“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it again for The Amazing Jimmy!” a child’s voice announced, trying to sound grown up. A smattering of applause from a dozen pairs of tiny hands and several pairs of adult ones followed. Lois could feel her migraine rising with each palm striking its twin, the stress of putting this party together finally catching up to her, but she smiled anyway. After all, Jimmy did look kind of cute in his top hat and cape.
“For my final trick, I’ll need a volunteer from the audience!” Little hands shot up into the air, accompanied by excited and hopeful exclamations of “ME, ME, ME!” as each child in the front row vied for the opportunity to be The Amazing Jimmy’s assistant. It was a futile hope though, as Jimmy had already promised to pick his sister for the final trick. It was her birthday after all, and that had been the price of Lois agreeing to Jimmy’s show during the party.
“Okay, birthday girl, come on up!” Jimmy made a sweeping motion with his hand, but Abby was already on her feet, giving the audience a little curtsy and joining her brother.
Lois leaned over to her husband Dave. “Get a picture, they look adorable.”
“Been recording the whole show, ” Dave smiled, steadying his iPhone, “gonna bring this out at his wedding.”
Lois punched him in the shoulder playfully, but laughed seeing that future in her head. “Don’t make fun, he practiced really hard all week for this.”
“Oh I know he did.” Dave panned the audience with the phone for variety. “I thought his first trick really set the tone.”
Lois suppressed a snort. Jimmy’s first trick was the classic ‘pick a card’ trick for which he had selected one of the neighbor’s children, Sara, to participate. She had picked a card, shown it around, and put it back in the deck. Jimmy shuffled, then proceeded to go through the deck from the top down, asking Sara about every single card until he found hers. Magic.
“And now, before your very eyes, I will make the birthday girl disappear!” Jimmy was covering the small prop table he had been using with a white sheet. The sheet was completely decorated with images and figures in black Sharpie.
“Did you help him with that?” Dave raised his eyebrows. He zoomed the camera in on the drawings. “They’re really good, they look all magicky and stuff.”
“Wasn’t me. Although that’s probably one of my good sheets.” Lois frowned.
Up front, Jimmy was ushering Abby under the table. She waved and blew the audience a kiss as Jimmy pulled the sheet down, hiding her.
“Everyone quiet please, I need to focus the magic!” Jimmy reached into his pocket and pulled out a white feather. He examined it for a minute and then looked as though he would cry.
“What’s wrong, sweetie?” Lois moved to head the tears off quickly.
“It got folded over in my pocket.” He held up the now L-shaped feather for her to see.
“Oh, I’m sure it will still work just fine,” Lois cooed.
Jimmy shook his head. “No, the trick won’t work right without it.” Tears were imminent.
“Do something, please,” Lois said without moving her lips.
Dave raised a mocking eyebrow. “Oh, right away. He can have the spare I always carry with me.” Lois was not amused. He sighed, handed her the phone and walked up front to Jimmy. “Can’t we make do with it just for now, son?”
Jimmy shook his head, staring at the ground, shoulders slumped.
Dave stood up and scanned the perimeter of the yard. There were some crows in the hedge hiding from the sunlight. Hoping to get lucky, he strolled over and shooed them away. A few moments on his knees in the grass and he triumphantly returned with a long crow feather and handed it to Jimmy.
“There you go, on with the show. Only make sure to wash your hands after.” Dave returned to his seat. “You’re welcome,” he muttered to Lois as he took back the phone and began filming again.
Jimmy looked at the feather for a few minutes, apparently unsure it was an acceptable replacement. Just then his sister poked her head out from under the table.
“Is it time yet? I want to come out.”
Jimmy went to where she was, and pushed her back under. “You’re supposed to wait for the signal,” he whispered, but not very quietly. Between his assistant trying to walk off and the audience getting restless, Jimmy decided to go with the substitute feather. He laid it carefully on the table over a group of drawings that looked like smaller feathers in the table’s center.
“And now I say the magic words!” Jimmy lifted his arms over the table and began to speak.
Dave’s brow furrowed. “Doesn’t sound like Abracadabra to me.”
“Actually it’s kind of creepy.” Lois rubbed her arms to ward off the goosebumps.
Jimmy finished the magic words. There was a buzzing sound and a sharp crack.
Under the table, Abby decided that being a magician’s assistant wasn’t as much fun as she’d thought it would be. She was bored, hot, and about to come out from under the table when she heard a loud snap outside. Jimmy had told her that meant the trick was finished. She tensed, ready to spring out as soon as Jimmy lifted the sheet.
She waited. And waited. And waited. Finally she could stand it no longer. She pushed up the white sheet and jumped out with arms raised.
“TADA!” she yelled.
Her exclamation faded to silence, in the empty backyard.
Jason Thomas lives in San Diego, California with his wife and four children. When he isn’t writing fiction, he’s writing code for the video game industry.