“Dis is the last audition of da night, boss,”
says Joey, the rotund producer’s assistant, squinting at a clipboard.The
lights are turned low in the old, deco theater know as the Royale.Only the
stage lights are bright, shining hope on the next to try out.
“This pug better be good,” says Karl, the
television producer who needs a showstopper; a rising star to punch up sagging ratings on his reality show, America’s Got Something.
Entering stage right appears The Masked Magician, face
obscured by a black hangman’s hood.He leisurely wheels a large wooden
box to the center of the theater stage.
“Would you look at this disturbed son of a bitch,
what’s his story?” asks Karl.
“He told me he was once da best in the bizz; sez
he’s been washed up since his wife left him a year ago—hit the bottle and da skids—but seein’ your
audition ad in da paper gave him a comeback idea.”
The Masked Magician—now standing center stage—faces
his audience of two.He adjusts his hood; the whites of his eyes peering out
from behind jagged slits.He raises his arms, letting loose sleeves descend
against his elbows to prove there are no hidden objects.Then, with a flourish
of fingers, a deck of cards appears in the palm of his right hand.He waves
his left hand above the deck and without touching them; cards suddenly flutter into the air in all directions, tossing themselves
out into the empty seats.A few land near the producer and his assistant, who
fail to notice that every card is a Suicide King.
The Masked Magician takes a deep bow as Joey’s applause
echoes loudly against the walls of the theater.
“Not bad, eh, boss?”
“Sit down,” Karl grumbles, unimpressed.
On stage, the Masked Magician points a long, bony index
finger outward.The finger curls back slowly summoning the producer to join
“I’m not going up there with that hooded freak.”
“Come on boss, have some fun,” says Joey.“Besides, what’cha gotta lose?”
Karl slowly ascends the stage.The Masked Magician slides a large steel bolt open on the box, and silently ushers his volunteer inside.Karl steps into the box, turns and stares out with indifference at the Masked Magician,
who slams the door shut and slides the bolt securely into place.
The Masked Magician slowly ambles around the box.While he is briefly out of view behind the box, Joey, now on the edge of his seat,
is certain he hears a faint sound emanate from the wooden cabinet but pays it no heed as he eagerly awaits the trick's ultimate
Soon, the Masked Magician comes around to the front,
waving his hands and uttering a few unintelligible words of hocus-pocus.With
his promenade of prestidigitation concluded, The Masked Magician slides back the bolt and flings open the door.
Karl is sitting cross-legged upon a blood-soaked floor.His trembling, crimson-stained hands are clasped between his legs and his face is
distorted in agony.
The Masked Magician removes his hood, leans into the
box and stares into Karl’s eyes which are now opened wide with recognition and says, “I wouldn’t worry too
much about losing it, Karl. You know my ex-wife doesn’t have a problem
finding herself another prick.”
Unspooling like hot links
from an out-of-control sausage machine
torn into bloody fragments
I should have tightly
fastened my life together with bolts of self-respect
instead of bottles, prescriptions, and loan sharks
could possibly change it into
the perverse, scattered remnants
of the body that police will never ID
Mark Rosenblum—a New York native who now lives in Southern
California--misses the taste of real pizza and good deli food. His work has been featured in Everyday Fiction, Flashes in the Dark, Yellow Mama, Six Minute Magazine, Short, Fast & Deadly, Sleet Magazine, Spinetingler, Pure Slush, Vine Leaves, Penduline, Emerge Literary Journal,and
Bewildering Stories. He has also appeared in several anthologies.