By Zachary S. Tompkins.
The magician stood in front of the children. The parents stayed in the kitchen – the men standing at the bar swigging bottled beer and jawing about sports; the women sitting at the table swirling pink wine and rehashing the happenings of their own children’s birthday parties.
Raymond Badgely Jr. was turning five. His parents had every intention of booking a room at the Party Palace, but since Raymond Badgely Sr. lost his job earlier that month the family had been making cuts. Late one evening, Marie Badgely flipped through channels hoping to drown out her husband’s snoring when she caught an ad for a children’s magician on the station that runs a low-budget slideshow of local advertisements.
Three weeks later the magician was in the Badgely family’s den, clad in his top hat, cape, and faded tuxedo, waving his stick wand and performing amateur slight-of-hand tricks – pulling a never-ending handkerchief out of his breast pocket, linking and unlinking chrome rings, extracting shiny coins from tiny ears. Each little face with a juice-stained upper lip focused on the man.
The parents drank and picked at the food. They were glad the children were occupied. One of the women joked about a babysitting service that hired out magicians.
The magician called for Raymond Badgely Jr. to join him for the finale as the magician’s assistant. One of the men suggested they all make their way into the den. The magician held out his wand and waved it theatrically. Raymond Jr. slipped out of the room unnoticed.
“Where did my little assistant run off to?” the magician said, scanning the room for the young boy.
Raymond Badgely Jr. emerged from the hallway coming from Raymond Sr. and Marie’s bedroom. He quietly stepped to the magician, holding in his hands a rubbery black object.
“I have a wand too,” Raymond Jr. said, waving the slender shaft as the magician had waved his wand. Thick rubber veins pumped out from the body of the object. It looked comically large in Raymond Jr.’s tiny hands. “And look at this,” Raymond Jr. said as he thumbed the switch on the base of the object, causing the veins to pulse and pump as the slick member quivered.
One of the men started to laugh and he spewed beer foam out of his mouth when his wife jabbed in him the ribs with her elbow. The magician could not take his eyes off of what Raymond Jr. held. The black shaft continued to move. The children took to laughter. Their parents were wordless. Each pair of eyes rolled to Marie Badgely. She looked at her guests and said with complete conviction: “That’s not mine.”
Marie Badgely clenched her jaw as she turned to her husband. Raymond Sr.’s face flushed red. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets as his eyes shot to the ground.
Marie Badgely’s mouth dropped ajar. Unable to find words, she shifted her weight from one foot to the other until finally: “Raymond?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zachary S. Tompkins has a BA in English from Louisiana Tech University. He lives and writes in New Orleans.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, September 28th, 2010.