The Magician's Favor

"Courtney!" yelled Father. Why did he have to be here now? I was just getting ready to go to bed like he told me. My bedroom door swung wide open like his arms when he backhanded me.

"I thought I told you to get me some matches! Well, where are they?!"

"I… I thought I got them…"

"You worthless trash," he mumbled. He walked towards my bed and flung the sheets off. I crawled off the bed to get away from him. I knew there was no escaping him. Unless…

"I'll go right now! I'll get it right now!"

"They're probably closed by now!"

"I… I'll go check!" I was desperate at the time to get away from him. I didn't want to be near him. My cheek was already swollen from the last time he hit me. If he does it again, I'll have a whole hill on my valley of a cheek. He was still following me when I was trying to get dressed out of my pajamas. I didn't like the way he would look at me when I changed. I know it's normal for my parents to be able to see me naked, since they're my parents, but the way he looks at me… just made me feel uncomfortable. I never felt that way when mother helped me changed… Mother… why did you have to leave me so soon?

"Hurry up!" Father yelled. I was trying to. It's not like I want to be near you. I finally changed and father still followed me out the door. I always liked going outside. The ambience of the city streets would drown out the noise of his screams. Yet, I still heard him when I walked out.

"Be back by 10 or you'll be in trouble!" he said. I looked above. The clock tower read 9:45. 15 minutes of peace. I always liked to hop from brick to brick diagonally on the street in order to go wherever I needed to. My feet were tiny enough to just barely fit onto the brick. I only had 15 minutes of fun, so I had to find something to do. The store was closed at 10, so I lucked out on that. The matches were still hard to find. I looked through every section and I could not find it. So I decided to ask the guy up front if they had any. I never did like to talk much. Every time I say anything, father would get angry, so I did my best to not talk. But in this case, Father would be mad if I didn't ask. I go up front to ask, sucking in a breath filled with smoke of the pipes of fellow customers. The matches were right up front, where I didn't go. Ironically, the one place I didn't want to go. I didn't know whether I was to be dumbstruck or joyful. I didn't need to talk, but I felt stupid.

I hand him the matches, he tells me they're 75 cents. Then I realized I forgot to bring change. Father would kill me if I went back there to go for money and I probably wouldn't have enough time to go back once I have the change. I didn't know what to do. I started looking at the ground in hopes that someone dropped some change around the register. The cashier was looking at me oddly as I was scavenging the ground. Then he looked up and smiled. What was he smiling for? I turned around and there he was.

"Ah, the Great Standini!"

My hero has arrived. He looked so grand with that cape. His moustache curled up into a circle at both ends. He smiled with his perfectly white teeth showing. He took off his top hat an gave the cashier a little bow.

"How may I help you?" the cashier asked. The magician pulled out 75 cents from his pocket inside his coat and gave it to him. It was a miracle.

"Here you go," said The Great Standini. I had no idea what to say. He kneeled down to give me the matches and I took them.

"Aren't you a little young to be playing with matches?"

"They're for Father," I replied. The magician turned his head and squinted his left eye for a second.

"What is your name, little girl?"

I was still in awe that a man as famous as him would ask me that.

"C…Courtney," I barely managed to mutter out.

"What are you doing out here at this time of night?"

"I c-came here t-to get matches for Father."

Even though he was stunned about Father making me go out at this time of night to fetch some matches, his face never changed expressions. He always had a short grin that made me feel… comfortable… for once. And I knew I wasn't supposed to talk to strangers, but it just felt good to do so. He looked over to my right side.

"What happened here?" he said as he pointed at my swollen cheek. I didn't know how to respond. Father would kill me if I told anyone what he was doing.

"Did your father do that to you?" he quietly said. I still don't know what made me had the courage to do so, but I nodded my head. Maybe it was because Father wasn't there at the time or that I felt like he could save me. He stood up and gave me his hand.

"Do you want me to walk with you?" I didn't really want to go with a stranger, but I knew the man, as did everyone else, and I felt a lot safer with him than Father. I nodded my head again and held his hand. I smiled for the first time in years We walked down the street together, hand to hand. I was still doing my little brick by brick walking and he still grinned.

I saw the front door and depression struck. I didn't want these 15 minutes of fun to end, when it really seemed like 30 minutes. He kneeled down again to ask me the question that changed my life…

"Do you love your father?" The Great Standini asked. I was young at the time and I didn't know how to lie, so I shook my head "no". He pulled out a quarter from his coat pocket and held it with his thumb and index finger.

"What if I told you could make him…" with a quick gesture of his fingers, the quarter was gone.

"Disappear?"

I was amazed. Where did that quarter go? But as for the question, as much as Father mistreated me and hurt me, he was the only parent I had.

"I wouldn't be happy," I answered.

"Because you wouldn't have a father right?" he replied. It's like he could read my mind.

"Fair enough. I can make him come back." He snapped his fingers, and there it was, back in his two fingers. He opened his palm to me.

"Open your hand please." I did so.

"Catch." He flipped the coin and I caught it with my open hand. He kneeled down and put his hands around mine.

"What if I could make your father never hurt you and always love you?" I was looking at my hands but now I was looking at him eye to eye.

"What if I could make your father better?"

"I would be so happy," I said, smiling.

"Well then, all you need to do is come to my show." He pulled out a playing card and handed it to me. It read "The Great Standini! The Eighth wonder of the world here on June 6 at the Mainstage theater!" Today was June 5th, so…

"It's tomorrow over by that building," he said pointing at the destination.

"I hope to see you there!" he said. He turned around, with his cape flailing. The silhouette with the top hat disappeared into the night as I expected from a magician.

"COURTNEY!" Father yelled. I jumped a little from his voice.

"You're late!" I looked at the clock tower. It read 10:15. I guess it really was 30 minutes of fun.

"I'm sorry," I said. Father slapped me anyway. At least he got my other cheek.

"I told you to get here by 10!"

I got your match-"

He took the matches out of my hand and the card.

"What the devil is this?"

"It's the Great Standini!" I said happily.

"He told me we should go to his show tomorrow!"

"It says it's $1 a person. I've got enough for myself, but I ain't paying for you. Besides, all you'd do is ask me how he did the tricks." I felt tears swarming up. I went up to his leg.

"Please Father, let me go!"

"Get off of me!" he said as he backhanded me at the bad cheek. That strike really stung. I was face down on the floor when I saw it. The coin in my hand ended up being a dollar coin. The sting seemed to evaporate from excitement. When did he change coins? I was watching that quarter the whole time!

"I told you, I ain't paying for you. If you want to-"

"I can pay for myself!" I yelled at him, non-angrily.

"What? Give me that," he said yanking it out of my hand. He grumbled and cursed under his breath.

"Fine! But stay quiet when we're there! I don't want to hear an annoying brat like you screaming and crying the whole time." I didn't know what he was talking about, I've never even screamed before. I was always too scared to talk.

888

The day came, and father was still dressed in his usual white shirt with random dirt stains and brownish gray khaki's. We didn't have money for clothing so we had to stick with the same clothes and pajamas every day. I wish I could've worn something cleaner for Mr. Standini. I didn't want him looking at me like a filthy peasant (Though, I was wearing these same clothes yesterday, and he didn't seem to mind me).

We sat down and enjoyed his tricks. Standini made a girl turn into a tiger, stabbed a basket with a girl inside of it and she came out alive, and he even walked through a brick wall! I was starting to believe that he was a ghost or a wizard. And then the moment came…

"And for my last trick, I will need the help of a random audience member," the Great Standini said. Everyone was raising their hands to be his assistant. My father sat there without even a grin on his face. Standini was searching the crowd with his eyes as if looking for someone specific. I guess that's how most tricks with the audience worked. Put an assistant in normal civilian clothing and put him into the audience, waiting for him to raise his hand.

"You sir!" he said. The spotlight hit my father figuratively and literally. I was surprised it chose him even though he didn't want to be picked.

"Come on up to the stage! Everyone give a hand for him!" The audience erupted in clapping. Could it be that Father was his assistant? But he seemed too stubborn for the role. Father grumbled as he walked up the stage. He certainly didn't act like he was his assistant.

"What is your name sir?" Standini asked. Father whispered something into his ear.

"Zeek?" said Standini.

"Zach! What are you, deaf?" the crowd laughed at his anger along with Standini.

"Apparently, I am sir. Is that your daughter over there next to you?" Father looked over at me.

"Yeah, that's her," he said, as if disgusted.

"She's quite pretty for her age." I blushed. I wasn't even wearing anything pretty.

"Yeah, she can be a real pain too," there was an awkward silence in the crowd with only a few people laughing because they thought he was joking.

"Well, here's what I need you to do sir."

Standini turned around and spreaded his arms. The curtain behind him opened to reveal a most stunning contraption. There was a short box at the center of the stage that was just the right size for a man to fit in. Walls of spikes were pointing right at the box on both sides. Both sides seemed to also have holes to fit the spikes in. Standini led Father to the box.

"I need you to get into the box, sir."

"You've gotta be kiddin me," Father said. Everyone laughed.

"Don't worry, I'm a Magician. If there are any problems, I could cast away your wounds." The crowd laughed again.

"There's no way I'm getting in there."

"Would it help if you get one of my ladies to keep you comfortable afterwards?" Standini said. His beautiful blonde assistant came out with whore's clothing. Father just grinned and was scanning her body. She went to give him a handshake which Father complied. Pretty soon, Father's wrists were tied up with the rope the assistant was hiding behind her back. Father had no time to react. He seemed to be as surprised as anyone else was. Pretty soon, two more assistants came from the other side of the stage and tied his feet together and gagged him. Father was struggling to get out of the stage. Is this what you meant by making Father disappear?!

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the final trick!" he said. The assistants picked him up and put him into the box while Father still seemed to be struggling. Everyone seemed to go along with it as if it were part of the trick. Standini turned around and once again, spread his arms. As he slowly closed them, the spike walls moved slowly towards the box. I swore I heard Father banging on the walls of the box. As The Great Standini's hands clapped, the spikes went all the way into the holes. A crack was heard and the audience gasped. I stood up from my seat. I need a Father still, you can't just kill him and leave me with nothing! I don't want to be an orphan!

Standini's arms spread out again slowly and the spikes moved out. As the tip of it came out, I saw some red stains on it. Dear God, have you really done it? The spotlight shined on the box and Standini opened it. The inside was filled with a red carpet but… Father wasn't inside. The spotlight suddenly changed to the upper left corner of the back of the room and I couldn't believe my eyes. Father was standing on the balcony with his arms in the air. The crowd seemed to almost shout in hysteria. "How did he do that?" some would say. Father made his way down the stairs next to the balcony and walked towards the stage again. He gave Standini a handshake and walked back to his seat.

"Thank you for helping us, give a hand for Zach everyone!" The crowd applauded. Father sat down next to me. I was checking to see if his shirts had any holes or bloodstains. But he was completely clean, with the exception of his dirt stains.

"Father, are you alright?" I asked. He turned his head at me and did something he had never done to me.

"I'm fine, thank you."

He thanked me for something. All I did was ask if he was okay, but that was the first time he had ever thanked me for anything. He even smiled back at me, and he never does that to me.

After that, he asked me if I was ready to go, but not angrily. I told him I wanted to see Standini one more time and he said he was alright. I wondered why he was acting so nice all of a sudden. Did Standini really make him "better" with magic? Did he have some sort of near death experience that made him change all of a sudden? Before I could come up, I heard some people talking nearby.

"Yeah, that had to be a second person. There's no way that someone as disgruntled as that drunken pervert would suddenly turn into a theatrical phenom. It all seemed so planned," said one guy.

"I don't think so, I mean he had a daughter, and she didn't seem like she knew what was going on," said a girl.

"That's probably part of the act. They have to seem surprised."

"But she looked like she was only 8 years old. How could she be able know about this? I mean, if I knew my Father was a magician's assistant, my life would be ruined. They started to laugh. I didn't know what they meant. A second person? I had no idea what they were talking about at the time, not knowing anything about magicians and the tricks they pull. But I knew Father was not an assistant.

I found Standini. He was talking to a bunch of elderly people.

"Standini!" I yelled. He turned around and smiled.

"Courtney!"

I ran up to him and hugged him, and he hugged me back. I couldn't thank him enough.

"You did it!" I said. "You made my Father better!"

"I did it to make you happy," he said. That made me very happy. It was the greatest favor anyone had ever done for me.

"How did you do it?" I asked.

"Uh-uh. I can't tell you that. Or it would be a crime," he said. I had no idea at the time how literal that statement was.

"Thank you so much…" I said.

"You're welcome." He said.

"Alright, I have to go now. Father's waiting for me." I said.

"Okay. Be good, Courtney!"

I ran off and grabbed my Father's hand. We were walking down the street hand to hand, just like Standini and I were the other day. Once again, it felt comfortable, it felt good, it felt right. Everything was just… right.

888

As Father and I were walking the next day to the market, I stumbled upon a newspaper boy. What he said stunned me.

"Dead body found in Mainstage Theater basement! Great Standini is wanted for murder! Read all about it!"

I couldn't believe it, so I had to pay 75 cents that I brought with me to read it. They found bloodstains inside the box he was in and they later found one of the female assistants throwing away the body into the river. Standini wasn't found. They believe he ran to a different country. It was shocking to say the least. Later, I heard more people talking. Some were mentioning how Standini was a monster, or a terrible magician and/or person. They couldn't believe that someone as famous could suddenly turn so infamous. One person mentioned that it was the worst trick ever performed. I can vouch for that. It may have been the worst trick he had ever performed…

"You ready Courtney?" "Father" asked.

"Yes," I said.

… But it was the greatest favor of all time. I grabbed my "Father's" hand and I skipped along the brick road.