Magic Trick

9 Jul

 

Can I show your friend here, a magic trick, he says to my husband.

He’s old, frail, his voice so thin

it sounds like it traveled from Ireland through a tin can.

 

Of course, I say.

 

With shaking hands he folds a dollar bill over and over

until

when he unfolds it

it becomes a two dollar bill

and I express the right amount of wonder and delight.

 

One more, he says, taking out a stack of cards.

I need a pen he says.

There are two in his shirt pocket

and I point this out to him. He frowns.

Not those.

I imagine those are not real pens.

 

Write on the lamp he says. You know, so the genie will come out.

Write your phone number, he says and I raise my eyebrows.

He laughs and apologizes to my husband.

 

It’s hot in this bar,

where they don’t have any air conditioning

on a ninety degree day

and we were going to leave but the bartender is already

filling up our pints.

 

My husband wants to buy him a drink

but the girl says he only ever has the one.

 

Ready? he says and I pull out the card, the genie now visible.

I am wowed again and ask to keep it and he nods.

 

One more? he says.

I think of him late at night,

his shaking hands carefully

so carefully

lining up the one dollar bill

and the two dollar bill

so the edges are neat and clean

so that none of the glue is visible

 

so no one will be able to tell.

 

Doing all the hard work of illusion

so that we’ll keep believing

because the alternative

is more than this old man can handle.

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