Friday, September 19, 2008

The Van Gogh Cafe by Cynthia Rylant

The Van Gogh Cafe sits in Flowers, Kansas, a town not much more than a speed bump on Interstate 70. It's like any small town cafe - good food, friendly people, and unique quirks. There's the sign above the register that says BLESS ALL DOGS and a porcelain hen on the pie carousel and a phonograph that plays "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To."

Oh, and the magic.

Marc has owned the cafe for seven years. He and his daughter, Clara, open the cafe at six every morning. Clara, being ten, believes that anything may happen, and very often it does. The Van Gogh Cafe was once a theater, and everyone knows that magic happens whenever actors take the stage. Some of that magic must have seeped into the walls. The Van Gogh Cafe benefits from that leftover magic, magic that oozes back into the lives of people who might need a meal or good company, or just coffee, thanks.

One day a possum shows up and hangs from a tree outside the cafe. Okay, is that magical? What if people who don't get along suddenly find themselves next to one another looking at a possum, then find themselves shaking hands and heading inside for some pie? Hmmm...

Other normal events happen. A seagull arrives. A famous movie star stops by. A woman leaves two candy muffins. Lightening strikes. Odd, maybe, but certainly within the realm of possibility. But should poems predict the future? Should food cook itself? Should blizzard-stranded school bus riders find the perfect medicine in the fridge? Should a cat fall in love...with the seagull?

Sometimes the extraordinary happens thanks to the ordinary. It helps when there's "magic."

The Van Gogh Cafe feels like a old quilt on a rainy day. It's warm and comfortable and feels just right. There's enough to make you wonder if impossible events really are magically happening or if it's simply unlikely events courtesy of a few coincidences.

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