A Magic Show — Finding It: Chapter 1
The following is a chapter from a novel in progress titled Finding It. Please let me know in your comments if you would like me to post further installments.
Staged magic is all about illumination and misdirection. That’s why Marvelous Marvin brought his own equipment — to create the atmosphere for illusion. And his pretty assistant helped draw attention to her flashy, skimpy costume designed for maximum exposure of her long legs and curves. That was my take, anyway, as I whispered it to Bart, my best friend.
Immersed in their natural teenage skepticism, my fellow Countryside High School students murmured at another masterfully executed sleight of hand. My interest remained rapt on Marvin’s assistant. What did he say her name was again? While others were trying to figure out the magician’s tricks, I nudged Bart, “How old do you think she is?”
“The ‘lovely assistant’.”
“Like you aren’t ogling. How old is she?”
“She’s got so much makeup on, how the hell would I know?”
“I think she’s pretty.”
“Peel off the pancake, she might scare god!”
“I don’t think so. I’ll bet she isn’t more than 20.”
“Naw. She’s gotta be in her thirties! Anyway, her magician is pretty good.”
I shrugged in response.
“I suppose you could do better?”
“I’m not a magician.”
“You got come card tricks.”
“Only a few.”
“The ones that old guy taught you before he died.”
Linda, who was sitting in a folding chair directly in front of us turned halfway around to emphatically shush us.
“You got some other tricks,” he joked. “Like stinking up the whole fieldhouse with a single butt blast!” Bart laughed.
“You’re still accusing me of that?”
“You’re still denying it?”
“It must have been Jason.”
“Naw, you got a distinct stink.”
“Be quiet!” Linda reiterated.
Bart growled at her.
“Anyway, this is fun. Ya can’t beat no classes for the last two periods of the day.”
“For my next illusion,” Marvin’s voice rang out over the gymnasium’s PA system. “I’ll enlist the help of my lovely assistant, the mysterious Winter Dawn!”
“Dawn. You think that’s her real name?” I asked.
“It’s better than calling her Winter.” Bart chuckled.
“I think I’d rather watch her than the rest of the show,” I said as she strode confidently across the stage, her high heels clicking on the polished hardwood floor.
“We’re going to need a volunteer from the audience,” she spoke into her microphone.
Instantly, several hands shot up, excluding mine.
“Here’s your chance to get a closer look at her, big shot.” Bart nudged me in the ribcage.
I shook my head.
Suddenly, Bart stood and shouted, “Over here!” pointing down at me. In a brief lull of silence, he persisted, “He’s got better tricks than you guys!”
The comment drew laughs from our fellow students.
“Oh really?” Winter Dawn said.
“Well, come on, then,” Marvin added. “We’re up to your challenge.”
“Let’s see what you got!” Dawn motioned for me to join them.
“Thanks a lot, Bart,” I muttered as I stood and side-stepped past him and toward the center aisle.
“Don’t mention it,” he called after me. “While you’re at it, see if you can get her number.”
“No, you, stupid!”
Those closest appreciated the banter. I received a couple of pats on the back from some of the guys who were on the football team to send me off toward the stage.
Upon reaching him, Marvin shoved the microphone into my face, “Wow! You’re a big guy. What’s your name?”
“That’s usually enough.”
“You do have a last name, right? I mean — everybody has one.”
“They all know it.”
“But we don’t do we Dawn?”
“What? You can’t read my mind?” I asked.
“Maybe I can,” Dawn winked.
“Look he’s blushing,” Marvin said. “What’s his name, Dawn?”
“I’m not telling.”
“Look. They all know it.” With a sweeping gesture, I indicated the crowd that filled the gymnasium to capacity, from the folding chairs spread across the basketball court to all the bleachers and balconies to either side.
“Well, I don’t know, and Dawn isn’t going to tell me. There’s a lot of people here. Just in case someone doesn’t know you.”
“I doubt that,” I said with a sigh, already prepared for the expected response when I said, “I’m Brent Woods.”
“Brent Who?” The entire student body, it seemed, shouted in unison.
“See,” I whispered.
“You must be popular.”
“Oh, so it’s an inside joke. Right?”
“He’s the joke!” Kevin, one of the guys from the football and wrestling teams to which I belonged called out, sparking more laughter to erupt.
“Well, popular or not, it seems you’re famous.”
“More like infamous.”
Marvin chuckled. “This is going to be fun.”
“Yeah. Let’s just get this over with. Okay?”
The magician’s assistant smiled at me and winked again. “It’ll be fun,” she whispered as she leaned in toward me. I guess I smiled back. That would be the right thing to do. But I was kind of lost for the moment in her eyes. They were exotic in a way I’d rarely encountered. And despite what Bart suggested, I could tell she wasn’t much older than me. The makeup she wore accentuated her facial features more than covering up wrinkles or blemishes.
“Okay, Brent.” Marvin snapped his fingers to draw my attention back to him. “What we’re going to do is have you stand over here inside this glass chamber. And the lovely Winter Dawn will step into that one way over there. Now, Brent, do me a favor and show everyone that the chamber is solid on all four sides.”
I complied, touching each wall.
“And the floor is also solid, right?”
I stepped up and inside to stomp my feet on the base. “Seems solid to me,” I shouted.
“Great. And Dawn, if you’ll do the same.” He waited for her to complete the test and nod.
“Okay, then. And the walls, as you can all see are eight feet high, and impossible for either of them to climb. And even if they could, there is a solid glass top as well.” He walked toward my chamber, snatching a magic wand from seeming thin air on his way. Flicking his wrist, the wand suddenly extended into a three-foot-long pole. “There, and if you’ll just allow me, Brent.” He reached inside the chamber and touched the pole to the top, before backing out and closing the door. “Now, Brent. Can you open that door?”
I pressed my weight against it, failing. “No.” I shook my head.
He walked over to his assistant’s chamber and performed the same tests before locking her inside as well.
“Now, what we’re going to do is lower a curtain over each chamber, because according to the rules of the Magicians’ Guild, I’m not supposed to let you see how this is done.” He waited until the chambers were concealed. “Are you still there, Brent?”
“I’m here,” she reported.
“Fantastic. I want everyone to know that I almost never lose anyone in the process.”
“It’s okay!” Someone in the back shouted, a voice I didn’t recognize. Of course, the comment evoked spontaneous cheering.
“Now, on the count of three, I’m going to send Brent to Dawn’s chamber and simultaneously Dawn will be teleported to Brent’s. Is everyone ready?”
“Yes,” I said, though I was sure no one could hear me over the simultaneous response of the crowd.
“One, Two, and Three!”
First, there was silence, then gasps as the stage lights, and all the overhead lights in the gym went dark.
Of course, there was some ambient light from the outside filtering in through the glass ceiling doors used to vent the heat when necessary, but, still, it took a few moments for everyone’s eyes to adjust.
“No one panic,” Mr. Irwin, the school Principal, called out. “Everyone, please remain seated. We have someone checking on the power.”
Already I felt mild claustrophobia was kicking in, causing me to sweat a bit. In response, I closed my eyes, taking deep breaths and releasing them slowly to control my natural reaction to the confinement. An immediate rush of chilly air smacked my face causing me to open my eyes. Looking around quickly, attempting to gain my bearings, I was obviously no longer inside the glass box. I wasn’t even inside the gymnasium. Dawn was standing a few feet away, equally disoriented.
Turning toward me, she stared. Once again, our eyes met, though I quickly glanced away, I got a good look at her. Definitely pretty.
“What just happened?” She came closer to me.
“The power went out, I think.”
“No. How’d we get here?”
“Well, this sure isn’t part of the trick,” she assured me.
“I figured that.”
She looked around, seeming to shiver a bit, spotting the van they used to haul their stuff around, before stating the obvious, “We’re behind the gym.”
“Yeah, and you must be cold out here,” I said removing my varsity letter jacket and offering it to her.
“Thanks.” She slipped her arms through the sleeves. It looked way too big on her, but it was better than the relatively nothing she was wearing. “Now you’re cold. You must be proud of this thing to have been wearing it indoors.”
“I wanted to be ready to leave right after school. I have a physical therapy appointment. Hopefully the last one.”
“Yeah, my left knee.” I adjusted the jacket on her.
“You fill this out better than I do.”
“You need to eat better.”
“Aren’t you cold?”
“I’ll make it. I got long sleeves on. It’s not too bad. Not as bad as what you’re wearing…or rather not.”
“That sounds like a complaint.”
“Not really. Just your costume is impractical, all things considered.”
“Let’s get back inside,” she started toward the auditorium’s exit doors.
I reached out and grabbed the floppy sleeve of my jacket. “Those are locked. We have to go over there.” I pointed to the back of the cafeteria.
“Those aren’t locked?”
“They’re locked, but if you know the trick, you can open them.”
“And you know the trick, I hope.”
“So, what was it, football?” She pointed to my knee.
“How’d you guess?”
“I’m a mind reader. Remember, Mr. Woods?” She raised brows and a broad smile. “That’s part of my act. Probably won’t get a chance to do that bit, now.”
Looking around me. “At least you’re smarter than Marvin. He could have read the embroidered name on my jacket same as you did.”
She laughed. “So, how do you know the trick with the door?”
“It’s not a trick so much as a defect. The lock needs to be replaced but no one reports it because guys — and some girls, but mostly guys — use it all the time to sneak outside and have a smoke,” I said.
“I don’t smoke. But I have some friends. You know?”
“Like the guys who tease you about your name?”
“That’s a long story. Goes way back to when I transferred here.”
“Yeah, being new in a school is tough. But it looks like you’re doing well. You got the letter jacket and all.”
“Status thing, mainly. It was a bigger deal before I actually got one.”
Upon reaching the door, I lifted up on the handle and tugged on it quickly. The door popped open.
“Great!” Dawn said.
“Thanks.” Smiling, she stepped inside.
“So, how’d you end up with this gig?” I asked as we walked along the dark corridor that from experience I knew led past the cafeteria and along the wall of the gym.
“I answered a want-ad. The pay’s decent. Marv’s good to work for, I guess.”
“Marv is short for Marvin or Marvelous.”
She laughed. “Take your pick. I guess it could go either way.”
“People have a lot of nerve teasing me about my name.”
“Brent’s not bad.”
“That’s not my name, not really. I mean — it is because I’ve been going by it since I was twelve. My parents named me Elliot — with two L’s. But they only gave me ‘B’ as a middle initial. My dad’s name is Bruce, but I didn’t want to be called Little Bruce or Junior. And my mom was dead set against that too. Another long story.”
“Understandable, I guess. I’ve known a couple of guys who went by Junior. Not good memories.”
“Jean, my sister, and I came up with Brent, short for Brenton.”
“So, you invented your name?”
“Yeah, pretty much.”
“That’s so cool,” she said. “Sometimes I wish I’d done that.”
“You don’t like Dawn?”
“It’s fine. But it’s also my middle name.”
“My last name is Penobscot, like the Native American tribe. I’m a descendant. In fact, my tribal name is actually Winter Dawn, because I was born at dawn — ”
“In the winter.”
“Exactly. But I have always gone by Dawn.”
“Yeah, Winter just doesn’t work…”
“Mom tried to call me Winnie.”
“You don’t strike me as a Winnie.”
“I’m not even sure how to spell your last name.”
“Most people aren’t.” She laughed.
“My dad has some Black Foot heritage.”
“Isn’t that interesting?”
“So, you and Marv aren’t an item or anything?”
“No.” She chuckled. “I’ve only been doing this gig for a month. He keeps promising we’ll wind up in Vegas, but so far, Countryside High School in Springfield, Ohio is as close as we’ve gotten. You know?”
“Never been anywhere west of Indiana, myself,” I said. “Only reason I’ve been to Indiana was to look at Purdue. I applied there for college.”
“Hey, I’m from Pennsylvania, around The Burgh,” she said. “This is about as far west as I’ve ever been.”
“Welcome to the edge of civilization, then.”
She laughed. “So, this is the great frontier everyone talks about.”
“Not so great anymore. Maybe it was a couple of hundred years ago.”
“This looks like a crossing hallway,” she said, arriving at the lobby.
“Yeah, hang a left,” I directed. “That will take us back to the gymnasium.”
“Cool. And you can do this in the dark.”
“I have fairly good night vision. I need it where I live, two miles from nowhere where my nearest neighbor is a raccoon in a cornfield. It gets dark out in the boonies.”
She laughed. “I like you, Brent. You’re alright. You know?” As we were in an area where some light shone through windows, she turned and reached for my hand. We shook. “They’re probably looking for us by now.”
“Wanna do something funny,” I asked.
“Sure, why not?”
“Take off your hat.”
“I’m going to put that on. You can keep wearing my letter jacket. It will look like we rematerialized with some of each other’s clothes on.”
She looked down at my feet. “What size is your shoe?”
“9½ D. Kinda small for a guy my size. Why?”
“I got big feet for as petite as I am. If you don’t mind wearing heels, I think they’ll fit.”
“I dressed up as a girl for Halloween once. Wasn’t the best idea, all things considered. But I know how to walk in them.”
“Great!” She sat on a nearby bench, and we traded shoes.
“Your cape?” I indicated.
“Yeah, that would work.” She removed my Varsity letter jacket to take off her cape and then slipped her arms through the sleeves and put my jacket back on.
I tied the cape around my neck. “There, how do I look?”
“That’s the effect we’re after.”
“I wonder when the lights are coming back on,” she said. “It would be great if as soon as we opened the door…”
“There’s side access to the gym. It’s going to be dark, but we can sneak inside. If we’re quiet, no one will notice us entering…”
“And we just stand in front of the doors.”
“Yep, me on this side and you on the other.”
“I like it.” She laughed. “Marv is always going to wonder how this one happened.”
“A lot of people will. Including me. I still don’t know how we ended up outside.”
“It’s called magic.”
“Yeah, right. I forgot.”
Once we were inside and in position, we stood quietly waiting. The moment the lights came back on, I stepped forward, raising my arms, I called out, “And now for our next magic trick.”
* * *
After Dawn and I returned to the stage, we took our bows and then walked off stage where we swapped the few articles of clothing we’d exchanged. She returned to the stage while I went back to my seat to watch the rest of the show.
“How did you do that?” Bart whispered.
“Shhh,” I responded. “Just watch the show.”
“How’d you do it, make the lights go off and then, when they came back on, you were back there,” Bart indicated with his thumb pointing over his shoulder.
“Dawn and I walked there, from outside the building and in through the exit outside the cafeteria.”
Bart frowned. “You didn’t have time for all that.”
“Sure, we did. The lights were out — ”
“For maybe a minute at the most.”
“Really? It seemed a lot longer.”
“That’s my point. It wasn’t long enough. Seriously, how’d you do it?”
“You’re not going to tell me.”
“I would if I could.”
“Don’t give me the Magician’s Guild bull crap.”
“Okay, I won’t. I’m not a member, anyway.”
When the assembly concluded there were still twenty minutes left before the final bell. Mr. Irwin asked for volunteers to help Marvin and Dawn load their stuff into their van. Of course, Bart was the first to raise his hand. But this time I volunteered, too. So did Jason and Fleahead, two of Bart’s friends who were, by default, mine too and had been since my first day of freshman year.
Bart was still pumping me for the scoop on the magic trick.
“Ask Dawn,” I deflected as we arrived backstage.
She smiled at me and winked, before saying over her shoulder, “I’m going to throw on my warm-ups, Marv.”
“Okay, hon,” he replied, looking up at us. “Great, the volunteers. I already know Brent.”
“This is Bart, Jason and… What’s your real name again, Fleadhead?”
“That’s right. Why can’t I remember that?”
“Great show,” Jason said.
“Yeah, Brent won’t tell us how that one trick was done.”
“I need to ask him about that one myself,” Marv said with a wink.
“Yeah, right,” Bart said. “Strong Union.”
Marv chuckled. “So, everything is on casters except for the glass chambers. There is a pin down toward the bottom, pull that and it releases the base. Then you slowly lay it down on its side and remove the top. After that, you can unlock the side panels one-my-one. That’s the only tricky part. Once you have that disassembled, the panels go into those padded sleeves.” He pointed. “Let these guys work on that, Brent. You come with me. We’ll load the rest of the stuff.”
“Okay.” He started wheeling out one cabinet and I followed him with another.
“Dawn won’t tell me how you did that stunt either. But it’s much better than the original. However you did it, I’d love to work the modification into the show. I’m willing to pay you for it.”
“I wish I could help you.”
“There’s $500 cash in it for you. I think that’s fair.”
“In all seriousness, I was in the chamber and I’m a little claustrophobic, so I closed my eyes and took some calming breaths. That usually works. Next thing I knew I was standing out back of the gym with Dawn and she looked as baffled by it all as I was.”
Marv paused at the door. By then Dawn joined us. She held the door open.
“Brent was just telling me the same thing you told me,” he said to his assistant.
“Well, what do you expect? The truth is always the same no matter who tells it.”
Having reached the back of Marv’s panel truck he opened the doors and before we lifted the cabinets, he locked the casters. When both were inside and strapped in place, we reentered the building. By then, Jason and Fleahead were carrying out four of the padded cases for the glass panels.
“Bart’s waiting for you to help him with the other ones,” Fleahead said to me in passing.
“I’ll bring out the tops and bases,” Marv said.
“Other than that, there are four other cabinets. Each one of you can grab one and I’ll pick up the loose articles. And we’ll be all set.”
“Great because I have to get to a physical therapy appointment.”
“Wearing a brace?”
“Yeah. Hopefully, that can come off after today.”
Once everything was loaded, Marv thanked us for the help. The other guys started back inside.
“Brent, I’ll give you a ride to your car. You’re parked around front?”
“You don’t need books or anything?”
“No, I do my homework in class or study hall.”
I climbed into the passenger side. Dawn slipped back into the jump seat just behind.
“I appreciate this.”
“Dawn, you have one of my business cards back there?” He asked as he drove around the side of the school toward the main parking lot.
“Hand one to Brent here. If you ever change your mind about telling me how you did that stunt, give me a call. It’s an answering service. Just leave your number and I’ll call you back.”
I looked at the card, then looked up at Dawn who just shrugged and smiled.
“Like I said. I’m not sure what happened. But if I figure it out, I’ll get in touch.”
“That’s fine.” We had reached the parking lot. “Where you parked, Brent?”
“That yellow Opel GT right there by the fieldhouse.”
“Cool. Poor man’s Corvette.”
“Yep. I wanted a sport’s car but Dad insisted I buy American. He was okay with it because it was a Buick dealership even if it’s a German car.”
“You like it?”
“Yeah, it’s fun to drive.”
“Well, again thanks for the help.” He offered his hand. “And I’m serious about the money.”
“I know you are.”
“Good to meet you, Brent,” Dawn said, lightly touching the back of my hand. Immediately, I felt a surge, a tingling sensation that rippled up my arm before radiating throughout my body, causing me to gasp a bit.
“Are you okay?” she whispered.
“Me? Yeah,” I met her eyes briefly before we both averted our eyes. “Um. It was good meeting you too, Ms. Penobscot.”
She looked up at me and winked as Marv glanced quickly between the two of us. “What aren’t you two telling me?”
“Nothing, Marv,” she said. “I promise.”
I stepped down from the van and closed the door. Then I trotted off to my car. Reaching into my jacket pocket for my keys to unlock the door, when I pulled them out another of Marv’s business cards was stuck into the circular fold of the keyring. I removed it, immediately catching a whiff of Dawn’s perfume. Flipping it over, I saw she’d written on the back her home address and phone number along with the following:
It’s my parents # — Call me.
I smiled, as I started the engine and looked up into the rearview, adjusting it before backing. Except behind me were the familiar eyes of The Other — my alter ego, my shadow, my imaginary friend, or whatever he was… He called himself Carlos.
Want to read more of this and other stories by Elgon Williams? Join the Patreon community.