Mr. Magnetism 

Richard Peabody

lives in the forest gaps where power lines run taller than trees. He soars down these green expanses until he reaches a power station and gets juiced up again, so he can squeeze out sparks, a party trick crowd pleaser.

His earliest beginnings were kid’s birthday parties until he melted a cake with the snap of a finger.

Mr. Magnetism attracts metal of course. At the car dealership the vehicles creep together so slowly you shake your head, close your eyes, and wonder if you’re imagining things as they cluster tightly together in colorful concentric circles around him. One can almost hear the cars say, “Father, you’re home.”

A quick blink and subtle twist of the wrist and he motions every car back into parked formation.

It’s a gift.

“Come on down to Manny’s Oldsmobiles and meet Mr. Magnetism (Himself).”

Construction sites, airports, train yards, the docks, hell, even Lowe’s or Home Depot, are perfect opportunities for Mr. Magnetism to show the people what he can do.

Some nights he dreams of bigger fish. Think rockets, missiles, UFOs. Why waste his time entertaining when he could lift bridges or ships into the air, drag oil rigs to the bottom of the sea, or create with iron, nickel, cobalt and steel?

Take that Claes Oldenburg.

Take that Alexanders–Calder and Liberman.

Take that Richard Sera. Take that Jeff Koons.

Take that, Anish Kapoor, Gary Greff, Ken Kelleher.

Want a giant ball of metal shaped into a B-horror movie prop as large as your house? Got it.

Need a wavy fantasy of metal that screams Burning Man to adorn the lawn of your capitalist empire HQ? Easy.

Crave a part shelter, part avant-garde silver wet dream pod on your campus? Done.

Relish a stainless-steel Rubik’s Cube of rods and cones poking out every which way?


Easy Peasy.




Art became so simple and boring that it didn’t excite Mr. Magnetism any longer.

He gave his money away to world-wide charities. Disappeared for a few decades.

Age diminished his powers.

Still, he surfaced from time to time to make the news–slamming refrigerators and microwave ovens through the glass and brick of Chicago apartment buildings to entrap drug dealers; stopping a high-speed getaway with every motorcycle and electric bike in Brooklyn; filling a runaway yacht with anchors causing it to sink to the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.

Costly mistakes involving numerous lawsuits.

At wit’s end he sat on the banks of the Potomac River wishing he’d never had such a gift.

And forming a yoga pose with raised hands encircled his fingers and began to draw every nail from every house, shed, and building. Calling them to him like you might call a puppy.

“Come flat head spikes. Come galvanized fasteners.

Come box nails, common nails, deck nails.

Come drywall nails. Come roofing nails.

Come brad nails, finishing nails, scaffold nails.

Come sinker nails. Come underlayment nails.

Come masonry nails, joist hanger nails, duplex nails.

Come cap nails. Come trim nails.

Come pole barn nails, connector nails, siding nails.

Come nails for nailers and nail guns.”

And come they did.


A murmuration of nails. Sailing in thick clouds of gray and silver and black, as though every nail ever made circled directly over his curly hair.

And then, with a smile he hadn’t known in ages, Mr. Magnetism lowered his arms and bade them fall.


Richard Peabody, born in Washington, DC., raised in Bethesda, MD., and now living in Arlington, VA., is a poet, writer, editor, teacher, publisher. The author of a novella and three short story collections, he taught graduate fiction writing at Johns Hopkins University for 15 years. His Gargoyle Magazine (founded 1976) released issue 76 in August 2022. The magazine has since moved online. His most recent poetry volume, Guinness on the Quay, was published in Ireland (Salmon Poetry, 2019).  The Richard Peabody Reader, a career-encompassing collection, was released in 2015 by Alan Squire Publishing.