As I drove past Pascagoula, Mississippi yesterday, my boss Riff called me. "This is Bill."
"Hey butt for brains, did you get to Biloxi yet?"
"Get your fat ass in gear. The Great Gideon awaits you."
"The Great Gideon?" I asked. The line went dead. An hour later, I was driving by the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, and already thinking about how I'd get out of there once I dropped off the car. Either an expensive plane ticket or an expensive rental car to get to Baton Rouge. Greyhound was not an option, after all of the bad incidents I had endured on their buses.
I had been instructed to meet Mr. Alexander at the back loading dock of the hotel. I found my way there, and saw a man standing alone wearing a black cape and a top hat. He looked to be in his late 60's, with a full head of white hair. "Over here!" he commanded me.
I drove up to him and parked. "Are you Mr. Alexander?"
"No, no, please call me the Great Gideon. Is this my new car?" he asked.
He pulled a card out of thin air, and held it out for me to see. It was the Ace of spades. "Is this your card?"
I was confused. "My card?"
"Yes, the card you were thinking of. Hey, it's magic." The card went up in flames. Then Gideon held fingertips from both hands up to the sides of his head. "Now don't tell me your name. It is... it is..." He pulled a dollar bill out of thin air. "Is it Bill?"
I smiled and nodded. "Didn't my boss tell you that Bill Thomas was coming?"
He began to fold the bill again and again. "He said a driver was coming. He did not say a driver named Bill." Gideon threw the tightly folded bill into the air, and suddenly confetti fell all around. "Now as you can clearly see, I have nothing up my sleeves." He yanked at his sleeves and they tore away at the shoulder seam. He dropped the useless sleeves to the ground. "I would like to do something to thank you for driving this car all the way here from Charleston." He waved his arms and a bouquet of paper flowers appeared from nowhere.
I reached out for the flowers. "Thank you." But before I could take them, he waved his other arm over them and they vanished. "Wow, that is really something."
"What, that? Nah, it is only the tip of the magical iceberg. Wait a minute... what is that?" He stared at me curiously, then quickly reached out and grabbed my ear. He pulled out a Susan B. Anthony dollar and handed it to me. "You'll forgive me for saying so, but you really should keep your ears cleaned out."
"What did you say?"
"I agreed with you."
"I should hope so. What kind of car is this?"
"A Ford Fusion. Is it your new company car?"
"It is my personal car, thank you very much. I won it in a magic show competition."
"No, but thank you for your interest. I perform right here in Biloxi."
"You perform here at the Beau Rivage?"
"No. I do a little show at the cocktail lounge down the block."
"Hey, its a very nice lounge. Whoa, look out." He quickly began to grab me with each hand, first on the legs, then the waist, then the torso, then the head. He would grab and let go of each extremely quickly and with great finesse. Then he waved his hands. "Abracadabra. Is this yours?" He held out a wallet.
"Yes, that's my wallet." I reached out to take it, and he snatched it away.
"You will find that all of the money and credit cards are in it. Still intact. Do you believe me?"
"Yes I do."
He laughed. "Foolish boy." He threw my wallet into the air, then grabbed it and spun around. When he turned back to me and opened his hands, a white dove flew away. "Now I know what you're thinking. And the answer is yes, I did used to perform shows in auditoriums to sold out crowds. But then bigger and better magicians made me obsolete. Like David Copperfield, and Maxamian the Magnificent. And yes, it is true, Max was my student and my apprentice. I taught him everything he knows. Including the concept of real magic."
I prepared the paperwork for him to sign. "Real magic?"
"Yes son, real genuine magic. The actual real thing, bonafide and mystical. Not just tricks or illusions, mind you, but the stuff that dreams are made of. You can make things fly. You can even fly."
I smiled. "Sounds like fun."
He was very serious. "Don't scoff. I mean what I say, and it will do you no good to doubt my word. Only a true believer can reap the benefits of genuine magic."
"I believe you."
He studied me intently. "Do you?"
I shrugged and nodded. "Well, I want to believe you. I have wanted to believe in magic ever since I was a little boy."
"Ah, you wanted to, but did you really? And is this your wallet?" He made my wallet appear again. I grabbed it and put it into my back pocket.
"Yes, I really do believe. With all of my heart."
"Well then, there's really nothing more to say. Except to ask you to pick a card." He made a deck of cards suddenly appear, and fanned them out in front of me. I pulled one out, and he quickly said "Don't let me see it." I held it close. "Is it the Jack of clubs?"
I felt a tingle in my toes. "Yes, sir."
He took the card from me and put it back into the deck. "You ever considered being a magician's assistant?"
"Probably a good idea, there's not a lot of money for assistants. Where do I need to sign?" I handed him the paperwork and a pen. "I have my own pen," he said as he made one appear. And then it went up in a flame, and he sighed. "Well I guess I will need to borrow yours." He took my pen and signed, then I gave him a copy and took my pen back. "Where do you go from here?"
"Baton Rouge, to pick up another car. Thanks for the entertainment."
"Anytime." I grabbed my bag and started to walk away. Gideon called after me. "I believe you forgot something."
I turned. "What's that?" He stepped over to me and reached into his coat pocket, pulling out my wallet.
"How did you do that?" I asked as I took it from him.
"Magic," he said.