Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Magician's Assistant

variousgeraultDad was born with a camera in one hand and a book of practical jokes in the other. His favorite trick(or maybe mine) involved his brother and the family outhouse. It seems Uncle Frank, Dad's younger brother, was constantly waking Dad up in the middle of the night to accompany him to the outhouse. Dad took his job as older brother seriously. So seriously that when he happened upon the lifeless body of a snake in his mother's garden, the well oiled machinery of Dad's mind sprang into action.

That night Uncle Frank indulged in his routine middle of the night outhouse run, waking up older brother to accompany him with a flashlight. Dad was prepared. The lifeless body of the snake found earlier in the day had been carefully positioned in the place calculated to bring the most terror and consternation upon his younger brother. Dad waited patiently until Uncle Frank was "nice and comfortable" and then nonchalantly aimed the beam of the flashlight in the snake's direction. Much to Dad's delight, and that of his co-conspirator mother watching silently by the back door, Uncle Frank jumped up and hit the outhouse door at least five times before getting it open.

It was, I suppose, very natural, then, for a young practical joker to find meager fame and fortune as an amateur magician. Professor Hocum did it all, and he did it aided by a special proprietary ingredient called "woofle dust".


A very popular Easter custom back in that day was the gifting of baby chicks, ducklings or bunny rabbits to young children. For that reason, at five years old, I found myself the very proud and nurturing owner of one small, white, New Zealand rabbit. Little did I know that the bunny's real intended use was as a prop for Professor Hocum.

Years of therapy have proved unsuccessful in erasing that horrible day from my still quivering mind. I was happily watching my Daddy attired in a white jacketed tuxedo with red cummerbund as he entertained a large crowd of folks in the community room of a downtown department store. Everything went well with the card tricks, the fan into a bouquet of flowers trick, etc. But the scene quicky changed. All of a sudden, there on the stage was my Daddy and my bunny. Professor Hocum took the bunny and placed it in some sort of container. (Selective amnesia has been kind in shielding me from many details of that agonizing moment.) With a flourish of his magician's wand and a sprinkle of woofle dust, my dearly beloved rabbit disappeared.

I panicked. I cried. I screamed, "where is my bunny?" How was my five year old little brain to know that Professor Hocum was well intended, that my bunny would be promptly returned from the nether world to which it had vanished? As Professor Hocum(AKA Dad) liked to tell it, The crowd laughed uproariously. They thought it was part of "the act".

I failed to see the humor in the situation. To this day I have a fear of being sprinkled with woofle dust and an aversion to men's formal attire.

I suppose I should be grateful a snake wasn't involved.