Miri leaned against the doorframe, thinking, again, about the mysterious purposes of magic. Had she and Molly, perhaps, performed some service in 1918 without knowing it? Was it possible, for instance, that their presence had kept some tragic event from happening? Each tiny thing that touched them was changed a little, she supposed. She allowed her imagination to run free: there was her foot treading on a loose tree root, pressing it a fraction of an inch farther into the ground, inclining the tree by some microscopic amount in a new direction. So later—years later—when a great storm ripped the tree from the ground, that same microscopic slant would insure that it fell away from, not onto, the innocent bystander sheltering under its branches, thus saving a life destined for—what?—something noble. Hmm. Maybe. Vague, but better than nothing. “Molly?” She leaned out of her brothers’ doorway and yodeled up toward her own, “I have an idea!” —from Magic in the Mix
One of the reasons I wrote Magic in the Mix, the sequel to The Magic Half, was that I love writing Miri. Of course, I love writing all my characters, but Miri is extra-special because her brain is like mine, by which I mean it’s prone to wandering off on strange tangents, like, for instance, magic. I think about magic a lot. I always have. When I was a kid, I thought about it because I hoped it would happen to me, but now I think about it because I write books about it.
The question Miri ponders in this passage—how her time-traveling presence might change the past—is a big magical issue I’ve been contemplating all my life. The problem is that none of us knows how our actions—even the most trivial flick of the finger—will affect another person, and the result is that one hour of time traveling could produce a nearly infinite number of changes to the world, some of which would then affect the time traveling.
Let’s say, for instance, that I happen to be wearing a particularly ugly flowered shirt on the day that I get transported through time to New York City in 1925. Now, maybe I run to a department store so I can buy myself a nice 1925 outfit. But maybe I’m not quite fast enough, and a guy named Ned, walking along the sidewalk, sees my ugly flowered shirt and quickly crosses the street so he doesn’t have to look at it for another second. Well, that doesn’t seem like a big deal, does it? But what if Ned was about to run into his cousin Thomas, who was about to say, “Ned! Long time, no see! Why don’t you come over to dinner tonight? Flossie’s sister will be there!” And what if Flossie’s sister is the woman Ned is going to marry? Now, because of my ugly shirt, Ned crosses the street, doesn’t run into Thomas, doesn’t go over to their house for dinner, doesn’t meet Flossie’s sister, and doesn’t marry her. That’s terrible! I’ve ruined everything! But wait, it could be even worse! What if Flossie’s sister and Ned are my grandparents? Now I don’t get born! And if I don’t get born, I’m not there to stop the meeting between Flossie’s sister and Ned, which means it happens, which means—I get born!
Honestly, a person could go crazy thinking about magic. But I can’t stop thinking about it, and I never will. And neither will Miri, because her brain is like mine. Which makes sense, because I thought of her. Or, possibly, she thought of me.