Archive for magic

Noch Aye

Posted in Lucerne Village, Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , on March 11, 2012 by javedbabar

“I thought that drinks weren’t allowed,” said Moreen. The circus troupe had started drinking when they’d left the Village, and continued all the way up the Lucerne Valley Road. The Russian clowns downed vodka; Jamaican acrobats limbered up with rum; English jugglers drank both cheap and premium gins, according to their social class; Goan magicians made fenny appear and disappear; the Chinese doll family drank thimblefuls of baijiu; the Mexican couch-spinner had tequila and mezcal – he said “one for each end”; the German sword swallower liked schnapps to “heal his mistakes”; the Iraqi cannonball said that only arak “kept his tummy in”; Greek plate-spinners said brandy “balanced their ears”.

“We are circus people,” said the Scottish Ringmaster, sipping 23-year-old malt whisky, “We make our own rules.”

“You could get into a lot of trouble for drinking,” said Moreen. “They are pretty tough here. The whole Valley is dry.”

“This is the land of water. Water is wet!” said the Ringmaster loudly. “Noch aye!”

“Noch aye!” the circus troupe members replied.

“Isn’t it Och Aye?” said Moreen.

“Well usually it is, but we make our own rules. If those gold diggers want entertainment, they’ll have to cut us some slack. Noch aye!”

“Noch aye!” everyone called out.

It is inappropriate to be drinking on a schoolbus, thought Moreen. The driver seemed to agree with her and stopped the bus halfway up the Valley.

“Right, you lot,” he said through his beard. “I’m going to tell you this once only. Drinking is forbidden in this Valley, and also on this bus, which is used to transport children to school daily. I’ve turned a blind eye till now, but break time’s over. You better put those drinks away and sharpen up your act.”

The Mexican couch-spinner rose from his seat. The Iraqi human-cannonball did likewise. The Scottish Ringmaster rose up too, and indicated for the other two to sit down. They screwed up their faces, but followed his order.

“Ok, you’re the boss,” he said the driver. “Then he faced the troupe and said, “Ladies and gentlemen! You heard the man. Let’s drink up.” Everybody raised their glasses and downed them. “Thank you. Now put them away – at least till we get through the checkpoint.” The driver slowed the bus again. “Ok, I didn’t mean that. Ladies and Gentlemen! No more drinking on the journey at all please.”

The driver sped up and called out, “If I see anyone drinking I’m turning around and taking you back, and reporting to the Authority.

They soon reached the Golden turnoff, lined with black security fencing and guard dog patrols. Depleted supply in Africa and Asia meant that gold was more precious than ever; a vital component for cellphones, laptops, satellites, solar panels, catalytic convertors, airbag and braking systems, and a million other things. And of course, it was the only universally recognized currency, come hell or high water. Golden had been designated a “Fundamental Framework” zone.

The security guards were idle. They didn’t smell or spot the booze. They ordered everyone off the bus and then back on again. They asked troupe members to perform some tricks. Most were on work visas and didn’t want fuss, so obliged.

The Balkan chapeaugrapher rolled his eyes, and transformed his white, ring-shaped piece of felt into a pirate’s hat, a Russian fur hat, a nun’s wimple, Admiral’s hat, skyscraper, baseball cap, baby’s bonnet, mortar board, an iPod, a barrister’s wig, and Mickey Mouse ears. The security guards laughed and clapped. The Peruvian knife thrower was called upon. He threw five knives at a cedar, five at a fir, five at a pine, and his last five knives removed guards’ hats and pinned them to the security fencing. They reached for their guns but then burst out laughing, and gave him high-fives. The Israeli fire-dancer was required to produce a turn. She ran her standard repertoire of poi, fire hoops, batons, nanchaku, and fire whips, then fire-eating and fire-breathing, and lit all their cigarettes for a finale. The guards cheered, and then stamped the troupe’s passes.

They asked Moreen her reason for visiting Golden. She said that she was looking for work there. “What kind of work?” asked the biggest guard.

“It depends on what’s available. I’ll consider most things.”

“Will you now?” said the big guard. “Wait here for a minute.”

The circus troupe were back on the bus now. Only Moreen remained. The guard told the driver to start up the bus and get going. “But what about my passenger?” he said.

“She hasn’t been cleared yet,” said the guard. “We’re waiting for instructions. We’ll send her on the next bus.”

“We’ll wait for her,” said the driver.

Moreen was scared. What did these guards want with her? She should have chosen her words more carefully – not said that she’d “consider most things”. The Ringmaster climbed down from the bus to enquire about the hold up. When they told him he was incensed. “You let fifty drunken reprobates through, and you want to keep this perfectly respectable single woman here for no reason? Gentlemen! That’s ungentlemanly behaviour. What do you think you’re playing at?”

The big guard placed his hand on his gun. “Buddy, you may be King of the Ring in your world, but here I am God. What I say is Law. Now be on your way or I’ll arrest you for obstruction.” His fellow guards prepared to handle their guns, and didn’t know what happened to them next.

They later recalled being flipped about, being wound around people’s heads, swung around, ejected a hundred metres, having their tongues set on fire, being sawn in half, thrown about repeatedly, pinned to boards and spun about, having pies pushed in their faces, and the bus disappearing in a puff of smoke.

“What did you do to them,” Moreen asked the Ringmaster.

He said, “We just taught them a lesson. That was no way to behave with a lady. We circus people like to follow the rules.” He winked at her. “Our rules.” Then he called out, “Noch Aye!”



Posted in Mystical Experience, Unknown with tags , , , , on March 6, 2012 by javedbabar

Alba said, “I saw you perform at the Transparent Temple last week. It’s nice to see that you’re still here. You must like our little Village.”

“Thank you,” said the Great Shakra. “Yes I do like your Village; I’m staying for a week.” It was strange to see him at the grocery store after all that smoke and mirrors. A man in a top hat and tails was not common in the produce section.

“Oh goody. Will you be doing another show? I’d love to come again.”

“No, just one show per week,” said the Great Shakra. “That’s all I can manage. It takes a lot of effort you know. My job is to make it seem effortless, but there’s lots of hard work involved.”

“Oh, I wasn’t implying that it was easy,” said Alba. “I just meant that…”

“No, no. It’s fine. I appreciate your enthusiasm.” He smiled like he had on stage, his beam like that from a lighthouse, flashing all around. She was caught in its glow – flash-frozen – and then released. “Tell me,” he said. “What did you think of the show?”

Alba recalled the poster in the ATM lobby. It said, “June 21st – First time in Lucerne Village – The Great Shakra – Mentalist Extraordinary.” Tickets were pricey considering it was a local event, but she’d loved magic since childhood and couldn’t resist. Her friends said, “Fifty bucks for card tricks – get out of here! We’ll play snap with you for ten bucks, including lunch.” So Alba went alone to the show. “You blew my mind,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like it before. I mean, I have on TV, but never in real life. How do you do it?”

“Well, I don’t usually reveal my secrets,” he said. “But it’s always a pleasure to meet magic fans. I’ll give you a little snippet. What would you like to know?” He moved out of the way of a trolley, tickling the baby’s head within it. The baby began crying.

“Right at the beginning you sent us all joy; sudden joy. How did you do that?” Alba believed that real magic existed.

“It was really very easy. When people closed their eyes, I turned up the lights. They felt the extra brightness through their eyelids, which they interpreted as joyous.” Alba looked annoyed, but also amazed. “I possess no supernatural powers. What I am is a communications expert. I send and receive messages. I hope that doesn’t disappoint you.”

“I’m sure you’re being modest. How did you know that East Indian man had a silver Frontier?”

“I’m afraid that was my least impressive feat of the night. When I asked him for a handkerchief for the dove trick, I saw his key ring. That was all.”

“But then you read people’s tea-leaves and told them where they’d been on holiday.”

“Again, no magic there. I am a communications expert. The tea-leaves were just a distraction, giving me time to discover their income bracket. Manual workers go to Mexico; office workers to Hawaii; and business owners to Europe. Everyone aspires to something, it’s just a matter of demographics.” Alba looked unhappy again. “Knowing where they may be going this winter was also easy. I saw a poster in the ATM lobby for Christmas deals to Florida. Many people would be considering those.”

“Why did you ask people for 4-digit numbers?”

“Oh, no reason really,” he said. “Picking up more non-verbal cues.”

Alba was disappointed to hear the Mentalist Extraordinary’s mundane explanations for his feats. Is that all there was to it? she thought. She said, “Thank you for telling me. It was nice to meet you. I’d better get on with my shopping now.”

“It was nice to meet you too,” said the Great Shakra. “You may want to avoid the spring onions and cilantro; they’re looking quite wilted. But they’re not beyond salvation. Let’s see if we can freshen them up.” He twirled his hands at the herbs in the fridge. Immediately the misters began spraying, and double-rainbows appeared beneath the bright lights. The greens looked like they were growing in a little heaven.

“Wow!” said Alba. “Did you just make that happen?” She stared at the rainbows like a little girl dreaming.

“Maybe,” said the Great Shakra. “Your father would have loved to see the amazing variety of food here. He used to plant his own garden, didn’t he? But with a much smaller range of crops in The Yukon, of course. I’m sure his oregano and basil did well though, and tasted great in his pastas. He misses making them for you, bambina.”

Alba’s mouth fell open. “You know that? Are you psychic too? A medium?”

“Well, sort of. Come on, you need to get your shopping done. Why don’t you start with this aisle? Oh yes – artichokes, salsify, and organic mangoes, yum yum; and let’s go there – tiger prawns, tuna steaks, how about some surf and turf – let’s get filet steaks; get two packs; and yes, these special breads, made with sprouted ancient grains; this hand-toasted muesli, get the cashew and macadamia one; you can’t beat artisan goat cheese with caviar crust; its divine.” They strolled around the store, filling her cart with Lucerne’s finest foods. When they reached the till he said, “Throw in some mints and a National Enquirer and this will come to….. $360 exactly.”

Alba was amazed. She shouldn’t have doubted. He truly possessed magical powers

He didn’t really though. The Great Shakra had figured out the greens’ spraying schedule. That Alba was from a poor Italian family in The Yukon. His groceries cost more or less the same in these centrally-managed stores; he just needed to balance the cart with some impulse purchases. He was however skilled at sleight-of-hand, sensory overwhelming, and hypnosis. So he used Alba’s credit card – using the 4-digit PIN number he’d gleaned from her at the show – to pay for what were now his groceries, and then made her forget that she had ever met him.