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Rated: E · Fiction · Contest · #2278801
An older man missing his son and a young boy missing his father find each other and Magic!

Word count 1,509 The Greatest Magic Act

Danny crawls out from under the benches at the school gym/auditorium. He steps over the banner announcing the 1969 talent show and stumbles up the stairway to the stage just beyond the raised basketball hoop. The lights are off, but Danny imagines the spotlight on him. His pant legs are too short. So short that Joyce taunts him with chants of "High water" or "Danny is ready for the flood."

He does not think about Joyce or even Kevin McCarthy, who terrorizes him by demanding his lunch money, which Danny seldom has. Kevin calls his dad a baby killer, but Danny knows that can't be true. He is on a mission alone on the stage.

Danny opens a small box that has seen better days. Masking tape covers one corner of the box, damaged when his mother tossed the box and its contents into the trash bin. Danny retrieved the box and now hides it from her. She almost found it once in his underwear drawer. The red box has yellow letters "Great Magicians Royal Magic Set." The set was a gift from his father the day before he shipped off to Da Nang or Vietnam almost four years ago. His dad was going to teach him magic and juggling someday, but that day may never come.

The Marine Corp has given the family an American Flag folded into a triangle stored in a case on the living room wall. His dad is Missing In Action (MIA). Danny has heard his mother stress about money, talking on the phone about collecting on his dad's insurance policy.

He removes the first item from the tattered box, six sets of metal objects. The magic in these is being able to pull them apart and put them back together. Danny has mastered two of them, one, he was separated but cannot reattach, and three, he has not learned to pull apart yet. As he plays with the three sets, he has not yet learned the secret of tearing them apart. He thinks of the three groups of kids from school. Boys that play baseball in the summer and football in the winter. Danny knows he is a bit clumsy for that activity. He tried once but was hit with a baseball and cried. These boys don't cry; he also has no baseball mitt he could use. He dared not take his dad's glove without permission. His dad was a good baseball and basketball player and displayed several trophies on his dresser.

The intelligent kids always seemed to get much better grades than he did. He wished he got good grades, too, but as Miss Valentine wrote in his report card, "Danny could do better if he focused on his work in class." School work was tedious. They often teach the same stuff as last year. Danny would often stare out the window and think about magic or his dad teaching him how to play sports.

Another group of the kids he could never join were the girls talking about clothes. Although if he could sing like Bobby Sherman, the girls would like him. He once tried singing "Easy Come, Easy Go," but Kevin heard him, laughed, and told him he better go.

The bullies like Kevin are another group that he did not fit into. He did not have the temperament to be a bully, although it might be nice to pick on someone rather than get picked upon.

Danny did not find where he belonged yet. His dad once told him that no one is good at everything and that he should find something he is good at and join folks who share his abilities. Danny decided long ago that he would be good at magic.

Pulling a small jug-like item that he has not mastered the magic trick from the box, Danny thinks of the Hippies that hang out on the hill just beyond the baseball field at Forest Park. They are a few years older and seem to accept almost anyone in their group. Well, anyone that is against the war. He knows they will exclude him once they discover his dad is a marine.

The following items are pulled from the box: a deck of cards and a plastic cigar cutter. He has not yet learned the magic behind these items. He wished the book explained how each magic trick was not lost when the box was tossed into the trash.

Danny takes a position behind the stool at center stage and practices his self-introduction. "I'm the magnificent Daniel Chase. In the next hour, I will dazzle you with magic, and once finished, you will...."

The slamming of the door leading into the gym interrupts Danny's monologue. He is not worried that his mother caught him; when he left the house, she was sleeping on the couch with two wine bottles on the coffee table next to a framed picture of his dad. She should sleep well into tomorrow morning or afternoon.

The janitor, a rotund gray-haired man, approaches the stage and asks, "School is closed. Should you be home? It's late?"

"Sorry, Sir, I was just practicing for a magic show," Danny responds.

"Well, do your parents know you are here?"

"No, Sir, my dad is overseas, and mom is; under the weather."

"Kid, my son is also overseas in Nam. What's your name? I'm Eddie."

"Sir, I'm Danny Chase."

"Well, that's the bee's knees! My son is a crew member on the Coast Guard Cutter Chase. A sign; that we Chase men need to stick together. I have to lock up and leave soon. You should gather your magic gear while I finish, then I will walk you home; it's dark outside. Okay?"

A few minutes later, on the walk toward Danny's house, Eddie asks, "So, are you any good at magic?"

"Not yet. I'm still learning. I might be better, but my mom threw out the instructions for my kit by mistake."

"Well, my son may have a magic kit from when he was younger buried in his closet. If I can find it, I'm sure he won't mind giving it to you."

Danny responds excitedly as he stumbles on a raised portion of the sidewalk, "That will be great!"

"Do you have a magic wand, Danny?"

"No, Eddie, do ya think I need one?"

"Every great magician has one. I think a magic wand and using magic words help a lot."

"Magic words?" Danny asks.

"Yeah, like abracadabra. Not sure how it works, but we need to get you a magic wand."

"Eddie, where do I buy a magic wand, and how much does it cost?" Danny thinks of the $4.67 he has saved in the last month or so from delivering newspapers. He may need to stop getting Orange Crush from Jefferson's filling station soda machine.

"I don't think you buy a magic wand. You either make one or get one handed down from a better magician."

Danny picks up a stick from Henderson's front yard and holds it up. "I found a magic wand." He boasts.

The odd travel companions cross Orange Street and turn right onto Oakland Street. The pair wind around the trash cans on the sidewalk, waiting for the morning pick-up. "Look, what I found, Danny."

Eddie takes a broken half of a pool cue extended from one of the trash cans and wipes it down with a red rag he carries in his back pocket. "This could be a great magic wand."

"Wow, the ultimate." Danny takes the broken pool cue and waves it back and forth. "It feels like magic."

"Don't forget to say abracadabra, too."

Danny taps the cue on the sidewalk three times, then swings upward, making three circles and chants, "Abracadabra, abracadabra, abracadabra!"

Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump.

The pair, an older man missing his son and the boy, missing his father, both hear the sound.

Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump.

"Did you hear that too, Eddie? I think it's coming from Shamrock Park." Shamrock Park was not a natural park, just the area on Shamrock Street that was a vacant lot. Locals called it a park because kids often played baseball using trees for bases.

Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump.

"Yeah, I hear it too. Nothing to worry about, I think.

Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump.

A silhouette of a homeless man appears. The scrape is the sound of one leg dragging on the pavement; the thump is the second leg landing harder than usual. The homeless man moves slowly.

Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump.

The homeless man wears a faded olive jacket with sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The matching pants are tucked into boots that were once black. He continues to march forward awkwardly.

Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump. Scrape... thump.

Suddenly Danny drops the pool cue and the box of magic tricks. His Red Sox ball cap falls to the ground as he runs toward the limping man.


I wrote this as an entry to a contest called "Character Prompt for August 2022" that included the following prompt:

Write a story about a "fake" magician (stage magician, illusionist, fortune teller, etc.) encountering some kind of "real" magic for the first time.

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