The Wizard, or Prophet, is rifling through some dusty books
when an envelope drops out of one and falls to the floor. He
picks it up and reads the date on the postmark: 1864. "This
is from the time of the Civil War," he announces. "The
letter is addressed to Alice Winston. Does anyone here know an
Alice Winston, mouth hanging open from surprise, timidly
raises her hand. The Wizard quizzes her: "Do you know an
Alice Winston? What? That's you? It couldn't be! This letter is
dated 1864. Do you have any ancestors named Alice Winston? No?
Then it must be for you. Do you know any body who fought in the
civil war? Well, it doesn't say who it's from, so maybe it's not
from a soldier. Would you mind if I ran a few tests before you
open the letter?"
Getting Alice's permission to 'run a few tests,' the Wizard
asks her, "Do you know the names of any ancestors you have
who might have been alive in 1864? Do you know the names of any
of their children? Do you know any of their occupations?"
As he asks these questions, the Wizard jots down Alice's
answers on a large corporation-style chart or note pad that is on
an easel and can be seen by all the audience. He just jots down a
name or a word or a phrase from what Alice is telling him, not
"Just for the record," says the Wizard, "can
you tell me what year you were born? What month? What day? Why,
that's today! Happy Birthday, my dear. Let's just open up that
letter of yours and see what it says. It's too bad to tear into
an antique that old. Let me use a letter opener and I'll try to
be very careful. This isn't exactly an letter opener. It's what
we Wizards call an Athame... a magical knife. It's very sharp, so
it should do the trick."
The Wizard uses the Athame to cut open the top of the
envelope and then spreads the envelope for Alice to see inside.
"We're all curious!" says the Wizard. "You just
got a letter from 1864. Would you mind taking it out and reading
it aloud for all of us to hear?"
Alice reads: "Dear Alice,
I hope you remember me. I am your great, great, great
grandmother Abigail Winston. We have had four long years of this
awful civil war and it looks as if it's going on forever, so I am
writing this to you who will live so far in the future, according
to a wise old woman who came to my house one evening telling
fortunes. I don't know if she made it all up or not. My son,
Reginald who is becoming a fine lawyer, thinks she may be a
witch, but we fed her and listened to her stories about the
future, and in hopes that it will all come true, I am writing
this letter to you. I suppose it will sit in a dead letter post
box somewhere, but maybe some day it will find its way into your
hands. According to the old woman, you will be born in (year) and
will receive this letter on your birthday, so Happy Birthday,
dear child, and remember your ancestors fondly. Please accept the
enclosed gift kindly, even though they tell us the notes are not
worth the paper they're printed on.
After Alice finishes reading the above, the Wizard says,
"Show everyone your birthday present, Alice... a confederate
bill! I'll match that with a modern day worthless bill!" He
removes a Wizard bill from his purse, puts it into the envelope
along with the letter and confederate bill, and hands it all to