Sleighted| February 14, 2023
My shows draw hundreds of women — but who am I fooling?
here’s no such thing as magic. I think we need to get that out of the way. There’s illusion, there’s distraction, there’s practice. Now you see it. Poof! Now you don’t. Once upon a time, Daddy was ten feet tall. Poof! One day I was looking at him, and his eyes were suddenly level with mine.
Now we can move on to talk about that tiny little mistake. A slipup so inconsequential, of course no one noticed.
But I have to tell you about that chain of silly little messes, that confluence of circumstance that led to all my hard work being unraveled. About me, curled up into incoherence by an infection boring its way through my inner ear canal and down my neck, waiting for antibiotics to kick in. About the new event organizer I hired this time around, eager to please and even more eager for a fatter income than she was already getting. About Dani, preoccupied with some investment that took a bad turn.
I knew nothing, of course. I wonder now if there would have been a way to mitigate the damage, had I seen the ads the next day. The next week, even.
Probably not, methinks.
As it was, I got my first inkling of what had happened when an unfamiliar clamor stole into my dressing room on the third floor. I put my compact down on the table and went to peer over the windowsill.
There were crowds. What should have been neat and quiet lines of humanity had somehow clotted and congealed into clumped-up clusters of jabbering, gesticulating women. And from the tone of whatever I could hear from my vantage point, they were not-very-happy women.
I wrenched open the door to my room, the old handle rasping painfully against my palm, and ran to find that incompetent organizer. There were never crowds at my performances. Never noise. Never overflow. Orderly, booked seating. Understated entrance.
Someone had messed up.
If you’ve ever been backstage in any kind of reputable theater, no matter how old and at what stage (ha!) of disrepair it’s in, you’ll know how confusing it can get.
It took me too long, scuttling up and down labyrinthine corridors, banging into a ragtag assortment of lighting technicians, props, crew for the props, and yards and yards of sequined material and stuff before I ran up against someone I knew.
“Cheyenne! What is going on out there?”
My makeup artist actually stammered. And even in the badly lit hallway, I could see her chignon coming loose. That, more than anything, told me what state of mind she was in.
“Uh… Ava? Why are you down here?”
“Because of the noise outside, what on earth?”
Her blue eyes flicked up and down and around me. Anywhere but at me.
It was when she dug a pen into her hair, a pen, that I knew someone had messed up big.
“So, uh… Ava. There’s… a bit of overflow outside. Marian and Dani are sorting it out. Why don’t you, uh… go get ready?”
“Cheyenne. That’s not a bit of overflow! I saw it from my window.”
A suspicion loomed large in my mind. I shook off Cheyenne and stumbled through an emergency door, only to be confronted by a hulk and two German shepherds.
“No leaving through here,” the hulk grunted. The noise was worse outside.
I turned around, and Cheyenne moved the pen behind her ear.
“I’ll tell you, Ava. Just… please. Let’s get upstairs.”
When I got back upstairs, Cheyenne showed me the source of my troubles.
The ad was made up of all my nightmares. First of all, my name. Emblazoned in huge, garish, repulsive lettering. And the description of me — false, false. And the date and details of venue, glaring, loud for everyone to see. And a website address. A website????
“A website, Cheyenne?”
Her head bobbed. I saw the fear in her eyes and stopped myself.
“I’m not going to light you on fire, stop looking at me like that. Just… how did this happen?”
See, this is what I told you: My ear infection, and this Marian, who only thought in terms of currency.
Why not up the ante, catapult me into fame and stardom?
Why not ignore me and our contract, which clearly stipulated no advertising, no publicity?
I slid down, down into the chair, felt the chill.
What a mistake I had made, taking someone new this time around. I hadn’t checked the references’references well enough.
A glass of green tea landed in front of me. Cheyenne was obviously rallying now that the problem no longer belonged to her.
I shut my eyes.
“Everyone in on this?”
Silence. I cracked open an eyelid and looked at the mirror. Cheyenne’s reflection nodded.
A tremor started up my legs just as a bell rang in the bowels of the theater.
“Ava? One hour to performance.”
AS I waited in the wings, I still felt the tremor, the swelling of an excited audience as thick and as heavy as though the weight of them all pressed against me. They had opened the galleries, the loges, the mezzanine, the boxes — any seat, every seat. Turned away overflow. Full house.
Even the music seemed wrong. Too loud, too abrasive.
But I had to move forward. I readied my foot for the first step and murmured a single word. Please.
“Presenting!” the metallic voice bellowed. “The Great! The Famous! The Mysteeeeerious! The Magician!” (False, false, this is terrible, I can’t—)
I am not a magician, I’m an illusionist. There’s no such thing as magic. I get up on stage and sell the audience a story they’re willing to buy. They’ve paid money for me to stand there and send chills up their spines, make horripilation crawl up and down their arms, stop the breath in their chests.
And I do it. I do it well.
I make my audiences go home and wonder if anything they’ve ever trusted in is real. And on the occasions when I choose to break the fourth wall, I scare them witless by making them think I can read their easily suggestible minds.
Tonight I started with my origami swans. This was music I had chosen, imperceptible, calming. My hands’ fluid movements were translated on the screens above me, the audience was silent. Swish, fold, press. Turn, fold, press — a swan. Another paper, faster. Swish, fold, press.
Two origami swans on a blue piece of cellophane.
Two beats of a piano.
A snap of my fingers, a swelling crescendo, smoke. Darkness and light. Two origami swans.
Light, light, thunder… two real swans sailed gracefully on a pool of crystal water.
Thunderous applause. But save for a second of sweet triumph, my mind was already on the next trick.
A triumph card trick is paramount to an illusionist’s performance, but I’d improvised and innovated and destroyed countless decks of cards until I’d perfected the Hez Card Trick.
Nowadays, audiences are sophisticated. You can find the explanation of any trick you once thought was magic; slow a video and watch the individual frames to catch where the sleight of hand takes place. My trick is unbeatable, inexplicable, because of how my performances work.
One performance every three months. One day’s notice. One hundred and fifty tickets at enormous sums I can’t bear thinking about. My name never mentioned in public, the details of my appearance so mysterious as to be almost mystical.
People buy that sort of thing. They don’t mind leaving their phones at the door, their cameras, their lifelines, for an evening they will talk about for the rest of their lives.
Her name is Ava-something, they whisper in hushed, reverent tones. Fez? Nez? She burned the curtain down and made it repair itself. She made the old lady float.
But I don’t hear any of that. By the time they’re talking, I’m gone.
Tonight the card trick went so smoothly, even I felt a surprising thrill.
The roar of the audience subsided once again, and I sent spears, knives, and arrows that streaked through flames and turned into beautiful fireworks that showered chartreuse and amaranthine stars onto the packed house.
And then it was time.
I held up a hand for perfect silence, a gesture of pure drama tonight, when the massive audience was so quiet I could imagine myself standing in a cavernous empty theater.
I walked onto the bare stage.
Just me, a cloak that I showed was hiding nothing, and three scarves.
I swirled the scarves from left to right, one up in the air at all times, and started to spin. There was no music.
Faster, faster I spun.
Swish, swish. Faster — scarves, cloak, me.
The cloak landed with a soft thump on the stage, scarves floating gently down to settle on top. I was nowhere to be seen.
The ultimate disappearing act.
I’M walking quietly back to my room, the throbbing of ovation after ovation in my soles, thinking of people I have to fire. Thinking of my precautions and rules, which have never been flouted until now. There’s a heaviness tugging at me, a prickle of fear. Maybe this was my last performance.
I pad into my room. There’s someone sitting in my chair.
“Please, Dani, I can’t talk now,” I’m weary, so weary. Not up to an explosion.
He stands up slowly, tall, tall. Too tall for my husband.
Only two people can get past the door to my dressing room. Dani. Cheyenne.
I step back, nervous. No one else can get past the negative energy field barrier, I know. I know.
He turns around. Tall and imposing as ever; time has not touched him.
The word propels itself out of my mouth as if I’d said it yesterday and the day before — every day of the last five years.
I see the relief as he steps toward me. I stand motionless, expressionless, creating inertia against a force that would have me hurtling into his arms, until he falters and stops. The barrier clearly won’t work here.
We look at each other while my brain scrambles to catch up. Time has touched him — I can see that now, studying his eyes. Still clear, but receded into his face, underscored by pouches and lines I’ve never seen. I stay on his face, refusing to look at the outward changes.
“Sweetheart—” he starts, and that’s enough to snap me out of my delirium.
“You don’t get to call me that!”
Daddy nods slowly, inscrutable.
“Avahez? I saw that.”
I am going to slap Marian with so many lawsuits, she’ll be fighting in court till she’s 80.
Still, I can’t deny something that makes the muscles in my face relax. I carefully steal my hands behind me and secure the door.
“You saw the ad?”
“Been looking for it for five years.”
I don’t know how to deal with all the thoughts crashing on me, so happy so sad so scared, so I put myself into a translucent ball. I know my father can break through it if he wants, but at the same time I hope he won’t. Translucent means I’m listening, at least.
He sits in my chair and swivels toward me. I want to slide into a cross-legged position on the floor, but then I’d have to look up at him.
“You were really good tonight.” He was watching me backstage? Of course he knows all the secret passageways. This was once his place.
Don’t get distracted.
I hesitate for a fraction of a second before I tuck the luminous compliment that flashes and warms me into one of my pockets to be taken out and savored later. The ultimate compliment.
For now I focus on keeping the ball up and steady.
“What do you want?”
He pulls his shoulders up in a slight shrug, hands cupped in an oddly helpless gesture.
“To see you, Zehava. To see my daughter — is that so terrible?”
And just like that the anger is back. The ball turns crimson.
“You’re asking me if it’s terrible? Yes. It’s terrible. You’ve lost the right; you lost it five years ago—”
And already the anger is draining away, draining me away, turning everything cold and blue.
Blue as his eyes that glisten as he looks at me, motionless.
“I’m sorry, swee— Zehava. I am so, so sorry. I thought—” I can see him swallow. “I heard that you have a child, now you know what it’s like….”
But I’m not listening. I’ve heard all the sorrys I ever want to hear. My daddy, my idol, my role model. Turned his back on me, on Mommy, on my new husband, just walked away from all he had ever given me.
Of course, according to him, the story sounds different. He didn’t walk away from us at all. He just (just? just??) wasn’t sure what he believed, if he believed. He couldn’t “live a lie” anymore. He still loved us, he still wanted his family, he would never throw us away.
Ah, but you can’t have both, Daddy. You chose this. Not us.
I squeeze my eyes shut. Concentrate on creating a shiny steel wall. Make sure he can’t read me.
I’m scared. Don’t pull at me.
Silence, and then a rustle.
He’s standing opposite me now; I can feel it. I keep my eyes shut.
A whisper. Please, Zehava. Please.
And then a peculiar feeling like a tiny electric shock, a vacuum opening, and I know he’s gone.
I open my eyes. The ball is gone, too. Suspended in the middle of the room, twisting lazily on the breeze he left behind, is a card.
I pluck it toward me. Turn it over.
Queen of Hearts.
Frantic, I check the inner pocket of my cloak (always two cloaks, audience of mine) and shake out my pack of cards. Fan them out in front of me.
King of Hearts, Ace of Hearts. No Queen.
He’ll always be better than me.
The day after a performance is usually my best day. I’m happy because now I have three whole months before putting myself on stage again, which I still hate. Everyone else is happy because the performance went well, and money was made — the point of the whole exercise.
But now I wake up feeling slightly hung over, a stiff neck and dry throat making me wonder if I should stay in bed. I have a faint recollection of Dani’s murmurings and Bina’s high-pitched patter before they left the house. I sigh and roll over, hoping to catch that edge of sleep when there’s a whisper of something on the bedside table. My eyes pop open. The card I pinned under my Shabbos lamp is fluttering. I bolt into a sitting position and watch, but nothing else happens.
I snatch it out and jam it into the pocket of my hoodie. No sleep today, I’ll cook a nice dinner.
Dani watches me carefully while demolishing his lamb chops and risotto. Bina, less impressed with this gourmet menu, is feeding spaghetti and ketchup to her highchair tray, the floor, the walls, her hair. This is good; I can keep busy with baby wipes and sippy cups and pretend I’m not squirming under Dani’s gaze.
“Still upset about the publicity?”
Relief. I can hide behind this.
“We won’t use Marian again, that’s for sure.”
“Hmm. I thought you didn’t like her anyway.”
“I didn’t! And she breached her contract, caused a mess. I’m furious with her!”
He’s silent as he gathers the plates and whisks Bina off for a cleanup, eventually settling her at the kiddie table with paper and fat crayons. I squirt dishwashing soap over everything and go curl up on the couch. Dirty sinks will wait.
“That’s it? You’re too quiet.” He’s perched on a kiddie chair, turned toward me. I dig my chin into the zipper of my hoodie until it hurts.
Dani knows how I feel about performing. Me the introvert. It’s the worst kind of torture before applause fades and I’m in my own world on the stage. But I didn’t want a cent of Daddy’s money, and we needed to live, somehow. So I performed. It was better to put myself out in public than to live off money that seemed tainted by his perfidy, covered by betrayal.
And I’m good at illusion. Very good. Four times a year didn’t seem so bad, so I went along with it, becoming a reluctant spectator of my own astonishing success.
“I don’t know.” I shove my hands deeper into my pockets. “The website is down, at least that. But people will talk.”
“And is it so bad, Zehava? It’s not like you’re new to this anymore.”
“Yes. And—” I stop, hovering on a thin line of tell, don’t tell, tell.
I don’t know what to tell him; I don’t keep secrets from my husband. But I’d like to put myself into another ball and stay there until I can throw this thing out.
Dani looks at my pocket. I can see the ridge of my knuckles, clenched tight over the card.
“Something’s worrying you, and it’s in your pocket.”
I can’t deny this, so I withdraw my fist and open my fingers to show him a crumpled card.
He raises his eyebrows.
“Already trying for a new trick?”
I iron the card flat. Queen of Hearts.
Flip it over.
Please. And a phone number in red Sharpie.
“My father came to see me at the theater last night. He saw the ad. He got through everyone and everything.”
Dani is holding the card now, turning it over and over.
“He wanted to see me.”
Dani never had the chance to get to know my father properly. A month after we married, Daddy came to see me. To unload all these trite phrases, like “unhappy” and “finding myself” and “shaky faith.” I burned everything in sight for months — bridges and memories and mementos until there was nothing left to burn, me an aching pile of ash.
To me Daddy is pain. To Dani, Daddy is a mystery.
Dani puts the card down.
I don’t need to look at the card for his number. I press my thumb onto the edge, hoping for a paper cut. About the fear, I say nothing.
He pulls the kiddie chair closer to the couch.
“Zehava. Listen. You’re angry at him. And hurt. But you’re ready.”
“I’m not ready. Not. I don’t want to see him, to hear him. Never.” Shield up. “He’s the one who turned his back on us, I’m not interested.”
There’s a suspicious clinking in the kitchen. Bina! In the fridge. We both make a run for it.
Dani’s there before me, rescuing a chocolate pudding from Bina’s chubby fist.
He plonks her down in the highchair and pulls a bib round her neck.
“Of course, you’re ready,” he says, quietly. “Look.”
I look down to see that I’m holding the card still, pressing it to my chest with both hands.
IT took us a while to settle on somewhere neutral. Every place we discussed had something dragging it down — too public, too noisy, too quiet, too intimidating, and of course, that catch-all easy pass to step away from responsibilities — too triggering.
Dani’s with me, I need him as a buffer. For what, I don’t know.
Anxiety digs at my insides as we walk into the empty theater. The same anxiety I get before I perform. Maybe a park would have been better, but Dani thought the dressing room — the place I ruled last week — would be a good place to talk. And with the theater undergoing repairs, he knew it would be empty. My husband has guts. One call to management, and here we are.
He doesn’t get why I don’t want to have anything to do with Daddy. It’s not like I’m the first person in the world with a not-frum father. I tell him this is different, of course it’s different when you had a frum father and then suddenly he’s not. It’s easier to hold on to the anger, because I can’t even put voice to my fears.
What happens if I don’t have any answers to Daddy’s questions?
And what about my own questions. How can I ever trust him again? How could he have yanked away everything I stood on without me suspecting something, anything?
How can I trust me when I look at him? Who am I now that you’re not you?
This time I sit in my swivel chair, and Dani perches on a barstool he’s dragged in. I’m not sure where to put a third chair. Next to the mirror? The door? The window? Leave Daddy standing? It’s a power arrangement. Light behind you, light in front. Shadow. Smoke.
I put his chair so he’ll sit with his back to the mirror, me opposite so that I can see myself, Dani at the door.
That feels safest.
What am I going to say what is he going to say maybe this is a mistake.
“Stop worrying, Zehava. It’s probably harder—” Dani stops himself. I will brook no sympathy.
And then Daddy’s there, sitting calmly in the chair I set up. No, not calmly. His ankle boots shuffle slightly, forward, backward, to the sides. I’ve left myself free of noticeable balls and barriers, but we all know how quickly I can erect them. The shield over my heart, though, that’s imperative.
I let Dani lead in conversation while I sit motionless, but Daddy keeps pulling his eyes back to me. I am empty. The room is airless, so I walk to the window. Peer out, ghosts of last week’s crowds in my mind.
“So I heard you had a baby, Zehava.”
I walk back to my chair and laser lock Daddy’s gaze.
“Yes, I did. She’s called Bina.”
I want to feel what he feels when I say his mother’s name. My Bubby, she’d have whipped her son for what he did to me, to everyone.
I don’t expect to see tears, but they’re there. Hot. Heavy. Guilty.
“That’s… beautiful. How old is she now?”
I try not to drip poison, but it leaks out, lacing anything I say with bitter reproach, recrimination.
I ask him the question I asked last week.
“What do you want?”
“I want to see you,” he says, words rolling out soft and round. Hard to fight. “I want to see your daughter. I want to be part of your life. Please let me in.”
“Why should I?”
Dani throws me a look. Gentle. Remember what the rav said. He’s your father.
But he doesn’t know of the yawning abyss I see when I see Daddy. The terror gripping me by the shoulders, blocking my throat.
How can I do it?
Dani doesn’t know how small I am, and how big Daddy is.
My father. My teacher. My hero.
And I. The heiress, protégée, princess. Everything I know, everything I have, is from him. My magic is his. I am him.
What happens if I’m drawn into his magic once again? Will I blindly follow him, tread into his footprints as I run to eat from the forbidden fruits of his new tree?
What happens if by letting Daddy in again, the cloak of question marks he wears becomes mine?
“Why should you,” he says, and I blink, having forgotten the question I asked.
“Because I’m your father. I love you, always.”
And again, so softly.
I silently open the door and slip out.
IT’SFriday morning, and I’m whizzing round the house like a whirling dervish, because Bina is going to wake up any second and that’ll be the end of doing anything before Dani gets home. I’m glad we’re not going to Mommy this week. Imagine me sitting there, with Daddy’s shadow blanketing me, with the card burning a hole in my pocket, the words trying to force themselves out of me — Daddy came to see me. Did you know?
She’s been through enough.
I’m doing well, three pots going and a cake in the oven. I catch myself from stirring the cholent with a chocolate-covered spatula just as the doorbell rings, the oven timer goes off, and Bina starts squeaking. For a heartbeat I’m not sure what to do first. Oven. Switch the beeping off, pull out the tray. Run to the door before the squeaks become full-lunged yells.
It’s a bunch of flowers. And Daddy. He’s holding them. I stare at his Yankees cap and have a single incongruous memory. Yankee Doodle came to town — Daddy bumping me on his knee — riding on a poh-nee—
Bina howls, and I can’t very well slam the door in his face, so I motion to the couch and run to get her.
She’s red-faced and furious, soaking wet from a bottle I didn’t close well enough. I change her slowly; can’t think of what to do next.
Something’s going to burn if I don’t go back to the kitchen. But I’ll have to walk through the open living area first.
“Hey, Bina, let’s go get a cookie. Bina, you wanna cookie?”
I hold her tight instead of letting her run to the kitchen by herself.
Daddy’s standing just inside the doorway, still holding the flowers. An inner needle jumps crazily, as if there’s an electrical storm in the offing. Run away from him. Run to him. Run away. The primordial need to pull him by the hand and show him around, to say, “Daddy, look at everything I’ve done. See my life. Look at me!” is a life force I have to rein in with both hands.
“Oh! I meant for you to come in, just… here, let me take these.” I release Bina who clutches my skirt and toddles behind me, an ungainly tail, while I go to look for a vase.
And stir whatever it is, what did I want to do next — my train of thought is derailed, carriages strewn haphazardly on a bare landscape.
Put some cookies on a plate. Go talk to your father.
Can I give him food, what if he eats without—
His shadow in the doorway of the kitchen, his gaze warm on my back. I turn slowly.
“It’s okay, Zehava, I’ll go.”
I drop the spoon and spin around.
He’s shriveled since last week. Eyes dull, mouth tight.
And Bina, oh Bina. Walking steadily over to Daddy. Holding out a mushed cookie.
Daddy crouches down.
“Hello, precious.” Slides a gaze at me over Bina’s shoulder. “Do you like cookies?”
Bina waddles back to me. “More cookie!”
She’s a better hostess than I am. I smile even though it seems to splinter my face, pour the cookies into a bowl and carry it into the dining room.
Maybe I should trust the intuition of a toddler. She feels safe, bringing her squishies and her teddies and her dollies until Daddy is buried under a pile of beloved possessions.
“Hold Bina,” she demands now, arms up in the air. Daddy shifts the plush mess and picks her up as though she’s a fragile bird, so hesitant I can feel the shield melting.
“I need to get the oven, do you want to play with her? I’m running late for Sha—”
And there it is again, whoever he is now superimposed onto the specter of the man who walked away, covering up the hero he always was, and I want to know how and why and who said it won’t happen to me, but my mind jumps and stutters, and I can’t take it. I run to add water to the stir fry.
I hear Bina giggling. I hear Daddy talking in a baby voice. I should be happy, this should bring me joy. Will he teach her his magic— The pain sears so badly, such a violent white heat, that I look down to check that there’s no hot oil splashing onto me.
But I can’t hide here forever, it’s ridiculous.
I return to the dining room just in time to see Daddy pop something out from behind his ear. A bell? He tinkles it under Bina’s nose, and Bina, entranced, points to his mouth and begs for more.
Then it’s a string of violently colored handkerchiefs, and I wonder if Daddy has been gigging as a kiddie clown. Bina shrieks and squeals and even tries to jump up and down on her fat little legs.
I can’t help smiling, one that doesn’t crack me. Daddy looks at me, and I let him smile, too. I’m wary, it’s going to be me doing the first move for a while, but maybe we can make this work, I want it to work. I want to tell him that, I—
Bina makes a horrible sound, and I know she’s choking.
Move, move. I’m picking her up, yelling.
“Daddy! Daddy! She’s choking! What did she swallow? Help! HELP! HATZOLAH PHONE AMBULANCE HEIMLICH DADDY!”
A black mist swirls round me as I try to remember how to close my fists under the lungs, whatsitcalled the diaphragm please Daddy why aren’t you doing anything open the door yell outside call Dani my baby my baby Bina please is her face turning blue I can’t see push in and up in and up help—
And there’s a miraculous tinkling, and a bell rolls out onto the carpet.
I collapse onto the floor and pull Bina on top of me. Turn her round. She’s crying, she’s coughing, she’s going to be okay.
But I’m not. Shaking, shaking. Cold.
I look at Daddy, who still hasn’t moved. He’s crumpled in on himself, folded into a tinier version than I’ve ever seen of him. I should give Bina a drink, but I can’t get up, can’t trust my legs to hold me.
He slowly swivels his head toward me and stands. I recoil, squeezing Bina. I see the chasm, emptiness. Pain that I recognize. But the helplessness. I can’t even ask him why he did nothing, know there’s no answer. You did nothing! I yammer in my mind. Nothing, nothing, who are you?
The door clicks shut behind him, and still I can’t move. I will my breathing to slow, in out, iiin outttt, deep breath, and again, and look around the room, trying to corral my crashing, thrashing thoughts into coherence. Here, the Shabbos table, the candlesticks, the challah cover. Here, the Chumash on a shtender in the corner, the seforim lining the wall. The bell on the carpet, a tinkle of music in my memory. Yesimcha Elokim… Daddy singing me to sleep, yevarechecha Hashem, may Hashem bless you… guide you… give you peace.
Suddenly a comet streaks through me. The glow of it pushes me to my feet, propels me to the door. I am blessed. I have something real, something true. I am strong with the benedictions of millennia whispering through time, may His Face shine on you; stronger than the man who once gave me that strength, but has walked away, extinguished in defeat.
He gave me this life, this blessing, as a gift that he refused for himself, and now I’ve owned it. Me. Myself. I don’t need Daddy as my champion anymore. I’ve built a life apart from him, independent of him, despite him. There’s nothing that should scare me anymore.
I call him from the doorway. “Daddy!” He stops in the street and turns to wait while I run toward him. I have the sudden vision of Houdini, the Great Harry Houdini, locked into a crate and hauled overboard. Sinking, then rising triumphant to the adulation of the crowds.
But in the end felled by a punch. A simple punch to the gut.
I look at Daddy now, that ten-foot all-powerful giant of my childhood, and see the alveolations on his coat, pockmarks of uncertainty and confusion and emptiness. Illusion and disillusion.
I tell him it’s okay. We’ll be okay.
And I take the crumpled and tattered Queen of Hearts and press it into his palm, let a shower of faint sparkles from my fingertips warm his cold hands.
Because maybe there is just the tiniest bit of magic in all of us.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 831)
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