17 comments

Fiction Friendship Funny

“My Dad says you’re shit!”

The forthright ten-year-old boy defiantly stood in front of the birthday party magician, passing on the self-qualified negative review of his father. Not sure of what to say to the little primary school-grade upstart, the magician returned a silent momentary glare before reaching behind the boy’s right ear and producing a gold coin from thin air. The boy’s eyes widened with surprise at the parlour trick, then faster than he was impressed, he became equally unimpressed.

“Is that all?” He pertinently asked. “Is not much, issit.”

Silently, the magician removed his top hat, turned it upside down, then held it in front of the boy’s face. Demonstrating nothing was in his hand, he quickly grabbed the boy’s nose, before approximately twelve coins appeared to fall from his nostrils into the hat. Then, with a gentle gesture of his hand, the magician encouraged the boy to take the coins from the hat.

“I can keep ‘em?” The boy excitedly asked.

A slow nod prompted him to push his hand into the tall hat to retrieve the coins. As he proceeded, the magician leaned forward to speak softly into his ear.

“I’m Alfie the Great, son. The world’s best party magician. So… tell your dad,” Alfie whispered. “…He’s a cunt!”

Before the words could register with the boy, a snapping sound resulted in him yelling in pain, then dramatically recoiling – screaming, horrified at a mousetrap now attached to his fingers.

***

“…Tell him the one about how you escaped jail, Alfie,” demanded the flat-capped, middle-aged drinking mate sitting around a circular table at the Quaggy Duck Pub.

Doom very evenly… Do not doom one doom to the rich: another to the poor… Nor doom one doom to your friend; another to your foe…”

A hush came over the half dozen group of men sitting around the table as Alfie held court, like the pub was his Camelot.

“I’m sorry,” the visiting American gentleman apologised. “What’s he saying. George?”

“It’s a quote, Mr. Cody. Alfie used to perform as Alfie the Great Magician. He’s quoting his namesake, the Saxon king, Alfred the Great.”

“Really… Are you related to Alfred the Great… Alfie?”

“…Only by circumstance, Mr…?”

“William E. Cody at your disposal, Alfie… What circumstance would that be?”

“He was a king… and I’m a cunt…”

Several of Alfie’s courtiers chuckled at the crassness spewing from his mouth. This was the closest anyone could get to a traditional East End of London pub, where jellied eels were not just on the menu, they were all over the floor, left by vomiting tourists trying to down a chunk of the pickled snake for a free round of drinks. Foul language and spontaneous outbursts of Maybe it’s becoz I’m a Londoner, were commonplace in the Quaggy Duck – mostly initiated by foreign tourists trying to blend in.

“Please forgive me, Mr. Cody. I’m on me fourth pint.”

“Call me William, Alfie.”

“William… And what do you do in life, Little Willy, my boy?”

“I sell hardware for a multi-national cleaning company called… Acme Solubles… We sell cleaning agents to office cleaning companies, janitors, forensic examiners, etc.”

It took a moment for the irony to sink in, but when it did, Alfie burst out into hysterical laughter.

“…Yes, Alfie,” William conceded. “I’m used to that reaction.”

“What’s so funny, Alfie?” George enquired – perplexed as to the humour.

“Ever watch the Road Runner cartoon, George?”

“Yeah, when I was a kid.”

“What was the company that supplied him all his gadgets, rockets, weapons-n-all?”

George took a long dive into his memory, then as if a lightbulb suddenly filled the darkness with illumination, he exclaimed, “…ACME!”

With a congratulatory pat of George’s back, Alfie commended his recollection, but George remained clueless, sitting there with a compensated smile that stretched only as far as his naïve look of enlightenment.

“This here, everyone, is Willy Cody… sounds like Wile E. Coyote…!? BEEP BEEP…! And he only works for the Acme Company, don’t he…”

In unison, the table burst out into a jovial-laden chorus of

Road Runner, Beep Beep!

The coyote’s after you…

Road Runner,

if he catches you, you’re through…!

Echoes of laughter spread around the table, joined only by those close enough to hear the newly formed choral society of the Craggy Duck recite the widely familiar tune.

“…GRETA!” Alfie yelled above the laughter. “Bring my new friend, Wiley, another pint, please!”

A cultured sounding female voice from the other side of the intimate pub shouted back, “Comin’ up, Alfie.”

When the last few chuckles of youthful delight subsided, Alfie respectfully leant over to William – sat one chair width away - and warmly smiled at him.

“All in good fun, William. ‘Avin a laugh is what pubs should be for, yes?”

“Indeed, Alfie. I’m cool.”

“Good. You’re all right, William. Let me introduce you around… Going clockwise… on me left is Frankie Four Fingers – on account of a missing thumb lost to a jealous knife throwing husband in the circus he used to travel wif… Next to him is Dudley, an old mate from the Magic Circle. He reads minds, so be careful what you think… He’s a quiet sort, but very concise when he’s not.”

A quick chuckle from Alfie put William at ease.

“…Next to him, is Mark – otherwise known as the silent comedian.”

“You mean, he’s a mime?”

“Nah, throat cancer took his voice box several years ago. Before that, he was one of the funniest blokes on the pub circuit.”

“Oh, sorry to hear that, Mark. It must be hard on you.”

The bald ex-comedian smiled back at William, then imitating a hammer hitting him on his head, a set of false teeth sprung out of his mouth and fell into his pint of beer, causing another set of hysterics to encircle the round table.

“…He’s still a funny cunt, innee… Might have lost his voice, but not his talent.”

“He’s f-f-f-fuckin’ f-f-f-funny…” Stammered the twitching man sat next to Mark.”

“That’s Stuttering Steve. A name awarded by deed poll prior to auditioning for the X-Factor show. Before that, he was just… well… Steve.”

“Nice to meet you, Steve…”

“That’s stuh-stuh-stuh… good to meet you too,” he forced out quickly.

“You’ve already met George,” Alfie continued. “George here was our talent agent. Got us all some good gigs in the day, didn’t ya.”

“I’m retired now, Mr. Cody. Not a lot of work these days for talent agents. It’s all gone online. Everyone and his mother control it all now.”

“Is that their business name?” William innocently asked, causing another outburst of laughter from his new friends.

“You have a bit of a funny streak in you as well, I see,” Alfie gleefully commented.

“Yeah, I guess?” William dryly replied.

“Your pint, your majesty.” The conversation interrupted, both men looked up to see the buxom figure of Greta peering down her nose at them.

“This is Greta, William. She owns the place and is ever so posh.”

William nodded a friendly hello to her.

“Pleased to meet you, Greta,” he cordially addressed her.

“American?”

“Yes, from Albequerque, New Mexico. Do you know it?”

“Contrary to American belief, Mr. Cody…”

“William, please…”

“Contrary to American belief, William, we in this country have a good knowledge of the world. Geography is a widely taught subject in English schools. It prevents us all on this small but crowded island from becoming insular in our worldly awareness.”

The conversation interrupted by a sleight of intellectual insult, everyone awaited Williams’ reply.

“Yes, well,” he paused for thought. “When the world revolves around you, it’s difficult giving a shit…”

His quick-witted answer sent everyone within earshot into fits of laughter – some bent over resting their bobbing heads on the table, others laughing up at the ceiling.

“You’re all right, Wiley Coyote,” Greta astutely commented as she turned and left.”

“That’s what I said,” Alfie confirmed.

Motioning for William to sit next to him, Alfie edged closer to talk clandestinely to him.

“Did you know, she’s the only female to have gotten into Eton…”

“…I thought Eton was an all-boys college.”

“Yeah, it is… Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean she went there. Nah, she snuck in to shag a vy-cunt.”

“You mean a viscount?”

“Count is what he was not – after proposing marriage to her, then leavin’ her at the church, coz mummy and daddy threatened to cut him out of their will.”

“How cruel and sad.”

“Prosperous, really… One hint of selling her story to social media got mummy and daddy coughing up the readies…”

“…Readies…?”

“Money… That’s how she bought this place. See that painting at the back of the bar?”

“The… what is it?”

“It’s a goose in full flight dropping a golden egg on a man standing in a swamp of excrement…”

“Original…” William confusingly opined.

“It’s symbolic, mate… Greta is the goose, the man in shit is the vy-cunt, and the golden egg symbolises…?”

“…Compensation…?”

“Very good, William… There’s a sign maker working on a new hanging sign for outside the pub and that picture will soon be its new emblem.”

“I must say, you English are the kings of satire.”

“I will correct you there, my American pal. The English are the kings of comedy, but us Londoners… we are the Sultans of Satire… Anything different to our way of life is parodied to beyond the point of death, then eventually embraced as one of our own. Absorbed into the fibres of the fabric of our laughable lives.”

“…Alfred the Great quote?”

“Nah, mine.”

“…So, what was with the earlier speech about not dooming one thing to the rich and another to the poor?”

“It was my defence in court after almost snapping off some smart-alec kid’s fingers with a mousetrap hid in me top hat.”

William’s eyebrows raised in disbelief at the thought.

“…In my defence, the kid was egged on by his mouthy, drunken father trying to rile me up. As performers, we’re used to the odd heckler here and there, but this wanker wouldn’t stop – even after ignoring him. The mousetrap hidden in my top hat, was just to scare the boy. However, the coins he saw drop into my hat made his greedy little fingers dig deeper into the hidden pockets within, dislodging the failsafe block of cork meant to prevent injury… I used to be a celebrated magician, but my reluctance to upscaling my skills to the new illusionary practice of modern magic, made me obsolete. George here, saved my career from fizzling out. But… it came at a price… Kid’s parties…”

“Was the boy hurt badly?”

“Just some bruising to his knuckle. Mousetraps are not designed to cut through skin. They’re designed to break a mouse’s neck – which is considerably more fragile than a child’s finger… All the same, the idiot dad pressed charges and I was brought up before a judge, who fortunately for me, loved magic.”

“So, what!? He let you off?”

“Not quite. Because the incident involved a minor, it was deemed a serious breach of the peace, but a lesser culpability due to Low level of neglect. Even at a category three level of offence, I was still looking at a minimum of a nine-month stretch behind bars, followed by a community order – aka, an ankle bracelet shackling me to home for a while.”

“Shit! Well, don’t stop there, Alfie. What happened?”

“The huh-huh-huh-huh-hat!” Stuttering Steve blurted out to a confused William.

“You see, Mr. Cody,” George interrupted. “Alfie’s top hat was confiscated to be used as evidence, but before that happened, I um… tampered with the evidence by resetting the trap with the protective cork in place… Well, I couldn’t lose my bestest act, could I…”

“After I issued a profound and sincere apology to the boy and the court,” Alfie continued. “The judge asked to see my hat and invited me up to his bench to demonstrate the trick. So, I repeated the coin sneeze and invited the judge to put his hand into my hat to retrieve them.”

“Where did you get the coins from?”

“…I’m a magician, William.”

Impressed, William nodded his admiration for Alfie’s skills.

“…I got Frankie here to smuggle them into court hidden in a false thumb wrapped in a bandage. After complaining of being hot in the court, Frankie slipped me what looked like a small towel to wipe my brow. I was wearing my performance suit, so there were many places for me to hide the coins extracted from the thumb, once Stuttering Steve distracted everyone’s attention by voicing his support for me and Mark spat out his false teeth into the water jug sitting on the prosecuting solicitor’s table.”

“That’s hilarious.”

“It’s the art of diversion, mate.”

“Did it work?”

“Up to a point. The snap of the trap was loud enough to make the judge pull his hand out quickly, but more importantly, untouched and unharmed… Like an overgrown kid, he was beaming with excitement at being tricked - until I went too far by dangling his watch in front of his face.”

“Oh, Alfie. What did he do?”

“He told me to return to my seat, gave me a lengthy dressing-down, then released me without conviction.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

“Not entirely… Concluding his speech, he added it was his duty to advise the Magic Circle of my neglect for the safety of others and would recommend that my magician’s licence be revoked…”

“…And…?”

“Here we are. Four out of work entertainers drinking with their forced retirement booking agent in a pub owned by a rejected bereft ex-lover of a vy-cunt… Welcome to London!”

As they raised their glasses to cheer, a group of tourists in the far corner of the pub started singing,

        “…and if I catch you be bending,

        Veel saw your legs right off,

        0h, kernees up, kernees up,

        Don’t get a breezes up,

        Kernees up mutter brown, OY!”

A round of energetic applause signalled the cessation of their interpreted song, before the group followed with another song… this time in German.

“Kruh-kruh-kruh-kruh-crazy bastards,” Stuttering Steve laughed.

William applauded the gusto of the visitors from Berlin. It had been a great introduction to the melting pot of London’s society for him. However, work called, so William had one straightforward and honest request to make.

“Before I go, Alfie. Would it be possible for you to perform a trick for me? It’s okay if you can’t…”

“Nah, mate. You’re good… You wouldn’t happen to have a pack of cards on you, would ya?”

Before he could reply, Alfie reached behind William’s ear and produced a full pack of playing cards. Extracting them from their box, he shuffled the deck – first with two hands, followed by several times with just one hand, then fanning them out in front of William, he invited him to pick a card.

“Don’t show it to me. Just look at it, then place it back in the deck anywhere…”

Handing the deck to William, he instructed him to shuffle the pack until he was confident that the cards were mixed thoroughly.

“Right… George, can you please remove your cap from your head and place it upright onto the table.”

On cue, George lay his cap onto the table, open side down.

“Now, William. I want you to imagine your card rising from the deck and travelling to Frankie Four Fingers. Can you do that?”

“Yeah, yeah,” William obliged.

“You’ve not seen it fly through the air. You have only imagined it, correct?”

“Yeah, in my mind’s eye.”

“You’re catchin’ on, William… Frankie… Please reach into your inside jacket pocket and tell me what you feel.”

“Feel-slike-a playing card, Alfie.”

“Before you show it to us… Dudley, ‘ol mate… what was William’s card?”

“The Eight of Clubs,” Dudley impressively stated.

“That’s correct!” William delightedly exclaimed.

Retrieving the card from Frankie Four Fingers, Alfie, turned it over to reveal the Eight of Clubs, then quickly inserted it back into the deck.

“William, please hold this deck between the palms of your hands and once again envisage your eight of clubs flying invisibly over to Mark… and go…”

Alfie closed his eyes and gestured that the card was travelling through thin air toward Mark.

“Excellent, William. I do believe you have hidden magical powers… Mark, can you please reach behind Stuttering Steve’s head and dig your fingers into the back of his shirt collar.”

Complying, Mark produced a playing card from Stuttering Steve’s collar.

“Good job, Mark. Please turn it around for all to see.”

To William’s amazement, the Eight of Clubs once more appeared.

“Mark, please hand the card to Stuttering Steve, then Steve mate, toss it over to the bar.”

William watched intently as the card spun through the air, hitting the back wall, before falling to the floor.

“Our journey is at an end, William. Without lifting George’s cap, can you please reach under the rim and retrieve what is there.”

Gingerly, William slid his fingers under the cap, but a loud snapping sound jerked him to his feet as the cap flew off the table, revealing a magnifying glass trapped within a mousetrap’s metal wire.

“Gotcher!” Alfie barked.

“…That’s funny, Alfie. But what happened to my card?”

“Ah yes… Please pick out the magnifying glass and carry it over to where Greta is standing.”

Following Alfie’s instructions, William joined Greta, standing next to the goose painting. From across the pub, Alfie yelled further instructions.

“Now, look at the golden egg in the painting and tell me what you see pictured on it.”

“…It looks like a tiny rectangle, Alfie.”

“Can you read it?”

“No!”

“Use the magnifying glass…”

“…Yep, okay. I see it, now…”

“At the top of your voice, tell everyone what is in the rectangle…”

“…It’s the… EIGHT OF CLUBS!”

“THE EIGHT OF CLUBS, ladies and gentlemen! Your resident magician, Alfie the Great, conjures up another mystery… Now…! A free round of drinks to anyone that can stomach a jellied eel…”

December 13, 2022 08:44

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

17 comments

Tommy Goround
01:42 Apr 04, 2023

Good characters. Eels. Was waiting for William the Bastard Conquerer. A play off bastard or .... Willy Coyote works ,as well.

Reply

Chris Campbell
03:05 Apr 04, 2023

Ooh, I might use "The Bastard Conqueror" in another story. Thanks Tommy. Your great feedback is always appreciated.

Reply

Tommy Goround
17:22 Apr 05, 2023

I guess the guy was my grandpa. Not really a big deal since there's 3 to 5 million descendants. But as a descendant I give you full permission to make fun of Grandpa... Talk about how he wasn't really french or really a viking something in between. You can also answer the mail because 85% of England was wrongfully misspelled in the Domesday Book , like 1088. Which maintains the question: where did the Picts go? Robert the Bruce has a French name.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Susan Catucci
19:10 Dec 20, 2022

For me, reading this story of yours, Chris, felt a little like I was in over my head, having wandered into a neighborhood bar I wasn't familiar with and feeling pretty wary of the clientele. The eels alone would have done it for me, if not the prevalence of the C-word, but instead of backing out the door, I decided to take my chances and remain on the bar stool for the duration - and I'm glad I did. It was a transporting (magical) experience.

Reply

Chris Campbell
21:59 Dec 20, 2022

Susan, Thank you for the great comments and feedback. Yes, by all appearances, the pub and clientele look a bit dodgy. I think most magicians want their audience to be on their guard and slightly distracted. It makes it easier for them to fool people.

Reply

Susan Catucci
00:20 Dec 21, 2022

Ah, and rightly so. I would be the innocent lamb, with slaughter around the corner if I'm not careful. What a wonderful experience (in words).

Reply

Chris Campbell
01:18 Dec 21, 2022

Thank you.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Show 1 reply
Mary Lehnert
20:36 Dec 17, 2022

Have to agree Chris The hat trick might have been overlong. But everything rang true, always with your writing, The judge who let him off without conviction I wanted to believe this. Reminiscent of those Irish courts where the judge was always lenient to “ crimes of passion”. Great read . Enjoyed it

Reply

Chris Campbell
02:24 Dec 18, 2022

Mary, thanks for the great feedback. Yes, the hat trick at the end may be a little stretched; however, I was trying to put myself in the shoes of an illusionist like Derren Brown who tends to lengthen his reveals. We all know that the trick was a set up and the Eight of Clubs was palmed to William, the accomplices at the round table were all in on the trick, and that the painting is a set up for the final reveal. I think Alfie was just delaying the inevitable punch line for dramatic purposes. 😉 I did do a little research into the UK justice ...

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Rebecca Miles
18:49 Dec 17, 2022

Well we've got the Sultans of Swing so why not of satire. This one warmed the cockles of my British heart, even the jellied eels brought on pangs of nostalgia. My first flat was in the East end of London, just up from Dalston, and the one thing I truly miss living in Germany are the pubs and all the banter. Yiu brought this colourful band to life and set me off down memory lane in the process. Many thanks.

Reply

Chris Campbell
02:31 Dec 18, 2022

Rebecca, thanks for your great feedback. Originally from London myself (now in OZ), I have spent many a time in the pubs around London. The older pubs are an eclectic collection of history, characters, and atmospheric drinking establishments. They can never be replaced - no matter how modern the world gets. I'm glad that I was able to invoke a sense of nostalgia.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Delbert Griffith
13:40 Dec 17, 2022

When the American was introduced as William Cody, I immediately thought of Buffalo Bill Cody and his wild west show. Then we find out he works for the Acme company and all is revealed. I can eat calf fries (sliced and fried cow balls) all day long, but I shudder at the thought of downing a jellied eel. Loved that part. The British use of the word 'cunt' is akin to the Americans' use of the word 'asshole.' The liberal use of 'cunt' made this story feel authentically British, but what the hell would I know about it? I'm a Texan who watches...

Reply

Chris Campbell
02:34 Dec 18, 2022

Delbert, your feedback is greatly appreciated. Being from that part of the world, I'm glad to add a little authenticity to setting and the colourful language. Your description of the "C" word is quite accurate. It can also be used as much in fun as it's angrier connotation. The characters most assuredly will rise again.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Philip Ebuluofor
18:30 Dec 14, 2022

I watched it 50 percent kind of not reading all the way. It is hooking and fine work.

Reply

Chris Campbell
21:37 Dec 14, 2022

Thank you, Philip.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mike Panasitti
02:06 Dec 14, 2022

This is a first for me. First time I've encountered a sarky magician along with his cohort of unemployed misfit entertainers as principal characters in a story. First time I've ever read card tricks skillfully woven into a tale. Exceptional dialogue and pacing. Well done, and well deserved cheers to you, Chris.

Reply

Chris Campbell
03:15 Dec 14, 2022

Thanks Mike. They are an odd bunch. Reusable characters methinks. Thank you for the great feedback.

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply