The Magic Hobo


Image

I was lying in Hyde Park at midnight on a Saturday, counting the stars.  I was the only person in the area, and I was shocked at the lack of stars.  It must be because I was in the middle of London, and the city lights blocked them out.  I missed the view from the beach back in Florida, a black sky painted with burning white spots over a dark blue sea.  I was shocked yet again when a noise like the snapping of a twig caught my attention, and a homeless person was standing directly in front of me.

He wore a long, brown overcoat, soiled and filthy.  Beneath that he wore an menagerie of clothing that he had crudely sewn into a massive parka of sorts.  A blue polo shirt made up part of a sleeve, three t-shirts and a tank top made up the front, and two sweater vests made up a sleeve on the other side.  Instead of pants he wore a bizarre  kilt made out of bed linens and towels, that reached down to his shabby leather boots, which seemed to be made from two boots each.  He wore a grubby, faded and torn top hat on his head.

He was seven feet if he was an inch, and he had an untamed mane of hair that I suppose constituted for a beard, that reached well down past his waist and covered the majority of his face, so that all you could really make out were two beady eyes and a large, round nose.  There were… things in his beard, that might have once been small animals or food, but that had now been subsumed into the ungainly collective of hair.  His stench was unbearable, like a trashcan full of feces and rotting squirrels.

He asked me if I would like to see a Magic Trick.

Now, when a homeless man looms over you, blocking the starlight in Hyde Park with his bulk, and asks you if you would like to see a Magic Trick, it’s most likely not the sort of trick you would wish to see, but rather something truly horrible and scarring, so I of course said no.

He showed me one anyway.

He clapped his hands together, his knit, fingerless gloves making a dry, dusty crack. He pulled his hands apart slightly, and a brilliant yellow light surrounded us.  He looked up at me and gave me a knowing smile, and it was the first time I was able to tell that he had a mouth.  His gold teeth glittered in the light like aztec gold.  He pulled his hands the rest of the way, and as he drew them apart, a rainbow formed in between them.  He swung his arms in a big arc, like he were throwing paint to the sky, and created a rainbow as big as his wingspan.  It shimmered in a fragile way that reminded me of an especially thin sculpture of blown glass.

I was awestruck.  I reached out to touch it, but with a wave of his hand the rainbow disappeared.  Sparkles and stardust rained down on my face, but disappeared like snow flakes on warm day upon contact with my body.  He bowed, and I applauded.  It took me a moment to realize that the applause seemed oddly stereo, and I looked around and discovered that a pair of rabbits were sitting on either side of me and applauding as well.  The hobo bowed again and held up his hands for silence.  We obeyed.

He asked if I’d like to see another.

I said sure.

He rubbed his hands together excitedly and then presented me his shirt cuffs.  He pulled back his sleeves to demonstrate that there was indeed nothing up them.  There wasn’t anything there, but the rabbits got up to inspect his sleeves more closely anyway.  They’re untrusting creatures.

He reached up into his sleeve and began to pull out many lightly colored squares of cloth, tied together in a long line.  He began to pace around us, laying down cloth in a large circle, one line adjacent to the next, so that each new rotation had a greater circumference than the last.  He must have pulled out a full mile of cloth, until the length finally ended with his undershirt and underwear, an almost obligatory occurrence for any “pulling cloth out of my sleeves trick”, and we were surrounded by a gigantic spiral of color, far more than any one man could fit up his sleeve, even a man of his great size.

He bowed again, and we applauded ecstatically.  The audience was now positively packed with creatures of the park: squirrels and rabbits, snakes and beetles, sparrows and pigeons.  Some of the wiser ones had brought snacks like peanuts and popcorn to munch on during the show.  They joked and laughed with one another, having a jolly time.  I eyed them enviously.

He asked us if we would like to see another Magic Trick.  We roared in approval, stood up and screamed in approval, beat our chests and slobbered for more.  He smiled widely.

The homeless man, who I was now beginning to think wasn’t your run of the mill hobo, raised his hand yet again for silence.  He stood there, with his head down, humming to himself, like in meditation, at first quietly, and then louder and louder, until he was positively shrieking.  His arms, which at first were held at the center of his chest in prayer, rose with his pitch, until his body was forming a cross.

It was then we noticed he was levitating 13 feet in the air.  The crowd was dumbstruck, silent.

And then we applauded.

We applauded like we had been struck blind at birth and this homeless conjuror had restored our sight.  We applauded like it was the end of the world, and it’s entire history was on stage, taking a bow.  We applauded like this, and only this, was the only thing ever worth applauding for.

I hollered for more.

He was suddenly on the ground.  There was no transition.  The sound of the applause had changed, too.  I looked around.  There was no one else there, no squirrels or rabbits, snakes or beetles, sparrows or pigeons.

Just him and me.

He stalked towards me, breathing heavily through his mouth.  He got very close, his face mere centimeters from mine. I could almost taste the rancid smell of old Sainsbury’s apple cider creeping out of his mouth.  He smiled, and I could see the sores on his gums, and the rot in his teeth that had once been gold.

He asked me if I would like to see the Last Trick, and he smiled like a crocodile.  I only wept and nodded.

He backed up a few feet and stood by himself for a moment.  He clapped his hands, one last time, and changed.

The change was instantaneous.  What was once a ratty old hobo was now a beautiful, young woman.  She wore bright neon spandex leggings, a zebra print, loose fitting shirt, and large hoop earrings.  She seemed to have been taken straight from the 1980’s.

She smiled sweetly, and kind of sadly, like she pitied me.

“At last.” She said.  Something was strange.  Despite sitting down, I was almost at eye level with her.  I shifted around, and my movement made a strange rustling sound.  A disturbing sound.  A sudden thought, a terrible thought, crept into my mind, and my face contorted with dread.  My heart beat harder and harder, faster and faster as I lifted my hands to my face, and saw the ratty, fingerless gloves.  I clapped them together and they made a dry, dusty sound.  I reached for the top of my head, and found a small, grubby top hat.  I felt my long scraggly beard, and the filth up my sleeves.

I was he.

“Quite a trick.” She said, adjusting her makeup as she looked into a mirror she was holding.  “I hoped you paid attention.  You really should have paid attention.”  She snapped the mirror shut and returned it to her purse.  “I would say I’m sorry, but he wasn’t.  He never is.”

And with that she walked out of my life, leaving me alone, at midnight in Hyde Park on a Saturday.  I wondered if it had to be Saturday at midnight for the trick to work, but I realized I had time to figure it out.  I had all the time in the world.  I fell back onto the grass and looked up at the sky.  My god, it was full, full of stars.

Advertisements
Next Post
Leave a comment

33 Comments

  1. arjun bagga

     /  March 2, 2013

    Smooth pulp!

    Reply
  2. lisabrock

     /  March 2, 2013

    wow! really good! (a few misspellings, tho).

    Reply
  3. My word – I loved this – a very complete fairie tale – filled with wonder and fear! K

    Reply
    • Why thank you. I have just bought neil gaiman’s smoke and mirrors, which inspired me, which I would highly recommend to anyone.

      Reply
    • Thanks so much. I’m glad someone enjoyed it as much as I did writing it, and researching it! Though my research was pretty much only renting Barclay’s bikes and riding around the park for 2 hours.

      Reply
  4. Nice story! And thanks for liking my post on http://www.malaphors.com.

    Reply
  5. Great twisty at the end – I will avoid Sainsbury’s cider from now on

    Reply
  6. Yup, enjoyed that, good story! 🙂

    Reply
  7. Thank you for stopping by my blog – and for this very English story ; )

    Reply
  8. How enchanting! Great story!

    Reply
  9. I have to be honest – I began by skimming, but the description of the hobo slammed on my emergency brakes and insisted that I read properly.
    I am sooo glad I did. I was entranced. Great ‘smoke and mirrors’ story. Was there the teeniest hint of ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ in there?

    Reply
    • I just bought smoke and mirrors and was inspired by the “troll bridge” story. I havent read the kiss one yet, but it’s fantastic that you picked up on the Smoke and mirrors tone. thanks for stopping and reading. I TL;DR a lot of things too, I’m afraid, and am probably worse off for it.

      Reply
  10. What a nice start to the day reading this story! 🙂

    Reply
  11. This is a wonderful story! You had me breathless by the end. Very entertaining.

    Reply
  12. pure magic

    Reply
  13. Oh. Oh. Loved this.

    Reply
  14. Mr Gaiman does have that effect, doesn’t he? Fairy Tales are such old standards, it is not easy breathing life into them any more.
    On my Way…

    Reply
  15. Thank you for liking my post :)What do you love to write the most? What are your dreams? 🙂

    Reply
  16. beautiful story! wow

    Reply
  17. WoW! I was mesmerized! Fantastic! Looking forward to reading more. BTW, thanks for checking out my space. Appreciate the like!

    Reply
  18. That was brilliant! I never saw it coming.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: