I fall in step with Marguerite. Her nursing cap reminds me of the sailboats I used to make as a kid by folding a paper in overlapping triangles. “Your dad” – tip tap of our footfalls bounces around the hallway of the retirement home – “what a showman!” We reach the sunroom that smells of toasts, coffee, and bacon. He’s sitting alone at a table near the patio bent over a deck of cards. She exhales an affectionate chuckle. “He’s been working on a new trick since breakfast.”
Everyone still talks about Dad although he cannot make much illusion happen now. I push him around in the quiet gardens, cut a rose from one of the bushes and put it in the lapel of his robe. He grins, sits up straight, becomes a Hollywood man again.
His eyes crease at the corners and glisten. He whispers, “I’ve figured a way to make this vanish,” he slaps the armrests of the wheelchair. I cover his hand with mine and smile.
For the longest time, he was my Superman. As a child, I’d throw tantrums refusing to eat my spinach or broccoli. He would waltz into the kitchen with a tea towel over his forearm, and a flip of the wrist made the bowl disappear. Me and my dad, we guffawed. My mom, not so much.
But his powers went far beyond playing tricks with rabbits and doves, defying gravity, bending metals.
For instance, he stabbed a woman with swords and cut her in half in front of an audience. His cape passed over his assistant, another woman had replaced her, younger, slimmer, in a shimmering bikini. That one grinned, clapped, and saluted my dad’s genius. I hunkered down in the front row of the theatre, bathed in the halo of light from the music stands and instruments in the orchestra pit, gawking at that formidable wizardry.
My mother, her name is Dawn, was his box-jumper – as they called the girls then – in the quick-change act. He switched outfits on her seamlessly as they danced to iconic rhythms – Ballroom, Charleston, Swing, Twist, Break-Dance. The act was called Dawn Memory Lane. That was before my time.
One day, he made her disappear.
Years later, she wrote to say he was not a real magician and his life had been a series of cheap tricks. But I had already found that out for myself and I missed her terribly.
In her letter she didn’t leave a forwarding address.
While working on her debut novel, Charline has penned literary stories, dipped into science fiction, and spun a few mystery tales. The stories have appeared in, among others, Flash Fiction Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Freedom Fiction, and Scarlet Leaf Review. Brilliant Flash Fiction has nominated her flash, Riding The Waves, for the 2022 Pushcart. She lives in London.