The Great Mystico

This was written in June 2019 as an exercise to write a piece, about 400 words, incorporating the following words: bit, draw, flex, perilous, bubble, corner, rancid, pound, high, open.

Arthur Dodds sat slumped in a grubby armchair in the corner of his dressing room, nursing a glass of whisky, contemplating his fate. How had he come to this, an ageing stage magician in a fourth-rate northern club? Raising the glass he glimpsed his thin sallow face in the mirror, the surrounding frieze of naked bulbs giving him a corpse-like pallor. A short bitter laugh. He was going to die on stage so he may as well look the part. The sweaty air was thick with the rancid smell of old makeup and cigarettes. A nicotine grimed fan hung on a frayed flex.

Tonight he had no assistant. She’d texted him to say she’d had enough of posing and pouting and wiggling her bum to distract his audience. His female assistants were how he got away with his clumsy clichéd illusions though they were tame fare compared to the strippers who were the main draw. Early in his career he’d included knife throwing in the act. Working for him then had been a perilous affair but he did get bigger audiences when word got round he was only a fairly accurate knife thrower. Another swig of whisky and another grim chuckle. After two A&E visits his brief bubble of success burst and he gave up the knife throwing.

He’d continued to pound the circuit but bookings were scarce. He’d tried to build a bit of a comedy routine into his act hoping it would open the door to becoming a resident comedian and compere. He’d been given a trial at a particularly seedy club but he had to change in the gents and buy his own drinks. As markers of status you couldn’t get much lower but, in any case, he wasn’t offered a second chance.

He lifted the bottle to his lips and drained it. He’d made up his mind. This would be his last performance. As he hadn’t got a flimsily clad girl to hide his clumsy incompetence, he would do it himself. He would strip to the buff and wiggle his own scrawny bum at the indifferent crowd. And so would end his long lacklustre career. At least he would go out on a high.

Terry Wassall

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