Alice was the person in the audience least willing to be called upon, so naturally the magician volunteered her for his first trick. Seated on the stage chair, being so close to the magician—she forgot his name but he looked like a Mark—wasn’t as embarrassing as she expected. It also wasn’t exciting.

He was well-muscled but wore a shirt cut for a fat man, as though he had raided a wardrobe department that was staffed entirely by overhired interns. The shirt was red, maybe maroon, but Mark was the type who would insist on calling it, not even “wine-colored,” but “wine.”

He proceeded with his trick with all the nuance of a supernova in heat. Alice stifled giggles at the absurdity of the scene, but the effort was too much when the head-caressing started. In the sonic space between Mark’s megaphonic chanting, Alice squeaked out a sneezy guffaw that rang loud into the furthest corners of the function room. He didn’t break from the theatrics one bit. Mark, draped in his wine shirt, was a force with which one neither negotiate nor halt.

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