by Matthew Fiander
Trouble started small: Dad asked Davey for the cards.
He pointed at the wand in Davey’s hand. From your magic kit? Chuck needs another deck for the game tonight.
You’re not going, Mom said.
I’m going, Dad said.
Isn’t Chuck’s where all our money vanished before?
You don’t believe in me. Never have. Davey, the cards.
Gone, Davey said.
Gone? I wasted twenty bucks on that crap.
Mom said, Don’t yell. You’re not mad at him.
I’ve got enough anger for the whole world.
The world is indifferent to your anger, Mom said.
Presto change-o. Big trouble now. Holding his wand, Davey felt like an assistant to his parents as they conjured their latest fight. Screaming, unhinged mouths—he imagined pulling a rabbit from Dad’s yelling throat—windows quaking in their frames. Storms, his mother said when Davey asked after last time why they rattled. A little give so they won’t break.
Davey ran for the woods the way he always did when something unnamable shuddered the frame of his body. So quiet, so still among the trees. He practiced whenever his parents fought, but the tricks never worked right. His quaking hands could not control this magic he knew was not magic. No ta-da, no silence, and he’d toss the foreign plastic aside. Over weeks, the whole kit disappeared, taken by hidden corners of the woods. Stacked cups with their alarm-red ball. Stuffed rabbit. Collapsible top hat. All gone. Only the wand remained, the one he clutched as he fled, an assistant terrified of those two illusionists, his parents, and their powers.
He whispered Ladies and gentlemen, the Magnificent Davey! His act: to make the kit reappear. To end the storm. All afternoon, he scuffed up brush, wheeled around tree trunks aiming his wand at the ground. No cups. He dug until rocks gouged the wand’s white plastic. No rabbit. He climbed trees and knocked the wand against branches. Davey spouted magic-sounding gibberish. No hat.
He didn’t look for the cards.
The house’s bellow choked the quiet woods. Dark was coming on. Above him, the blackening trees stretched for moon-blue sky, an antidote to the claustrophobic howl of his house. Trunks swayed, tiny creaking circles, wands over an empty hat. A gust of wind churned up leaves at his feet. Under the roll of all those dead, brown scales: a card. The Jack of Hearts. A half smile on its half face. A question curling through the branches above Davey’s head. Is this your card?
Of course. Why the kit vanished piece by piece. Davey was not the magician. The woods took the kit; they performed these daily tricks. Their quiet just a build up to the reveal. Davey was a different assistant here. His hands fell gracefully to his side. A night breeze rustled the leaves and filled his ears. He summoned the roaring of an eager crowd. His wand dropped from his hand to the forest floor and he roared too, meshing with leaves and wind, branches and brush and night air, anticipating the wood’s next feat. The house would fall silent, he was sure of it. The storm rattle would fall away. Mother and father would wonder later, in their flashlight panic, how he’d pulled it off.
Davey closed his eyes and waited to disappear.
Matthew Fiander’s work has appeared in Story Magazine, Zone 3, Massachusetts Review, Hobart, Smokelong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, Reckon Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives and teaches in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.