The flashlight’s beam landed on a vacuum cleaner resting in a corner. All at once, the vacuum roared to life.
The vacuum started zooming around the room by itself, its headlights glowing like cat’s eyes. Zach dropped the flashlight.
“Yes!” Zach exclaimed. “I knew it! Look at it go!”
The vacuum was a deluxe model built by one of Zach’s uncles, who was something of a mad-scientist magician. It was way more powerful than the average vacuum. It had been built to clean up even the most dangerous of magical messes. But it had never operated by itself before.
I’m doing this, Zach thought. By magic!
“Are you seeing this?” he asked his dad.
“Uh-huh,” Mr. King said.
Waving the flashlight like a wand, Zach tried to control the self-propelled vacuum cleaner, but he hadn’t yet gotten control of his new powers, he guessed. The machine came charging at him, sucking up dirt and dust and potato-chip crumbs from the carpet as though it was starving.
“Halt! Stop! Whoa!”
“I can’t stop it,” he heard his sister yell.
“What the . . . ,” Zach yelped as he backpedaled and then tripped over his own two feet. The vacuum rammed into him, catching the hem of his pants legs and sucking them right off him. Zach was suddenly on the ground, on his back, in his underwear.
The vacuum cleaner choked and sputtered as the pants got stuck in its suction. It juttered and then shut down with an exhausted sigh and a cloudy dust burp.
“Sophie,” Mr. King said firmly. “That’s enough.”
“What?” Zach said as his little sister appeared out of nowhere, standing behind the vacuum. Sophie was only nine and barely half Zach’s height, but she’d already found her magic. A pair of hot-pink eyeglasses allowed her to be invisible whenever she wanted to.
“Sorry,” she said. “I lost control.”
Zach’s heart sank as he realized that Sophie had been operating the vacuum all along.
The flashlight was just a flashlight, and Zach was still just an ordinary kid.
“You shouldn’t play tricks on Zach like that,” Mr. King scolded Sophie.
“I was just trying to help,” she insisted. “I thought that if he had a little more confidence, it’d help him find his magic.”
“Thanks,” Zach said grumpily, “but I don’t need your help. I’m going to find my magic soon. I can feel it.”
“I know you will, big bro,” she said, rubbing his shoulder. “Don’t give up.”
“Thanks,” Zach said again. He loved his sister. She always meant well and he knew she was always looking out for him, but sometimes Zach wondered who really was the big sibling in the family.
“Daddy,” she said as her father wrenched Zach’s pants free, “if you have to go help Mom get ready for the reunion, I can stay and work more with Zach.”
“I’m good,” Zach said, frowning. “I think I need a break from everyone’s help.” He tossed the useless flashlight in with the other discards.
“I’m sorry, son.” Mr. King patted Zach on the back. “We’ll practice again after the reunion. You just need to be patient.”
Easy for you to say, Zach thought. Most Kings found their magic when they were little kids. It’d been a long time since anyone in their family had been as old as Zach and still had nothing.
He couldn’t help but wonder if he’d ever find his own magic . . . or if it wasn’t already too late for him.