THE MAGICIAN’S ASSISTANT
Spencer listened for Sir David to descend the spiral staircase. He could follow his progress by which tread was creaking. This was helpful information, in case Spencer was doing something that Sir David would not approve. Like looking at his Book of Words.
David Wighton is the only magician to have been granted knighthood in the history of the British Empire, and he did not let one forget. He received this honor from the Queen for his service during the Boer War. He had developed Hypotyposis, and her military advisors were convinced it could be used to good advantage against the enemy. David Wighton was made a Colonel and put in charge of a brigade of magicians and sent to Swaziland. It had come to naught, but he did amuse the Queen with his wonders, and was awarded for that.
Spencer had been in Sir David’s employ for three years. Working with the great man, he was the envy of every member of the BMAU. But, Spencer had become tired of cleaning capes and hats of guano, polishing canes and shuffling cards. He had learned the ins and outs of many illusions, but never the big ones. He longed to make a name for himself. In short, he was tired of being the assistant.
One of the great man’s many achievements was his use of magic words. He did not rely on the likes of ‘Abracadabra’, ‘Presto’, ‘Hocus Pocus’, and certainly not ‘Bippity, Boppity, Boo’. Many thought he made them up, but not Spencer. One day in the library, while re-shelving Sir David’s books, he discovered an heretofore unseen button in the wainscoting. After a push and a click, a panel slid back, and there inside was a notebook and a fragile looking volume that appeared quite old. Spencer knew he had found the Holy Grail of Magic. With shaking hands he removed them and began to read. The notebook contained a history of the Boer War experiment to make the enemy vanish, and curiously the last entry was three weeks ago. Spencer knew the old man was crushed when he had not been asked to help during the ‘War to End All Wars’, and it appeared he was still working on a solution. Upon opening the old book, he felt he was descending through time as words leapt from the page and assaulted his mind. Some words he had heard Sir David use, so he knew he was on the right track.
Many months passed, and the lad practiced his craft, often returning to the book for guidance. It was on this day, with the sun streaming into the library, causing dust motes to dance in the air, that Spencer returned to the book. The panel slid back, but the books were not inside. A sound behind froze Spencer.
“Looking for something?”, Sir David intoned.
“I did not hear you come down, sir”, Spencer was flummoxed.
The magician had descended the stairs by Hypotyposis. “Obviously not, boy, or you would not have been sneaking about. I knew you were up to something. What have you been looking for in my books?”
“A magic word, sir. Something I can use to be great like you.”
The great magician pondered, “I see. Well, I will give you a word I have just discovered that would have won the Boer War.” He whispered in Spencer’s ear. “You only have to repeat it three times. Now please go fetch me some tea.”
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Some weeks passed. Spencer had not been home and his mother was alarmed. His friends in the BMAU had not seen him, and that was not like Spencer. He loved a pint or two, and the chance to brag about Sir David’s latest success. In fact, he had been hinting at his own act soon to come. She suspected foul play.
Sir David’s assistant answered the door, admitting the police. They were ushered to the conservatory, and stood humbly before the great one.
“We have come to ask if you know the whereabouts of a Mr. Spencer Milburn, Sir David. He has turned up missing. Since March 27th, we believe.”
“Yes, most distressing. I had to hire a new assistant. Do you know how much work it is to train a new assistant? I was in the library, and sent Spencer to make tea. I sat there and waited, but he never came back.”
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Submissions must be 750 words or fewer. Fiction or Poetry. Your piece must included the following sentence as the LAST line: “I sat there and waited, but he never came back.” And must include a reference to this video:
The photo is of the famous British magician David Devant, performing his astonishing illusion, Hypotyposis… Spencer is on the far left, I think.
RING IN THE NEW YEAR WITH A BANG!
Somewhere along the Brown Line, an iPhone sounds, startling nearby riders.
Quack!… Quack!… Quack!… Quack! “Hello?”
“Ethel, where the hell are you? Our show’s about to start!”
“Well Ralph is going to have to send Alice to the moon without me, Cheryl. I’m almost to Armitage now, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“You’re on the Ravenswood L? Do not tell me you’ve been to Jeremy’s!”
“We can’t ring in the New Year without fireworks, Cheryl, and he has the best.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. You do remember the school playground last year, Ethel?”
“He says these are much safer ones. Record ‘TV Land’ and we can watch when I get there.”
“If you get here, Ethel. Remember, there is bomb sniffing dogs at Lake Transfer Station.”
“This week’ sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, Jeremy, can be used ANYWHERE in your piece.” “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“And the media prompt is a picture, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the picture, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission.”
To read J. Milburn’s award-winning story, go to Writing To Be Noticed
ETHEL & CHERYL WRITE A STORY
“‘I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.’ Okay, that has to be the first line to start our story. Not over 750 words, okay Ethel?”
“Wait a minute! What are you talking about, Cheryl? The first line has to be ‘Pass the basil, would you?’. You were late and I’ve already started the story. It takes place on a TV cooking show. Here, take a look.”
“Pass the basil, would you?” “Basil! What are you a @#☠%^#✴︎& Idiot!!!” “I think it goes in spaghetti, Chef.” “But you are not making @#☠%^#✴︎& Spaghetti!!! I asked for @#☠%^#✴︎& Lo Mein!!!” “Sorry, Chef!!! All noodles look the same to me.”
“For crying out loud, Ethel, you misread the instructions! They are introducing the prompt painting with the ‘basil thing’. It has something to with the story in the painting.”
“What story? They aren’t cooking in the painting. I don’t see any basil anywhere, just a skinny-ass dog and some people having a meal. Okay, let’s figure out how they’re using basil, and I’ll save my cooking show story for later, I think it’s hilarious.”
“To each his own, Ethel, but it’s not about cooking. If we want to be writers we need to focus, especially since we’re going to win a prize, we want it to be good.”
“Okay, let’s think outside the box here. We can have ‘the tracks found deep in the snow between the trees’ be the dog’s. And, we can have the cook find them!”
While surfing the web, Ethel came across a writing challenge called The Speakeasy #140, always on the hunt for something new, she enlisted Cheryl to help her. Here are the instructions she came across:
This week our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner, EA Wicklund, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece. And the media prompt is a painting.
Pass the basil, would you?
The painting this week is Isabella by John Everett Millais. It’s the first painting he did in the Pre-Raphaelite style and it was inspired by John Keat’s poem Isabella, or the Pot of Basil. Be sure to click on the image to see this painting in its large format because there is a lot going on in it.
- Submissions must be 750 words or fewer.
- Submissions must be fiction or poetry.
- Your piece must include the following sentence as the FIRST line: “I found the tracks in the deep snow between the trees.”
Incidentally, to read some damn fine Sci-Fi, check out Wicklund’s Fairy Tales.
Suzanne Purkis runs the speakeasy, and can be found at Apoplectic Apostrophes.
IT’S ALL IN THE NAME
The Detroit Auto Show was always a basin of opportunity.
But, the myopic choice of a name by Mister Ford failed to dazzle.
Both for the new model line-up and the child.
The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.
“Grandma’s going to kill me! First her marble slab, now her favorite mixing bowl. HELP ME!!!!!!
“Wake up! Wake up, what’s wrong?”
Twisted up in a sheet and drenched in a cold sweat, I fight to get back into reality, trying to explain the delicious pinks and reds.
“You’ve been playing way too much Candy Crush on facebook!” my friend says.
THE SPEAKEASY #138… This week our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner Kianwi, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece. And the media prompt is a picture, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the picture, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission. “The bowl lay overturned on the floor, a rough crack running down one side.”
This story kind of came to me in a dream. I had gone to sleep thinking of the prompt line, and I had bought some homemade caramels from a friend at a craft fair, who sells them under the name GrandmaFreysCaramels. And, I have a friend on facebook who plays Candy Crush all the time, it’s one of those games like FarmVille that have people hooked. She’s always trying to get me to play. I’m not sure it was me in the dream, I think I was writing the story in the dream. Those might be clues to how the dream came about… so, I thought I’d use it for my story.
p.s. If you like good caramel candy, order some from Paul. He’s a good guy and coach of the Friday Harbor High School Girls Soccer Team… Division Champs this year… my granddaughter Isabel is a star midfielder.
“I still can’t believe you talked me into this, Ethel.”
“It’ll get warmer when the sun comes up,Cheryl.”
“That’s at seven-thirty, the store opens at five.”
“I know, and I want that big-ass-flatscreen!”
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The Editors of The Trifextra Writing Challenge are busy with their families this week, so they said: ”This weekend we are assuming that many of you are slogging your way through leftovers and family bickering (or is that just us?) and thus we’re going way easy on you. We are asking for a 33-word free write. Give us whatever you’ve got.”
The lights dim and the white screen comes to life. You mute your cell and settle back with your bag of buttered popcorn. The only day of the year you go to the movies. It has become a tradition now. Oh, plenty of friends invite you over… some feel sorry, some want to fix you up with their girlfriends, and then there’s her folks. You politely decline.
“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel sorry for myself, I just like to be alone, and watch the latest holiday movie about fictional families doing what real families do, just maybe a little more outrageously. I’ll go home and have a turkey sandwich with cranberry sauce later, I picked one up at Katz’s Delicatessen yesterday.”
You had both been in a pretty bad place when you met. The church basement at Seventh and Pine was a comforting place, you started sitting together. You were told it wasn’t a good idea to form relationships within the group, you thought it was helping.
“I remember when I got my ninety day coin. She got her two month. We celebrated at Katz’s with coffee, pastrami sandwiches, and cheesecake. We kept collecting coins and fell in love.”
You watch the film and cringe when the drinking starts. You still don’t know what made her think she could have just one, and after three years sober. You never saw her again after that Thanksgiving. Everyone was at a loss. Occasionally you hear that someone has caught sight of her.
“Maybe I’ll go tonight. I go to my meetings at the YMCA now, I just couldn’t go back to 7th and Pine. From that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.”
THE SPEAKEASY… Check out the other writers… Write something yourself!
Here are the Editor’s instructions: This week our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s winner Courtney at IASoupMama, must be used as the LAST line in your piece. And in honour of the coming holiday, our media prompt this week is a video, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the video, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission.
“From that day forward, every time I drove past that street corner, I thought of her.”
ALAS… A Drabble for FriFic
The Globe Theatre had been awash with excitement for a fortnight. Shouts of “The Queen is coming!” could be heard as workers scurried about applying a dab of fresh paint here, a bit of new carpet there, and of course the Royal Box had to be completely redone. And now, the night had finally come.
In his dressing room, the great Sir Michael Fitzpatrick was beside himself. In two hours, he would be giving the most important performance of his career, restoring the luster to his crown that a series of B movies had dimmed. Alas, poor Yorick was missing.
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I like photos like this one by my friend Sean Fallon, who lives in Istanbul, has a new hot wife and is writing an exciting political thriller. Rochelle chose it for this week’s Friday Fictioneers prompt. Look at the photo… find inspiration… write a 100 word story.
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This week’s bonus is a photo of noted Shakespearean actor Daniel Mayes demonstrating his best “Alas poor Yorick” moves to Ula and her friend.
AT THE MERCY OF HIS COMPANION
He had been at odds with his companion for some time now. After all, here she sits; eating his food, drinking his wine and watching his TV. Isn’t she the one hired to take care of him? Not being able to speak has hampered his ability to express his concern. When family visits, he tries to convey his dismay with his eyes, like they do in the movies, but to no avail. They just don’t get it. What’s worse, they think she is doing this wonderful job tending to his needs. The accident had left him in such sorry state. He guessed he should feel lucky, since without her he would die. Actually, death might be preferable to another episode of Jerry or Maury. He had forgotten about Judge Judy, but at 4 o’clock he will be reminded.
The smell of smoke lingered in the air. The shrieking was deafening. The fanning of air with a magazine was frantic. The front door opens…
“Just what the hell were you thinking, Ethel. How many times have I said… ‘You have to open the flue before you start the fire’?”
“Oh, for God’s sake, turn off the smoke detector!!!”
“I don’t know how, that’s why I called you!!!! Here’s the instructions!!!!!”
Cheryl took the manual outside. This was not the first time this had happened. This was, however, the first time under the watch of Ethel’s new smoke detector, and this time it was not as easy as pushing a button or taking out the battery. The pounding on the ceiling in Betty’s flat below was only adding to the consternation. As Ethel chased the smoke out, Cheryl quickly scanned the instruction book for answers.
“Thank you, Cheryl.”
“You’re welcome. Why in Heaven’s name do you think you need such a fancy system?”
“You know me, Cheryl, I like to be on top of the latest technology.”
“Oh please, give me a break! I suppose that’s why you still get your People in the mail, while I subscribe online. You think you’re so ‘green’, look at all the trees I’m saving, Ethel. And speaking of trees, the next time you start a fire open the damn damper. I know you think it lets cold air in, but you are starting a fire. Don’t be such a stubborn ass!”
THE SPEAKEASY… #136 …More stories here…
Here are the Editor’s instructions for this week’s submission… Welcome back, dearest bootleggers, to the third week of November here at the Speakeasy! This week, our sentence prompt, provided by last week’s popular vote winner Stacie, must be used as the FIRST line in your piece. And our media prompt this week is a painting, which you will find below. As with all our media prompts, your post shouldn’t be about the painting, but you must make some sort of reference to it in your submission.
“The smell of smoke lingered in the air.” by Stacie at Snaps and Bits
The painting is by William Blake and is titled The Night of Enitharmon’s Joy… 1795.