The Magician

I wrote this for the prompt “Write about a reluctant party-goer who ends up being the star of the show.” My take was a teenage who was being forced to attend his six year old cousin’s birthday party instead of a pool party.

“I don’t want to go mom.”  

“I didn’t ask you if you wanted to go, I told you we were going.  It’s your cousin’s birthday, she is turning six and she wants you there.”

  He interrupted her. “She has her school friends Mom, she isn’t going to give a shit if I miss out, and Sandra is having a pool party.”  Sandra, oh beautiful Sandra who always wore a bikini even though she never swam.

“Language, and Sandra throws pool parties every weekend, you can miss one.  How are you going to feel if your cousin notices?  If she does I am calling and having you explain it, that you had something better to do.  I am sure she will understand, six-year-olds are so reasonable.”

He heaved a sigh. “Fine, I will go, but I am not going to like it.”

“Sit in the corner and be miserable just like you were at Christmas, Clara seemed to like you enough then. And no playing on your phone, or I will take it away.”  Joel wanted to argue with her, but she wouldn’t listen anyways.  

“Now, we are leaving in 20 minutes, go change and I will meet you in the car.”

“What’s wrong with my outfit?” 

His mother cut him off mid sentence. “Your shirt says “go f*ck yourself.””  He looked down, so it did.  

He shuffled to his room, yanking open doors and slamming them back shut.  Stupid party, going to be so boring.  He grabbed a deck of cards, and put them in his pockets. She hadn’t said he couldn’t play solitaire and there was nothing that irritated his mother more than obeying the “letter of the law not the spirit.”  

Then on impulse he grabbed a big handful of quarters, jamming them in his other pocket.  If they left early enough, there was a pretty good arcade not too far from his Aunt’s house.  He might be able to talk his Mom into a reward for good behavior.

He finally found a shirt that wasn’t too dirty or too offensive for the party, and put it on.  He then walked silently by his father and out to the car, throwing himself into the passenger’s side and slammed the door shut. He sulked the entire way there, though he wouldn’t admit it and when they arrived the bright balloons tied to the mailbox made him groan.  

His mother parked, but didn’t get out of the car.  

“What?” He asked

“If you are going to be horrible about this, just tell me now and I will take you back home.”

“You wanted me here.” He exclaimed. What the hell.

“Your cousin is turning six, and I know she wants you there. But Joel, I don’t want you to be the thing that ruins her party.  So tell me now,”

Guilt seeped in at the idea of ruining Clara’s day.  She was irritating, but she was still just a kid, and even he wasn’t that big of an asshole.  His decision must have shown on his face.

“Ok then, let’s go” His mother said with unnatural brightness and they got out of the car.

They walked around back where Joel fought back the urge to groan again, and the shrieks of a dozen 6-year-old girls filled his ears.  They were running around playing, and didn’t so much as slow down to look when his aunt announced their arrival.  He gave him Mom a look which she ignored and he went and sat at one of the patio tables set up.  Yup, this was pretty much the worst way to spend an afternoon.

The food however, was pretty good.  And his cousin did give him a hug and seemed super happy to see him for about 3 seconds before she sat down to eat with her friends.  It could be worse. 

And then it was. Oh, god, out stepped a clown. Joel pulled out his deck of cards and started to play tuning out the clown. It worked until a loud pop, and a cry made him look up.  

What was that thing? The clown was holding up, a few long thin balloons folded into…something, and one popped one in the other hand in front of a crying girl.  He had to give the clown credit though, he kept it up.  Through sleight of hand that fell as he dropped the ball mid switch, juggling two balls that, well. Wait, was it juggling if you didn’t actually catch them?

And then he started with the card tricks, and when it wasn’t Clara’s card he wasn’t sure who was more upset, Clara or the clown.  It was like watching a train wreck, and he couldn’t look away, He also couldn’t stop himself from snorting in amusement.

His mother gave him a death glare and the arcade was suddenly no longer on the table.  She wasn’t the only one who heard either.

“What, kid you think you can do better?”  The clown challenged, and suddenly he was the center of attention. 

He almost backed down, and then the clown continued. “Aren’t you a little old for this party?” And now his mom wasn’t glaring at him.  He found himself sweeping up his deck and was halfway to the clown before he realized what he was doing.   All eyes were on him now, he couldn’t back down.

He eyed the clown and just as the clown was about to speak he spun and crouched down asking his cousin. “Wanna see some real magic?” And she nodded, with a flushed face and eyes filled with tears.

“Pick a card, any card.”  And she did, and he did all the things he could think of. He arced the deck, and waved his hands and tried to be as distracting as possible.

  And when he asked. “Is this your card” And as her face fell, he resisted the grin. 

“No, how about this?” And no again.  

And when his mother started to stand he loudly said.  “Hmmm, did you check your pockets?” And the look of wonder on Clara’s face when she reached into her pocket and felt the card gave him a heady feeling.

She pulled it out, and then her face broke out into a large grin as she half screamed. “ITS MY CARD!” And all the little girls gasped, like he had done actual magic.  

Clara looked up at him with wide eyes, and asked.  “Do you know other magic?” 

“I sure do!”  And three card tricks later the clown stomped out of the party leaving his supplies behind. His cousin didn’t notice though.

 He did a few more tricks, and when attention started to wane, he picked the clown’s abandoned balls up off the ground and started to juggle. After a few rotations, he threw one high, and then another one, listening to the oohing and awing of the girls.  And then he let them drop all at once.

“Sorry, it just startled me,” He said looking at a quiet girl at the table.  The other girls looked at her, and then at him.

  Clara took the bait. “What did?” 

“Hmm, I just, I saw something.  May I?” He asked walking up to the girl palming a quarter from his pocket.  He waved his “empty hands” And at her nod he reached forward, brushed her ear, and pulled away. 

“OH, that’s what it was. Magic sight, you can see things other people can’t” And held up the “recovered” quarter.  

They went wild.  He proceeded to “find” a quarter on each of the girls. It was 3 dollars well spent on the huge smiles of the girls clutching their “magic” quarters.

He looked down at the dead balloon and knew he could do better.  He and his best friend Bobby spent an entire day when they were 10 figuring out how to do balloon animals. 

 He grabbed the pump, and filled a few, and then with a few twists, yup, a giant daisy flower hat. Clara was ecstatic.  It took almost an hour to run out of balloons, but everyone had hats and “pets”. When the first parent showed up to pick up their daughter he was a little sad and a lot relieved.  

His mother chose that moment to step up, and say “I think it’s time for us to get a move on” 

And there were groans from the remaining girls.  Clara held her arms open and when he ducked down she hugged him and whisper-yelled, into his ear.  “You are the best cousin ever! I love you”

He was a little choked up as he whispered “Love you too.” And then headed back to the car.

They got in and drove home listening to the radio.  Before they got out on the other end his mother stopped him, and put a hand on his arm. “I am proud of you.” She said, and his ears flushed red. 

“Pizza and arcade tomorrow?  My treat.” She offered and he gave a wide grin,  walking into the house a completely different person who walked out of it.

Didn’t want to put this at the beginning as it was a spoiler, but art of this was based on an experience that occurred in my family, with someone standing in for the really bad clown.

For a look at the reedsy contest take a look here for more prompts. It runs weekly Friday to Friday!


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