One time years ago, I gave it a shot at bein’ a magician.
It was when the kids were both really small. I had a job with a landfill company shovelin’ dirt, but the cold weather came and I got laid off with just enough stamps to collect unemployment. All of a sudden, I had all this time on my hands, and when I wasn’t tinkerin’ with the lawnmower engine on the kitchen table or watchin’ hockey and downin’ wobbly pops, Minnie expected every once in a while I’d watch the kids while she went for groceries or over to Joan’s for the tea.
Which is fair, since I’m their father and everything, but I’ve never been very good at that stuff. When Little Bill was just little, he’d trick me into lettin’ him do things he wasn’t supposed to do, so Minnie’d come home and find him sittin’ in the kitchen cupboard eatin’ his third chocolate bar, or standin’ on the dresser in his bedroom with his bedsheet tied to the light fixture, about to swing around like Tarzan. And Rosie’s been smarter than me since she was about five or six, so she was always askin’ questions I didn’t know the answers to. Where do flowers come from? How come there’s no dinosaurs? What’s the sun made of?
Anyways, one day when Minnie was at a wedding shower or somethin’ I had Little Bill runnin’ around the house hittin’ everything with the broom handle like a samurai sword, and Rosie was lookin’ through a picture book from the library askin’ me a thousand things about volcanoes.
Hang on! I said, and the two of them stopped. C’mere, I show ya somethin’, I said.
I fished a penny out of my pocket and hid it behind my fingers. What’s this? I said. Whaddya got in your ear, Bill? I said, and plucked the penny from his ear.
Woah! they said, and the look on their faces was priceless. How’d ya do that?
How did I do what? You’re the fella with pennies in your ears! I said, and plucked the same penny out of his ear again.
You’re gonna be rich! Rosie said to her brother, and I fished a nickel out of my pocket and plucked it from out of her ear.
You’re leakin’ nickels! I said. Look at the two of yis!
Really! Little Bill said. How did ya do that?
Magic, I said.
Rosie was suspicious. They went back to playin’, but about half an hour later, Little Bill stopped chasin’ the dog long enough to ask – How did ya do that really, takin’ the pennies from my ears?
I told them it was magic, and I whipped together a card trick that knocked their socks off.
By the time Minnie got home I pretty much decided I was gonna be a magician.
Yer whuh? she said.
I’m gonna be a magician – Magic Billy, I’ll call myself, and I’ll get myself a top hat and everything, and I’ll do shows, and we’ll start rakin’ in the money.
You’re off your rocker, she said.
Pick a card, I said, holdin’ out the deck of cards.
Get bent, she said and stormed off.
I’ll show her, I thought to myself, and a week later I had my first gig. It was our niece Cathy’s 11th birthday – which’ll give ya an idea of how long ago it was, since she’s pretty much grown up and got a kid of her own now.
I couldn’t find a top hat, so I wore one of them winter hats with the furry lining where the flaps snap up, and I got myself a pair of giant sunglasses and wore a bed sheet like a cape. So there I was, about ten kids and five or six parents all gathered around watchin’ me.
What are you supposed to be? says this little guy in the front row. He was a nerdy little guy with coke-bottle glasses and fuzzy hair, and I could tell right away he was gonna be a problem.
I’m Magic Billy! I said, swipin’ my cape around, really tryin’ to put on a show. Yis are about to be blown away by the miracle of magic! I said.
Abracadabra! I said, and pulled a nickel out of the nerdy kid’s ear.
Woah! the other kids said.
That’s nothin’! the nerdy kid said. You had the nickel stuck behind your fingers.
I wanted to kick the little bugger, but I just kept goin’.
Pick a card, any card! I said, and a little girl in a pink dress picked a card, showed everybody and put it back. I got her to tap on the deck, shuffled through them and said – Is this your card?!
Woah! all the kids said. Except the nerdy kid, who said – That’s nothin! All ya do is look at the card on the bottom, so ya know the one she picked is gonna be next.
What are you, David friggin’ Copperfield? I said to him.
What are you, Harry friggin’ Houdini? he said.
Then I did my big fake sneeze, and started pullin’ out handkerchiefs, all of them tied together so it looked like a big string of them comin’ right out of my hand.
Woah! The kids all said. Except the nerdy kid, who said – That’s nothin’! He got them all stuffed up his sleeve!
That’s enough out of you, buddy! I yelled at the kid, since he was ruinin’ my act.
That’s when one of the fathers stood up from the back, ran up and socked me in the eye.
Nobody yells at my kid, buddy! There was a big brawl and all the kids started cryin’.
I came home with a black eye.
What happened?! Minnie said.
Gimme twenty bucks, I said. I got this new trick where I make a case of beer disappear.