Smoke and Mirrors

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
"I am thinking of England by the sea - A pier in the rain."

Submitted: May 27, 2008

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Submitted: May 27, 2008



Smoke and Mirrors


The rain fell like a great block, filling every inch of the air with liquid. It was still, though, and the droplets were light on the skin, like a mist, and high above the sky was un-textured, brown-grey like sepia. The sea below the pier was almost still, the waves lapping, tiny claps and sloshes, listless against the shingled beach.

The magician, Salem, came from behind a screen, onto the stage, a trailer with a removable side, once brightly painted with images of mystery and wonder, but now the blues were grey and the reds a lacklustre orange and the wood was warped and the paint cracked. He surveyed his audience glumly; his grey eyes having watched too many sit stony faced before him; and with a sigh resigned himself to going through the motions. There were perhaps ten people to watch him today, scattered throughout seating for a hundred, and he couldn’t begrudge them their looks of discomfort, as water trickled down their necks and their leftover chips lay mushy and melting at their feet.

The old, dark wood of the pier creaked and groaned as it filled with water, and the gulls that sat on the railings were silent, looking as bedraggled and uncomfortable as cats in the haze. Salem began his act sullenly at first, pulling a rabbit from a mug, and appearing doves from thin air, which were then allowed to fly off, free. The audience sat silently watching, except for a small child, who kept tugging on his mother’s arm and saying he needed to go wee-wee. An old lady sat in the front row, seemingly enraptured, but in reality more bothered by her boiled sweets, which were sticking to her dentures - and another pensioner, an old man, was sleeping a few rows back, oblivious to the rivers of rainwater running off his face and clothes.

Salem regarded them with a piteous eye, their minds dulled to the majesty of magic, absorbed by technology and forgetful of the mystical. He remembered his showmanship, and with some flair and a certain je ne c’quoi, produced a bunch of flowers, fresh and warm smelling from the tip of his wand. The scent drifted over the audience, and they stiffened, almost imperceptibly, more alert. Salem smiled inwardly, and feeling brighter, proceeded to place a doll inside a case, and to saw it in half. When he opened the case again the doll stood up, unharmed, and took a bow, and Salem bowed with her, waiting for the applause. Near the back, the mother told her son to look at the strings, “It’s not real; it’s just a trick.”

Salem’s spirits fell once more, and when the doll looked at him questioningly, he whispered to her to go inside. He looked down at his audience, sighing hard, with his whole body, and he closed his eyes. He held out his arms before him, as if clasping an invisible globe, and his lips moved silently in incantation. A wind blew the sleeping pensioner’s hat off his head, and made the magician’s cape wave majestically as a white glow appeared between his hands. The glow slowly turned into an orb, lighting up Salem, his audience and the pier in an unearthly white light, and within its aura, the gates of Heaven itself could be seen. The magician lifted it up high, opened his eyes and pulled his hands apart, and with a flash, the globe disappeared. The old lady in the front row clapped slowly, unsurely, and the child began to cry. The mum flashed Salem a look of mild anger and bent to comfort the child, walking away down the pier. The rest of the crowd silently followed suit, excepting the old man, who stayed sleeping, droplets of rain falling off his nose into his open mouth, gurgling with each breath he took.

Salem’s shoulders drooped as he stood, dejected, water dripping off the fronting of the stage, a steady plop-plop coming from inside, where a leak was caught in a vase. The last of the audience finally vanished into the haze of rain, and Salem bowed to the empty pier, then turned, leaving the pensioner sleeping alone, and went inside the trailer to play chess with his Golem.

© Copyright 2018 Sam Halfpenny. All rights reserved.

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