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Mark M Lichterman

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The ClimbingBoy12: Magician
By Mark M Lichterman
Posted: Saturday, December 17, 2011
Last edited: Thursday, August 16, 2012
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.

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Recent stories by Mark M Lichterman
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The Climbing Boy can now be purchased as a Kindle eBook @ $3.00

___________________________________________________________________

 From the window above, watching until the man and

boy were out of sight, sighing, “May the Lord Jesus be with

you, my boy.” The lady pressed her palms together, “May

the good Lord be with you!”

 

The drapes in the window of the second floor bedroom

fell into place.

__________________________________________________

Climbing Boy 12: Magician

London, England

December 24, 1843

Late Noon:

 

The afternoon show was nearing completion in a music hall

not too far away where the audience awaited the appearance

of the theater’s main attraction:

 

                      Garibaldi The Great: Master Magician

 

The muffled sounds of the stagehands moving the trapeze,

high wire, and parallel bars of the preceding act came from

behind the closed curtains, but could only be heard by those

sitting in the first few rows.

 

The happy pre-Christmas crowd of people in the audience

sat back, relaxed, and waited.

 

Cigars were lit and flasks of brandy or gin were passed

between friends.

 

“‘ow dare ya say such a thing to me? I’s a lady, I is!”

 

A woman in the sixth row stood, and to the laughter and

approval of the people in the neighboring seats, slapped the

man sitting next to her.

 

Stalking through the aisle, the woman stood a moment

looking for another seat, spotted one and made for it.

 

A drum roll.

 

Receding dimly into the theater’s dome, chandeliers

pulled upward on greased pulleys and the theater was cast

into a flimsy, nervous darkness.

 

A cough.

 

“Shhhh!”

 

The rustle of clothing.

 

“Shhhh!”

 

The sounds of the audience subsided slowly.

The squeaking of the parting of the curtains.

 

Quiet…

 

The transparent darkness…

 

Quiet.

 

Suddenly, amidst motes of dust, swirls, and spirals of

cigar smoke that formed floating phantoms in its narrowing,

gelatinous yellow beam, a gas-lit reflecting spotlight shone

fully upon the bare stage for the time of three heartbeats…

then the light abruptly disappeared leaving only the ghostly,

flickering gaslight from the chandeliers above.

 

“LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!”

 

The hollow voice coming from somewhere, from

everywhere.

 

“GARIBALDI THE GREAT!”

 

Quiet…

 

The transparent darkness…

 

Quiet.

 

Now, a pinpoint of light shone directly center stage.

Slowly… Slowly, the light broadened upon a face—an

evil face…

 

Shoulders…

 

Torso…

 

“GARIBALDI THE GREAT!”

 

A rotund man of indeterminate age; round and youthful,

the face of Garibaldi had a shiny black mustache and a Faust like goatee, which in itself would not be frightful. However,

what was startling were the eyes, the fathomless eyes… for,

piercing black under pure white, arched brows, the eyes of

Garibaldi were the eyes of an old man, and when looking

into these eyes one was immediately reminded of one dimensional lumps of coal set into the face of a snowman…

 

Within moments, though, the flatness disappeared, leaving

in its place the awesome sensation of looking into bottomless

black pits. Flowing white hair came to just below the

magician’s shoulders and, except for a startling white shirt,

Garibaldi was dressed entirely in black: pants, cutaway coat,

and top hat.

 

Standing perfectly still, the magician silently regarded

his audience.

 

Not a sound.

 

Not a whisper.

 

Silence.

 

Silence…

 

…Till a low murmur came from the audience and, the

murmur of the audience being the magician’s cue, removing

the hat, bowing with a flourish, “Good afternoon, ladies and

gentlemen!” Garibaldi said in a deeply resonant, but

curiously relaxing voice. “What you see here in my hands is

a hat!” Pausing, he smiled. “Ahh, but it is not just any hat!

This hat is a magic hat… 

 

“YOU!”

 

Startled, each individual bounded upward in his or

her seat.

 

“Yes! You!” Making a sweeping motion, Garibaldi pointed

vaguely into the audience.

 

Turning, people looked at their neighbors.

 

“Yes!” His voice rising, “Yes! YOU!” he repeated, his hand

dropping to his side. “You know who you are! I see your

doubt!” Sweeping the audience slowly, Garibaldi’s black eyes

looked everywhere, at everyone, yet, at each one person

individually…

 

“THIS IS A MAGIC HAT!” his voice boomed.

 

Silence…

 

There was absolute silence throughout.

 

Not a cough, not a rustle.

 

Three hundred and thirty-three pairs of eyes stared,

unblinking, at the man in the spotlight, and not one of those 

three hundred and thirty-three people had a doubt that the

hat in Garibaldi’s hand was anything but magic.

Silence…

 

CHABOOOMMM!

 

A loud clap of thunder, a bright flash of light, and a cloud

of dense smoke simultaneously enveloped the magician.

Startled, the audience moved to the edge of their seats.

The smoke hovered… then, as if a curtain, lifting from

the bottom, the smoke slowly rose, and as it did it revealed

the magician standing as before, but…

 

Staring at the seated mass, yet staring at each person

individually, he reached into the inverted top hat, the top

hat that now sat on a waist-high, wooden table, which had

appeared directly before him.

 

Made of unvarnished wood, the top of the table was no

more than a foot square and an inch thick, and was held up

by four thin, spindly legs.

 

Obviously nothing was hidden beneath the table, for

Garibaldi’s sharply creased trousers could be seen through

the legs.

 

Hissing, “Disbelievers, watch!”

 

The magician’s fingers, hand and wrist, descending slowly

into the hat, appeared to be searching for something.

“I know he’s in here.” Seemingly speaking to himself, his

voice was heard by the furthest person in the furthermost row.

 

Deeper! His arm went deeper into the hat and was now

past his forearm and elbow, yet, it hadn’t emerged from

beneath the tabletop….

 

“Where are you?”

 

In a soft, singsong voice, the entire audience heard…

 

“Where are you?”

 

Murmuring…

 

Whispering, looking straight forward, “Where’s ‘is

bloody ‘and?”

 

Looking straight forward, too, the man’s companion

whispered back, “D’know. It ain’t under the table!”

 

“Where’s ‘is bloody arm?”

 

Deeper. Now, to the armpit.

 

“Where arrre you?” In a melodic, singsong voice, “Oscar,

my pretty baby, where arrre you?”

 

Searching, the lost arm moved in circles within the rim

of the hat.

 

“Ah-ha!” Garibaldi smiled wickedly. “There you are!”

 

Suddenly, the arm and table shaking violently, the hat

began to move furiously from one corner of the table to

the other.

 

“Come… Come, my friend. We won’t hurt you!” Looking

up, speaking to the audience, “We won’t hurt him, will we?”

Back to his hat, “Don’t make such a fuss.” As though speaking

to a child, “We won’t hurt you.” Cajoling, “Come!” the

magician pleaded, “Come!”

 

All eyes glued to the man in black, the audience strained

forward.

 

“Shhh! Shhh, my little baby,” Garibaldi sang in a voice

scarcely loud enough to be heard, but yet could be heard by

all, as slowly, his arm rose, still thrashing back and forth

within the confines of the magic hat, ever so slowly, still

singing, “Come, my little baby. Come, my pretty Oscar.” The

arm rose…

Upper arm. Elbow. Forearm and wrist until…

 

There!

 

Held tightly in the magician’s fist was the mottled…

 

Higher.

 

…green and brown head…

 

Higher.

 

…of a thrashing…

 

Higher yet.

 

…boa constrictor.

 

In unison, as though on cue, a collective, startled gasp

came from the people in the theater and all eyes were riveted

at the huge, squirming reptile as it slithered out of the hat

upward as now, standing on the tips of his toes, holding the

snake in both hands, Garibaldi lifted upward, lifting the

creature higher and higher above his head… and still it came

from within the bottomless hat till…

 

Oscar was out!

 

At least eight feet of fearsome, thrashing muscle, Oscar

was out of the hat.

 

Coming from the wings, looking as though terrified,

quickly, removing the hat and table, an attendant rushed

back to the wings, as…

 

Standing dead center upon the bare stage, Garibaldi held

the head of Oscar above his head as…

 

Thrashing back and forth, whipping up dust upon the

bare wood, the tail of the snake unexpectedly….

 

“Not so tight my beautiful baby.”

 

… flipped upward, wrapping itself around Garibaldi’s

lower body and chest.

 

“Oscar, not so tight…”

 

Coiling higher, upward, around his throat.

 

“Please!”

 

Was this part of the act?

 

“I can’t breath!” the magician gasped. “Please! I can’t

breath!”

 

Could something be wrong?

 

In shock, standing, a woman in the audience shrieked,

“’elp him! Someone ‘elp ‘im! The beast’s killing him!”

 

Hissing softly… though loudly enough for even the

furthest person in the furthermost row to hear, turning its

head to the audience, its small, beady eyes glowing red, its

long, forked tongue flicking in and out of its seemingly

smiling, evil mouth.

 

As the magician ineffectively tried to pull the tight coil

from around his neck, a man—a heroic man in the third

row—began to climb over the man in the seat in front of

him in an effort to get to the stage…

 

CHABOOMMM!

 

A loud clap of thunder, a bright flash of light, and a cloud

of dense smoke once again simultaneously enveloped the

magician and Oscar, and the stage momentarily went black.

Another flash of light and the stage was lit again, and…

As the smoke dissipated, standing with his arms spread,

the magic hat back on his head, the snake was gone, and in

its place, around Garibaldi’s neck, was a garland of flowers.

 

His leg held in mid-air, the man in the third row stopped.

 

“‘ow’d ‘e do it?”

 

The audience could not believe their eyes.

 

“It’s a trick?”

 

Turning to each other…

 

“How?”

 

In a multitude of accents and dialects...

 

“‘ow’d ‘e do it?”

 

“Can’t be!”

 

“Got to be!”

 

“‘ow?”

 

“Now!” His voice booming over the tumult of their voices,

Garibaldi said, “Do I have your attention?”

 

Silence…

 

A moment later the magician was answered by

tumultuous applause.

 

“And to the man in the third row!” Garibaldi pointed to

the man who had attempted to help him. “I thank you, Sir.

You are indeed a brave man. But,” smiling benignly, “you

do not really want to meet Oscar, because if you do…”

 

“No!” vigorously shaking his head, “No!” the man

answered, retaking his seat. “I thanks ya, Gov, but

no thanks!”

 

Sweeping the hat from his head, leaving a comet’s tail of

sparkling dust in its wake, Garibaldi bowed to the man.

 

The attendant returned the table.

 

The magician put the hat back on the tabletop where…

 

A white rat climbed onto the rim, circled twice, looked

inside the hat, and scampered up Garibaldi’s sleeve onto

his shoulder and hid behind the magician’s head as the head

of a small, black cat poked up through the hat. With

Garibaldi’s assistance, the cat was pulled out of the hat and

dropped onto the floor.

 

Sniffing the air, the cat walked in a wide circle around

the magician, stalking, as the rat ran around his collar in

front when the cat was behind and behind when the cat

was in front.

 

The audience roared with laughter.

 

A covey of partridges stumbled out of the hat, fluttered

to the floor, formed a straight line and ambled off stage.

The people were enchanted.

 

A dove chased a puppy.

 

Each ensemble was followed with enthusiastic applause.

 

“Now, as my final feat of magic and in keeping with the

season…” Garibaldi took the hat off the table, put it on his

head, lifted the table, threw it to someone in the wings, set

the hat, rim up, onto the floor, then, dramatically popping

his wrists out of the top coat, as though to show he had

nothing up his sleeves, kneeling, he put his hand into the

magic hat once again… And searching into the depths of

the hat, once again, his arm disappeared to the elbow. On

both knees, bending over, his face, almost lying across the

hat’s rim, was screwed in concentration…

 

But now, smiling his malignant smile, ever so slowly, the

magician began to extract his arm…

 

In his hand, held tightly between thumb and index finger,

was the tip of something green and bristly. Straightening

his knees, he pulled his arm higher, and there, in his hand,

was the tip of an ever-growing Christmas tree fully bedecked

with lit candles, strings of popcorn, and glass ornaments.

 

As the top of the tree reached near the magician’s fully

extended height, rushing on stage with a base, taking the

tree, setting it inside, the stagehand rushed back to the wings.

Taking his hat from the floor, Garibaldi placed it over the

tip of the tree, then, a moment later, removed it revealing a

star with burning candles on each of its five points.

 

Turning to the audience, bowing deeply, Garibaldi bid

them, “A happy Christmas to you all!”

 

The applause thunderous, the audience rose from

their seats.

 

Garibaldi the Great stood with his arms outstretched,

as…

 

Retracting within its gelatinous yellow beam there were

motes of dust, the phantoms of the swirls and spirals of cigar

smoke, and then, but a pinpoint remained on the magician’s face.

 

A puff of smoke, a flash of light, and Garibaldi was gone.

 

The performance over, pulleys squeaked as once again

the chandeliers were lowered and the theater, once again

was lit.

 

Putting their hats and coats on, the people filed outside,

into the cold gloom of this waning, prematurely dark day.

 

 

 

 

 


Web Site: mmlichterman.com  


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Mark M Lichterman



For Better or Worse

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The Climbing Boy

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Becoming

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