CommunityMy FDLSeminal

The Secret

A single strand, gold chain, say 24" long, joined.

Dr Marcos was arranging it into images, then forming a snake, then two loops by tossing one half over another. He made a handle at the juncture of the two circles, which resembles the figure 8 there on the table.

His wife was explaining about the whalers. When they came into port, Cape Cod or Salem or Boston, they’d often find on the dock Thimblerig, a frock-coat gamester playing his necklace over an upturned barrel. "Cash on the barrelhead," said Mrs Marcos, explaining the origin of the expression. The whalers came to lay their money down.

It was a very simple gamble. The whaleman indicated, mostly by jamming his harpoon into it, upon which circle he was betting, Thimblerig would pull his handle of chain and the cirlces would close into a line and the point of the harpoon would catch or it would not. And that was the wager: which circle was fast, and which a myth?

Anybody would induce you into a proposition on one account and one only; he could take you at it. Once in the old days the Dallas Cowboys were lining up against one of their Eastern Conference rivals, and the first play they went for the downs. Jogging back to the huddle was the World’s Fastest Human, Bob Hayes, who had not however opened up a gap against his man sufficient to allow a target. The announcer said about the defender simply; "Obviously they thought they could whip him, else they wouldn’t have tried it."

When I was reading Faulkner, there was a series about the Snopes family, and I very soon began to see them as the anti-Semitic legend of the swarming commiving cozening Jew in a vast extended network like a web set to ensnare holy Christians. Flem, as the connotative name was, Snopes moved right on up the scale, and married a beauty and went to work in the Jefferson bank. And Faulkner said, there is one reason and one only anyone would agree to hold your money, and that is to skim at least some of it. It helps to remember that.

I had some very good advice delivered to my door free in my life, and one choice selection came from Harold Speed, General Cable Corp, circa 1965. "Never play another man’s game." I have remembered that, too.

The problem is in the nature of abstraction. A primitive will search for his answer deep within the two circles, the concrete, the real. Throughout a long afternoon, nothing else is seen but the circles, until eventually none of what the haprpoonist has won through hard toil long at sea remains to him.

Dr Marcos lived with his family in a shaded Victorian beneath mighty oaks, and his rec room where he presented his magic act was in the basement. He was short, goateed, and mysterious, and he spoke in a very soft voice, and if the kids spoke out of turn while he was murmuring the Mrs would shush them. He was an actual doctor, or had been.

His audience might be his son and daughter and maybe her beautiful friend Jeana Delight and other kids. I was there a couple of times, but I was tangential.

But I went home one evening two little villages over, and I sat down with a length of chain, and I set about discovering just how the magic worked. I knew there was nothing mysterious about the chain, so the secret must be elsewhere.

It came to me in the night.

So in the morning I drove to where Jeana Delight was waitressing. She was maybe sixteen in those years, and when she walked by, everyone was aware of it. When she had a moment, I spread my chain on the table, and demonstrated the magic.

She picked a circle and it disappeared as the chain slid over the table. And then another, and the chain was caught by her finger. She looked up and she smiled so demurely at me.

She never asked, and I never told.

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Smalltown Texan, Blackland Prairie, a senior. Sometimes I have trouble keeping up. Married, with Rottie/Pit. Reading, and some writing, that's me.