Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Illusionist

"I wonder how many magicians arrive at their performance in a booster seat?" Gloria asked.

Eli 8.1 laughed. He could afford to--he was about to get paid to do a magic show.

We usually eat breakfast at least one day on the weekend at a little restaurant near our house. We've been going there for years, and everyone knows Eli well.

A few weeks ago, Eli brought a few magic tricks with him, and he did them for the owner of the restaurant (a very nice lady named Sue). Eli's become quite good at magic, and he does sleight-of-hand particularly well, so when he did these tricks for Sue, she immediately asked him if he would perform at a baby shower.

For pay.

Eli, of course, was positively giddy with the possibilities. "How much do you think she'll pay me?" he asked. "I might get a dollar!" A dollar is less than his allowance, but this was money earned with magic, so it had exponentially greater value.

That night, we went through the tricks he knew, and picked out about a dozen that he did the best. Then he practiced his routine almost every night for two weeks, working out his own patter as he went along.

The night before the show, he was smooth as silk.

We went to the restaurant on Monday night, and there were about 20 people there. We had to wait about half an hour before he could start the show, and when he did, I realized something that surprised me.

He was scared to death.

Eli always acts so grown-up for his age that I never treat him like an eight-year old. He's also essentially impervious to pressure. Until now, anyway, because he was extremely nervous in front of people he didn't know.

And he bombed for the first couple of minutes, stumbling around, dropping things. I felt so badly for him.

Then he got to a card trick that is always a winner. He held up three cards--a seven, and eight, and nine. Then he turned them over in order and asked the expectant father the value of the middle card.

It has to be an eight. There is absolutely no way it can't be in eight. But when he turned the card over, it was a queen. It's a nifty trick and it always blows people away, and the look on the father's face was priceless--he was genuinely stunned.

Everyone burst out in applause, and from that point on, he had them eating out of his hand. He pulled himself out of the ditch and did a terrific job, and I was very proud of him. Here's a picture of him working the audience:

Sue pulled me aside and asked me if she could give him $30. I countered with $10. We settled on $15.

"I can't believe I made FIFTEEN DOLLARS," he said on the way home.

"That's a dollar a minute, little man," I said. "Remember that when you're in high school and applying for a job that makes seven dollars an hour."

"Dad!" he said, laughing.

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