Smoke and Mirrors

04 Feb


Writing in the third person.
He does it to distance himself from himself.

As a child, on an English summer holiday drenched with rain by the sea, his desperate parents conjured up tickets to an end-of-the-pier show. From out of the shuffling holiday-maker-evening dark he stared in awe.

The magician towered resplendent in black tuxedo, blindingly brilliant white shirt, and silky crimson bow tie. His long fingers blurred and danced. They teased tiny-heart-beating doves to flutter from his upturned hat and open sleeves. They shuffled and cascaded cards.  They disappeared objects and recovered them from behind the ears of eager witnesses.  They summoned a long-limbed, jewelled princess from the curtained wings and folded her into a tiny box.  They thrust glittering, breath-takingly sharp swords into her confined space.

The boy watched her emerge unscathed, her pale skin still perfect under the bright lights and he longed to be the sorcerer, wished for his secrets, lusted for his power.

Mid way through the second half of the show something happened. A mistake.  Barely a heartbeat of a slip. A faltering.  A stumble. A momentary loss of concentration. An uncertainty.

Invisible perhaps to most.  But the boy saw it.

In an instant he divined the tremble in the hands, the forehead sweat bubbling through the make up, the age-shine on the suit, the panic in the eyes.  He heard a tremble in the voice.

He understood every trick.

He sensed the dusty backstage, the disappointed counting out of the shrinking fee, the cramped fetid rooms above the fish and chip shop, the acrimonious divorce, the lost children, the box of yellowing letters in an ancient shoe box.

The child saw through the illusion and, however hard he tried, and oh, how he tried, he could never summon it back

The boy himself is now a man, far from young.  He has become an illusionist, of sorts.  He knows that, for the show to have power, for it to be compelling, for it to captivate and to control, the audience must suspend belief.  They must give themselves up to the magic.  They must have faith in his fantasy.  They must belong to him.

He knows that it is such a fine balance, a precarious position, a delicate dynamic.  He knows he must negotiate the wire with absolute confidence, with strength, and with complete certainty.

He knows that, above all, he must never stop believing in himself.

Otherwise it is all just smoke and mirrors.



During these introspective days I have been re-reading my past writings. I first posted this piece in 2012 on this blog, but I had already posted it on an earlier blog – ‘Shadows and Dancers’ – prior to that. The story from my childhood is true – and perhaps the rest is also so.


© the author writing as Romantic Dominant

Photograph found on the internet. Original source unknown. If it belongs to you please advise and I will credit or remove.



Posted by on February 4, 2018 in Poetry, Still Life


Tags: , , , , , , ,

6 responses to “Smoke and Mirrors

  1. House of Heart

    February 4, 2018 at 7:29 pm

    Beautifully intriguing, to be read again and again

    Liked by 1 person

  2. operalover1974

    March 16, 2018 at 1:09 am

    This is eerily disturbing but is clear and concise. So much I understand now.

    Liked by 1 person


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