She expected their date to be magical, which she thought was reasonable, considering he was a magician. She had lingered in the dusty front lobby of the small theater after his show, the show where he’d made thirteen doves hatch out of one small egg. So many luminous flapping wings, so many glossy triangle beaks. Where had they come from? How had they come to be? A man who could make something out of nothing: that was the man for her.
They sat at the rustic wooden table of an unassuming Italian restaurant and remarked upon the complimentary ciabatta. There was also much to say about the arugula salad. The thick shavings of parmesan, the tangy lemon dressing! By the time the linguini arrived she had tired of culinary conversations. She was ready to get to the heart of the matter. There were things she needed to know, about magic and about everything.
Where do the doves come from? she asked, but he would not tell her. She grew petulant and ate most of the tiramisu by herself, though theoretically they had planned to share it. If he could be selfish, so could she. Minutes later she regretted her greed, a character flaw she was generally able to disguise with her long shiny hair and her long well-formed legs. She walked with him three blocks north to his apartment building and accompanied him to his bedroom. Perpetually optimistic, she awaited sleights-of-hand and unexpected metamorphoses, but the night was filled instead with the same old mundanities. Lips against lips. Body against body. All tricks she had seen and felt before.
Ultimately he was not the only one who had the aptitude for magic: she was a natural at the classic disappearing act. She promised to call him but she did not call him. Perhaps it was not the flashiest performance, but what her exit lacked in lightning and smoke puffs it made up for in melancholy, for he’d had fleeting visions of a wonderful and fascinating future with her. Like most things in his life they turned out to have been illusions.
The hutch on his balcony teemed with doves, pearlescent feathers drifting between the wires and reflecting pinpoints of all the world’s colors in their quills as they fell to the concrete deck. How audiences loved the moment when the birds materialized from the void before their very eyes, though with a little effort the discerning observer could see that they had been there all along, hidden in special pockets that bulged out only slightly from the magician’s expertly-tailored jacket. Their tiny hearts beating fast against his arms and ribs, their strong wings flattened against their small bodies. Over and over he had been asked to explain the magic, but when he described the doves’ gentleness and their avian beauty, people frowned and said no, we want to know about the MAGIC, as if he had not heard them correctly; but he had always understood very well indeed and his answer was honest and sincere, and so he no longer answered any questions about the doves.
Katherine Vondy is an LA-based writer and filmmaker. Her award-winning short film, “The Broken Heart of Gnocchi Bolognese,” has played at festivals worldwide and is distributed by Shorts International and PlayFestivalFilms. Her work has appeared recently or is forthcoming in Beloit Fiction Journal, Chicago Quarterly Review, Menacing Hedge, The Oklahoma Review, and elsewhere. Her blog of comedic mini-essays can be found here.