Saturday, 29 November 2014
'I got robbed by a gang in New York at the weekend,' he said as he shuffled the cards. I chuckled. I liked the patter that went with his tricks. 'They took money out of my account in different places around the city. I lost £500'. I nodded enthusiastically, wondering how the trick would end - probably the 'gang' would be the four kings, that would soon appear stuck to the outside of the window along with 50 ten-pound notes. 'They must have got my bank card number' he said. 'Ha, yes' I said, winking. He looked perplexed. 'No, I actually did get robbed at the weekend'. 'Oh ... you actually ... erm, I'm really sorry...'. So that was the first trick: I'd made myself look like an arse. I listened sympathetically as Sam told me about the nasty incident, then he turned his attention to the trick.
I'd been mindblown by Sam's tricks several times - my only experience of close-up magic. He'd joined the Magic Circle in his early years in Huddersfield, and had honed his skills with Paul Daniels, before shooting off up his own branch of trickery. Surprisingly, I'd actually astonished him, even though I can't do any tricks. One late night in the pub, after Sam had, as I remember it, made the ace of clubs appear inside the barman's eye, I'd taken the cards and improvised a trick, going for the 52-to-1 shot as I picked a random card after various cuttings, clumsy shufflings, and even a flinging, and said 'Is this your card?'. It was, and for a second he was speechless. If only I'd managed to remain cool and say, 'I might teach you that one some day'. Instead I started jumping up and down on the spot, squawking, 'Jesus, what were the chances!' until I was alone in the pub.
So I asked Sam to think of his very simplest trick, halve it, then adapt it as if he were teaching it to a chimpanzee. After a few seconds' thought, he showed me a trick which seemed to involve both reading my thoughts and manipulating cards using telekinesis. If he'd levitated and turned his head 360 degrees I wouldn't have been more amazed.
Then he showed me how to do it. It really was ridiculously simple. It mainly relied on distracting me at a vital moment, which turned out to be slightly easier than distracting a dog with a sausage.
'Is it really that simple?' I asked. I felt pretty stupid for not seeing how it was done. 'But you must think I - and anyone else who can't see the trick - is stupid.' The split-second pause before he said 'No, of course not!' answered my question. 'Now do the trick on me', he said, distracting me easily again.
I tried, dropping the cards clumsily several times (non-opposable thumbs) before triumphantly turning over a card. 'And that,' I said smugly, 'is your card', It wasn't. Bollocks. A few more tries and I could do it, as long as I didn't talk, and he didn't look at me or breathe.
I thanked him and shot home to try it out on Lola before I forgot it. My patter was slick. 'Do what I tell you. Don't talk or breathe.' Six attempts later, just before I ran out of swearwords, I got the right card. 'What do you think of that?' I said. Lola put a thumb up, her face blue. 'You can breathe now.' 'Amazing', she gasped.