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The Fourth Wish: Chapter 4 - More Magic

There are rabbits galore in the theatre. Rabbits racing towards the stage, rabbits jumping into a silk top hat and disappearing... Then Mr Cottler goes floating into the air, like a fish dangling on a line..

Mondo the Illusionist finds himself at the centre of real magic.

For earlier chapters of Elizabeth Varadan's magical contemporary tale click on The Fourth Wish in the menu on this page.

Kids everywhere scrambled back to their seats as bunnies turned and raced toward the stage, followed by the ushers.

Mr. Cottler stepped forward. "Boys and girls," he began, but stopped, staring. Mondo raised a trembling hand toward the gold baton he had earlier laid on the table. It seemed to have taken on a life of its own, rising from the table and hovering in the air. The rabbits stopped moving. Voices died down to a murmur, then to nothing. Mondo, Mr. Cottler and the two ushers huddled close in front of the mike, their mouths open, like a rock group about to sing.

Slowly the wand began to wave back and forth in midair.

Rabbits onstage slowly hopped over to the silk top hat and, one by one, jumped inside. Bunnies in each aisle came up the steps, across the stage, over to the hat, and disappeared. When the last rabbit was gone, the wand floated down to the table and lay still. After a moment of stunned silence, everyone began stomping and raving.

"Awesome!"

"Unbelievable!"

"Fantastic!"

"How does he do it?"

Mr. Cottler glowered at the magician. "This isn't how you rehearsed it, Garrity! Not a bit!" His voice crackled with emotion over the microphone. "Just get this show moving along and over with," he growled. He stamped offstage, followed by one of the ushers.

The other usher took Mondo's hand, vigorously shaking it. "Mr. Cottler's right about one thing," he told the audience. "We didn't rehearse it this way. This is incredible!" He turned back to The Great Mondo. "You're the best illusionist I've ever seen! Even David Copperfield couldn't pull off something like this!"

Mondo gave him a stupefied smile. "No, I don't think he could," he croaked. Melanie felt sorry for him. It wasn’t his fault that Cory's wish was coming true.

"Fault?" echoed Mondo, looking dazed. "Wish?" An explosion of words came from the wings. He glanced offstage, then nodded, his shoulders slumping.

The magician turned back to the microphone, he said. "For our final number...."

"Awww," voices groaned.

"Yes, for our final number, I will make a person...float in the air!" His voice had lost its earlier enthusiasm; he was barely smiling. But excitement buzzed around the auditorium, and Erin let out a squeal.

"And here he is, our very own...Mr. Cottler." Mondo’s voice fizzled out as he extended his arm to the left and the offstage drum gave a new bang.

Arthur didn't even bother to whisper. "X Files Three, man!" He cackled, rubbing his hands. Cory snorted. Melanie folded her arms and stared at the stage.

The ushers had wheeled out Mr. Cottler, lying on a cot. A long red blanket reaching to the floor covered him almost to his toes. His feet, longer than Melanie remembered, stuck out one end of the blanket. The manager fixed Mondo with a warning stare before sending a phony smile to the audience.

"I will put Mr. Cottler in a trance," explained the magician, "with my wand." Giving a slight shudder, he picked up the gold baton. "And because of this trance...." He spoke quickly now, as if eager to get the whole thing over with. "Mr. Cottler will be able to defy gravity!"

A cymbal crashed, and Mondo rushed on.

"First, Mr. Cottler will rise in the air. Next...." He tapped the slender stick against his palm. "He will float across the stage. Then...WHAT?" Mondo shouted.

Mr. Cottler had risen and was floating overhead. Under the red blanket, his arms made wild motions. With a loud clatter, two long poles fell to the floor, along with two empty shoes. The blanket dropped in a heap beside them. Mr. Cottler rose higher and higher, shaking his fist, while laughter broke out all over the theater.

"Get me down from here, Garrity!" he bellowed. "You get me down this instant!" More laughter drowned him out. At one end of the stage, the ushers stood and watched, grinning.

Erin tugged on Melanie's arm. "Why is he calling him Garrity?"

"That must be his real name."

"But he's The Great Mondo."

"That must be his stage name," Melanie mumbled, unable to tear her gaze away from the scene onstage.

"Make him float to the ceiling," shouted a voice in front, and Melanie wondered if it was Ernesto's. Mondo raised the wand, and Mr. Cottler zigzagged higher, amid roars of approval.

An interesting wish, Mrs. Seraphina had told her. Melanie remembered the woman's crafty smile and shivered, seeing Mr. Cottler dangle in the air, like a fish on a line. She slid a glance at Cory, but his face was one big grin. He slapped his leg and elbowed Arthur. The two of them laughed like idiots when Mr. Cottler sailed toward the left curtain, then changed directions.

Beside Melanie, Erin gave a contented sigh. "This is my best day. It's the best day in my whole life. Mondo can do everything you said."

It was not Mr. Cottler's best day. Mondo seemed fascinated with the wand now. Like a kid with a new toy, he waved it about, making the theater manager float around in circles.

"Garrity, if you know what's good for you...auugghh!" Mr. Cottler suddenly dipped downward again. A brief smile flitted across Mondo's face. He lowered the wand by degrees until the manager landed with a soft thud beside the cot. The theater exploded in applause.

Mr. Cottler sprang to his feet. He shook his finger at the magician. "FIVE MINUTES!" he ranted. His voice seemed to have doubled in size. "THAT'S HOW LONG YOU HAVE TO PACK UP AND LEAVE!" He straightened his suit jacket and strode offstage.

The spotlight went dark and the overhead lights came on. Cheers turned to grumbling.
"Aw, it was too short," said a girl's voice.

"It was supposed to be an hour show."

"How do you think they did all of that?"

"Like the usher said, he's an illusionist."

"They kind of overdid the ending," said the boy behind Melanie.

"Yeah, he's acting like he really got fired," said his companion.

Onstage, Mondo was packing things into the trunk—the tray, the pencil, the spray bottle, the cards, the wand. After a wary look inside, he put on his top hat. Just then the theater darkened again and the curtains opened. Music blared for previews of coming attractions as Mondo closed the trunk and folded the table into a small flat rectangle that he tucked under one arm. Melanie tried to watch the car crashing onscreen instead of the tall, sad, bowed figure heading across the stage.

Cory nudged her. "Let's go to Daisy's," he said. Daisy’s Do-nuts was a small cafe on V Street, where they went whenever they had things to talk over.

"Yeah, sure," Melanie huffed. "Just when Race to Tomorrow is about to begin!"

"Daisy's?" Arthur leaned forward, licking his lips.

"It's the only reason I wanted to come," began Melanie. "You promised you would sit through Race to Tomorrow again if...."

"Can you guys be quiet?" complained the girl behind them. In the previews onscreen, a building blew up. A police car came out of nowhere.

Cory leaned closer. "You can rent the video pretty soon," he whispered. "We need to talk about...." He nodded toward Mondo, who had reached the edge of the curtain at the end of the stage.

Melanie leaned even closer and hissed, "If you hadn't made that dumb wish, there'd be nothing to talk about.”

Mondo turned and scanned the front rows, his face puzzled.

"See that?" muttered Cory. "We have to find Mrs. Seraphina."

"It's not fair," said Melanie, feeling her face pinch up. But if life were fair, she wouldn't have to baby-sit Cory and Erin. Arthur wouldn't be tagging along. Her parents wouldn't be divorced. Her father would be home instead of out on a merchant ship. That's how everything would be if life were fair. She swallowed her disappointment. "Never mind! I wouldn't be able to concentrate, anyway. C'mon, Erin."

Erin didn't argue. After all, Melanie fumed to herself, she just had the best day in her entire life. They made their way along the row to the aisle, while voices behind them grumbled. She wondered how she would explain their departure to Jenny. Not even her best friend would ever believe a story about a bag lady who granted wishes.

They came out into the damp, chilly afternoon. Across R Street people stood in line outside The Fox and Goose for a late lunch. Cory and Arthur sauntered to the corner, where the light for Tenth Street was still green. Melanie and Erin walked along behind, Melanie still sulking.

"Wait up!" shouted a familiar voice. They all turned.

The Great Mondo was hurrying from the theater's alley exit. The four of them stood as if riveted to the sidewalk, watching him come closer and closer. His face was flushed with anger. The trunk and table slowed him down. He stopped, setting down the small chest and pointing at them with an accusing finger.

"You!" he called. "You had something to do with this!

© Elizabeth Varadan 2006


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