was willing to ask.
That is, until little Ellie Matthews moved to the locality. Ten-year old Ellie was a boisterous, adventurous, outspoken child whose fiery locks matched her nature. She was constantly in trouble and her parents were becoming weary of her antics. From the day that she arrived in the village, the young girl was enthralled by Mr. Rennels. She would gaze at him from the large bay window in their front room as he strolled briskly by. Ellie had a great imagination and often made up stories about him in her head. Perhaps Mr. Rennels was really an alien, who hid his green and grotesque otherworldly limbs with his heavy overcoat. Maybe he was an evil wizard, who brewed magical potions behind the cloudy windows of his rundown cottage.
“He is just an odd old man,” Ellie’s mother would say abruptly when Ella began to explain her latest theory.
But Ella didn’t believe this. She was certain that there was something special about old Mr. Rennels. And she planned to find out for herself.
Early one autumn evening, Ella decided to go out to the local newsagent for some sweets. Or so she told her mother. In truth, she planned to climb the steep and winding road to Mr. Rennels’ house at the edge of the village. Brimming with excitement, she bounded up the hill, her auburn ponytail swinging behind her as she went. She needn’t fear being spotted. The streets were deserted as tired bodies had retreated inside, sinking into their couches after a long day at work. Apart from the melodic chee of the starlings in the nearby trees, the patter of Ella’s trainers was the only noise to be heard.
By the time she finally reached the cottage, she no longer felt so daring. Her heart was pounding in her chest. The birds had ceased their evening chorus. Ella was alone. Ella was afraid.
But she had come this far. If she turned back now, she would never know the truth about Mr. Rennels. She trundled through the tangled grass to the front door whose once vibrant red paintwork had flaked away, almost entirely. Ella knocked timidly on the door. No response. However, just as she began to scurry back down the pathway and head for home, she heard the door creak open behind her.
She turned. Towering above her was old Mr. Rennels, unmistakable in his long black overcoat and crooked spectacles. He glared at her, furiously, as if she had stolen him away from some important duty or another.
“What do you want?!” he bellowed loudly, his moustache twitching in annoyance.
This was the first time that Ella had heard him speak.
“I…I just… came to say hello,” stuttered Ella nervously. “Maybe…maybe you could show me how to make a magical potion?”
Ella instantly regretted saying anything. She wished that she had kept her mouth zipped. However, her outburst had obviously touched a nerve as the man’s face softened immediately.
“Well, why didn’t you say so,” he cooed. “Come on inside.”
Trembling with fear, Ella followed him in.
The interior of the house was unlike anything that Ella had ever seen. Tattered books were piled high on the hall table. Coloured handkerchiefs, wands and unidentified objects littered the floor. An overpowering smell of must filled the air.
But there wasn’t a cauldron, pointed hat or owl in sight. Not to mention a U.F.O.
“Where are the potions?” Ella wondered aloud, as she scanned the room for clues to Mr. Rennel’s identity.
Mr. Rennels let out a distinctive chuckle, which echoed down the long hallway.
“Now, why on earth would I have potions?” he asked with a grin.
“I thought you were an evil wizard,” whispered Ella timidly.
Mr. Rennels let out another chuckle, louder and heartier than the one before. Ella stared at him, uncertainly.
“Oh where did you hear such nonsense?!” he laughed. “I’m not a wizard and I certainly am not evil but you are right with one thing: I do practice magic. I’m a magician!”
Ella let out a sigh of relief. She needn’t be afraid anymore. Everyone knew that magicians aren’t truly magical. To Ella, they were nothing but frauds. She had met some magicians at her friend’s birthday parties but they had never fooled her.
“Magicians aren’t really magic,” she scoffed, her confidence fully restored.
Mr. Rennels appeared unmoved by her comment. Instead, he smiled down at the young girl, with a grin that stretched from ear to ear.
“Of course they are! But the TRUE magicians can never reveal themselves. If they do they must make themselves…disappear,” he boomed. He continued to speak, his voice growing louder. “Like the leaves in winter, like the snow in summer… be gone!”
All at once, the man vanished. He didn’t leave a trace of his existence, except for his bronze pocket watch, which fell to the floor with a clink. Ella stood for a moment, paralysed. What had just happened? She was confused. She was afraid. She had to get out of there. She reached down to grab the watch before flinging open the door and dashing home.
Ella never saw Mr. Rennels again. Rumours about his whereabouts circulated the village. Some said that he had passed away. Others believed he had moved to France. Ella didn’t know what to make of the village gossip. One thing I do know, she thought as she clasped the pocket watch in her hand Magic most certainly is real.