Matter over Mind

I had not realised just how many short stories I had written in the first three months of 1991, but here is yet another. I do not know where the idea for this story came from, but it indicates my sense of fun and irony:

Matter over Mind

Copyright J. S. Raynor 1991, 2016


It was pure magic.  The first time Phil Cunliffe saw the power of psycho‑kinesis being used, he just could not believe his eyes. He was watching Ali Shaffa, a young mystic, who, although in obvious deep concentration, looked perfectly composed and relaxed. On a table in front of the mystic, a small plastic cube moved gracefully from side to side following the movements of the mystic’s hands, although there was no actual physical connection.   It was a perfectly ordinary table and it had been checked for possible hidden magnets by a member of the audience. Another demonstration of his powers was in controlling the tilt of a plastic balance, again without actual physical contact.  One of the most remarkable things about this so‑called mystic, was that Ali Shaffa was, in reality, plain Alan Smith, who Phil had not seen for fifteen years when they were at school together.

After the performance, Phil approached Ali and said, “Hello, Cleavy.”

A mixture of surprise and apprehension crossed Ali’s tanned face as he heard his nickname which, obviously, had not been used for many years.  Although the nickname had stuck in his mind, Phil could not remember the reason why plain Alan Smith had been christened ‘Cleavy’ by his schoolmates.

A faint look of recognition then appeared on Alan’s face as he said, “Oh, hello.  It’s Cunliffe, isn’t it? Yes, Cunliffe. Weren’t you at Hathershaw Tech?”

“That’s right”, Phil replied. “I haven’t seen you for years. Who’s this Ali Shaffa, then?”

“A made‑up name, I’m afraid.  You must admit, it’s a bit more impressive than plain Alan Smith.”

“That’s true”, Phil agreed.  “What’s with this psycho‑kinesis stuff, anyway?  How does it work?”

Alan smiled. “I saw it on television several years ago and thought I should try it for myself. I never thought it would work, but, to my amazement, it actually did.”

“You mean it’s really genuine?” asked Phil.

“Of course it is”, Alan answered in an almost hurt tone. “Providing the object is light enough and the concentration is held it is perfectly possible to move an object by pure thought.”

Phil was fascinated, but realised that he would miss his train home if he spent any more time chatting. Phil asked Alan for his telephone number and suggested that they meet sometime for a drink. On his way home, Phil nearly missed his station because he was so engrossed in thinking about psycho‑kinesis and its potential. He was also trying to remember why plain Alan Smith had ever been nicknamed ‘Cleavy’.  He just could not remember the reason, but, no doubt, it would come back to him in time.

Phil Cunliffe was a thirty‑two year old bachelor who, although he had a reasonable job as an accounts clerk for a large company, had always been short of money. He was a person who was constantly working out schemes which would make him rich and famous. The fact that he was neither rich nor famous was evidence of the failure of his schemes, to date.

That night, however, Phil began to formulate a new idea that was bound to work.  The following day, he telephoned Alan and arranged to meet for a drink that same evening. Phil bought the drinks and then enthusiastically quizzed his old school friend about psycho‑kinesis.  Phil wanted to know the maximum size and weight of an object which could be moved using such powers of concentration and from what distance. Alan could not give an authoritative answer to his questions and could only say that there were many factors that would influence the strength of his powers. Alan agreed to go to Phil’s flat, which was nearby, and answer his questions using demonstrations.

Phil found several objects of different sizes, shapes and weights and put them all on the smooth surface of his kitchen table.  Alan then tested his powers on all the objects, finding several of them too difficult to move.

“I wish you’d tell me what you’ve got in mind, Phil”, said Alan.  “You’ve obviously got some plan which you’re not telling me.”

“I’ll explain shortly”, answered Phil.  Phil searched through an old storage cupboard and, after several minutes, emerged proudly holding a small glass marble.  Phil carefully arranged matches on the table to form three adjacent squares and placed the marble in one of these squares.

“Do you think you could move that marble from its present square into the next one?” asked Phil.

“I don’t know” answered Alan. “But I’ll try,” At first nothing happened.  Then, all of a sudden, the marble gave a little hop and jumped over the match stick into the adjoining square.

Phil was elated. “That’s fantastic, Alan.”

“I surprised myself with that one” said Alan.  “I did not think I’d manage it.  I think you had better tell me what your idea is now, Phil.”

“Have you ever been in a Casino, Alan?”, asked Phil with a quizzical smile.

Alan now understood the reasons for Phil’s sudden interest in psycho‑kinesis and, although he was reluctant at first, eventually agreed to go along with his plan.  For the next few days, Alan trained as much as possible and, by the next Saturday, he felt confident enough to test his skills.

They agreed their plan before entering the Casino.  Phil was to place bets on the roulette wheel and Alan would influence the ball to drop into the right position to achieve a win.  At the end of the night, they would split their winnings and, hopefully, both walk away as rich men.

Phil had gathered most of his savings together and cashed then into chips ready for the game.  Alan was seated as close as possible to the roulette wheel without attracting too much attention.  Phil gingerly placed just a few chips on the red nine square.

“No more bets” said the croupier as the wheel started turning. Phil’s heart raced as he anxiously watched the wheel and the little ball spinning around its rim.  He did not dare look at Alan, in case someone realised they were together. When the croupier announced “Red nine”, Phil could not believe his ears. It had actually worked and his winning chips were being pushed towards him.  Phil repeated this process several times and each time his pile of chips grew bigger as his winnings multiplied. As was to be expected, a crowd began to gather around Phil as it became obvious that he was on a winning streak. Each time, Phil put all his winning chips on his next bet and the people around him would cheer him on. He was so confident of his success, that he hardly gave it a thought when the man who had been acting as croupier was replaced.

Phil eagerly placed all his chips on black fourteen and sat back in his seat waiting for the winning number.

“Red twelve.” Phil’s jaw dropped in disbelief. A gasp went up from the crowd surrounding him, the chips were scraped towards the banker and Phil was shell‑struck.  He turned his head to look at Alan for the first time. Alan’s eyes were transfixed, but not on the roulette wheel. Phil followed his gaze and saw the cause of the distraction. It was the replacement croupier.  The casino’s secret weapon was a beautiful woman with long blonde hair and a very revealing, low‑cut black dress. Phil rose and slowly walked out of the casino mourning his losses. Why had he not remembered why Alan’s nickname was Cleavy? As a teenager, Alan had an obsessive fascination with women’s breasts, particularly when they were barely restrained by a tight‑ fitting, low‑cut dress. This obsession had, obviously, continued into his adult life and ruined Phil’s plans. He walked away a poorer, yet wiser man.


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