The Prospect of Magic
The Prospect of Magic, a collection of ten stories, sets up a wonderful world where the real and magical live side by side. It’s enchanting. Some of the stories are hopeful, some are tragic, and some are sad, just like real life. All of them feature flights of fancy, just like the best magic trick.
The story centers around Fluker, Louisiana, where the World Famous Ploofop Travelling Circus decides to stay after its owner, Abidail Ploofop, dies. Margo the Mind Reader gives a eulogy, “a speech that, legend has it, wrapped a hopeful message around the mind of every person in attendance.” Soon, the townsfolk are playing poker on their roof with giants, receiving lions in the mail, and angry clown gangs roam the streets, making trouble. These delightful images of a circus gone to seed populate the stories, but never pull away from Walsh's general message of good will and that people can be accepted no matter what.
In "The Cat Who Ate The Boy," the young narrator receives a lion named Big Kitty mailed to the carnival, and after attempting to care for it, takes the beast to his grandfather. The story is told through the boy’s eyes, and Big Kitty that lurks in and out of the story soon becomes a metaphor for his parent’s relationship – an element that is in many ways big, strong and beyond the boy's control.
The title story tells of a teenage boy learning to deal with the magic he has, and how to reconcile it with the reality of the world. "The Dream Tow" tells of a fortune telling machine that reminds the characters to savour what they have in life, whether it’s a musical skill with a trombone or a happy marriage. The final story, "The Ploofop Refugees," follows Margo the Mind Reader’s husband as he deals with her impending death, and the possibility of the circus folks leaving Fluker.
All of these stories deal with the people from the circus and the Fluker townspeople as both everyday people, and people filled with magic. The ease the characters and stories show with the idea of giraffes eating leaves off the trees in the town square in the same story as the death of wife is remarkable, and is what sets these stories apart from other short stories in their sense of fun and community. The prospect of magic indeed.