Illusionist Ian

“Well, here comes Jerry.” Grandma nodded her head in Jerry’s direction. He was smacking his lips as if chewing on something, and Grandma rolled her eyes. “Thomas, come sit in this here rocking chair. We don’t need a repeat of what happened last time.”

Thomas stepped across Grandma’s outstretched legs and sat in the rocking chair just as Jerry entered our circle.

“What’s this? Musical chairs?” Jerry asked.

“What you got in your mouth?” Grandma said.

“My gummies,” Jerry said, which I took to mean his gummy vitamins. They were easier to swallow than those god awful horse pills that could get lodged in your throat and choke you to death . . . like a saxophone mouthpiece?

I chuckled to myself. Grandma’s first husband was growing on me.

Jerry hunched his body over and flopped into the cushioned chair previously occupied by Thomas.

“Now isn’t that better?” Grandma asked.

“Don’t patronize me, woman,” Jerry said. He cleared the phlegm in this throat, his bottom lip bulging out, and it occurred to me that if his stomach were to become upset again and he projectile vomited all over the floor, Tammy and I would be in the direct line of fire. Was it wise for the nurses to give him vitamins that tasted like fruity candies when the last fruity snack he’d eaten was still a pink stain on the linoleum by Marcos’ feet?

I scooted my chair an inch or two back, and Tammy, recognizing her imminent danger, did the same. Grandma gave us both a side smirk, but said nothing. Jerry was too busy complaining about being forced to switch seats to even notice.

“Calm down, honey, you’re still next to me,” Grandma said.

“You two should be married,” Tammy said. “You argue enough.”

“Ha!” Frank’s hoarse voice echoed through the room. His outburst unsettled me, especially after Grandma  had said he used to be in the KKK. His rubbery skin sagged. His flabby stomach lay in his thighs. He sat in a wheelchair, but a cane was hooked around the arm of the chair, indicating that he could walk, but didn’t always have the strength. I looked at his arms. Upper body strength usually increased with age, especially when you had to use it to pick yourself up because your legs were too weak to do it by themselves. How good was his swing? Could he possibly use his cane as a weapon? Was Marcos safe sharing a room with him?

He was an old man, and hopefully, that meant he was harmless too. The nursing home wouldn’t bring anyone in who could pose a threat to the other patients—other than the apathetic nurses, of course. His bark was dull now, but how sharp was his bite in his prime? How many families did he terrorize? How many crosses did he set fire to in front yards?

There was an awkward silence amongst the group, but Grandma was unfazed. She crossed one leg over the other and looked Frank right in the eye. “I married a white man before,” she said, then pointed to me. “Look at how light my granddaughter is. We all mixed up in here. How that make you feel?”

“Humph.” Frank turned his wheelchair to the side, giving us his profile once again.

I“Don’t pout,” Jerry said. Sensing the tension lifted, he added, “I bet she ran him off like she did Ian.”

“I did not run Ian off!” Grandma said.

“All your nagging pushed that boy right to do a disappearing act.”

“He was a magician!”

“Funny how he didn’t get good til he married you,” Jerry said. This comment seemed to tickle Winifred, and she emerged from her purple cocoon laughing uncontrollably.

“So was Ian your next husband?” I asked.

Grandma nodded. “After Harry died, I packed up and moved the next town over to attend college. It was a nice change for me. Nobody there knew who I was. I could start over.”

“Until you got married again,” Thomas said sarcastically.

“Look, Ian’s disappearance was just an accident,” Grandma defended. She turned to me. “When I met him, he was doing your basic parlor tricks.  Pick a card kind of stuff.”

“And after you married him, he got tired of you and—” Jerry egged.

“No, no.” Grandma shook her head vigorously. “He wanted to be the next Harry Houdini. With or without me, he would’ve eventually graduated from the simple stuff.”

“Conveniently after—”

“Ian loved me!” Grandma shouted over Jerry. “I was his assistant for four years. He proposed to me after he sawed me in half and put me back together. After graduation, we were gonna travel the country. Be the best show on earth.” She glared at Jerry. “I was supposed to be the one to disappear that night.”

“What went wrong?” I asked.

“I don’t know.” Grandma hunched her shoulders. “After he shut me in the box and spun me around, I waited under the stage for the signal to come back up. The audience was dead silent for a few seconds. Then I heard a few gasps and a loud applause. I thought the trick had gone as planned.”

I surmised what might have happened but couldn’t accepted. This would have to be the most unbelievable of all her stories. Andrew? Maybe. Burt and Carl? Possibly. Deek? It could happen. Elliot? Metal conducted electricity, a silver fork was metal, so probably. Fred? Well, if your mind was that far gone. Gaston? Anyone could break their neck falling down the stairs. Harry? I would even believe that. Who knew, maybe he read one of Gaston’s deathly comics and freaked himself out looking at a shirt hanging on the door. But there was no way, no earthly way, Ian could have physically disappeared into thin air, and the audience watched it happen!

“The signal never came,” Grandma was saying, “so I went up anyway. I guess they expected Ian to come out behind me, but he never did. He was gone.”

“I still think you ran him off,” Jerry said.

“Maybe he was a better magician than you thought,” Thomas suggested, and the hairs down my spine stood on end. Gripping the chair behind him, the ghostly old man was back.

—Nortina


I hope you enjoyed the story of Ian from 26 Husbands–26 Unusual Deaths. Be sure to check out other “I” posts from the A to Z Challenge.

A Witch Scorned

Detective Perez had returned sooner than she’d expected with a search warrant, more questions, more officers with gloves and flashlights peering into her side of the closet, shuffling for clues through her underwear drawers while his remained empty, snatching the sheets from her California King bed, black lighting the bare mattress, leaving the bed unmade.

“Has he tried to contact you since we last spoke?” Perez asked.

She shook her head.

“Where do you think he might have gone, Mrs. McCain?”

“Costa Rica.”

“What’s in Costa Rica?”

“That whore.”

His partner approached him from behind. He leaned over the couch, clamped he hand down on Perez’s shoulder and whispered something into his ear. The way his moistened lips grazed Perez’s ear lobe made her wonder if they were partners in other areas.

She studied his partner’s face. Did his furrowed brows signify that they found something? A pair of socks left behind? The still missing spare key? His cheeks were drained of color. Had they discovered her grimoire on the top shelf of the closet, in a hidden compartment of a shoe box, underneath never-worn red bottoms wrapped in tissue paper? She’d removed the post-it note from the page she’d last read. She was sure she had.

Perez patted his partner’s hand, caressed his  fingers as his own hand slid back down to rest in his lap. Only Perez wore a ring. She suspected his wife was clueless.

“Are you a dog lover?” Perez asked, pointing the eraser end of his pencil toward her dog sculpture next to the fireplace.

He’s more a lover of dogs than I am. He could even be one.” She thought of her husband, how the corners of his eyes and mouth always drooped downward in a perpetual pout, the same engraved on her newly appreciated living room decoration.

Perez stood, returned his notepad and pencil to the chest pocket of his blazer. He reached over the coffee table to shake her hand. “If you can think of anything else—”

“I have your card.” She nodded.

“We’re gonna find him, ma’am. You have my word.” He waved for the officers, who had congregated into the living room, and they followed him out the front door, heads hanging low, empty hands pressed behind their backs.

“Take your time,” she whispered as she shut the door behind them. She turned to the sculpture by the fire place.

“Let’s see how much your whore likes dogs.” She assembled the shipping box. As she rolled the dog in bubble wrap and packed him inside, she wondered if a package mailed to Costa Rica would make her look suspicious. No, she shook her head, it would solidify her story. That he had run off to be with his Costa Rican mistress.

In about a week, that would be true.

—Nortina


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This piece of flash fiction is in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Hot Head

From her small balcony, the witch watched the world go by. At the bus stop, Jake and Donnie played Taps with Donnie’s basketball, jumping in the air to catch the ball and pass it back before their feet touched the ground.

Jasmine sighed audibly. Yesterday had been her last day in a public school after she’d set Mrs. Robertson’s hair on fire. That woman was too sexy to be a teacher, anyway. She’d still have a scalp if she didn’t shove her tits in Jake’s face to “help him with a test question.” It was only a matter of time before she’d be arrested for sex with a student . . . Well, probably not now . . .

The Christmas decorations lit up in flames as Jasmine dug her nails into the banister. Her mother burst onto the balcony, flung a dusting of snow from her hands to extinguish the lights.

“Please don’t burn down the house, honey,” she said, her droopy eyes pleading. “Again.”

word count: 149

—Nortina


Mondays Finish the Story: a flash fiction challenge where we provide you with a new photo each week, and the first sentence of a story. Your challenge is to finish the story using 100-150 words, not including the sentence provided.

Click the froggy icon to read other stories and add your own.

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Magic in a Bottle

The sign ahead reads: “Magic in a Bottle.” She pulls into the gravel driveway. A pale man with thick, dirty blond dreadlocks, barefoot and wearing a dashiki steps from behind the shop.

“Aspirin?” she asks. Her temples pulsate in rhythm with the thumps of her son’s fist against the window.

The man holds up one finger. “Bettah,” he says in a heavy Caribbean accent. He lifts an empty beer bottle by the neck, holds it in his palm. “Fa yah boy. It capchas de sun. Eben at night, yah still hab light.”

She trades the glowing bottle for fifty cents.

word count: 100

—Nortina


Friday Fictioneers is a weekly challenge where you must write a story in 100 words or less using the provided photo prompt as inspiration. Click the froggy icon to ready other stories and add your own.

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