Altan the Magician
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Once I got a job working after school in Altan’s Magic Shop. I walked over after classes to apply one afternoon, just as Altan was returning to the store. He was tall and dark and wore a black suit with a top hat and cape. His eyes glowed like live coals. He unlocked the front door without a key, using some sort of open sesame ritual. Inside he took off his hat and made it sail across the shop and fall right onto the top peg of a standing rack. He took off his cape, swirled it over his head, and it came to rest right below the hat on the same rack. I was so impressed I burst into applause, though I wasn’t sure if Altan was performing or not. He hired me even though I knew nothing about legerdemain.

I soon realized that the magician wanted to subject me to sadistic occult experiments. My girlfriend, Julie, came to visit me on my first day of work. We stood on opposite sides of a counter that contained a glass display case. On exhibit beneath our elbows were trick handcuffs, wax limbs, juggling pins, top hats with wands, and other magician’s necessities. As Julie leaned over the counter toward me, Altan snuck up beside me, reached out with his fingers, and snap! lifted off my nose.

  
 
“Oh!” cried Julie. “Your nose is gone!”

“You’re kidding,” I said, as Altan disappeared, chuckling back into his tiny office at the rear of the store. But it was true. I felt with my hand where there was now a flat spot in the center of my face. The wall behind me held a framed photo of Altan pulling a dove out of his breast pocket, and I turned and tried to see my reflection in the glass. What I saw was a blank spot where my nose should be. “OK, Altan,” I said in the direction of his closed door. “Very funny. Now how about giving me my nose back?”

Altan made me suffer another minute or two, then the door to his office opened and he stepped out. He paused when he arrived at the counter, still some few feet from me, leaned slightly forward, and a jet of water shot out from his boutonniere and caught me right in the face.

“Oh!” Julie cried in delight as I wiped my face on my sleeve.

“Very funny, Altan,” I said. “Really a howl.” With a sort of apologetic shrug he now came up to me, reached out and stuck my nose back on my face, pop!

“Your nose is back!” cried Julie.

“About time,” I said, feeling with my fingers that it was really there. It was. “Thanks, Altan,” I added meekly.

Altan offered to shake, and I reached out and took his hand. Then with a smile Altan lifted away my entire arm, leaving my shirtsleeve hanging there empty.

“Oh my!” cried Julie, seeing Altan swing my bare arm around by the hand as if it was one of the wax ones in his case.

“Just magnificent, Altan,” I said. “Simply stupendous.” For a minute Altan waved my arm around like a boomerang he was about to throw and then, smiling like a clown, brought it back over to me. He slid it in my dangling sleeve and with a click, it reattached itself and was my old arm again.

“Fantastic!” cried Julie as I nodded my head mutely and flexed the arm. But Altan wasn’t finished. Now he reached out and extracted 30 feet of colored, knotted scarves from my ear. “Wow!” said Julie, completely spellbound. If Altan was playing to her, and I began to think he was, she loved it, the cad.

“What next?” I said aloud, shaking my head at his latest cornball exhibition. But the Altan show still wasn’t over. Now he took up a wand and waved it, so that I levitated off the floor. As Julie held her breath and I tried to figure what was happening to me, I came to rest floating on my back directly over the counter.

“All right, Altan,” I said. “Really outstanding. Now how about setting me back down?” But first he held up a hoop and passed it from my head to my feet to show that no wires supported me. Then, as Julie clapped her hands, he made me descend. I thought I was going to come to rest on top of the counter, but I ended up under the counter, right inside the glass case, along with the magical paraphernalia. After I settled in there, Altan took a short bow and again retreated to his office, closing the door.

“See if you can get me out,” I called to Julie through the glass, finding the rear panel shut tight. She came around to the back and couldn’t budge it either. While she struggled, I picked up a book on display there, Making Magic with Altan, and tried to see if there was something in it about getting out of locked display cases. If there was, I didn’t find it.

Finally, as I contemplated smashing my way out with a juggling pin, Julie called out, “Mr. Altan, could you come help us, please?” After a minute or two the office door finally opened and Altan appeared at the case. While I was drumming my fingers idly on a ventriloquist’s dummy, Altan did a little slight of hand at the panel, and it slid right open.

“Just super,” I said, crawling to freedom. I felt like slugging the guy.

Then Altan slapped his hands together to show it was time to get working. I had to unload several boxes containing small bags of plastic vomit and dog dirt, put price tags on them, and place them on a shelf. Julie helped me, and together we had a load of fun. It turned out that, although Altan humiliated me on a daily basis, I liked the job a lot.

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