The rabbit has to be put into the hat before it can be brought out.
He had taken of late to dwelling a grotto at the brink of the town. And here, from this cavern, of a gloam and of a dawn, he beckoned and beat back the breakers that boomed on the beach. He hounded the gulls nesting the crag landscape. He wished the ships, fish smacks and sailboats, holed and swallowed. He pleaded the jet liners from the sky. Here, in the dim void, he faded his good history to the zero and painted the future a mindless grey mess. For sustenance he supped the seep and the moss oozing the walls and for pastime he arted his skin and the old cloak with caked guano into symbols of hate. He rolled his eyes at the sun and the moon. And, to the stars and the planets of love, he bit his thumb. He wanted the creatures breathless, the birds, unsettled in the trees. In, and of the clouds, as they passed, he fancied, he found foul meaning and message.
These ablutions stilled him some.
The night grew cold. He drew the old cloak around him and he laid in the dirt and stared down the void, the beach. He stared down the town and he developed a true and heartfelt hatred until scant sleep came. He dreamed his thinning colours. He dreamed, lucid, nearing black futures.
Some days, after school, the local kids would come to the beach and drink blue alcohol, smoke badly rolled toke and shout and laugh and finger each other. Some would try to flush him out by throwing rocks and bottles and insults.
Dressed in the cloak, and holding a rough mask that he’d fashioned from the fouled face of a fox, he would give chase.
The boys cursed and scrambled the cliffs on the backs of their tall bikes, pretending them ponies. And the girls, at a distance, tummies bare and, as yet, empty, with cheap fags at their faces and lips’ all lolly-sticky, would scream, mostly from some some misgiven excitement, all pissy in their pants. They would call him old and new names, too, as he stumbled, barking, barefoot on the seaweed rock. He spoke real words rarely and the children reckoned him either retarded or Russian, or both. The cloak, I suppose, being cause for part of this juvenile rumination. He could never catch them. And, of course, this only managed to rile him further. But, between them all, it was all just about enough to begin to whittle the future to an ever finer edge.
It had come into his possession, along with the riflings of a petty cash box, some time ago in another town when he had happened upon an open window through which he had entered a small office, one rainy night, at the back of a school. It was, more correctly, a gown: the kind worn by graduating students or certain headmasters. Collegiate anyway. But sartorial detail of this kind is missed by many.
The moniker, Derek K. Kerrick, was faintly scripted onto an inch of ribbon on the underside. But this was not the name of the man beneath it now. The once-black garment had seen better days. It was unseamed, here, and was quite clearly torn, here (and here). There was a coating of various stains, common with rough and careless living, upon it.
His known name was Ivan (and perhaps this went some way to explaining the children’s assumption of his eastern heritage) and long ago he had been in sales. But he’d hated sales and had secretly vowed to leave this trade, if that was what it was, and become a magician. He had always been interested in table magic; card tricks, coins and other things which he knew to be called close-hand magic.
He had felt, so much, the desire to pull a rabbit from a top hat. So, he’d bought a top hat, but, finding it wanting, purchased a rabbit to pull from it. However, finding the rabbit too large, decided that he should bite the bullet and seek out the magic circle. He left his desk and made a quick friend of a man at the pub who hinted that he knew of a man who knew of a man who could help him fulfil this dream. And, within a year of leaving sales, his act was extracting lacklustre claps from the palms of diners at cheap, local restaurants and supermarket staff on Christmas nights out, pulling colourful scarves, that he kept up his sleeve, but giving, almost, the impression that they came from the thin air.
This conjuring, this paltry, tricksy magic – the flim flam of ex-salesmen – served him fine for some time. And, with practice, not only did his hand skills become deft, but his stagecraft blossomed. By the second Christmas he was extracting whoops and wows from warmer rooms, and a small bunny called Alan from the dark hat. He found himself lauded in local papers.