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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life in the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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My newest novel, Happy Valley, can be found here.

Friday, January 10

Mr. Wizard

Another strange middle-of-the-night memory. Why on earth do I too often half awaken at 3:00 a.m. and have my mind wander hither and yon? Last night, I thought about my daughter Laura, who would occasionally call me and ask to speak to Mr. Wizard. These calls were often years and years apart, and I remember panicking, trying to remember what I was supposed to do. Mr. Wizard is an old card trick you may have used or had used on you, and it’s one of the all-time best amateur (non-magician) tricks ever devised. Lots of card tricks have to be pre-planned or set up before springing them. But Mr. Wizard is all set up and ready to go any time or any place. Here’s the simple explanation for those not familiar with this trick. The phone rings. Laura says to me, “Hello, can I speak to Mr. Wizard?” at which I stumblingly say slowly, “Ace, two, three, four . . .” etc. Laura interrupts at the proper spot by saying, “Yes, Mr. Wizard?” and I say, slowly, “Clubs, diamonds, hearts, spades.” She interrupts, again at the proper spot, and says, “There’s someone here who would like to ask you a question.” She gives the phone to the one being tricked and the charade continues, with me speaking in a spooky, portentous voice, something like, “You wish me to tell you what card you’ve chosen? Are you looking at it and envisioning it? Ah, I see that it’s the seven . . . of clubs.” The tricked-upon usually screams, “Oh, my God! That's incredible! How’d you do that?” Then I add a few spooky comments about needing a rest after that mental exercise and hang up. Good trick, especially if it can be done without much time passing between our exchanges. And it’s especially impressive if there’s no preliminary situation or party where such a trick is introduced. For example, let’s say you’re sitting in a bar and you hear some strangers discussing clairvoyance or telepathy and you casually interject that you know someone who can read cards from a distance. And then the game begins.

A few years ago, Laura called me to pull this trick on her manager at a day care school where Laura was working. The woman was astounded at my telling her the card she’d chosen. But then she persisted with other questions, like how many children did she have. I guessed at two (a likely number) and she said yes, that’s right. And then I went on to tell her that one of them had recently asked her advice about something. A good guess since nearly all children ask for a parent’s advice, even though they then never take it. She excitedly told me all about it. I didn’t press my luck any further with my clairvoyance and made my telephonic escape. Laura later told me the woman wanted to know how she could contact this Mr. Wizard for a further fortune reading. Needless to say, Laura never told her it was just a trick. I miss Mr. Wizard. I wish I’d get a call from daughter Laura asking for him. Now that I’m old and forgetful, I’d probably really screw up the routine, but it would be nice despite the stumbling screw up.
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