Judge Santiago Burdon

Do You Believe in Magic

A psychic had been considering renting the storefront next to the bar I owned at the time. She came in and asked my opinion as a business owner about foot traffic in the area, specifically whether I thought it was a good idea to rent and if she would be successful. She wasn’t sure if it would be a wise investment.

“I’m somewhat puzzled by your question,” I answered with a surprised tone in my voice. “Being a psychic, isn’t that something you should know already, having the ability to see the future?”

She just looked at me with a loathing expression, threw her hands up, and with a disgusted tone called me a smart ass and turned to walk away.

The space remained vacant for three months and was eventually rented by an extremely pleasant guy named Marvin from Boston. He opened a magic shop next door and claimed to be related to Harry Houdini. He became a regular at the bar and drank Sam Adams with a shot of Old Grandad. He was a gifted story teller, always entertaining customers with humorous tales of his career as a magician in his younger days.

Occasionally he’d do magic tricks for patrons, although almost exclusively for good-looking women.

I realized an opportunity to book his act in the bar. I asked “Mystic Marvin Master of Illusion” if by chance he’d be interested in performing once a week with payment to be negotiated.

The bar had a small stage and I let a local musician host an Open Mic on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. On Friday and Saturday nights, comedians performed, hosted by a local radio personality and city councilman. He didn’t possess much charisma and lacked audience appeal, however. Neither he nor the comedians he booked were very funny most of the time and didn’t draw much of a crowd as promised either.

Mystic Marvin was excited at the opportunity to perform his magic. We arranged his first performance for the upcoming Friday night at nine o’clock, as an opening act before the so-called comedians.

The word spread quickly around the pueblo and I did a small bit of advertising, putting posters outside the bar and passing out  flyers to everyone that entered.

My novia (girlfriend) at the time was a gorgeous young woman whom I was fortunate to be able to afford. She was a vixen in bed with a voracious sexual appetite. I found it necessary to increase my testosterone dosage to keep up with her. She was also a thief and pathological liar, minor character flaws I chose to overlook in light of her other qualities.

Marvin and Veronica seemed to get on well together, despite the language barrier. She spoke little to no English and Marvin was one of those “I know enough Spanish to get by” type of people. Which I’ve discovered usually translates into, “I don’t know shit.”

He asked if it would be possible to have Veronica act as his assistant for the magic performance. There wasn’t any reason that I could think of not to grant his request. Veronica appeared thrilled at the prospect of being onstage without having to take her clothes off. Besides, our relationship had been been on the wane as of late, and I’d been trying to come up with some way to terminate our arrangement. I was pleased she would be occupied and not always hanging around, constantly getting in my way. She was suppose to be working as a waitress at the bar but never quite caught on to exactly what the job entailed.

They took their gig very seriously, practicing twice a day and sometimes into the early morning hours at the magic shop. After five days, Veronica came to me and asked me to purchase a costume for her to wear for the performance. The sequined costume she wanted cost one hundred and twenty- five dollars.

“Are you serious? I’m not laying out that kind of cash for a costume. That should be Marvin’s expense. You tell him what I said.”

“You are so mean to me. You never want me to look nice because you’re jealous other men look at me.”

“First of all I am not the jealous type. If it were so, I would’ve kicked your ass out of here long ago. I’m well aware of your flirtatious nature. Secondly, this was Magic Marvin’s idea to have you perform as his assistant. This falls under the responsibility of the talent. Don’t make it my problem.”

Marvin walks in at the height of our heated discussion, standing behind Veronica with an apologetic look on is face. Having finished my oration, I turned to walk behind the bar when Marvin decided to add his commentary.

“I know you think there’s something going on between Veronica and me. You have a right to feel that way. I know I’ve been monopolizing a lot of her time.”

“Marvin, that’s not at all what our conversation was about. If there’s something going on between you two, well that’s something I haven’t considered and honestly don’t give a shit.”

I knew he was banging her and it honestly didn’t upset me. I’d been getting more sleep at night anyway.

“The disagreement was over her wanting me to pay for a costume for your performance,” I continued. “And I believe this is an expense you should be responsible for, not me. I find it interesting, however, you assumed our disagreement was about me being suspicious of you two.”

“She’d mentioned that you were jealous she was spending so much time with me. That’s why I thought that’s what you were arguing about. Anyway, I bought that costume for our show yesterday. She tried it on and modeled it for the customers. You were gone, went to pay some bills I was told. Strange that she would ask you for money when she knew it was already paid for…”

I look around the bar, check the kitchen, bathroom, and office, and Veronica is nowhere to be found. I call out for her but she still doesn’t appear. Then I’m told by one of the customers she’d left shortly after Marvin’s arrival.

“It’s not strange at all, Marvin. As a matter of fact, it’s her modus operandi. She’s a con artist and a pathological liar. Don’t try to make sense of it, that’s just the way she is. Are you ready for tomorrow night? There should be a good-sized crowd from what I’ve heard.”

“Yes, I’m good to go. My act will last about forty five minutes to an hour, is that okay?”

“Just fine. I’ll see you tomorrow night, then. You go on at nine, so be sure to get here around eight thirty or so to get set up.”

“You bet, Santiago. I’m going to try to find Veronica noq. She may be upset. See ya tomorrow.”

“She’s most likely at the bar in the casino. Catch you later.”

Can you believe that insensitive snake, trying to shake me down for money, knowing it was already paid for. She thinks I’m a dipshit gringo and it’s my first experience dealing with women and their underhanded ways. After all I’ve done for and tolerated from that stripper prostitute. But, her dishonesty goes with the territory.

The night of their performance, the bar was jam packed with standing room only. I was a bit upset with myself that I  hadn’t thought to charge a few bucks a head. I did up the prices on drinks, however.

Mystic Marvin and the Lovely Veronica put on an entertaining and professional show. Got more laughs than the comedians ever did, that’s for sure. They even included an audience participation segment, which received thundering applause as well.

After a few weeks, the crowd dissipated and his act became less amazing. Although he did perform one of the most mystifying magic tricks I’d ever witnessed. It was a disappearing act that ended with both him and Veronica vanishing completely. The next morning, I noticed the magic shop empty, and Veronica’s clothes had disappeared from my apartment along with some cash as well. She’d left no note goodbye.

I was actually quite elated there hadn’t been some long, drawn-out break up. As a replacement, I hired Melissa, a gorgeous and personable young woman that same afternoon.

That night at the bar, I bought a couple of rounds in tribute to my newly single status. The comedians even seemed funny to me, although I’d heard the same jokes for months.

I bumped into Marvin about eight months later, on a short vacation I took with Melissa to the beach in Guanacasta. He was sitting alone at the bar, looking unhappy, overweight, and disheveled. When he recognized me, his expression revealed both fear and surprise. I waited for him to initiate conversation, which he did with uncertain confidence.

“Hello Santiago, it’s Marvin. How ya doing? It’s been a while…”

“Doing just dandy, Marv. Man, you look like you’ve been tortured by Jehovah’s Witnesses who beat your ass with Bibles. Are you still with Veronica? You two left together, so I was told.”

“Yeah, well, that’s right. I should apologize for how I acted, after you giving me an opportunity to perform at your bar.”

“Okay, go ahead.”

“Go ahead what?

“Apologize for being a backstabbing prick.”

“I’m truly very sorry,” he whimpered.

“I really don’t fucking care.”

“She blindsided me, Santiago. I got all caught up in her web of deception and couldn’t get out.”

He just went on and on, his voice cracking as he spoke.

“I thought she loved me. I did everything for her, and she pulled the rug right out from under me. Took off with some surfer bum, but not before cleaning out my bank accounts and stealing anything of value I had. Even took my little dog, Abracadabra, too…”

I  wanted to say how sorry I was, but I wasn’t.

“Well, you know what they say.”

“No, what do they say?”

“Love is great until the magic wears off. See ya around, maybe.”

Never saw the guy again. Soon afterwards I began learning a few card tricks of my own.  Eventually, I graduated up to some elementary sleight of hand tricks as well. Though I never did develop a quality trick, always screwed it up somehow.

“Do you believe in magic. In a young girls heart…”

—Lovin’ Spoonful

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