December 8th, 2008 17:10 EST
The Magic Show
It was a warm, spring Sunday morning, and Alice and Walter could be found in the same place they spent every Sunday morning, on their back sun porch. Walter was reading the front page of the newspaper. Alice was sipping coffee and clipping coupons. Aside from the crinkling of the paper, and the slashing sound of the scissors, there was silence. Something had been bothering Alice for sometime now. Something made her put down her scissors and just stare at Walter`s face as her previewed the headlines. They had been married for thirty-six years. It had been a wonderful thirty-six years. They had four grown, successful kids. Their fifth grandbaby was on the way. But something has faded lately. Maybe they were in a rut. Maybe they have started to take each other for granted. He stopped looking at her the way he used to. When they first met he would give her short, nervous glances that often resulted in blushing. As time went on, those looks became more passionate. Lately, there had been neither. He had all but stopped looking at her. There was the occasional glance as if to see if what he had just said registered with her.
"I`m going to get those gutters cleaned out today," he said without looking up. He looked over and caught her looking at him. "What?" he said while peering over the top of his bifocals.
"Oh, nothing-nothing," she said as she went back to clipping her coupons. Suddenly something caught her eye. It was an advertisement for a magic show. It was large, colorful and depicted several illusions being performed by figures in silhouette. For some reason, Alice became very excited. She thought back to the time her father brought her to the circus. Her father was a very busy man, and always working, but he always set aside one day a week for daddy-daughter day. On one of those days, he had surprised her with tickets to the circus. That special daddy-daughter day was one she would never forget. She sat in her seat eating popcorn when all of a sudden a very cheerful man appeared in the center of the center ring.
"He`s the magician, dad!" she remembered saying very enthusiastically.
The magician asked volunteers from the audience to inspect a pair of handcuffs, a large burlap sack and a large trunk. He then put the sack inside the trunk. The volunteers put the handcuffs on him, and then tied him in the sack. The committee locked the trunk and returned to their seats. His female assistant stood on top of the trunk. She held up a large, red cape in front of her and began to count.
"One! Two..." her head was hidden from view for only a split second. On "Three" the cape dropped, and there stood the magician!
He unlocked the trunk, opened the sack, and there was his assistant wearing the handcuffs. It was a magical afternoon, and one of the best times she ever got to spend with her father.
"Huh," he looked over.
"Look at this?" she said while trying to hide her excitement.
"It is a magic show. It is going to be at the old Capitol Theater on Lexington. I didn`t know it was still open."
"It is going to be Friday night."
"Well, you know the kids are all in Florida," he said dismissively.
"I know that. Why don`t just you and I go?"
He sighed, "Let me think about it," and then he went back to reading his paper, "I thought place was closed down."
She could barely contain her excitement. Alice knew, with a little coaxing, she could convince Walter to go.
Across town a young man was just waking up from a drunken stupor. The room was spinning, and his head felt like a jackhammer. He was lying on the couch, and when he sat up the sun pierced his eyes like a laser. Beer cans lay strewn all over the floor. An almost empty bottle of Jack Daniels sat on the coffee table, right next to an overflowing ash trey. He had to force himself into a sitting position. He found an un-opened beer under the coffee table. He cracked it open and turned on the television. He channel surfed just long enough to finish the warm beer. After debating with himself, he got up and decided he was going to try and do something with the day. He managed to take a shower, shave and brush his teeth. He made a pot of coffee, and went out to get the paper from the stoop. While still in his robe, he sat down at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee to read the paper. This is the most activity Richard Kenyan had exerted in weeks.
A year ago he was a happy, successful college art teacher. Richard was popular with his colleagues and students. On top of that, he was engaged to Vanessa Dickenson, a very attractive math teacher. They had a huge wedding planned for the spring. It was all too perfect.
One winter night Richard got home before Vanessa, but he didn`t think much of it. He decided he would surprise her with dinner. After an hour he started to worry. He called her cell phone, but only got her voicemail. Three hours passed, and he couldn`t take it any longer. Richard jumped in his car and started to speed down the highway toward campus. He knew he was driving too fast for this kind of weather, but he didn`t care. Suddenly he came to a cluster of police cars, a fire truck and an ambulance. An awful feeling came over him. Instinctively he knew something was wrong, but he didn`t want to believe it. He pulled over and got out. His breathing became labored, as if a stack of cinder bricks had been laid on his chest. He identified Vanessa`s car, smashed like an accordion against another car. She had been driving too fast down the highway and hit a patch of black ice. Her car began to spin until it slid into the oncoming lane. Another car smashed into her head on. Vanessa was killed instantly. The driver of the other car walked away without a scratch. It wasn`t right; it wasn`t fair. A patch of black ice took away everything. After that he started drinking. He stopped showing up for class. Friends and colleagues began to worry. Although he was well liked, something had to be done. The dean of his department didn`t want to fire him. He put Richard on leave of absence. Since then, he couldn`t remember two minutes of sobriety. He didn`t care.
His coffee was strong, and he wanted nothing more than to drink half of it, and fill the rest with Vodka. The alcohol did one vital thing: it kept him from feeling.
He began to flip through the paper and try to pretend that he was interested. Suddenly something had caught his eye. It was an advertisement for a magic show. It was large, colorful and depicted several illusions being performed by figures in silhouette. He started to think back to the last vacation that he and Venessa went on. It was to Boston. They went on a whale watch, ate homemade clam chowder out of bread bowls and made a trip to the Salem witch museum. While walking though Quincy Market, they came upon a large group. They were watching a street magician. Vanessa watched with great delight. Richard enjoyed watching her reaction. She laughed and applauded and even helped the magician with one of his tricks. He held up a box of red Bicycle playing cards, with a large black `X` drawn across the front.
"I recently had a premonition, a vision, of a playing card; one specific playing card," he said playfully. "Miss, what is your name?"
"Vanessa," she said sheepishly.
"I`m sorry, Vanessa, what did you say?" The audience laughed at the joke. "Vanessa, I`m going to ask you to do me a favor, would you clear your mind? I would like you to think of a card-any card. Do you have one?"
Vanessa shook head affirmatively.
"Good," the magician began to open the box of cards. "Before I take out the cards, and so the rest of the crowd can enjoy this trick as well, would you please tell me the name of the card you are thinking of?"
"The ten of clubs," she said.
He then took out the cards. He fanned out the entire deck. There was one, single card face down.
"You said the ten of clubs?"
"Yes," she said excitedly.
He pulled out the card, turned it face up and it was the ten of clubs with a big, black `X` right across the face of it.
It was an amazing moment, and it was a great trick. Her joy, and that moment, is one of Richard`s fondest memories of Vanessa.
Richard just stared at the advertisement. It was Friday night at the old Capitol Theater. He thought they had closed that down.
Monday night was a beautiful spring night. It seemed like everyone was out to enjoy the first pleasant night after one of the harshest winters in recent memory. It seemed everyone was enjoying it except for one person. Andrea Martin was an executive assistant in a very prestigious law firm. She worked long hours, including nights and weekends. She couldn`t even remember the last time she was out in the sun. She walked through the door of her apartment with an arm full of files and a small brown bag of Chinese food. With her keys in her mouth, she shut the door with her foot. All she wanted to do was take a long bath, eat and go into a deep sleep, but she had at least three hours worth of more work to do. Her phone began to ring. She hadn`t noticed, but there was a hole in the bottom of the brown paper bag. As she went for the phone, the bag tore apart and her shrimp lo mien crashed to the floor. It looked like it would be cereal again for dinner. She missed the call, but she had an idea of who it was. It was probably her mother. She had been trying to convince Andrea to come home for her sister`s anniversary party. Andrea had been ignoring the calls, but she didn`t want to disappoint her sister or mother. The firm was dealing with a high-profile case, and she knew that there would be absolutely no way she could get away for five minutes, let along a whole weekend. Andrea started to cry as she wiped up noodles from the carpet. She was in her thirties, and starting a family started to seem less and less likely. Since she moved to town, she hasn`t met two people she could call a friend. It had been a frighteningly long time since she had even been on a date.
She decided that she needed to calm down. On her way in, she picked up the newspaper off the stoop. It was the Sunday paper, but this was the first chance she had to even look at it. She started to brew some tea, and then she sat down at her small dining table with the paper. She flipped through pages as quickly as she did papers at her office. Suddenly something caught her eye. It was an advertisement for a magic show. She started to think about her grandfather. He used to do magic. He was the jolliest fat man she had ever met. He treated her and her sister like princesses; after all they were his only grandchildren.
At her ninth birthday party, she had talked him into doing a magic show. She felt very special in front of all of her friends. At one point he asked her up to help him with a magic trick. He gave her a piece of white tissue paper. He held a piece of black tissue paper. He told her to tear up her piece, and he proceeded to tear his. He took her pieces and his pieces and rolled them up together into a ball in his hand. When he opened them, the black pieces had been restored, but in the shape of a top hat! He reached inside the paper top hat and pulled out a black and white paper chain that seemed to go on forever.
"Now Andrea, what do magicians pull out of their top hats?"
"That is right."
From out of that paper top hat he pulled out a white paper rabbit. It was thrilling. When he gave it to her, she felt like the most special little girl on earth. To this day, she still had that paper rabbit in a keepsake chest she kept in a closet. It was one of her most cherished possessions.
The magic show was Friday night at the Capitol Theater on Lexington. The show was at eight. She started frantically going through her mental date book. Lexington wasn`t far from her office. She could be out by 7:30, if she rushed.
Friday night came, and there seemed to be something in the air. It was the kind of excitement children get on Halloween, or the night before Christmas.
Alice and Walter parked the car, and began to walk along the sidewalk. They were stunned when they reached the theater. For a place they both thought had been shut down, it looked like a shrine. The celestial white lights of the marquee gave the building an aura. There were people bustling around outside of the theater, and the inviting smell of popcorn came wafting from inside.
Richard Kenyan pulled up in a taxi. Andrea Martin came sprinting down the street at 7:50 pm. She quickly bought her ticket, and nuzzled into her seat, which just happened to be next to Richard Kenyan.
The theater looked like it had just been renovated to its glory days of Vaudeville. The chandelier hung radiantly in the dome of the theater. The seats looked freshly upholstered with red velvet. Suddenly there was the sound of thump, thump, thump. Music began to fill the theater. The lights began to dim. An "aww" came from the audience as the curtain rose. The stage was black. In the center, on a platform was an oil painting of a wizard. With a single spotlight on it, the painting began to revolve within the silver, ornate frame. It began to spin faster and faster, and then it just stopped. As the music began to reach its crescendo, the frame and painting began to rise. As it did, the painting began to fade away as it rose. As it faded, a real wizard began to materialize in the center of the platform. When the music reached its climax, an old, medieval looking wizard stood on the platform with a now empty frame just above him. He came down to the center of the stage and took a bow. A runway jetted out from the stage into the middle of the audience. An elevator car began to descend from the dome of the theater to the end of the runway. As it descended, the sides slowly rolled up, as if the whole thing were made of paper. When it touched down, the only thing left was the rod iron framework of the elevator car. The doors creaked open, and the wizard cryptically looked around at the audience. He pulled his hood over his head and then he got into the elevator car. It rose half way between the stage and the ceiling. The sides of the elevator rolled back down. A foreboding drumbeat filled the theater as light began to radiate from the elevator. It descended once again, and once again the sides of the elevator rolled back up. When it touched down it was again just the iron framework and the wizard with his face still covered by his hood. He stepped out and threw the hooded cloak away. He was now a young, vibrant magician wearing a tie and tails. The audience cheered. Now the show could start.
The magician was in command. He was powerful, engaging and very funny. The illusions were so grand, and the show moved at such a pace, the audience barely had time to catch their breath. At one point during the show cloaked phantoms materialized from the shadows. The figures chained the magician to a large, steel circular framework. They chained his hands and legs to the framework in spread-eagle fashion. When they were done, he looked like Leonardo DaVinci`s Vitruvian Man. Two more figures wheeled out a large, steel pike. The figures moved away, and the wheels on which the pike was mounted kept advancing forward. If the magician did not free himself he would be impaled. As the magician tried to free himself, the pike came closer and closer. He was too late. The pike impaled him right through the chest. Then there was silence. The phantoms unchained the magician, covered him with a large white cloth and then glided away. Silently, the pike and the large, steel framework began to roll backward simultaneously into the darkness of the back of the stage. All that was left was the form of the magician floating in mid air. There was a crash of cymbals, and the sheet crashed to the ground. The magician was gone, and the theater went dark.
A second later the magician reappeared, levitating over the heads of the audience. The audience was on their feet applauding.
Now it was time for the more intimate part of the show. The magician walked out into the audience to look for a volunteer.
"Excuse me miss, I was just wondering if you weren`t doing anything, would you mind coming with me?" he said to Alice.
"Well, I...um-uh. OK."
"And what is your name?"
"Could I have a nice hand for Alice?"
The audience applauded as they made their way to the stage. In the center of the stage was a large shrub in a simple clay pot.
"Alice I need you to help me with something. Do you see that pot sitting over there?"
"Yes," she said.
"Well, it is a fine shrub, but it is actually supposed to be a rose bush. Now I don`t know anything about roses, but I do know someone that does. Alice, don`t you grow roses?"
"Yes, yes I do." She had no idea how he could know this.
"Maybe you could help me with this problem then." He reached into the air and produced a large, ivory magic wand.
"Because, you have more experience with this kind of thing, I was wondering if you could go over there and work your magic. Wave the wand over the shrub, and let`s see what happens."
She giggled, and looked at the magician as if he were crazy. He handed her the wand and guided her over to the plant. She felt very silly, but she decided that she would play along. She held up the ivory wand as if she were an orchestra conductor, and she began to wave it back and forth. Remarkably, the bush began to bloom. Bright red roses began to bloom.
Walter sat there in stunned amazement. His wife, who was always a bit shy, stood center stage of a large theater making magic happen. Something came over him. The crowd was applauding for her. She was laughing. The magician started cutting the roses off the bush and tossing them into a basket. The magician guided Alice to the footlights, and they both tossed the roses into the audience. He ushered her back to the once again empty bush. She waved the wand again, and the bush bloomed again with even bigger and brighter roses. Her eyes sparkled. It had been a long time since he had really looked at his wife. She was radiant. Alice was the center of attention, and enjoying herself in a way she hadn`t in a very long time. He had watched her clip roses hundreds of times in the garden; it was routine. It was common. Walter had taken her for granted. He reacted to so many of the wonderful things she did with just a casual glance. He would never look at her that way again. The only way to get rid of the lump in his throat was to now cheer along with the rest of the audience.
"Now I would like to try something a little different," the magician said as he prowled the audience. "Excuse me, but are the two of you together?" he asked Andrea and Richard.
"Uh, no were not," said Andrea.
"I find that hard to believe. You two don`t know each other at all?"
"Not at all," she said.
"Would the two of you mind joining me on stage?"
Richard was a little reluctant, but agreed.
When they reached the stage, there were two stools sitting approximately seven feet apart. On one of the stools was a sketchpad and marker.
"What is about to happen is an experiment. That means it may not necessarily work. First of all, would either of you happen to be artistically inclined?"
"I, I am an art teacher," said Richard.
"Excellent. What is your name?
"Richard, would you then please hang onto this marker, sketchpad and take a seat on that stool right there."
"What is your name miss?"
"Andrea this is Richard. Richard, I`d like you to meet Andrea." The two of them shared a nervous handshake. "Andrea, would you take a seat on this stool right here? As I said, this may not work, but we are going to try it anyway. Andrea, what I would like you to do is clear your mind. I want you to paint a mental picture. Are you married?"
"Good, this will work even better. I want you to imagine the perfect date. I want you to imagine a scene on that date. It could be at a restaurant. It could be a walk on the beach. It is all up to you. Richard, I want you to look at Andrea. I want you to detect what she is thinking. If you think you have some idea, I want you to sketch it on that piece of paper. The magician took an unassuming position downstage right. He seemed to be observing this as if he were just another member of the audience.
Andrea took a deep breath, and then she thought about the first thing to come to her mind. It was a boat; it was a rowboat. It would be her and her date in the middle of a lake, just enjoying the sun and each other`s company. The mental image became more and more vivid. She imagined looking at the face of her date. She was startled. It was Richard. Although he was very attractive, why would she be thinking about the perfect date with a man she had just met?
Richard was very nervous, and his hands began to sweat. How was he supposed to figure out what this girl was thinking? Then they locked eyes. He wasn`t nervous anymore. He looked at her. She looked at him. He looked down. Without realizing it, he had already started to draw. He didn`t know if he was right or not, he just kept sketching. He looked up at her again. You could hear a feather fall in the theater at that moment.
The voice of the magician broke the silence.
"Andrea, were you able to imagine the perfect date?" She shook her head without taking her eyes off of Richard.
"Richard, were able to pick up on what Andrea may be thinking."
"Yes," Richard said assuredly, without taking his eyes off of her.
"Andrea, what was it that you were thinking?"
The gaze was broken; she had almost forgotten that she was sitting on a stage with hundreds of people watching her.
"I was-I was thinking of a boat ride, a rowboat on a lake."
"Richard, would you mind showing us what you have drawn?"
There was a nervous moment. He slowly turned it around. There on the sketchpad were two people floating along in a rowboat on a clear lake. The audience broke into thunderous applause. Andrea gasped, and covered her mouth.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Andrea and Richard!" They both took a bow. Andrea leaned over and gave Richard a kiss on the cheek, which was completely out of character for her.
For the final illusion, the magician mounted a white horse. As the audience applauded, he directed the horse to the center of the stage. He acknowledged the audience, and then he disappeared. Just gone. In the blink of an eye the magician and white horse had vanished. The cheers and applause were almost deafening.
The audience began to leave the theater. Walter and Alice walked out silently. He had butterflies in his stomach, and then he stopped right under the marquee lights.
"Walter, what is the matter?" she said.
He was almost shaking. He took her hands in his, and just looked at her. He then put her arms around his neck and kissed her. He didn`t care that they were in a crowd of people.
"That a girl, Alice," a woman shouted from the crowd.
Alice let out an embarrassed giggle. She pulled away, and just looked at her husband. She started to say something, but stopped. She wrapped her arms around his neck even tighter this time and kissed him.
Richard and Andrea were laughing as they left the theater. The rowboat sketch was rolled up in her right hand. They shared a cab and rode off into the moonlight.
Saturday morning there was giggling coming from the bedroom of Alice and Walter. She was trying to get out of bed, and he kept pulling her back in.
"I`ll be right back," she said giggling.
She wanted to find the advertisement for the magic show and keep it as a memento. Alice went to the garage where there was a stack of old newspapers. She found the newspaper from last Sunday. She went through the entire newspaper, but it wasn`t there. It just wasn`t there. She checked the date. It was the right paper, but the advertisement for the magic show was gone.
Richard and Andrea were walking along the sidewalk. They were holding hands and talking. They decided to take a walk past the theater. What they saw caused them to stop dead in their tracks. The Capitol Theater was all shut up. The windows were all boarded up with plywood. The hundreds of tiny light bulbs that light up the marquee so brilliantly the night before were gone. Richard looked around for a ticket stub, a popcorn box, any sign of what happened last night. There was nothing. With a show that big, there was a chance they could still be packing up. They walked around the whole building, and there was nothing. They made their way back to the front of the theater. Richard looked through the glass doors. Sitting in the box office window was a sign. The only words on the sign big enough for him to read were: Set for Demolition.