The Magician’s Son

  • ‘The Magician’s Son’. At puberty, this boy is ashamed of being in his body, ashamed of his Magician father, and awkward around the opposite sex, but on a trip to Kariba, one of the dancers (the Silhouettes)  shows him more than he wants to know about life. Published in New Contrast

  • Extract“This seat taken?”Without waiting for an answer, she flops onto the red bench seat next to him. He tries to ignores her. He presses his face to the bus window and watches the scraggly Msasa forests of the sub-tropical African Lowveld roll past him. She flicks a white wrist and pages noisily through her Fair Lady magazine, licking her finger every time she turns the page, jabs her elbows and the magazine into his ribs. He scrunches his body as far from her as possible to give her room, but she sighs, twists, adjusts her bra, her dress, her hair. Blows out, lies back, stretches forward.He yields to the inevitable. “You’re Katie Karbo. I’ve seen you on TV.”She feigns astonishment. “You know who I am? You watch Top of the Pops?”
  • Everyone knows who she is. Every Saturday night, she dances on TV to the number one Hit of the Week in a badly decorated studio on Pockets Hill in a badly choreographed routine with seven other scantily dressed dancers called the Silhouettes. Every Saturday night, she flicks her straw blonde long hair at the camera, shudders her bikinied breasts at the world, and flutters her Marilyn Monroe eyes at the male population. Of course he knows who she is.“What are you doing on this trip?”“I’m the magician’s son.”

    His father—who is chatting breezily to the blonde Barbara Singer in the front row of the bus—is a magician, and he is the reluctant apprentice with his own show who tags along wherever his father performs. At puberty, it is truly something to be ashamed of. And this weekend, Marvellissimo the Magician and Son are to join John Tapply, the Holy Black and the sexy Silhouettes in the Super Extravaganza Show in the resort hotels onAfrica’s largest man-made lake this holiday weekend. The yellow non-air conditioned bus grudgingly carries all of them down the contoured roads into the Zambezi valley, its engine strained by the mountain inclines and declines and its passenger section cluttered by the band’s drum set, the magician’s saw-a-woman-in-half-boxes, the egos of the top singers in the country, and cigarette smoke from the lungs of eight loud Silhouettes.

    Katie Karbo frowns. “How old are you? Shouldn’t you be in school?”

    “Fourteen. Nearly fourteen.” To escape her hot gaze, he looks down at her hands which are neatly folded on the magazine. Her fingernails are purple. On her left ring finger, a diamond sits on a circle of blue stones, held hostage by a circle of pure gold.  Her skin is pinched tight around the ring. She holds it to the light of the window. “He gave it to me last weekend.”

    “When are you getting married?”

    “Next year. When I finish college.”

    She examines her ring from all angles, and then twists it around her finger. “Why is there no air-conditioning on this bus?”

    He stares out of the window again, hoping that her rhetorical question means the end of their conversation. He is too uncomfortably thirteen, afraid his voice will go squeaky, afraid she will notice the beginnings of a mustache on his upper lip. But she insists on violating his private space. “So what are you going to be when you grow up? A magician?”

    He thinks too long before he answers so the reply is too obviously contrived. “I’m not going to grow up.”

    “Me neither. Never.” She slowly lowers an eyelid, as if sealing a secret pact. “Hey, look, Kariba….”

    kariba 1973

Comments are closed.