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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Contest · #2140671
Magic takes practice before it becomes perfect.
Word count 1000

"Pick a card, any card!" The magician held the deck out. In his top hat, long black cape and mask, Marvin Spillbody was the epitome of mystic drama. He tossed his dark hair with a shake of his head before smiling out at the audience.

“This one.” Melba Endlebot blushed. Her pale blue eyes sparkled. Angelic blond hair framed a fashion model’s face and figure to match. She struck the same pose that had won her the Miss Dairy 2017 contest for Camelrot, Kansas and showed the audience the Ace of Spades.

Before the packed crowd’s amazed gasp, a crow fluttered its wings where the beautiful Melba had stood. Its beak flipped the card up into the air and cawed. “Get me out of here.” Demanded Melba from the box she’d fallen into below the trapdoor in the stage. To the audience, it sounded like the crow really was Melba talking.

In a puff of smoke, Melba replaced the dancing crow. Her hair was disheveled. A button had popped on her blouse and her skirt was twisted. She felt as dazed as she looked. “What happened?”

“I’m sorry. I meant to make the card disappear.” Marvin pulled the Ace of Spades out of Melba’s left ear. “Here it is. How forgetful of me.” The card transformed itself into a dozen roses placed in Melba’s startled hands.

Marvin got standup applause as he played Melba along for one tricky joke after another. Her mix of wide-eyed innocence and sexy allure kept the audience’s attention where it should be as Marvin took on a new power to entertain. Five callbacks was a new high for the entertainer.

That was how it started.They were a natural together. The crowds loved them. But it wasn’t long before Melba noticed the money they earned disappeared as fast as she did in the disappearing act. Her big break in show business was making her famous with irate creditors. Marvin always seemed to disappear when another bill appeared out of nowhere.

She took on the added task of managing Marvin. It was a necessary juggling act she never intended to learn. Soon she was managing every aspect of his life but the ever-increasing debt. “What’s this?” She stuck the new bill in Marvin’s face before he could disappear again.

“You’ve looked tired lately onstage. I thought you could use a backup. Give you some free time to get back into shape.” Marvin looked wildly for a better exit line.

The ‘back in shape’ line stung. Melba had hidden the stream of offers by Hollywood producers to start her own career the magic show had garnered. She’d been loyal to Marvin and what had it gotten her? Well, he could be pure magic when he wanted to con her into something. Maybe it was time to balance that act.

“Good idea, Marvin.” She gushed. Let’s introduce her at our “America’s Got Talent” show tonight.

Marvin was so used to doing the sleight-of-hand he didn’t notice when Melba was doing one. He was happy to have his new girlfriend so easily accepted. He loved being idolized and Melba’s bickering about finances made him feel he’d slipped from his pedestal. If she was happy being back staged into managing their schedule and finances, he was happy to let her.

That night’s performance she glowed. This changed when laughter rippled through the live audience when the new girl appeared in her place during the crow routine. “Not funny,” Melba shouted from inside the box under the stage. She’d been duped again by Marvin’s shenanigans. To make matters worse, Marvin was so into his act that he forgot about letting her out until after the show.

When she complained, Marvin said it wouldn’t happen again. He planned on using Eva from now on. To give Melba more time with the finances she was always worried about, you understand.

“Right-O.” Melba nodded vehemently. She knew just how to get their money under control. She waited until the big Saturday night show at the Impala. With just a few days not being on stage Variety magazine and the show gossip columns had built up the suspense on what had happened to her. Was she being replaced? Had she accepted an offer from one of the Hollywood producers? Was she finally going out on her own? They loved nothing better than a little mystery in a magic act.

The show opened as usual with Marvin and Eva doing the routine. Eva was more than a little startled when instead of herself disappearing, Marvin went up in a puff of smoke and Melba stood where he had just been. “What’s going on here?” He bellowed from below the stage in the box.

The audience roared its approval. “Just a little disappearing act.” Melba winked at Eva’s stunned glare. With another swipe of her well-manicured hand, Melba replaced Eva with the fluttering crow landing on her shoulder.

“Let me go.” Screamed Eva from below.

“Will do.” Melba bowed to the audience. A couple of husky retainers were already marching her out the back door with Marvin still ensnared in his traveling box going the other direction. “Amazing how they make that magician’s voice sound like he’s really in there.” One of the movers exclaimed. One rough bounce and the box fell silent. “Hope I didn’t break it.”

Melba fed the gossip machine news about how retiring Marvin had become and he’d wanted his last disappearing act to be his finale. His leaving show business that way turned him into the mystery of the year.

Marvin became a box office success that year. He can still be found, although a bit dehydrated after spending months boxed up and stored in his office closet. Melba had arranged an airtight contract he couldn’t break.

Her movie career turned her into a shooting star. She bought the office complex for old times sake. Success in show business could sometimes feel like murder but it never lost its magic.
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