The Department of Mysteries: Live! From the Three Broomsticks

by Bob Sindeldecker

Taking a cue from Our Favorite Author, I have begun doing all of my writing in coffee shops. It’s a lot easier for me to get the creative juices flowing with ink on paper than with the phosphorescent cyclops glaring me in the face, and it ensures my work won’t suffer a Vanishing Spell (HEM! HEM!) via the Dark Magic of Hotmail. Plus there is coffee.

My café of choice is the Barnes And Noble store in the Lennox Town Center mall near Ohio State. It’s got plenty to read, obviously, and there is a constant ebb and flow of interesting people, particularly college students, particularly attractive female college students. In other words, plenty of inspiration.

This last time (1 December) I must have taken a bit more painkiller than necessary (another long story) or perhaps it was the vodka shots for breakfast**, unusual even for me. But once I arrived, got my large(I will not say the v-word) Mocha Espresso with the whipped cream on top, my yummy cinnamon scone (now I know what scones are!) found a table, took a whiff of Vicks to open the ol’ sinuses, pain pills kicking in nicely, I started to notice the people around me. Really notice them. I must have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, for I seemed to vibrate in an oblong way and was transported… off, off and away … to the Three Broomsticks …


1. Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil brush by me, giggling as usual. Why they are wearing Ohio State sweats is beyond me; OSU doesn’t even have a decent Quidditch team. They are giggling about some boy they met at Little Brothers last night. How could this be? They cannot Apparate. Must have taken the Knight Bus. Now they are gabbing about Trelawney’s Sociology class, and how they never imagined some of the reasons people do things. Divining human motives is utterly fascinating.

Lavender and Parvati take a table, as…

2. Roger Davies comes in. Lavender and Parvati say “Hi!” flirtatiously. Roger says “Hey,” very coolly and starts talking about The Other Night. It is obvious he is The Boy. They could not find him after the show. He tells them he left early – football practice in the morning. Oh. They giggle.

3. I spill coffee on my paper, shaking it up to swirl the sludge in the bottom. I circle the wet spots so I won’t write in them by mistake. My paper now looks like a drawing of Swiss cheese.

4. Professor McGonagall emerges from the book stacks. She is carrying the New York Times. She must be disappointed the pictures do not move. She goes to the coffee counter and orders a cuppa – “Cheapest one you’ve got!” – and pays for it and her newspaper with her Discount Card. She insists on the receipt. She searches for a table, mutters about “no place to sit!” and finds an unoccupied 4-seater table right next to me, which she occupies single-handedly. I notice she has her walking stick and is shod with those huge, shapeless Salvation Army shoes old people always seem to wear. Well, she is getting on. I feel I should apologize on behalf of the Timesfor the pictures not moving, but I don’t want bother her.

5. Lovely Madame Rosmerta brings the Inventory Ledger over to the coffee counter. She is not pleased. She has an entry for Jamaican Dark Roast and the payment record, but no record of ever having received it. Anthony Goldstein says, “I just brewed some not 10 minutes ago!” and zips back into the kitchen, then zips out again with a bag of Jamaican Dark Roast. “We got four crates of this!” Four crates is just what they paid for. Someone must have forgotten to enter their arrival in the Ledger. Lovely Rosmerta goes away happy.

6. Professor Dumbledore appears as if from nowhere. He is not dressed as a Wizard today – must be doing undercover work for the Order – but he still has that wonky hippie vibe. He has trimmed his hair and beard so he looks like George Carlin and wears a loud Hawaiian shirt with a t-shirt and khakis. Now I remember: Professor Dumbledore works at the Help Desk here at the Three Broomsticks. He helped me find the wonderful works of Galadriel Waters and the latest Ringworld novel by Larry Niven, plus he told me where to order those shirts. I forgot. Hope I don’t forget to ask him again before I leave.

7. Percy Weasley sits at the table to my right, trying to suck some shiny, happy young fool into a multi-level marketing scam scheme. Percy is VERY sure of the superiority of his product and is looking for a “Self-Starter” with “Good Leadership Skills!” I have heard this pitch so often before I can mouth the next sentences with him:

“This product sells itself!”


YOU need to invest so YOU have an equity, and YOU work for your own profit!”

Sure. And predictably, just when the mark seems to be wising up, Percy says, “Let me call the Head of the company, Mister Lockhart.” So he calls Mister Lockhart. Mister Lockhart convinces the rube that “You Cannot Lose With This Product!”and the fix is in. The 20-something fellow is about to get a very expensive education.

“This is how you get customers: you get 10 people you know and you ask them, ‘Do you want to make money?’ They say, ‘Yeah.’ Then they get people they know, and you add them to the list. This adds on and adds on, and you get more and more. The Product Sells Itself. If you stick to this system, which is Scientifically Tested, you cannot lose. You have to invest a certain amount of money to get it started, but that’s the cost of doing business. You ALWAYS get paid, no matter what. It’s Turn-Key. You don’t have to know anything, you just have to Follow The Path and You Will Make It. This is a NINETY-EIGHT BILLION GALLEON business. Do you want a piece of that?”


8. Madame Hooch rolls in – literally – with a magazine trolley. “Where’s all the gun catalogs?” she grumbles. “These yuppie Clint Eastwoods gotta have their guns fro Christmas!” Turns out the gun catalogs are on the bottom. I cannot afford a gun, but I am interested in a new cartridge, the .17 Mach 2. I take a catalog. But I don’t let that distract me from…

9. A gaggle of First Years, by the look of them, all shouting at the top of their squeaky little lungs. Firsties? In Hogsmeade? Must be a school holiday. They all want different things, driving Anthony and Ernie MacMillan round the bend:


“What’s a Macchiato?”
“I want a Latte! On Grounded For Life they drink Lattes!”

(obviously a Muggle-born)

“No! Seamus, get a — one of them thingies –”
“Whipped cream!”
“Do you got sushi here?”

The Firsties all agree on something similar, needing to conform amongst themselves, and take up four tables behind me. Since I hate the raw sunlight streaming in the window and besides the girls are cute, I switch to the other side of my own table. It’s never wise to let the diabolical little fiends get in back of you, anyway. Now they entertain me:

“Euan! Are you in love with Catherine?”
“No, GOD, I hate her! She’s stupid!”
“My Dad got a Hummer. My Mom hates it.”
“”I swear my science teacher, Mister Snape, he was flirting with me.”
“I’m going out for Quidditch in junior high.”
“Did you see SpongeBob? I DV’ed it in the theater.”
“It says in The Quibbler that Julia Roberts is dead.”
“That guy is looking at us.”

Oops. Sorry to intrude.

10. Argus Filch shambles in. Or maybe it is Mundungus Fletcher. He looks pretty rough, not of the same social class as the other customers. Actually not that different from me, but I am only fiscally poor, spiritually rich. This guy is from a whole ‘nother World. It takes him several minutes to get from the door to the coffee counter. He orders “Coffee, black.” Ernie serves it to him. He shambles over to a table and sits down. I notice Ernie did not charge him. His secret is safe with me.

“Look! A Lamborghini!”

It is Euan The Firstie. I take a look. Sure enough, that yellow Lamborghini Diablo I’ve seen around these parts for years is parked outside at the curb. Or maybe it is another one. The driver’s door slices upward and Lucius Malfoy gets out. He is parked in a fire lane – how typical. He locks his car and starts walking down the way. He isn’t even shopping here, the arrogant swog.

And this little psychic poke brings me back to reality. No Lamborghinis in Hogsmeade, which is a good thing.

I realize my mouth is dry. I reach into my book bag for a pint of butterbeer but extract only the liter of flavored water that is actually in there. I take a swig. Much better. Looking around, I see Anthony Goldstein on his cell phone, asking about basketball tickets. Ernie is joking with a customer about last week’s episode of Quintuplets. He’s right, it was great. As it will surely be tonight.

Before me, the Firsties are satisfied that I am ignoring them again and are talking about Catherine’s party:

“EVERYBODY was there it was SO COOL you missed it!”
“I told you I don’t like her anyway!”
“Let’s go to Target!”

They gather their coats and bags and head out as noisily as they came in. I watch them go and wish, now more than ever, that I could be that age again. Not the way it really was, of course, but much better. Me the Ultra Cool Kid, my Mom a lovely Rosmerta, my Dad driving a Hummer and a Lamborghini, captain of the Quidditch team… and all the Catherines would dig me…

But as much as I love Hogwarts, I still have to live in the Here and Now. Roger and the Giggle Girls have their textbooks out, and a young mother is reading to her 2-year old. I am sitting at an ordinary table in an ordinary book store, with an ordinary 10-Sickle (outrageous!) cup of coffee in front of me. I have a column to write.

Now if only I could think of a subject…

Back to theories. Maybe.
** AUTHOR’S NOTE: the “vodka shots for breakfast” bit is pure poetic hyperbole. Alcohol for breakfast is a VERY bad idea, especially if you are already on other medications. Peskilawyers Pesternomi!