Poof! by Eric Scot Tryon

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Elliot’s mother knew he would be a magician only days after he was born. “It’s amazing how he can just make things disappear,” she would joke with neighbors. “Money. Sleep. Poof! Vanished into thin air.” 

When Elliot was six, she nicknamed him Houdini. “I don’t know how the damn kid does it,” she explained to the women at Sunset Lanes. “But every man I bring to the house disappears as soon as they meet my rotten little Houdini.” She pushed hard on a half-finished cigarette deep into a black ashtray. “I just try to make them a nice meal is all. And poof! Gone before the salad is dressed.”

In high-school, Elliot bought his first magician’s set. He saved for months, stealing bottles of charcoal-filtered Vodka from his mother’s pantry then selling them to the popular kids. Before anyone could say “abracadabra” he was making pencils and quarters vanish into the ether. Pulling a rainbow of scarves from between teeth and out of ears.

At 18 he moved into an artists’ studio after his mother told him to leave. “You’re a man now,” she said pointing at him up and down as if he hadn’t yet noticed the body he inhabited. “Go.” 

The cramped studio housed five, six, seven artists, actors, musicians, models and one magician, depending on the day. Most didn’t do art so much as they did drugs, but it was all the same to Elliot. He was nose-deep in books learning from the great conjurers, tricksters, and illusionists of centuries past. The only contact with his mother came in the form of an invitation he mailed: Elliot the Magnificent, it read in a jagged hand-written scrawl. Palmdale Community Center. 8:00pm. One Night Only!

Among the six people that sat scattered about Conference Room 2, Elliot’s mother was not one of them. Beethoven’s Fifth began out of a portable CD player he borrowed from a roommate. A smoke machine belched out plumes of white fog that lingered low to the ground and smelled of wet paint. Elliot was dressed in black. His face blank. His cape red. The only prop was a large black box. It sat on wheels that squeaked as he rolled it to center stage. He pounded on top of the box then spun it around in circles, pounding on every side, boom, boom, like thick wood. An older lady in the back began to cough on the smoke. After a sweep of his arm and a bow, Elliot opened the top of the box and climbed in. Like a collapsing umbrella, the gangly limbs of the teenager stuffed and folded themselves inside, and the top slapped shut. 

The smoke machine continued to sputter while the half dozen onlookers sat and waited. The coughing lady in the back was first to leave. Then a younger woman followed, dragging with her a small boy. After the fourth movement finished, the symphony started again from the beginning. Two more women got up. One shrugged. The other shook her head, and they walked out. An older man decorated in age spots was the last to go. He pulled a handkerchief out of his back pocket, wiped his forehead and shuffled out of the building and into the warm night. When the symphony began for the third time, Elliot’s mother was in some shitty bar, downing her third whiskey and giving her number to a guy named Dale. By the time the symphony began for a fourth time, Conference Room 2 was completely engulfed in sticky damp fog. From floor to ceiling it expanded and thickened, swallowing the metal chairs, swallowing the fold-out tables along the back wall, and swallowing the black wooden box that sat somewhere in the middle of the room. The black wooden box that was and would now always be completely empty.

Eric Scot Tryon’s work has appeared in Glimmer TrainWillow SpringsXRAY Literary MagazineMonkeybicycleBerkeley Fiction ReviewBending GenresLEON Literary ReviewWisconsin Review, and others. Eric is also the Founding Editor of Flash Frog. He lives in Pleasant Hill, California with his wife and daughter. You can find more info at www.ericscottryon.com or on Twitter @EricScotTryon.

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