The Trick

Have you ever been to Pearl Street in Boulder, Colorado, the wild and wooly pedestrian mall? Flowers and trees, sunshine and shade, bricks, rocks, fountains, statues, noble vintage buildings, shops and eateries. And people, all kinds of people, yuppies, hippies, tourists, suits, students, homeless, foreign and domestic. Strolling, walking, leaning, shopping, eating, talking, laughing, jogging, playing guitars and bongos, inflating balloons, leading preschool parades, dancing, acrobating, fire and sword swallowing, you name it. The busking and entertaining, all free unless you have a conscience and a few bucks.

And so, on this particular midweek mid-day, the magician. He is not the Great Zamboni, this smallish man in the black cloak. He is the So-So Spaghettini. So-So has sparse black hair, a shadow mustache, boney fingers, high blood pressure, a mean landlady, and no family. It’s important that he loves his work, because he’ll never be able to retire and eat. But he does love magic, and yet, even after forty years of practicing it, he’s still practicing it. Cleverly, he combines comedy with the legerdemain, becoming “So-So” to cover his mistakes. His specialty, his serious trick, the one he has never failed to perform to perfection: Disappearing Treasure

He has set up opposite the County Building, in the middle of the eastbound promenade, his usual venue, where his audience is in the round, the better to see, or preferably not to see, his trickery. So-So has a wobbly table covered in a scabby black velvet cloth, also scarves, hoops, ropes, coins, cards, hidey-box, and no assistant. He has his patter, routine, smile, winks, jokes, moves, and nerve. His top hat sits brim up on the brick walk, two dollars already in it that he contributed himself.

He’s attracted a disappointingly paltry crowd, maybe because it’s ninety-one degrees today (but a dry heat), or perhaps due to the competition half a block away, the Bouncing Bambinos and their Terrific Tumbling Cats. But of course, he gives his all, should a talent scout be lurking in the junipers. He has done this so many umpteen times, he slips into automatic pilot. He thinks, instead, of the blister on his left heel, a beer and a bump, fishing. He thinks up appellations for members of the puny group he’s attracted: The Carpenter, The Old Lady, The Salesman, The Man With a Dog.

Now So-So takes a breath and blows it out. Time for his specialty. The Disappearing Treasure trick. He needs participants. “I need some participants.” He smiles with all his teeth. He strolls past the possibilities. Most of them back up.

“You, Sir.” The Carpenter. “Do you have a dollar bill I may borrow?” When the man’s wallet is grudgingly fumbled out and opened—“Ahh, Sir, there’s a ten. That will do.” The man frowns, shakes his head, but somehow So-So has nipped the bill and holds it up for all to admire. “Don’t be afraid, Sir, you’ll have it back in two minutes. Although it may have transmogrified into ten ones. Twelve, if you’re lucky.” A rustle of onlooker laughter.

So-So moves on to The Old Lady. “Madam, that’s a lovely brooch. Could I take charge of it for just a few minutes?” She grins and nods, delighted to be part of the fun, and he frees it from her narrow shoulder.

Next, The Salesman. “Your watch, Sir?” “No.” “It’s perfectly safe.” “No, absolutely not. It’s a Rolex.” Catcalls and chicken clucks. The Salesman stalks away.

“You can have my watch,” someone calls out. The Man With a Dog. “Thank you so much, kind gentleman.” So-So bows. Accepts it. “Why, this is a Rolex, too!” The man shakes his head and laughs, and others chuckle, too.

So-So wraps the money, the brooch, the watch into a red silk scarf and ties the corners, hobo-style without the stick. He looks from face to face to face. “You don’t know me. We’ve never met before. You don’t work for me.” The three agree.
So-So opens his black hidey-box and flashes it around the crowd. Empty. In goes the scarfed treasure. Shut the box. Open it. Full of scarf. Shut the box. Tap it thrice with his trusty wand. Open the box. Empty. A murmur and shifting feet. Scattered applause.

So-So bows deeply once, twice, steps toward The Man With a Dog, says, “Are you worried about your timepiece?," sinks to his knees, falls face foremost onto the brick walk, lies dead still, and maybe is.

Startled voices, one abbreviated scream. 911. Ambulance, police, fire truck, EMTs, looky-loos. So-So is raised up, borne away with sirens; the milling onlookers drift off. Three witnesses remain: The Carpenter, The Old Lady, The Man With the Dog. “Well,” they say, shuffling feet. The Carpenter wishes he had his ten bucks back. The Old Lady mourns her grandma’s brooch. The Man With the Dog, already misses his not-Rolex.

“Here,” The Carpenter says. “Look, someone put his stuff in this planter.” From the petunias, he hauls out the black cloak, the black velvet cloth. The black hidey-box. He opens the lid. Empty. He turns the box over, over, over, over, finds no other opening. He is a carpenter, so brings out a hammer and smashes the box. Empty. Meanwhile, The Old Lady is shaking out the cloak and cloth. Nothing. The Man With a Dog drags the rickety table onto the brick path. It is just a table, compartment-free. “Maybe he had our things up his sleeves.” “No,” The Old Lady says. “The medics rolled up his sleeves and tore open his shirt. His trousers, mercy, too tight to hide anything.” She blushes.

Sighing, the three turn away, separate, go their ways. The Dog, watches them go. Not on a leash, he doesn’t belong to The Man with a Dog, at all. A stray, short-haired, dirty tan, no spots, no collar, pointy ears, straggly tail, black toenails, black nose, yellow teeth, unhappy eyes, growling belly. You’re guessing he has the Treasure. Seriously?

No. The clue, solution, explanation, answer to what happened to the Treasure is in Paragraph Two above. I’ll wait while you re-read it.

As Mr. Sherlock Holmes has pointed out, when all other possibilities are proven wrong, what remains, however improbable, must be the truth. So-So performed the first half of the trick perfectly, as usual. He made the Treasure disappear. The Treasure. Really. Did. Disappear.
. . . .
Isn’t it most fortunate that So-So’s special trick was not sawing a woman in two?