Johnny shuffled the deck of cards once, twice … thrice. He had a nervous habit, nervous habits I should say and if he didn’t shuffle cards, flip coins in his fingers or whittle some bit of wood, maybe a chunk of old pallet or something, any little bit of a busy thing, he would start scratching. The last time he took to scratching, he had ended up in the hospital, most of the skin on his right arm a bloody pulp. His mother screamed at him to get a job and clean up his life. He had to have her ejected from his room. She had great lungs, even whilst in the grip of big Boris the orderly, who grabbed her around the middle, lifted her up in the air and physically hauled her away. No mean feat as Momma carried a few extra. Even then she wouldn’t shut up. He had to hand it to her, when she had her mind on something, she just couldn’t be stopped. His father sat watching and didn’t make a move. He simply sat in the little uncomfortable chair that they give you for visitors and held his hat in his hands. Too old school to wear a hat inside, he always doffed his cap, in this case his very best black velvet fedora, which he only brought out on special occasions. After the ‘Sturm und Drang’ of his mother’s exit, Johnny’s pops smiled and said.
Show me one of your card tricks Johnny. Johnny smiled back at his dad,
Aw pops you’ve already seen them all.
No, show me a trick, and then explain how you do it. Johnny’s dad took a fresh deck of cards out of his pocket and handed them over to his son. Johnny proceeded to rip off the cellophane and crack the deck, shuffle the cards and then did a trick for his dad. His dad smiled the biggest smile Johnny had ever seen; he was getting the biggest kick out of this.
Ok now show me how. So he did. Johnny went through the trick step by step, shuffling the deck, giving it to his dad to cut, getting his dad to pick the card and then walking his dad through the trick, showing the path of the card as it went through a shuffle and a cut and ended up on top to be turned over and revealed as the originally chosen card. Johnny was expecting his dad to be disappointed, just as Dorothy and her companions were when, after that crazy journey and all the expectation, little Toto sniffs behind the curtain and the great and powerful Oz is revealed to be just a regular guy. But that didn’t happen. His smile only got bigger. They both turned their heads at the sound of kerfuffle down the hall and then looked back at each other. Johnny’s father shrugged his shoulders and got up and straightened his clothes and put on his hat. He pinched his son’s toe through the blanket and gave him a wink.
Well son I had better tend to your mother. That was the last time Johnny saw him. He got hit by a truck at a crosswalk and died instantly the next day.
Johnny coughed a deep rattling cough and peered inside the dumpster looking for food, his hands going a mile a minute, shuffling the deck of cards. He got up onto a stack of pallets and was just about ready to jump over the edge when a high-pitched voice softly called out to him.
Hey mister do you know any tricks; I see that you have a deck of cards in your hands. Johnny stopped in mid-step; he had his leg halfway over the edge of the dumpster and getting it down meant hopping on one foot until he could get his leg back over. As he was in the middle of the necessary gyrations, he was confronted by what he at first took to be an apparition. Tight bright red curls of hair on a little girl with a face so white it appeared translucent. Immaculately dressed in a gorgeous green dress complete with appliqué dancers in pink tutus and white ballet shoes topped by a purple faux fur collar. She was holding a leash connected to a dog twice her size. Diminutive as she seemed this still meant that the dog was enormous, a giant beast of a thing with thick long pure black hair. This creature looked more like a black lion than a dog, Johnny was certain that this was the largest dog that he had ever seen. They were backlit by the afternoon sun and so had this quality of gossamer, of shimmer, the girl’s hair shining like a head full of fire. She spoke.
My name is Glenda and this is my dog Beppo, I named him after one of the unknown Marx brothers don’t you know. I was still twirling and hopping unsteadily on my platform of pallets. Finally I landed and blinked my eyes twice then I rubbed them for good measure, but Glenda and Beppo did not disappear, as was sometimes the case these days during what I will someday hopefully, laughingly call my ‘Alley Period’. Certainly somewhat cubist, based on my impressions fragmented through the kaleidoscopic filter of my current mixture of self-medications. Nope, Glenda didn’t budge and neither did Beppo and the two certainly looked like they meant business. I looked at them and they looked at me and there we stood for a while like three statues, One, seemingly on fire. I started a card trick. I shuffled the deck then offered the deck to Glenda who took a card and showed it to Beppo. I would swear he nodded but … well! I took their card back into the deck and did my shenanigans with the requisite patter. I shuffled, cut, fanned and even slapped the deck for good measure. I told stories of a glorious past complete with navigators in goggles and equatorial crossings. I was really putting on a show this time. I was on fire. I glanced at Glenda who had a delighted smile on her face and Beppo who appeared completely unmoved. At the end I removed their card from the deck and then keeping the card in my hand and handing the deck over to Glenda, I turned my back to them in order to present the card with a flourish. I made some trumpet noises and turned around with the card facing out and they were gone. I looked all around me you know in that way where you almost get tripped up spinning around. I hadn’t heard a sound. Quiet as a couple of cats they were. The deck of cards was in a splatter on the ground.
The shot: We start with a close up of Johnny holding out the two of hearts. We catch the look of surprise on his face and then the camera slowly rises and takes in the area around the dumpster and the alley and then the neighbourhood and nothing, no trace of the red haired girl and her large lion-like black dog. Back to Johnny whose eyes catch a little glint. He puts out his hand and captures two shiny red curls floating in the sunlight. Cut.