Warning: This story has elements of child abuse in it.
The show started at eleven but ten minutes early the music started. It was the maniacally cheerful, chirpy music designed specifically to pull children in. The stage was in the dirt median between the highway and the strip mall parking lot. The music did its job. Kids and their parents gathered in front of the stage. Even before lunch, the kids were dancing with impatience already overloaded on the candy canes and hot chocolate offered free in every shop in the mall for the Christmas season kick-off.
At eleven on the dot the magician bounded up the steps at the back of the mobile stage. Taller than average, the thin, elderly man wore a porkpie hat, black dress shirt and pants, black plastic rimmed glasses and an eggplant colored jacket with matching tie that glittered in the sunlight.
He was jovial – greeting the audience with enthusiasm and a big grin. Under the clear blue sky he dazzled the people with sleight of hand and amazing tricks. The children stood slack-jawed, remains of candy canes forgotten in their sticky hands.
The Magician made birds appear and disappear, cut ropes reattach themselves, and pulled butterflies out of his hat. Silk flowers were pulled from behind the ear of a little girl who squealed with delight. For his last trick he brought a boy of about eight and his parents up on stage. He whispered the magic word in each of their ears. When he clapped his hands, bubbles fell from the stage ceiling. The family raised their faces to the falling bubbles with glee. The audience applauded and many dropped tips in the basket at the front of the stage.
At one in the morning the magician opened his hotel room door at a knock. There stood the parents with their son between them. “We came.” The father’s face was blank, eyes staring.
The mother guided her son through the door. “Here he is.” Her face was neutral.
The boy, in the same trance as his parents, stepped inside the room without turning around.
The magician waved, spoke the magic word and the parents turned and left. Their son never twitched. The man shut the door and moved around to face the child. “What’s your name?”
“Jimmy.” The child’s eyes looked into the Magician’s.
“A good name, Jimmy. We’re going to have a lot of fun, son. A lot of fun.”
The boy, still staring, nodded.
The Magician waved his hand in front of Jimmy’s face and said the magic word. “Let’s get some sleep, Jimmy. We have to leave early in the morning.”
The boy went to the queen sized bed without undressing, clambered up and put his head on the bedspread covered pillow and closed his eyes. He was asleep immediately. They were gone by six in the morning.
The parents called the police at eight to report their son missing from his bedroom. They described their son; the pajama’s he was wearing, provided a picture. They begged for his safe return on national television. The search went on for years.
The Magician and Jimmy traveled the country. No one recognized the boy. When he grew older the magician released the spell and abandoned Jimmy in a big city.
At the next show, last act, the magician called a young family up on stage and whispered the magic word in each of their ears.
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