Inside the mindscape of a skillful magician
As soon as Grunge is spotted normal activity comes to a halt. I mean, only the bold or the desperate will approach him, the meek go down on their knees, I mean right there in the dirt and the highly strung cannot contain their cries. The fearful clutch their children to their chests, the quick-witted push them back into the unlit depths of their homes for he can take his pick – from whosoever catches his fanciful eye. He is a landlord who pays for what he takes. His lust is draped in a cloak of generosity and his greed by good manners. He is outside our shack, the flunkey’s call for me to come out. Since my father left I have become the man of the house but I mean the King of Grunge wants me to take on another role. There is my mother, grey and ghostly, features cowered by the dread of a bad outcome, and I am 15 years old.
Raw silk and pashmina are draped on his spindly form. A red velvet fez perched on his pigmented pate covers the bald patch that nibbles at the rim of his hair. Old spit glistens in the flaccid corners of his mouth. A choker made of strings of pearls with a giant ruby at its centre clutches the drooping folds of his insatiable throat. Pale, speckled fingers stroke the smooth, rounded circumference of the wine red cabochon. Stroking, he admires through eyes set in pink recesses the contours of my form. Roving, they come to rest on my denim-covered crotch. My balls shrink back up into my scrotum, I become a statue, but fire darts fly from my glare. We have been through this charade before, each visit brings a more expensive gift. A dirty plea wavers in his watery eyes, he sucks at his red lower lip whilst his flunkey presents an open jewellery box to me.
Curiosity wins over fear, I mean the crowd draws closer to gape at the solid, gold coin strung upon a chain as thick as an earthworm. There is a collective intake of breath and a hasty step back. I gather a master ball of sputum and spit in its direction. The man leaps back to avoid the missile and the case falls from his hands with a bounce, causing the chain and coin to fly. A glistering string of gold lands with a soft thud near my feet. The walking stick lands on the flunky’s shoulder with a thwack, scoops up the necklace and next it is dangling in front of my face. Inside the pendulum of gold I see the faces of children deceived, bejeweled, ruined, lying in morass. I mean, I will not be had.
It is the green that flashes in my tempestuous iris and my screaming, kicking reputation that permits me to stand up for my rights. He fears a sorcerer’s curse and I mean I have established myself as one. Atish can melt iron, seal doors, shatter glass (the rumours go), he has killed unborn siblings (true – at the age of six by the river), nearly killed his mother (true – pushed her down the mountain side) and brought her back to life (false – remember how she saves herself?).
What a con artist I was. I mean, I had a sleeve full of tricks to keep my superhero image afloat and the simpletons of Taaza Basti entertained by the sleight of my hand. The talented magician can prove that the hand is quicker than the eye by creating diversions, what in magician’s language is called ‘misdirection’. I mean with a great deal of acting and fanfare, you can pull scarves out of an egg which is wooden and has a hole you stuffed them into. You have to make your audience believe the egg is a real one and you will be looked upon as the King of Wizards. Magic that is to be found in a kit can attain supernatural proportions if studied well and executed with stealth. I mastered the standing rope, the never-ending scarf, the disappearing ball, the coin and cup, the generous top hat and all the card tricks you can extract from a deck.
My shows were a phenomenal success. I mean I kept the sweet gullible folk of Taaza Basti in a constant state of delight and awe. Mind games and predictions, hypnotic trances that required good accomplices and an undetectable set of signals (the former you will meet by and by) had them dazzled. I created ghastly sound effects and used disappearing apparitions when I spun ghost stories in our ill-lit shack on thundery nights. The downpour of rain provided excellent get-away opportunities for my accomplices as the crowd huddled round our stove drew closer, not wanting to get wet. The truth mixed with a sizable pinch of lies cooked by the fire of life, the freedom of the imagination and wagging tongues had brewed descriptions that had turned me into a sorcerer and I took advantage of it.
I look directly into his lecherous eyes, I mean the King Conjurer cannot flinch.
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