They Call Me Spork

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic
I fool people for a living.

Submitted: March 05, 2017

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Submitted: March 05, 2017

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There’s no relationship between magic and a plastic eating implement that combines the virtues of a fork and a spoon.  Ever played a game called “the six degrees of Kevin Bacon”?   I am a magician. This is how I became The Amazing Spork.

 

It started on November 25th, 1963.  The day of John F. Kennedy’s funeral.  My mother was a big fan and was stunned by his assassination.  I was five and didn’t know what a funeral or a president was.  But I remember the story on the local newscast the next day.  

 

At the funeral, three year old John Kennedy Jr. had been photographed saluting his father’s casket.  The picture was published on the front page of the New York Daily News and would become a symbol of the angst our nation was experiencing.  

 

My mother burst into tears when she saw the photo.  Then, using logic only mothers can understand, she turned to me and said, “Next time you go to the barber shop, you’re going to get your hair cut just like John John.”

 

The thing is, the Kennedys all have wavy hair.  Mine is straight as an arrow.  So when I left the barber shop, I didn’t look at all like John John.  Nobody knew at the time.  Star Trek would not premiere for another three years.  But I may have been the first human to get a Mr. Spock haircut.

 

Anyway, Mom insisted that the hairdo was “me” and it stuck.  Then she took me Christmas shopping.  That was when I saw the Gilbert Mysto Magic set at Wilson’s Hobby Shop.    

 

The boxtop had a picture of a smart looking boy aiming a magic wand at a potted flower.  Clearly he had made the flower spring from the pot with a wave of the wand.  I opened the box.  

 

There were trick playing cards, cups that could make a ball disappear, magic cremes and potions, and strange objects I didn’t recognize.  I knew the instruction manual would explain it all.  On December 25th, 1963, I officially became a magician.

 

Of course, a kindergardener lacks the dexterity required to be a successful illusionist.  That didn’t stop my parents from oohing and aahing when I stumbled my way through a trick.  I thought they were really impressed.  But, you’ve got to start somewhere.

 

Two years pass, and I’d developed some real magic chops.  I could do sleight of hand and some card tricks.  As shy and awkward as I was, I actually had some self confidence when it came to the magic show I’d put together.  I was thinking I had a real chance of winning the 2nd grade talent show.  I had no idea I was about to get snared by a completely different kind of magic.  Her name was Leslie Ann Garibaldi.

 

I had been under the impression that Leslie Ann did not like me.  She was big for her age and  had a habit of punching me.  I didn’t know that was her way of showing affection.  So when I asked for a volunteer from the audience at the talent show, I was surprised when Leslie Ann jumped up.  

 

I didn’t really need an assistant for the Chinese linking rings trick.  She would just be a prop as she held one of the rings.  I thought the trick would have more credibility with an audience member standing right next to me, holding the solid ring.  I’d practiced for many hours and I knew she would not notice the diagonal split in the “key” ring I was holding.  

 

First, I made a big deal demonstrating the solidity of both rings.  The split in the key ring would only open when pressure was applied at a certain angle.  I clanged the rings together.  Leslie Ann pulled in one direction while I leaned the other way.  The rings held.

 

I asked her to count to three, then say “Abracadabra.”  With the slightest jiggle of my hand, the rings separated.

 

The audience applauded and cheered.  Leslie Ann broke into a smile, then curtsied and bowed to the audience.  They clapped harder.  She bowed again.  I thought, “What the heck, is she trying to steal my thunder?”

 

I didn’t know the half of it.  After that, she always seemed to be wherever I was.  So she became my assistant.  I sawed her in half.  I made her disappear, then reappear.  I threw knives at her and set her on fire.

 

And yes we eventually got married and had kids and we’re still together but that doesn’t have anything to do with my nickname.

 

We were in the living room one evening.  Leslie Ann and I were working on our latest trick.  It was September, 1966.  My brother Steve was in the den, watching his favorite new science fiction show on TV. 

 

The trick was that I would seemingly be able to stuff an unlimited number of bowling pins into the pocket of Leslie Ann’s coat.  We’d sewn the coat and her pants together and created a hidden sleeve that allowed the pins to slide down and behind her, into her loose fitting leggings.  As with any illusion, perfecting the movements so the audience does not notice takes practice.

 

Steve hollered at us from the den.  “Hey lovebirds, check this out.  The dorky boy magician and Mr. Spock have the same haircut.”  We put down the bowling pins and had a look.  It was true.  

 

Leslie Ann burst into laughter.  She’d stopped punching me when we started working together, but she laughed at me a lot.  She said, “From now on, you will be known as “The Amazing Spock.”

 

Granted, Spock is not Spork.  But you can see how we are heading in that direction.

 

It would not do for a professional magician to name himself after a character in a TV show.  But it worked out okay for me and Leslie Ann all the way through junior high school.  The two of us refined our skills and worked on our act.  

 

Leslie Ann became much more than an assistant.  She is smart and creative. As with the vanishing bowling pins, she insisted we create our own tricks.  She said “We’ll never make it big performing illusions someone else made famous.”

 

We performed at talent shows and did paying gigs at birthday parties.  The Amazing Spock and Lovely Leslie Ann became minor celebrities in our remote California town.  

 

Leslie Ann was my manager, agent, publicist and best friend.  It was summer, 1972.  In a few months, we would start high school.  She scored our biggest gig to date.  We were entered in the Bay Area Talent Show.  An event hosted each year by artists and musicians in San Fransisco.  

 

Usually the contestants were adults but they made exceptions.  We’d been performing for years and had been in the newspaper several times.   The handbills Leslie Ann made up proclaimed we were “the most famous magic act ever from Red Bluff, California!”

 

Which may have been true since as far as I know, we were the only magic act from our town.

 

The rules of the show were simple.  Each act had five minutes on stage.  For us, that was just enough time for one trick.  We were going for broke.  We would debut our newest, and most sophisticated trick ever.

 

As Leslie Ann warms the audience up, and tells them how amazed they are about to be, I hold my arms up and rotate my hands so they can see both sides of my forearms. I am wearing a short sleeve shirt.  

 

In her best carnival barker voice, she says “As you can see folks, the man does not have any tricks up his sleeve.  In fact, he has no sleeves at all.  What you are about to witness here my good friends, is pure, unadulterated, 100% magic.”

 

She tears the seal on a new deck of cards, pulls the cards out of the box and fans them out for the audience to see.  “I’m going to need a volunteer from the audience to select a card for us.”  Leslie Ann points to a young lady waving her hand.  “Madam, pick a card, any card.”

 

The woman says, “Three of diamonds.”  My assistant sifts through the cards to find the right one.  She tosses the rest of the cards over her shoulder in an exaggerated manner.  The audience chuckles.  

 

Leslie Ann holds the remaining card up so everyone can see it is the three of diamonds.  She walks to the front of the stage and motions for a man to step forward.  She hands him the card and says, “Sir, please tell me if this is an ordinary playing card.”  He looks it over, bends it, hands it back and says “Yes.”  She gives the card to me.

 

I hold my left hand in front of me, level, palm facing up.  My fingertips point toward the audience.  I carefully place the card in my palm.  It has to be in just the right spot for the trick to work.  The card is 19 inches in front of my face.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, my partner Spock is about to defy the laws of physics.  Simply by tilting his head back, he will make the card, now in the palm of his hand, fly, in a straight line, into his mouth.  Where he will catch the card.”

 

“I will count backwards from five.  Do not blink when I get to one.  Five…four… three….two….one.…

 

As promised, when Leslie Ann got to one, I jerked my head back. The playing card flew, in a straight line, from my palm, right into my mouth.  I caught it between my lips.  

 

The audience gasped.  We’d pulled it off.  We bowed and listened to the applause.

 

What the audience couldn’t see, when I had shown them my bare forearms, was the thin, flexible tube, glued to my skin.  The tube started under my heel, where it was connected to a pump built in to my shoe.  It ran up my leg, then under my shirt.  

 

Where the tube came out of my sleeve, Leslie Ann had employed her skill with an airbrush.  She went beyond painting the tube the same color as my skin.  She added freckles, just like on my arms.  Where blood vessels passed underneath the tube, she added faint blue lines to continue the pattern.  The end of the tube was in my palm, and curved back so that the opening pointed towards my face.

 

When Leslie Ann got to one, I jerked my head back and opened my mouth.  The movement of my upper body distracted the audience from the very subtle hand movement that gave the card its initial movement.  Then I put my weight on the pump in my shoe.  When the burst of air hit the card, it “flew” into my mouth.

 

Needless to say, this trick took years of practice and a lot of trial and error to make each part work.  To get the tube flat enough to not be visible to the audience, I kept the exposed part of it clamped between two lengths of wood before the trick.  At first, that made the tube stick to itself and not inflate fast enough when I stepped on the pump.  We had to learn about things like surface tension and surfactants.  

 

After promising my dad not to drink any of it, he bought me a liter of Everclear.  A brand of 190 proof alcohol.  At the library we’d found out that ethyl alcohol had the lowest surface tension of any readily available, safe liquid.

 

We poured the alcohol through the tube.  The tiny amount that remained after we flattened it kept the walls from sticking together.  That was the last piece of the puzzle we had to work through to make the trick work.  Aside from all the practice.

 

It’s not hard to entertain kids at birthday parties with a magic act.  We were pretty nervous about our oldest, most sophisticated audience to date.  Based on the applause and the cheers, it had seemed to work.

 

However, when the applause died down, a guy in the third row stood up and began heckling me.  “You ain’t no Spock, and you’re not much of a magician.  Spock, my ass.  You’re more like a a spork.  Here, I’ll bet you can’t make this fly from your hand into your mouth.”

 

He threw something small and black toward the stage.  It slid to rest at my feet.  It was a spork.  A plastic eating utensil, the kind you get at fast food restaurants.  I bent down and picked it up.

 

The audience began chanting.  “Spork, spork, spork…” 

 

I looked to my left, at the director, standing behind the edge of the curtain.  He shrugged his shoulders, like, “It’s up to you kid, do what you want.”

 

I looked at Leslie Ann.  She said, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”  Something she had told me many times.

 

“Spork, spork, spork…”

 

I looked at the spork.  It took months of practice to make a playing card fly properly.  The center of gravity and the aerodynamic properties of a spork were nothing like that of a playing card.  The odds of me getting it right the first time were slim and none.

 

But the business end of a spork is shaped kind of like a parachute.  I thought, if I can get the blast of air into the scoop, it might just take off.  Only one way to find out.  I placed the spork in my hand. The scoop was right where the blast of air would hit.

 

“Spork, spork, spork…”

 

I looked at Leslie Ann and nodded.  She broke into her spiel.  “Ladies and Gentleman, live on this stage, you are about to witness the impossible.  Years from now people will not believe you when you say “I was there that summer day in San Fransisco, when a spork flew!  Do not close your eyes when I get to one!  5…4…3….2…1…”

 

Against the odds, the burst of air hit the scoop just right.  The spork lifted off.  Unlike a playing card, the spork began to rotate as it flew through the air.  It had turned 180 degrees when I caught it by the handle, in my mouth. 

 

The audience erupted in applause and shouting, then…

 

 “Spork, spork, spork…”

 

We look to that moment as the start of our careers as professional magicians.  We began to receive offers to perform at larger venues.  Some of the jobs payed pretty good money.  By the time we graduated from high school, we’d saved enough to buy a van.  We hit the road and performed anywhere we could get gigs.

 

But I had to change my name.  After we won the Bay Area Talent Show, everyone started calling me Spork.  If you can’t beat’em, join’em.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen, you will not believe what The Amazing Spork is about to do, right before your very eyes…”

 

Of course there is no magic in what we do.  We use sleight of hand, physics, chemistry, technology old and new, and a million deceptions to create our illusions.  We are entertainers and athletes.  It takes a lot of practice to perfect our techniques.

 

But there is magic in this world.  I’ve witnessed it.  Like the time Leslie Ann made a baby grow inside her, then somehow managed to get it out.  She did one more time so I know it wasn’t a fluke.  Now that is some real magic.


© Copyright 2017 Serge Wlodarski. All rights reserved.

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