Found on a scrap of paper…


A magician, Henry, gets a gig in a vacation town. Every night he does a show, every night the house is full. During the day he does card tricks on the boardwalk, both to advertise his show and because he enjoys it, magic. He enjoys surprising people, he enjoys mystifying them, he enjoys their befuddlement – he enjoys it a little maliciously, even.

(There was a time in his life, when he was a young man in his twenties, that he gave free reign to this malice and worked with another guy running a series of cons that could have gotten them into significant trouble, had they been caught, but which only netted them money. It was an entire life time ago, including a period of running against another pair – a husband/wife team. They were especially good. Ruthless in ways he knew he would never be – they hated the world much more successfully than he ever could and meeting them, he recognized that. It prompted him to quit, though the memory of their ferocity never was far from him.)

So he’s doing his show in this quaint sea-side town, and he realizes one night, in the middle of his act, that the audience member he’s invited up on stage to help him has been up there before – three or four times, in fact, and each time dressed differently. The audience member has never interfered with the play – it’s always gone just as planned, but each time, this audience member has watched very closely and aside from giving a different name and the different clothing, done nothing to conceal that she was fascinated by the trick.

Henry realizes that she doesn’t seem to be trying to figure out the play, nor does she seem to be in it just to be in front of the audience. In fact, Henry can’t for the life of him figure out what she wants.



Hey, so is it up?

Yeah. I had some problems and now I have some other problems.

Oh yeah?

I’m working on it. But it’s up, ok? 

Yeah, ok. I just wanted to know. You think my tour of the boroughs helped?

…(I don’t know if he’s serious or not. If he’s not serious, I should tell him it was totally the best thing and then we can laugh with each other about what a hair-brained idea that was. If he’s serious, though… I guess I should tell him the same thing. Right? Because he seemed pretty gung-ho about the whole thing and I don’t want to seem like I’m crapping on his idea. On the other hand, it was a pretty mediocre idea.)

It couldn’t have hurt. 

You’re alright kid. Let’s go meet at that place in Sheepshead Bay, surf-n-turf. On me.

Hey, great! (Who’s gonna look down on surf-n-turf?)



I had to call Tommy up, because I wasn’t sure.

Hey Tommy, how well you know this guy, Bern?
I know him very well. Why?
Like, he’s a good friend of yours? You’d be godfather to his kids and stuff?
Well, I don’t know if I’d go that far.
OK. Good. Listen, I don’t want to offend you or your friend or anything, but I Think this Bern guy is a criminal.
Right. You remember I met him in prison, right?
Yeah. But.
No, there’s no ‘but’ here. Bern is a criminal.
Why do you want to have anything to do with a guy like that?
Don’t be so narrow minded. Besides it’s a great story.
‘Story.’ So you don’t think it’s real.
Don’t be daft. Is that why you’re calling?
I just don’t want to get called by the Europol or something.
Interpol. Europlo. Didn’t they change the name? To Europol.
I don’t think so.
It sounds good though, right? Like they should have.
Well. So what’s the hold up with this thing?
No hold up. It’s just that thing. That’s all.
OK then as long as we’re clear: Bern is a criminal. It’s a good story.
Got it.

Bumped into him at the Deli

You’re just the man I wanted to see.

Hello Tommy, nice to see you.

I got another one for you.

Oh yeah?

Yeah, Bern sent it to me.


You know, the Swiss guy I was in the hoosegow with. In Mexico.

The Fado singer.

That’s the one. I’ll send it to you this week so you can get right on it.

Alright. The stuffed peppers look good don’t they?

Yeah, they mix the feta with garlic, a little parsley, olive oil and then some black pepper. Of course, you gotta get fresh piquillo peppers, you need that sweetness to really set off the saltiness of the Feta. When I lived on Tsougria we ate it every week.

Where do you get your peppers now? 

I’m still looking. I’ve been thinking about growing my own. OK, I gotta go. I’ll be in touch.



So how’d we do.

How’d we do?

Yeah. I went rollerskating through the boroughs, how’d we do? 

Well; I didn’t know. That’s how we did.

Shit. So, I gotta do it again?



Phone call.

He, Tommy, called me up the other morning very early, like six-thirty or so and, like an idiot, I answered.


-I’ve got a great idea.


He says, no hello or the rest. This is what I get for taking the job. He thinks he can call me whenever.


-Oh yeah, what’s that?


-I’m gonna roller-skate across America.


I can’t take him seriously because, you know – roller skate across America? What do you even do with that kind of statement, especially first thing in the morning. I don’t know why but I conjured up for me this image of Tommy in a skintight, flag-pattern unitard with a mirror ball hanging from a stick strapped to his back so that it hung over his head, skating down some straight, flat corn-field straddling road. Alone. Then I wasn’t sure if I wasn’t just dreaming.


-Eddie Izzard ran a marathon every single day for a month. He ran all the way around England, Scotland and Wales.


-Who’s ‘Eddie Lizzard’?


-Google him. The point is, this could be good press.


I had to think about that for a moment because I didn’t agree with him, but that didn’t necessarily mean he was right.  But I was pretty sure I was right. Mostly, at this moment, at this hour of the morning, I couldn’t deal with him.


-Better, why don’t you do the boroughs first. Do the boroughs, call me back.


I haven’t heard from him since.


So, lately…


Tommy. You wouldn’t believe this guy. I mean ‘Karl.’ Whatever, Tommy, as I know him, calls me up last week and bitches me out. Why? Because I haven’t done anything with this ‘blog’ and this book I put together for him hasn’t exactly sold like hotcakes and so on and so on.


But Tommy, I said, where the hell you been all this time anyway? Because I think the last time I laid eyes on him was last June, almost a year ago.


Welp, you know I had to take care of some business in Mexico, right?


(I don’t know if I’ll get it all in here, but it turns out Tommy’s been trying to help his cleaning lady get her green-card, so she can stay in the US, so Tommy can have her keep his apartment clean and apparently she cooks for him, too! But that’s all. She has taken the goofy bastard on to atone for some sin she thinks she’s committed.

OK, how do I know all this? Because I met her at his place once and then a couple days later ran into her when she was with her son, who is about twenty and a totally good guy. He works in one of the locals as a welder. A week or two after that I run into the son when I went out to have some beers with a friend who is, god help him, a Mets fan. That’s right, beers were on me.

So, the son tells me this whole story about how Tommy’s helping his mom and to be perfectly honest I didn’t believe a word he said. I was polite about it as well, but I told him as much. I know Tommy and of the things I know about Tommy helping his cleaning lady is just not in the realm of things that would ever even occur to him. Unless he was being blackmailed but if you ever met ‘Maria’ you’d know that’s not happening either.

Life is full of mystery, right?)


Yeah, that’s that ‘condo deal’ you were telling me about?


Yeah, that’s the one. Welp, my business partner double crossed me and I was in jail.


I don’t believe a word you’re saying.


Let me show you.


He pulls up the sleeve of his shirt and on his forearm he’s got a tattoo. A tattoo of a wall.


The hell is that?


Hand-ball! The hell you think?


What does that have to do with jail?


I got it inside.


Tommy, seriously now, if that’s where you’ve been for the last six months, maybe you should go see a doctor, or. I mean, I have to be honest with you and you don’t look like you spent any time in any kind of jail. In fact, you maybe even look a little bit better than last time I saw you.


That’s the thing. See, in Mexico if you’re in jail and you can still get your hands on some scratch, you can live like a king. I mean anything you want to buy, you can. You just got to have the right contacts.


But I thought your business partner screwed you.


Yeah, that motherfucker did. But ‘Maria’ has a cousin down there and he heard about the spot I was in and I gotta tell you, I had three hots and a cot in a perfectly dry cell with this only slightly crazy Swiss guy.


Wait, Swiss guy?


Yeah, he’d been down there bumming around for a couple years, he’s a Fado singer.


A what?


Fado. Jesus, Portuguese blues. Man you are square sometimes.


And you shared a cell.


Wasn’t so bad. But damn, I never knew the Portuguese could get so down. And I never knew a Swiss guy could sing like that.


(I haven’t found out yet if any of what Tommy’s telling me is even vaguely related to the truth but I’ll let you know if I do. In the meantime, Tommy’s hired me back on to do something with all this. But don’t call it a comeback.)