When I was a kid, my parents took me to see a magic show.
We didn’t know that day we’d be watching the world’s worst magician.
He didn’t bill himself that way, of course … but he should have. Not because he was a poor performer, per se, but more because his props were rundown, shabby pieces of crap that didn’t work. (Almost as if they were government-engineered, or something.)
“For my first trick,” the magician said, waving his ragtag cape, “I’m going to lock a woman in a cage and make her disappear!”
“Why make her disappear?” mumbled a grizzled-looking man sitting nearby. “I could think of a lot more interesting things to do to a woman in a cage.”
My mom tugged my sleeve. “C’mon, Allen. We’re changing seats.”
A scantily clad assistant climbed into the mesh cage, which stood on thin, uncertain legs with shopping-cart wheels. The magician draped a large cloth over the cage to conceal her.
“When I pull away this cloth, the woman will have vanished!” the magician proclaimed. “Abracadabra, Monte Cristo—”
Rat, tat, tat. The trap door at the bottom of the cage fell open, clattering on the floor. The assistant’s bare legs poked through.
“Hmm,” the magician said, as the audience tittered. A couple of assistants rushed over to push the offending cage offstage.
Moments later, they emerged from behind the curtain pushing a wooden table on wheels. The same scantily clad assistant was lying atop it on her back. A rectangular wooden structure covered her stomach and waist.
“For my next trick,” the magician said, once again waving his cape, “I’m going to saw a woman in half!”
“Make her bra disappear!” shouted a rude, immature audience member near the back (who turned out to be me).
“That’s inappropriate, Allen,” my mother said, hissing.
“Inappropriate, but funny,” I said, being my typical bratty, smart-assed self. (I admit, it’s an affliction that’s plagued me my whole life.)
The magician pulled a metallic saw from his garbage bag of tricks. It seemed menacing and scary as the stage lights reflected off it.
It seemed less scary when the magician flicked it for effect, and it made a dull plastic sound. His face fell with a defeated frown … and I couldn’t resist snickering.
“Pay close attention,” the magician cautioned, wielding the faux saw like a lunatic. He kept his voice low, drawing out his words in an attempt to sound ominous and scary. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.) “I’m going to slice through this unsuspecting beauty to separate her torso from her legs. Note the abject look of terror spread across her face!”
Actually, the assistant looked bored to me, just an eye-roll’s shy of falling asleep. Her demeanor, in fact, matched that of the audience.
The magician raised the saw in the air. “Abracadabra, Monte Cristo—”
Rat, tat, tat. The rectangular wooden structure fell open and onto the floor, revealing a pair of plastic legs dangling from the end of the table. The assistant was lying with her own legs crossed.
“Hmm,” the magician said, as the audience erupted with laughter.
The woman jumped off the table and scurried away, as if she’d been caught naked. I assumed she was running to the unemployment line, to get a head start.
“Well,” the magician said, picking up the shattered remains of his prop (as well as the shattered remains of his dignity). “Not all magicians reveal how they do their tricks.”
He had a point. But then again, not all magicians use cobbled-together crap, either. In fact, I imagine the successful ones actually maintain their equipment, because they have standards.
Granted, I’m no master illusionist, but I think it’s appropriate to check the latch on your “magical” cage’s trap door to ensure it’s secured — especially prior to performing in front of hundreds (well, more like dozens) of people.
The magician did succeed in pulling off one trick, however. And it was the most spectacular one of all:
He made the entire audience disappear — as well as his career.