Short Play # 49: Twentieth Century Silks

The play is set in the backyard of a humble frame house in Kingston, Ontario.  It is high summer, 1953.  A young, aspiring magician—he is thirteen years old—has set up a card table, laden with the equipment necessary for perpetrating feats of higher presdigitation.  A lot of this equipment—cardboard tubes and several suspicious-looking boxes and sheets of newspaper—he has prepared himself.  In lieu of a shiny top hat, he has purloined his father’s fedora.  He is most proud, though, of three large squares of silk, purchased recently—with his accumulated allowances—at a local dry-goods store.  The three squares—magicians call them “silks,” he remembers proudly—are red and blue.  Two red and one blue. 
Five or six other children, younger than the Magician, sit in a semicircle on the grass in front of the card table, waiting to be transfixed and transformed.

The performance begins with a couple of good easy tricks—The Buddha Coin Vanish, The Flying Penny and The Bewitched Slave Bangle.  His audience is gratifyingly responsive.

MAGICIAN:  Next, for your afternoon enjoyment, I have prepared for you a truly amazing spectacle—a justly famous handkerchief effect called The Twentieth Century Silks!

KIDS (murmuring expectantly and excitedly):  Yay!

MAGICIAN:  First, I take these two red handkerchiefs and knot them together—like so [he ties them together and holds them up for inspection].  And now I drop them into my magician’s hat.

OUTLAW KID:  Ah that’s just your father’s hat

MAGICIAN (smoothly):  Not today.  Now I offer for your approval, THIS blue handkerchief [he holds it delicately and rather self-consciously in his left hand].  Which I will now cause to vanish!  [the blue handkerchief duly disappears before their very eyes, thanks to the Magician’s having previously, and laboriously, constructed a “pull”—lucidly explained on p.16 of Joseph Leeming’s new book, Fun With Magic (a “pull” is a spring-loaded tube fastened to the magician’s belt and concealed under his jacket, capable of suddenly whisking away any handkerchief the performer is holding)]  The Magician has borrowed—and then endlessly renewed—this intoxicating book, this book of dreams, from the Children’s collection on the second floor of the Kingston Public Library].

KIDS:  Wow!

MAGICIAN:  I will now reach into the magic hat and….what do I find??

KIDS (beside themselves):  What?  What?

MAGICIAN (smoothly): I find this!
[he pulls from the hat all three handkerchiefs, now knotted together, the recently vanished blue square tied securely between the two red ones!

KIDS (dumbfounded):  Wow!!

MAGICIAN (proudly and poignantly):  And this astonishing spectacle now concludes this afternoon’s performance!

[Kids applaud wildly.  Then they quickly begin to drift away]

MAGICIAN (who rather expected more sustained adulation): What are you guys doing now?

OUTLAW KID (returning to the Magician):  We’re all going over behind the A and P store. [lowering his voice to a whisper]  Alice Stafford told us she’s going to take down her underpants and let us all look.  Do you want to come?

MAGICIAN (swallowing hard):  Sure, I guess so.

MAGICIAN’S MOTHER (calling out from the back porch):  Is your magic show finished, dear?  I want you to go the store for me.