1210 words long
Mister Omega had retired, but he couldn't escape his reputation. Everyone wanted "just one more trick."
Notes from the author:
"Come on. Just once. For me. Please?" "No, no no no, no. Well.... OK." Does that ever turn out well? It does not.
Once upon a time in Greek mythology, Zeus was having an affair (again) and it was pissing Hera off. So Hera sidled up to Semele, all friendly concern, and said, "Is the father of your child really Zeus, or did you just let some random dude with a cool story talk his way into your toga?" This got Semele worrying. So she asked Zeus to grant her a boon, and Zeus, fond but stupid, swore by the river Styx he'd do whatever she asked. "Awesome! Then prove you are who you say you are. Reveal to me the full and undisguised glory of your godhood." Zeus, knowing full well that no mortal could survive the unmitigated presence of a deity, begged her to change her mind. She wouldn't, so, with a heavy heart, Zeus fulfilled his oath and did as she asked. And she died.
I do wonder whether Zeus wasn't half as reluctant as the story makes him sound. Did he tell her why this was a bad idea? Did he offer to prove himself in some other, non-lethal way? He saved their unborn baby from incineration--why couldn't he save her? Was his ego perhaps stung by Semele's doubt? Might he have been just the littlest bit tempted to punish her for it?
Maybe it was less "No, no, no, OK" and more "Go on, keep pestering me about it. See what you get." That's hardly fair to Semele (who was probably doomed the moment she unwittingly caught Zeus's eye) but in Mister Omega's position it's much more understandable. Sucks to be baby Rupert, though. But he'll have a great story to tell when he grows up.
Mister Omega had retired. He had hung up his top hat, mothballed his coat of many pockets, freed his doves, and rehomed his rabbits. He was done.
“I call that a crying shame,” said Terrance Carlisle. “My wife and I got to see your show once. Amazing. I said to her, Marge, that’s not illusion, that’s a goddamn miracle.” He shook his head. “Breaks my heart to think our son will never get to see you perform.”
The aforementioned son was at that moment sitting on the den floor and gnawing thoughtfully on a plastic binkie. He had just turned three last Wednesday. His name was Rupert. Despite his father’s best efforts to preserve dignity, it was threatening to turn into Oopsie. Several of the other investors’ wives were taking it in turns to pick him up and admire how heavy he was getting.
Terry had introduced the magician to the other guests by his stage name. “Please,” he’d said, “call me David.” But it wasn’t some nobody named David Barnholt that Terry had invited to the party. He’d promised the investors a special one-night only performance by Mister Omega, and Mister Omega’s insistence on staying retired was inconvenient. “Did you ever get to see my great-aunt perform? Madame Zee? A bit before you time, I presume.”
“You presume correctly,” Terry admitted. “But with you to carry on her legacy, we don’t suffer for the loss.” In truth, Terry hadn’t been that impressed with Mister Omega’s show. It was Marge who’d gushed about miracles and magic. She’d always been easy to please. But Terry knew better. The magician’s show had been sadly lacking in pacing, showmanship, and flash. It had been just one trick after another. And they were good tricks, Terry had to admit, owing undoubtedly to years of practice in prestidigitation, but he’d found it disconcerting the way Mister Omega had seemed not to be on speaking terms with the hand that performed them. He’d worn a gaudy great ring on that hand, the only showy thing about him. Otherwise he’d dressed for the stage as though for a card game, in a shabby suit like the one he was wearing now.
It had been Mister Omega’s penultimate performance, and no wonder. The following and final night’s show had ended abruptly, but Terry had never bothered to track down the details.
But that wasn’t the point. The point was, the magician seemed criminally ignorant about how social engagements like these were supposed to go. When the wealthy host extends an upper-crust invitation to the down-and-out performer and *then* gives him a chance to wow an influential audience, it’s terribly ungrateful for the performer to decline....
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for June 1, 2018. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1210 words) from Patreon as an ebook or audiobook depending on their pledge tier.
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