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Cromwell the Magician

Updated on March 2, 2010

Epoch of the Mother

“Kindly enlighten me, Cromwell. Have you plans to stay beyond this semester?”

“Sadly no. My poor old mother has taken ill, so Papa has asked that I come home.”

“Sorry to hear about your mother, laddy. Is there some way I can help? Do you need money or anything else, all you have to do is say the word.”

“Thank you, but there is nothing I need, only…”


“Only I’d wish she will…”

“Yes? Spit it out, what is it?”

“Only I’d wish she will perish before I come home, so that I do not have to sit by her bedside and hold her hand.”

“Why? Don’t you love your mother?”

“That’s not it, I love her too much.”

“Then you must go right away and not wait for this semester to end. We will write on your report card that you have been excused because of illness in the family. Come back when  your mother is well or… ah… when she is well and you are no longer needed at home, then we shall give you credit for time already spent and have you catch up in no time.”

“Thank you sir.” 

“God bless you and your family.”

The headmaster reached for his wallet and pulled out a fresh 5 Guinness note.

A Grand Performer

Cromwell, you creep, how could you be so daring when all that was meant to happen was that you should wither all away, not leave anything of yourself behind. That would be the supreme trick, you told us, when you said those famous words “Abracadabra” and then vanished into dust. What happened instead was you grew larger. I saw you standing there on the stage with a lost expression, supposedly tricking us into believing that the experiment had failed. Not so, I´m afraid, because you had become a giant, except your size was the same, but we had shrunk into dwarfs. Then you told us that must have been an unhappy accident, so could we please try it once more, and in our fearful state we could not resist, and then you shrunk us down once more. What remained is a sorry lot, and then you bowed deeply, thanked the audience for its indulgence, put on your hat, and went out backstage behind the red velvet curtain.

We who say this are not the size of a well-nourished mouse. Roaming around the theater still, fleeing janitors and grabbing bites left behind by the audience, hearing the same performance forty-five nights in a row – that´s us. Cromwell has promised our agent to come back and make us whole, but will he? Little does it seem to matter anymore, years of our lives were stolen from us and cannot be returned. The audience still talks about it, we hear them joking about it loudly sometimes, and what irritates us the most is they got it all wrong. To them it looked like we were shrunk to half, then demolished altogether on the second try. They never tire of talking about that as one big joke blent with the genious of a world famous magician. “Well you bastards,” we want to shout, “we were not exactly demolished now were we?”

It was induced in our best of intentions the very prospect of coming to terms with all that was conceivable. When someone bled or suffered, then perhaps it was for the delight of greater things. Not someone behind the curtain, nay, we are speaking of the reservoir for experience and for knowing all that is doable and conceivable. Certain acts are not to be repeated, especially if they have been successfully conducted. Other acts are, however, to be repeated, albeit infrequently and always with suitable intervals. Yet other acts are of the trivial sort, intended more for the consumption of the readily visible audience and the continuing training of the performer.

The stage can be more or less public. It can also be entirely private. The law, as bad luck has it, penetrates all locales equally and only give a small amount of credit for consent. To make matters clear, it is indeed the performer who carries absolute responsibility, which means that willful harm and certain forms of malpractice and negligence are punishable with prison or substantial fines. I can invite a group of lustful friends to my house, ask them to put their life at risk in some spiritual experiment if they so wish, and if they volunteer I cannot move ahead without risking jail if things turn out badly. Therefore, the restless magician and the black magician have in common their label as elite criminals.

As for Cromwell, his acts spoke for themselves, except very few were those who knew about his full repertoire. His known repertoire was impressive but fell short of anything spectacular, nothing more than one would expect of the seasoned performer. What made him popular in so many towns was his charm and ability to mix the relatively plain with the surprising and outstanding. Most of his audience were unaccustomed to seeing magicians. Their expectations weren´t that high and, unbeknown to themselves, all they were really waiting for was to be groomed by, infatuated with, and ultimately defeated by the performer. So Cromwell, who knew how to be folksy when he had to, brought the locals up on the stage and made slight fools of them with tricks and gimmicks the audience could easily follow. Having developed rapport with the masses, he would pull some spectacular stunt, absorb the enthusiastic applause and compliments from the audience, then move back to something safe and conventional. Gradually throughout his performance, he would elevate the complexity level while always remaining mindful of the lowest common denominator. Those who understood everything realized that they had in front of them a genuine master, those who understood only about half were pleased with what they saw.

What has just been described here was the official side to Cromwell. His colleagues admired his personal charm, and they respected his talent, his clear grasp of detail and technical execution, and his clever use of the tools at his disposal. But they did not consider his performances head and shoulder above the rest.

Then there was the other sides to Cromwell. Inexplicably, he had dark nights when all seemed to go wrong. A lady actually had her head severed from the body once, as was revealed once the lights came back on. Turned out her persistent screams had been real. All he could say, as the constables came to take him into custody, was: “Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, appears there must have been some sort of accident.” He had gotten off with an inquest, a fine, and a license suspension for that one. Once, he was blamed for having cursed a line dancer, that his wicked eye had distracted the poor fellow and brought him to fall down just outside the safety net. There had been no arrest or formal inquest on that occasion. Then there were the rabbits, these white things that were supposed to come unexpectedly out of his hat one by one. Except one night there had been more than one hundred of them, many of which were large and aggressive as they hopped around among the bewildered audience. His unauthorized biographer, a London reporter, had taken note of everything and written in her column: “What I cannot quite fathom is whether Mr. Cromwell, such a perfectionist otherwise, experiences the occasional blackout or whether he actually enjoys upsetting his audience and the public at large.”

Little did she know about the third, much darker side to his act.

(c) Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.


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