The Secret of Greatness
The day of July 17th 1908, was blazing, sweltering and glowing with warmth. You could basically tell the humidity was more than 90 percent and the barometer was melting. The sun was literally beating down like a giant, hot, red fireball on pedestrians that began to gather in the square, between the post office and the local shop at around 12 o’clock. It was a small village with only about 200 people, so it was hard not to notice something happening as people were shouting, rushing and fighting with each other for a better view of the old town.
What’s happening? What all of those people are doing there? I thought to myself.
Just leading by my curiosity I decided to go and find it out. It wasn’t surprising seeing women holding umbrellas to protect them from sun, however some of them were fanning themselves like crazy just not to get burned.
“It’s hot, but not that much. Even if it is, why wouldn’t they stay at home? It’s Sunday day-off, isn’t it?” I asked myself out loudly forgetting that I was not alone.
“Didn’t you hear people talking about today’s show? Some guy called the Great Houdini is coming!” A random grandma inquired with the excitement…
“Who? The Great Houdini?” I asked again to make sure I heard it fine.
“Yeah, some guy called the Great Houdini… Have you ever hear of him?” She asked surprised.
“Dad once told me about him,” I replied. “He could escape from anything! Chains, ropes, locks, handcuffs and even prisons. He was amazing!”
“Was he a criminal?” she asked me stupidly…
“Huh, No,” I laughed. He was a performer – the greatest escape artist who ever lived,” I replied. “He performed his act all over the world. I can’t believe I am actually going to meet him.”
“What do you mean by saying ‘the greatest artist who ever lived’, is he dead now?”
“Umm, no! Never mind, didn’t mean that. I should go now, if I don’t want to miss his show” replied while leaving her puzzled after my words.
It wasn’t long before I realized how actually, I was amazed as a child when my grandfather was used to fool me with a bad ass magic trick: where he would pretend to pull a coin out of my ear. Not sure how realistic that was, but I liked it. From that time, whenever I would meet my grandfather, I would keep asking him to do it again and again and again, with the hope that sooner or later he will mess it up.
Whatsoever, ever since I was a little kid Harry Houdini would be one of my biggest heroes. I simply would not have dared to miss his show. I hurried to a window besides the chalkboard. While being quite surprised that there was no line:
“Excuse me!” I said, trying to get the attention of the ticket seller. She was talking to a man inside the office.
“You’re not listening to me, Evelyn!” the man shouted. “It is the end of the world! I tell you, they’ll destroy the theater!
“Excuse me!” I said again in a louder voice. “I would like to get a ticket —”
“They will start a riot! They will destroy the theater man shouted. “Mercy! Mercy! Mercy my heart!” He grabbed his chest and nearly fell down.
“Should I get some help? I asked. Evelyn looked at me and shook her head.
“No, Mr. John will be fine,” she said. She rolled her eyes.
“Yes! Get help! Get help, please!” Mr. John shouted while whipping his brows with a handkerchief. “Find me a new opening act!”
“A what?” I asked.
“The Marvelous Bambini ran away!” said Mr. John. “I caught him stealing from the box office!”
“That sounds terrible,” I replied.
“You have no idea, kiddo!” cried Mr. John. “He was supposed to be n opening act for the Great Houdini.” He wiped his sweaty face again. “The people in the crowd will go crazy if the curtain is late! I should have gone into the bar business instead of show business!”
I kind of felt sorry for the man, but I didn’t really care about the Marvelous Bambini. I just wanted to get a ticket for the Great Houdini.
“Uh… excuse me,” I said to Mr. John. “I would like to buy a ticket for the big show – the one with the Great Houdini.”
“Sorry, kid, didn’t you read that?” Mr. John pointed to a sign on the window. The sign read; “SOLD OUT”.
“Oh, no, I didn’t see that,” I replied. “You are…sold out?” I asked not believing”
“Yes!” yelled Mr. John. “We are sold out an hour ago! S-O-L-D O-U-T! So it’s a theater with no opening act! Now go away, please! We got problems! Big problems!” and with that, Mr. John slammed the box office window shut.
“Sold out, sold out, they sold out an hour ago…” I kept repeating to myself. “Not believing in what I heard. “How can I meet Houdini now and learn his secret of greatness?” I pulled up my pants and bit my lip as I stared at the window of the box office. I just simply couldn’t get over the frustration.
“I – I just can’t believe it,” I said.
“Maybe this is the secret of greatness: Don’t waste your time listening to some random granny! Buy your tickets ahead of time!”
After spending a few minutes thinking about what else I can do, I headed down the village hoping to forget my bad luck with the tickets and the actual idea that I ever had a chance to meet the Great Houdini.
Like every Sunday afternoon, all of the stores were spilled into the streets, with the tables placed in front of their shops teenaged boys and young women were standing among their products on top of the tables, hovering high above the crowd and promoting their goods at the top of their lungs.
“Attention, attention everyone! Try the world’s greatest orange juice. Try the world’s greatest ice cream! Try the world’s greatest hamburgers!”
Everything sounded just great not mentioning that the air itself smelled of salt water, roasting nuts and even popcorn. Being so distracted by what was happening around I didn’t even notice a man grabbing my hand.
“Come inside!” he yelled pulling me towards the entrance of the shop. He pushed me in and locked the door behind us. “Lukas!” he called my name confused.
“Are you ready?” asked me unsurely.
“What? Ready for what? Who are you? What are you even talking about?”
“Oh, forgive me. Let me introduce myself. My name is Ablutophobia, but you can call me the Wizard Oz. I am the kind of guy that makes sure that harmony and peace will always stay in people’s hearts within the boundaries of this small village.”
“Well, why I should I care about it. What do you want from me anyways?”
“I can see that you are quite curious and impatient… So without any further to do, let me ask you whether you would still be interested to see the Great Houdini’s show?”
“Hmm, I guess so… I would really love to, but the tickets for the show are already sold out.”
“I know that myself, you don’t have to mention it.” He replied. “As you already might have found out Mr. John’s theater will be in a huge trouble if he doesn’t find a new opening act to replace the Marvelous Bambini.”
“Perhaps it will, but what do you actually mean by that?” I inquired while not being sure.
“I want you to go onstage in place of the Marvelous Bambini.”
“What? Are you out of your mind?” I asked shocked.
“Think about it twice before saying no! It’s a great plan! That way, you will get a chance to meet Houdini backstage! You will be a fellow performer!” said the Wizard Oz. “Plus you’ll be helping out Mr. John and his theater. And not to mention it will be incredibly fun!”
“That plan is ridiculous,” I replied with hesitation. “No one is going to let me go onstage and do some crappy magic show. Not mentioning that I am not even a magician, I don’t even know any other trick besides the one that my grandfather taught me a quite a while ago.”
“You are so wrong! I bet I can make it happen,” Wizard Oz replied. “All you have to do is take this old bottle with the magic mist inside of it.” He handed me a bottle that had an old label with something written on it.
“Just think of any wish and take a deep breath of the magical mist, one hour will give the power to be free from anything including me. Do not hesitate and try not to underestimate the feeling of this magical meaning. This might cause a little bit of strangeness, but don’t forget that it’s the only way to witness greatness.”
Not being sure if I understood the meaning of the label, I looked back at Wizard Oz with the intention to ask one more question. But to my surprise he was not there, he was gone or in other words just magically disappeared. I felt confused and lost, but at the same time excited. Excited to try out this magical mist and find out whether it is really that magical. I started asking myself questions: What if this is going to work? What if I really have a chance to get onstage to perform magic and then meet Houdini backstage? Just like Wizard Oz said it should be incredibly fun.
Are You Ready?
After realizing that there is not much time left until the curtain for the show go up, I turned around and started to run back towards the theater. The sidewalk was so crowded, that I had to jump off the curb into the street and run alongside the old fashioned cars and the horse.
When I reached the theater I noticed people were still making their way inside. I squeezed through the crowd, trying not to push anyone too hard.
“Excuse me, excuse me,” I shouted. I tried to make my way past the ticket taker, but the man grabbed me: “Ticket, son?”
“I don’t have a ticket,” I replied. “I just need to get backstage fast.”
“Get away, kid,” said the ticket seller.
“Wait!” I yelled. “You don’t understand me! I am here to replace the opening act for the Great Houdini! I kept telling him. “I am here instead of the Marvelous Bambini.”
“I don’t see nothing marvelous about you!” the ticket seller replied. “Now, get away or I’ll call the cops. Next!”
I backed away from the entrance while pulling out my pocket watch. It was ten 10 minutes to three! The show is supposed to start at three-fifteen! I packed up and down the sidewalk, desperately looking for another entrance.
There must be a door somewhere that leads backstage! I thought to myself. I went down a long, narrow alley beside the theater. The alley was dark, except for the glow of light that was coming from high windows above a row of garbage cans. I hurried down the alley. A rat skittered out from behind the can.
“Holly crap!” I screamed at the top of my lungs, but kept going until I rounded to the corner. I kept going and going and going until I finally found the back entrance, but when I tried to open the door, it was locked. I banged and banged on the door, but no one answered.
The windows, I thought. I hurried back into the alley. To reach the row of windows, I had to step onto the top of a garbage can. I stood on my toes and looked through a window. I saw a hallway, but no one was there either. I carefully stepped from one garbage can to another until I reached the next window.
I looked through the glass into the Bambini’s dressing room. I saw Evelyn dressed in tuxedo. She was staring at a piece of paper. I knocked on the window.
“Evelyn! Evelyn!” I shouted desperately. When she saw me, her face lit up.
“Hey!” she yelled. She put down the paper and jumped onto a chair. She moved the plants away and then pushed the window up. Clutching the windowsill, I hoisted myself through the window. Ms. Evelyn helped me to step down onto the chair and then onto the floor.
“What are you doing here?” she cried. “If it’s about the tickets for the show, then I am really sorry for that.”
“Don’t worry about it now,” I replied excitedly. “I am here for a different reason. But what about you? What are you doing in Bambini’s room dressed in a dinner suit?” I asked surprised.
“I am glad you asked. You see, Mr. John takes show business very seriously not mentioning how passionate and dedicated he is about it. After he found out that Bambini ran away with the stolen money, he got really angry at himself. Bambini was supposed to be an opening act. And now, now, there is no opening act.”
“Well, I surely can see the problem, but still don’t really seem to get what you have to do with all of this.”
“Mr. John told me that if I want to save my job I have to come up with something to replace the Marvelous Bambini. And here I am, stuck, not knowing what to do. I guess I should get used to the idea that I will get fired anyways, so there is nothing I can do about that.” she said frightened.
“Or maybe I could help you with the magical mist and we both go onstage. What do you think?”
“Magical mist? What is that?” she inquired sarcastically.
“It’s some kind of a magical powder that I got from the Wizard Oz.”
“Who? The Wizard Oz?”
“Yeah, he said that once you make a wish and take a deep breath of the magical mist, you can become whoever you want but just for an hour.”
“What? Doesn’t that sound nonsensical to you?” she looked at me with a shortsighted face expression.
“I feel like you don’t see the benefits it can bring us. At least that’s the least that we can do right now.” I replied enthusiastically.
“Well, I guess,” she replied while grabbing the paper from the table. “Look at this,” she said handing it to me. “Probably the Marvelous Bambini left it.” Not knowing what the heck that was, we looked for few minutes at the paper together when suddenly I laughed up.
“HE, he, it looks like a list of tricks,” I said. Ms. Evelyn read:
Cards from Thin Air
“Yeah, I think there is all the props needed to perform this,” said Evelyn. “See? There are two wands, three rabbits, two doves, a pack of playing cards, and three big metal rings.”
“Yeah it’s all here…” I confirmed.
“But how should we use these props?” she asked.
“Well, I guess we gonna find it out once we you use the magic mist.”
“Oh, yeah, I bet I will!”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Now I can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen!” Evelyn shouted with excitement.
“I bet we will have a good time.”
“What are you thinking?” she asked. “Do you think that I should perform this all by myself? Or do you think that maybe we could perform together?” I stared at her for a moment, before opening my mouth.
“Let’s do it!” I said.
“Yay!” Evelyn got excited again. “We will be two awesome magicians. I promise.” She held up the bottle. “Should we use this right now? Or do you want to wait?”
“Hmm,” I thought for a minute. “Yeah. I guess we can use it now and figure everything out. But remember, the magic only works for one hour.” I looked at my watch. “It’s five after three. If we start the magic show now, we will be great stage magicians until five after four.”
“No problem,” she replied. “We go on at three-fifteen for thirty minutes. That means we will leave the stage at three-forty-five.”
There was a knock on the door. A stagehand poked his head inside, and the noise of the audience rushed into the room like a lion’s roar. I heard people stamping and whistling and shouting.
“You go on in ten minutes!” the stagehand reminded us.
“Thanks,” Evelyn replied. The door closed. I looked at Evelyn in a panic.
“Did you hear that crowd?” I asked.
“Don’t think about it,” she said. “Quick let’s use the magic!” She pulled the cork out of a bottle. “Ready?” I nodded. Evelyn held the bottle under her nose.
“We wish to be two great stage magicians!” she said and took a deep breath. “Ahhh!” Then she handed the bottle to me.
I closed my eyes and inhaled the mist. It smelled of dewy grass, sparkling lake water, and wild animals. I stuck the cork back into the bottle and put the bottle into the pocket of my pants. I gave Evelyn a big smile, letting her know how good it was. I felt like a new person. The crowd wasn’t scary anymore. In fact I could hardly wait to get on the stage and show the crowd what I could do.
“Okay!” I said, clapping my hands. “I will better put on my costume.”
I grabbed the extra tuxedo and went behind a dressing curtain. As I was changing my clothes, I realized that everything was slightly too big. But it didn’t really bother me. Not at all. I rolled up my pants and the sleeves of my shirt and jacket, and then stepped out from behind the curtain.
“You look like a real magician!” Evelyn said.
“Of course, of course I do,” I replied, looking in the mirror and straightening my tie, “that is exactly who I am. And so are you.” I looked around the room. In the corner was a table. The top of it was covered with black velvet trimmed with gold fringe.
“Now let us prepare for our show. First we will put the rabbits and doves in the hidden compartment of that table,” I said.
“Yep,” Evelyn agreed. “No problem.”
Evelyn and I began preparing our props quietly and expertly for the show, as if we had already done hundreds of times before. I picked up the rabbit cage and set it on the table. I pressed a small trapdoor in the middle of the covered tabletop, and the secret door opened.
“Here you go, bunnies,” I said. I lifted three small rabbits out of their cage and placed them in one of the table’s hidden compartments. “See you soon.”
While I took care of the rabbits, Evelyn handled the birds. She opened a second small door on the tabletop and carefully placed the two white doves into another secret compartment.
“They look happy in there,” she said. I placed the deck of cards in the center of the table. Annie hid the two wands inside the sleeves of her tuxedo jacket. I pulled out my pocket watch from my pants.
“Eight-fifteen,” I said. Evelyn smiled.
“We have fifty minutes of magic left.” I slipped the watch into the pocket of my tuxedo jacket. Evelyn arranged the metal rings on top of the table. A knock came at the door and Mr. John looked into the room.
“Ready? Jolly Lukas? Entertaining Evelyn?” the stage manager asked. This time the roar of the crowd did not seem that scary to me. In fact, it thrilled me.
“Yes, of course Mr. John! Thank you!” I replied with a jolly laugh.
“If you don’t mind, Mr. John, please set our table at the center of the stage,” Evelyn asked.
“Max! George!” Mr. John shouted. Two stagehands immediately appeared. They picked up the table and carried it out of the dressing room. When the stage crew was gone, I and Evelyn pulled on our white gloves.
“You sure you feel okay about doing this?” Evelyn asked me again.
“Totally,” I smiled at her. I tightened my gloves and wiggled my fingers. Then I put on my top hat. “Let’s go, Evelyn,” I said, leading the way out of the room. “It’s show time!”
Time for the Show
As the orchestra played, Mr. John guided me and Ms. Evelyn through the back stage area.
“Watch out,” he said. “Like I said before it’s a very tough crowd out there tonight.”
I smiled confidently. No crowd is too tough for us, I thought. Max and George set the table with our props and the center of the stage behind the closed curtain. The stage was lit with a soft rosy light.
“Places!” called Mr. John.
Evelyn and I nodded ant took our places next to the table. We heard Mr. John speaking to the audience in front of the curtain:
“Ladies and Gentleman! Welcome to the Great Houdini show! I have a very special and wonderful surprise for you this evening. As you may know, the Bambini Brothers were scheduled to be our opening act. But instead, it will be your great good fortune to welcome a truly remarkable pair of magicians. These master magicians have performed in theaters all around the world, and tonight they are here to perform for you! Ladies and Gentleman I give you Jolly Lukas and the Entertaining Evelyn!”
A trumpet blasted, a curtain rose, and the crowd clapped and whistled as me and Annie stepped into a yellow spotlight. Looking at the audience, I acted like a seasoned performer. My heart pounded, but not with fear. It pounded with an excitement that made me want to do my best.
“Good evening, friends!” I shouted over the applause. “They call me Jolly Lukas because nothing brings me greater joy than entertaining folks like you! And they call my wonderful assistant Entertaining Evelyn because—” I held my gloved hand out towards Evelyn.
“I love to entertain you with my entertaining ability to entertain you!” Evelyn shouted. The crowd laughed…
“Do not let your first impressions to fool you!” Evelyn went on. “Jolly Lukas and I have traveled the globe to discover mysteries both ancient and modern!” I took off my top hat and turned it towards the crowd.
“I would like your attention to my hat,” I said. “As you can see, the inside is quit ordinary. But strange things happen with this hat, especially when I touch it with a wand given to us by an Arabian princess.” I looked around. “Oh, dear, I seem to have forgotten my wand.”
Evelyn stepped forward. She swept her right arm in front of her and presto! A wand appeared in her hand! I knew that when she waved her arm, she simply allowed one of her hidden wand to slip from her sleeve.
The crowd cheered.
While Evelyn was distracting everyone, I secretly put my hat upside down on the tabletop, over one of the hidden trapdoors. As I set the hat down, I pressed on the trapdoor and it flapped open.
“Thank you, Entertaining Evelyn!” I called.
Evelyn handed me the wand, and I took a few steps back and waved with the wand around the top hat. The crowd went quiet. In a deep, mysterious voice, I said, “Bamb-zoom-bam-win-doo-hay-gone! Which means, Oh, marvelous hat, what do you have for me today?”
I tapped the hat, stepped back from the table, and turned to Ms. Evelyn. “My dear, may I ask you to check my hat, please?” I said. “I have a feeling it holds a surprise.”
Evelyn slowly reached into the hat. I knew that she was secretly pushing down on the top of the hat, which also had a secret flap. A small rabbit suddenly jumped from the secret compartment, through the hat, and into Evelyn’s arms!
The orchestra played music and the audience cheered.
Two more rabbits jumped out! Each time, Evelyn caught the rabbits and pretended to be surprised. The audience laughed and clapped. Evelyn handed the rabbits to Max and George, who immediately carried them offstage. Then she took off her hat.
“Ladies and Gentleman!” she shouted. “As you can see, my hat is also empty as the one you saw before.’’ She showed the hat to the audience and carefully placed it on the table besides mine, covering the second hidden door.
“Oh, I am going to need another magic wand for the miracle to happen!” she said. This time, she swept her left hand in front of her, and presto! The second magic wand appeared in her hand. As the audience applauded, Evelyn waved her wand over the top of the hat. In a weird voice she said, “Zoom-mam-dong-doo-mey! Which means, oh, wonderful hat, amaze us again!”
I reached into the hat pushed the secret compartment and then gently lifted the dove. As the crowd clapped and cheered, I reached into the hat again and took out the second dove. I handed them to Evelyn. The birds perched on Evelyn’s magic wand while flapping their wings towards the audience. The crowd cheered and clapped even more enthusiastically.
While Evelyn distracted the audience with the birds, I secretly took the deck of cards off the table and stepped back into the shadows of a stage. I divided the deck equally and then hided the two halves of it into the palms of my hands.
Evelyn handed the birds to Max and George. Then she turned back towards the audience saying, “I believe my fellow magician has something to share with you as well!” she shouted.
“Jolly Lukas?” I took Evelyn’s place in the spotlight.
“Are there any card players in the audience?” I asked. Many guys in the audience raised their hands while laughing and teasing each other.
“Well, my friends, then I would strongly advice to you today to never play cards with a magician!” As I spoke I secretly gripped the edge of the deck in my right hand. Using my thumb, I inched the top card up until it was just behind my fingers. All the while, I kept talking to the audience.
“But sadly some folks are foolish enough to challenge me for a game. That’s why, I never leave my home without a deck, but I prefer my cards to stay invisible until I am ready to use them!” I raised my hand into the air and flipped out the card, pretending to grab it out of the air. The audience gasped.
“Of course, you can’t really play a game with just a single card!” I said while reaching into the air with my other hand. “Here is one more, and one more and one more!” I appeared to be grabbing cards out of the thin air one-by-one until finally I gathered an entire deck.
“Now, anyone wants to play a game?” I asked. The crowd cheered. Evelyn stepped into the spotlight holding three large rings.
“A long time ago, we traveled to China to learn a magical art of Chinese rings,” she said. I knew that one of the rings had a tiny gap it. Evelyn covered the gap with her thumb and index finger so no one could see it.
“These are three solid rings,” she told to the crowd while pretending that she is trying to link them together. “As you can see, there is no way on earth that anyone could link them.” I stepped forward.
“However, we were lucky to meet a Chinese magician who taught a magical song.” I waved my hands over the rings and sang, “Hong-Kong-Hong-Kong!”
Evelyn tried to connect the rings again, this time she let the solid rings to pass through the hidden gap in the other ring. Her hands moved so fast that no one could see what she was doing.
“Once again the magic song worked!” she shouted, while holding up the three connected rings. As the crowd applauded, Evelyn easily disconnected the rings and tossed them high into the air. When the rings came down, she caught them easily while letting them to slip through the tiny gap of the third ring.
Evelyn held up the connected rings again. I joined her in the spotlight. As we bowed, the audience clapped and cheered wildly.
“You have been the most outstanding audience, it was a pleasure performing for you all tonight. But now we have to leave,” I shouted.
“During the break, you can prepare your minds to be blown away, by the most amazing escape artist and magician of all times: the Great Houdini.”
Everyone in the audience cheered and clapped even with their feet. Evelyn and I bowed for the audience and then while happily smiling we ran off stage, and the curtain went down.
We Did It!
“Well, my dear little fellow,” said Evelyn, “we did it!”
“We were brilliant!” I admitted.
We pulled off the white gloves and grabbed our top hats. Max and George immediately appeared and carried away the table with the props.
“It was a good show!” they said.
“Thanks guys,” I replied while pulling of my tie.
“What time is it?” Evelyn asked.
“Three-forty-eight,” I said. “Our timing was just perfect. We even have seventeen minutes of magic left over!”
“And Houdini should be in his dressing room now, since he goes on stage at four,” said Evelyn. “While we are still a great magicians, should we try to talk to him? Maybe even show him few tricks?”
“Yes,” I said. “Let’s do it!”
We hurried of the stage. When we reached the dressing rooms, we found Mr.John outside Houdini’s door. He was walking up and down, shaking his hands with panic.
“He’s not here!” he cried. “He’s not here!”
“Who?” I asked.
“Houdini?” asked Evelyn.
“Who else?” shouted Mr. John. “He’s not there! Where the heck is he…?”
“Where is he? What happened to him?” I asked.
“Who knows?” cried Mr. John. “You think I would be asking if I would know? All I know is that this is a disaster! The crowd will demand their money back! And probably will even destroy the theater! I am dead! I am so dead! Everything is lost…” The stage door opened and the stagehand rushed in.
“No sign of him outside, boss,” he shouted.
“Ohhh, no!” cried Mr. John. “We’re dead! We’re dead!” The stagehand nodded sadly. I looked at my pocket watch, it was ten to four.
“There is still 10 minutes left,” I said. “He could still make it on time.” Mr. John raised his hands into the air as if he was praying for Houdini wherever he was.
“We need you Houdini! We need you!” he cried and then buried his head in his hands.
Oh, dear, I thought. Mr. John went nuts. But where was Houdini? I couldn’t stay calm and focused. I needed him so badly, otherwise I would never learn the secret of greatness from him.
“Listen kids, if he’s not here by nine, you will have to go back again,” Mr. John said to us.
“To go back where?” I asked.
“Onstage,” Mr. Johnson said. He looked up. “Yes!” he cried. “You said that you know hundreds of tricks! Just keep performing until he shows up…if he shows up at all. Take care of the crowd till he comes. Take care of the crowd if he doesn’t come. Just save me! Please, save me! I will pay you!”
“No, no, you don’t have to do that,” said Evelyn. “We are happy to help you.”
“Evelyn, stop!” I whispered. “Our magic time is almost up.” I looked back at Mr. John. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid we can’t go back out there.”
“You must! You must!” Mr. John kept repeating. “They love you! Go out and save my theater! Save my life! Please!”
“Whoa, take it easy,” I said, trying to calm the hysterical man. I just didn’t know what else to do.
“Don’t worry Mr. John, we will help you,” said Evelyn.
“Thank you!” cried Mr. John. Mr. John called in his crew and told them to put the rabbits and birds back in the hidden compartments of the table.
“Let’s talk,” I said to Evelyn. We stepped into the dressing room and I closed the door. “I know that you said yes only because Mr. John was losing his mind, but I don’t see how we can do this,” I said.
“Well, if we go on stage at nine we would still have like 5 minutes of magic,” Evelyn said.
“I know, but what if Houdini still doesn’t show up after those 5 minutes?”
“Maybe we could hold their attention in some other way,” said Evelyn. “The least we could do is try.”
“Hmm,” I thought for a moment. “Actually, maybe we can get away with just doing the same tricks we did before?” I said. “Now when we know how it works it shouldn’t be hard. We know how to push on the tops of the hats. We know about the hidden compartments in the table and we know about the opening in the ring.”
“Yeah…we could do it,” admitted Evelyn. “You can keep doing the card tricks, and I can keep throwing the rings around.”
Mr. John opened the door, and sounds from the audience filled up the room once again. I could hear people stamping their feet and shouting, “Hou-di-ni! Hou-di-ni!” Everything was back on stage.
“Ready to make this audience go even more wild?” asked George. I could still feel the same confidence that came from being a great magician.
“Show time!” I said. Evelyn and I left the dressing room and followed the stagehand through the backstage area. It was either now or never.
“Mr. John went out to look for Houdini,” said Max. “Take your places and I will pull up the curtain.”
Evelyn and I went back on stage and stood up next to the table. I looked at my pocket watch. I was four o’clock and there wasn’t even a single sign of Houdini. The curtain went up and the audience clapped and cheered again. It took some time for the audience to realize that it was me and Evelyn once again. After a moment of silence, some people started booing and hissing. I slowly stepped forward and laughed with my jolly laugh.
“What a terrible surprise, huh?” I shouted. “In thousands of years you couldn’t have guessed that I am the secret identity of the Great Houdini, could you?” More booing and hissing came from the crowd.
“Dear friends, I understand your disappointment,” I said. “But the world’s greatest magician is preparing himself backstage right now for the magic performance you will ever see. So if you don’t mind, please, let us entertain you for a few more minutes!” The audience went silent again, but then someone yelled, “We want Houdini!”
“Relax a little bit!” I said. “So do we!” The audience laughed. I turned back to Evelyn. “The wand please.”
Evelyn expertly dropped the wand down from her sleeve into her hand. But this time, there wasn’t much of an applause. She gave me the wand as I placed my hat over the hidden compartment on the table, then secretly pushed down the trapdoor. I waved the wand around the hat while opening my mouth to speak — but to my fear, I couldn’t think of anything to say.
While holding the wand in my hand, I turned to Evelyn, but she looked not any less confused then I was. Our hour of being great magicians did end. The magic was over.
Some people started to yell from the audience. I was so embarrassed and self-conscious. I simply couldn’t believe that I was trying to perform magic in front of all those people. It was like my darkest nightmare. Suddenly I couldn’t move or even speak.
Evelyn rushed over and reached into my hat to push the down onto the secret compartment. The rabbits jumped out – one, two, three! But this time Evelyn wasn’t able to catch even a single rabbit. The rabbits jumped on the floor and hopped around the stage.
The audience laughed at the top of their lungs and even booed. Evelyn put her hat on to the second trapdoor and pushed down the top of it. The birds flew out and started circling above the stage while I was trying to catch them.
“See? Magic doves… again,” the stagehand came out and tried to help and gather all the creatures. The audience booed. I didn’t know what to do. I grabbed a deck of cards.
“Um…there are still come card players here?” I asked. I secretly placed few cards behind my hand, but instead of cards appearing in my hand, the whole freaking deck flew into the air.
Evelyn grabbed the three silver rings, but she fumbled them as well, and they fall on to the floor. The audience laughter and booing had turned into shouting: “Hou-di-ni! Hou-di-ni!” People went wild again.
Mr. John was yelling from behind the curtains, “Different tricks! Do something new!” But I was so desperate to leave the stage. I couldn’t handle that much of an embarrassment any longer. I was done. I grabbed Evelyn by the arm.
“Let’s get out of here!’’ I said. But before I was about to leave the stage, I heard people yelling again, “Houdini!!!” Then the cheers and clapping got louder and louder.
Did Houdini finally arrive? I wondered. The audience was clapping and shouting louder than ever: “Hou-di-ni! Hou-di-ni!”
Mr. John was leading a man towards the stage. The man walked down to the footlights. He was smiling to the audience and the audience was screaming and cheering. He raised his hand to quiet them. Then motioned to me and Evelyn.
“Come here, kiddos!” he said. Evelyn and I walked towards the spotlight. He put one arm around my shoulder and the other around Evelyn’s. Then he looked back at the crowd.
“Folks, wasn’t this the worst magic performance you have ever seen? He! It was all part of the show! I asked these young friends of mine to warm you up for me…and they did it! Now I bet you are ready, aren’t you?”
“Yes!” the audience screamed. “Yes!” Then he looked at me with Evelyn.
“You can relax now, kiddos,” he said. “The Great Houdini has arrived.”
Just in Time
“You…you? You are the Great Houdini?” I asked. I couldn’t believe it.
“Just give us a moment to set up our show!” Houdini shouted to the audience. “Sit tight, and we will be back within the speed of eye! In the meantime how about a nice hand for these two amazingly funny fellow magicians?”
Evelyn and I bowed, the crowd roared enthusiastically, and the red curtain came down. Houdini rushed over to me and Evelyn.
“Thanks a lot for helping out!” he said.
“But I had no idea you were the Great Houdini!” I said.
“That’s what I figured out. Forgive me for messing with you back at the market. I wasn’t sure if you were the one to be trusted and then one to get such a power even known it was just for an hour,” Harry said.
“Harry! Harry! Mr. John shouted. Mr. John led Houdini back to his dressing room.
“Thanks again, you bastard kids, for helping Mr. John’s theater!” said Houdini, while hugging me and Evelyn. “But don’t forget, regardless of your attitude and abilities, the only thing that really matters is responsibility, because with the great power comes great responsibility!”
Houdini disappeared into the dark hall, leaving me and Evelyn puzzled.
“So after all we did it!” Evelyn said.
“Yes, we did it! Wasn’t really like we planned, but have to admit that it was fun,” I said.
“Now it’s time for the real show!” I shouted–
“The story is waiting!”
“What? What story?” I asked.
“Wake up…you still have to finish your story for CW. You can’t sleep whole day and expect to stay at home, so you won’t have to go for Mr. Krasner’s Creative Writing lesson. You already skipped a lot of them, time to take the responsibility and get some work done!”
“But mom…I was having such a good dream about meeting with one of greatest magicians of all times. You woke me up just as I was about to go and see his magic act and learn the secret of Greatness,” I said.
“If you want to learn the secret of greatness, then stop being lazy and finally take full responsibility for yourself,” my mom said.
“Responsibility? You said responsibility? I believe I just got a good idea of what I could write my story about! The story about “The Secret of Greatness.”