Ken Muller of Tennessee was the winner of the Sixth Annual Shalom Blog Magic Contest. The contest asked participants to talk about two of the most memorable magic moments they had ever experienced. With his permission, I am re-printing one of his stories:
Fifty-two years later I observed an effect where “situation” was more important to the magic than the simple effect and fumbled performance. My daily walks with my 93- year-old Dad were magical enough, and the interaction with neighbors and strangers always a bit astonishing. This event was “more than” in several ways. Here it is also offered in story form:
Two strange ladies live down the road–sisters, they say, but you couldn’t tell by looking at them. Katie is petite, always impeccably dressed with hair, makeup, and nails to match. Lynn is large, clumsy, prefers sweats and cut-offs, and might have combed her hair in another life. She always lumbers out to the sidewalk when Dad and I happen past. She haltingly guides Dad back to sit with Katie, using gestures more than speech as her words never come out right. Then she has me help with some ‘fix-it’ project around the place. Lynn is afraid of ladders and paint and lots of things. The modern term is “developmentally delayed,” but I’ll bet she has been called a lot worse names. She could never live alone and is lucky to have Katie.
Now, this Ms. Katie speaks a couple of languages and chats with Dad about world travels and treats his advancing senility with respect. She gives him time to answer questions and doesn’t care if they are for a different question. He flirts a bit and she dimples and hands him another cookie. You might think that chatting with Lynn all day isn’t very eventful and Dad, even past ninety, is just an improvement. That’s what I thought at first.
Truth is that Lynn won’t leave Katie alone with someone she doesn’t trust and stared into Dad’s eyes real hard when we first met. Mine too. Somehow she knows that even in his younger days Dad would not have been bothered by the wheelchair and missing hand and facial scars. Katie would be in a nursing home without Lynn to bathe and dress and feed and clean. One sister is so physically disabled from a car crash she cannot live alone despite being so bright and aware. The other sister is too mentally disabled to pay the phone bill, but can work all day without resting. Alone each is helpless. Together they make one hell of a fine woman.
Then one day Lynn had me come inside too. Katy asked Dad if he would like to see a magic trick the two of them had been practicing. Lynn was obviously excited with eyes brighter than usual. She clenched her hands in front, but her feet wanted to dance. They knew I was a magician as I had performed an effect for them in the past, but this was a special treat for Dad. I moved his chair back from the table to give the girls some performance room and stood well back in the shadows. Lynn gave Dad a wooden cup to hold and reached for Katie’s almost useless right hand. This she cradled on her own right palm that was almost twice the size. Then Katie closed her hand into a fist using Lynn’s palm for support. Lynn reached into Dad’s cup and pulled out a yellow handkerchief, waved it in the air and began stuffing it into the top of Katie’s hand. None of this was graceful or flowing, but she got the job done. Katie made little cooing sounds as the silk went in. Next a red handkerchief was pulled from the cup and the process repeated. With both silks now hidden in Katie’s hand, Lynn began some slow but erratic swirls with her free left hand accompanied by strange sounds that may have been a chant. Katie’s hand gradually turned upwards to allow the compressed silks to unfold and grow upwards. But, it was one large silk with red and yellow stripes! It eventually hung down from all around Katie’s hand as Lynn removed her supporting hand and stood proudly with her arms folded. Katie indicated that Dad should take the silk from her empty hand now resting on the table. It was a magic duet that neither could have done alone.
Dad laughed and pushed the silk partially back into the cup and placed it on the table. Then he, in turn, kissed Katie’s hand and then Lynn’s, bowing to each like a courtier. As we left Dad whispered to me, “Better’n you on that one. I’ll call them Katilynn from now on.”