Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Excerpt: Free Magic Secrets Revealed by Mark Leiren Young

The Coolest Thing

[Publisher: We are enormously pleased, today, to be offering the first in an occasional series of excerpts from published Canadian books by theatre writers. GLC]

Mark Leiren-Young is a playwright, screenwriter, journalist, author and occasional contributor to The Charlebois Post. His bestselling book, Never Shoot a Stampede Queen (Heritage, 2009), won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. His stage plays have been produced throughout Canada and the US, and have also been seen in Europe and Australia. He has written extensively for TV, including the premiere episode of the series Grand Illusions: The Story of Magic. As a journalist, he has written for such publications as TIME, Maclean’s, Utne Reader and the Walrus. As a journalist and magic fan he has interviewed Doug Henning, David Copperfield and Penn and Teller’s Penn Jilette.

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When Lisa saw the blade of the guillotine race toward the back of Randy’s neck, she began to scream. It sliced, then stopped … with a sickening thud. The executioner smiled, satisfied. Lisa started to cry. And her lover’s headless body twitched, then lay there motionless until finally it shouted, “Normannnnnnn!”

The arms of the corpse flailed until two not-so-dead fingers connected with the latch holding its head in place. “That hurt.”

Lisa stopped sobbing, bent over to look at the man she was mourning and scowled. “Your head’s still there.”

“No problem,” said Randy.

“And you didn’t bleed. Weren’t you supposed to bleed this time?”

“I didn’t bleed? Normannnn!”

Lisa poked at the black cloth where Randy’s head was no longer supposed to be and his skull toppled from the lunette—the hole for the condemned’s neck—into the guillotine’s catch box.

Randy’s real head, complete with the long feathered brown hair of a seventies stadium rock star, popped out from the hidden compartment under his fake head.

Lisa turned to Randy, shook her feathered brown Charlie’s Angels hair, and announced, “Smoke break.” Then the seventeen-year-old would-be mourner spun on the heels of her white knee-high boots and walked toward the loading bay stairs at the back of the stage.

“Me too,” said Kyle. The executioner stepped out from the shadows to reveal the face of a rugged seventeen-year-old, and shook loose the feathered blond hair of a seventies TV star, looking like a young Duke of Hazzard.

“Hang on,” said Randy. “I wanna get this right.”

“Maybe we should just use an axe,” suggested Kyle. “An axe would work. An axe would be unambiguous.”

“Really sorry, man,” drawled Norman in the drug-delayed dude rhythms that had made Tommy Chong a millionaire.

Randy called over to the voice in the wings. “Norman, I need some help here.”

Norman shuffled toward the guillotine. Norman was nineteen, like Randy, and had shoulder-length blond hair—it wasn’t feathered, but it didn’t have to be. Norman was a techie, not an actor. He’d done a great job painting his death trap black and silver—from even a few feet away it looked real and dangerous—but up close it looked exactly like what it was … painted wood and carefully folded tinfoil. “It shoulda worked that time. I mean, the blade fell, right, man?”

Randy reached for his sore neck, rubbed it. “Yeah, it fell. But the head didn’t.”

“Musta stuck it in too hard. Maybe if we shave the Styrofoam a bit so it won’t fit so tight? Did the blood bag pop?”

“Does it look like the blood bag popped?”

Norman was thrown by Randy’s tone. Randy lived in a perpetual state of mellow. His mantra was, “Nooooo problemmm,” with the no stretched out to include anywhere between five and fifty extras o’s and at least a couple of bonus m’s at the end of every problem. But as a magician he knew that if the trick wasn’t working before opening night of his biggest show ever, he’d look like an idiot. “We already sold two hundred tickets,” said Randy. “At least two hundred people are gonna see this. Probably more like four hundred. We’re gonna sell out for sure.”

“Not if we cancel,” said Kyle. “We’re not ready.”

“I can fix it, man,” said Norman. “Just trust me.”

Randy picked up his Styrofoam head, leaned over to pop it back in the guillotine and the blood bag exploded, spraying a mix of ketchup and tomato soup all over the stage, the guillotine and Randy’s awesomely feathered hair. Randy went as pale as if all the blood was really his.

Norman was mortified.

I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

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