For Christmas I get the Zando Magic Kit. I spend all hours of that week practicing the Floating Coin, the Ink-a-doodle-do, the Endless Number. I perform for my family over and over, and my aunt, who is principal at a nearby elementary school, says I should come over and perform for all the kids. I am only a few years older than the oldest kids there, but I readily accept.
At school they give me a cart to hold my props as I go room to room, but nothing goes right. The elastic chord that lets my wand go up my sleeve snaps. My pitcher of invisible water pours through my silk scarf, and one of my Dice of Death rolls into a hole behind a radiator. The kids call out that they can see my finger behind the little plastic vase, the string in my pocket. When I stick a pencil into the balloon, it pops. When I return the cart at the end of the day, I am embarrassed and ready to be done with magic for good.
Out in the parking lot I see Zando’s black Cadillac. He is standing by the painted image of himself on the driver’s door, his fierce eyes drawn to little slits as I approach, the long cigarette holder dangling from his teeth. His cape ripples as the breeze picks up, and his top hat is so tilted it nearly touches one eye. I watch as a little burst of flame flickers from one white glove to the other.
“And so,” he hisses in his thick Hungarian accent. “It has begun.”