A Kind of Magic


My sister Trudy is a little over two years my junior. As kids, we got along pretty well. We had our share of physical fights – I remember giving her a bloody nose once while waiting in the car for our parents to come out of a store – but they were usually pretty minor. There was a while during our teen years where we didn’t get along all that well, usually because I stuck to the rules and didn’t get in trouble while Trudy rebelled and did, but she also had a lot more fun on Saturday nights than I generally did. But by the time we hit our twenties, we were buds again and we remain friends now.

When we were kids, we liked to perform “shows” for my parents, as many kids do. Mostly they’d be puppet shows, where we’d move my dresser out a couple of feet from the wall and stand behind it – it was too hard to kneel down and perform with the puppets over our heads, so we just stood and said “pretend you don’t see us”. Occasionally there were “gymnastics” shows, where we’d do tumbling and tricks, which usually involved running across my room and diving onto the bed. But at least once there was a magic show, where Trudy and I performed some amazing feats of magic to the delight of my parents. Well, “delight” may be a bit strong, but they did laugh.

I’m sure most of the tricks we did were card tricks that were set up beforehand – rather than “pick a card, any card”, it was “pick the top card, look at it, and put it back here“. I don’t remember any of the tricks in any detail, except a sleight-of-hand trick that ended up being the last trick of the show – it wasn’t the finale, but it was the end of the show nonetheless. I had been teaching Trudy for weeks (well, at least a day or two) (or maybe half an hour) how to take a small item, roll it around in her hand, tell the audience she is about to make it vanish, and casually slide it up her sleeve. She could then show them her empty hands and bask in the crowd’s wonder and admiration. She wanted this to be her trick, not one that we performed together, so she really worked at it, concentrating on putting the item – a plastic letter with a magnet in the back for sticking to an easel – up her sleeve as smoothly as possible.

The show was moving along nicely, and it was soon time for Trudy’s disappearing letter trick. I stood to the side while Trudy stood in front of the rapt crowd (mom and dad), and took out her magnetic letter. She carefully showed them the letter, and then put her hands together, magically rolling the letter between her hands. She then said in the standard mysterious voice used exclusively by magicians:

I will now make this letter go up my sleeve.

I don’t know which one of us shouted first – Trudy because she realized what she had done, or me because she’d messed up the trick I’d spent so long teaching her. Our parents, admirably keeping their laughter under control, tried to tell her that it was OK, she could just keep going, but Trudy was inconsolable. I remember being angry with her at first, but I have a vague feeling that I quickly came around and agreed with my parents that she should just keep going and forget about it. Of course she didn’t. The show pretty much ended there, as Trudy left the “stage” crying.

To this day, Trudy hates magic shows.

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