Simon, called the Magician by some, and by others the Wise. “In the thirteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Nero, Simon undertook to rise toward heaven like a bird in the presence of everybody. The legend relates that the people assembled to view so extraordinary a phenomenon and Simon rose into the air through the assistance of the demons in the presence of an enormous crowd. But that Saint Peter, having offered up a prayer, the action of the demons ceased, and the magician was crushed in the fall, and perished instantly.” What the legend does not tell: how when Simon fell everyone cried out, and how they circled his body, not daring to touch it. Peter who was just plain Peter in those days stood at the edge of the crowd, in a blue robe, pug-nosed, shouting and waving his staff as if the world were populated by kine and he their drover. He told them that he had ordered the demons to let Simon fall, and that it was a great miracle. But an old woman in the crowd remarked that when Simon was in Aricia he used to put on a puppet show which the children of Aricia loved very much. A bearded king got drunk and said something lewd to his wife, who chased him back and forth across the stage and finally walloped him with an amphora, and then it all began again. No one could figure out how he made the puppets move without touching them. It was just like magic.
“The boys followed him everywhere, tugging at the hem of his magician’s robe, and wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace. Simon said the trick with the puppets came from Egypt and there weren’t but three or four people in the world who could do it. He promised to teach my grandson, but the boy died of typhus.”
When she had finished speaking, Peter said, “Bring your grandson to me, and I will give him life again.”
“Life,” the woman said, “all right, but what about puppets?”
And, Peter not deigning to answer an objection he considered absurd, the crowd dispersed, debating amongst themselves whether fickle but spectacular demons were better or worse than no demons at all. That night Simon’s body was carried to Aricia, and then to Terracina, where he was buried.