by: Wes Ishmael

Part I recap:

Squeak had shown up at Hooter's door during the holidays—the first time Hooter had seen him since disappearing a couple of years earlier when he saw Teddy, the herd sire for Aunt Pinky's bucking bull breeding program. Unable to find the elephant Squeak wanted for a stage illusion, unbeknownst to the magician, Hooter had substituted Teddy because Squeak claimed he was over the fear of bulls which sent him to early retirement from riding them and to an even earlier retirement from fighting them.

Now, for the first time and for good, Squeak claimed intensive, immersive substitution therapy had cured him of his bull heebie jeebies.

He was back to make good on the magic show he never got to finish.

So, here he was, Squeak Jablowski, performing for a fund-raiser of the Rio Rojo Cattlemen's Association, basking in all his glory, gracefully making things appear, disappear and transform as if by, well, magic.

Squeak found Nelda Isselfrick in the crowd and asked her for the time. Nelda looked at her bony left wrist where her heirloom watch always dangled and then she looked up in fear.

“It's…it's gone…”

“Perhaps this will help,” Squeak said ambling toward her with a wide grin and the cherished watch dangling from his fingers.

The crowd roared.

“Young man,” Nelda seethed in Squeak's ear as he leaned over to put the watch back on her, “You try that again and I'll make your teeth disappear.” She gave him a quick, sharp rap on the forehead with her cane handle for emphasis.

No one in the audience noticed, but Hooter could tell the bonk on the noggin rattled Squeak, who tottered on his way back to the makeshift stage.

Thinking quick to retrieve Squeak's nerves, Hooter shouted to the crowd, “Let's ask him to do that trick where he has three cards and you have to find the queen.”

“Yeah,” the group seemed to shout in unison. “That was amazing when you did it last time you were here.”

Mission accomplished. Hooter could see Squeak's confidence return as he reached into his pocket for a deck of cards.

This was Squeak's rendition of the classic Three Card Monte routine or Find the Queen.

Squeak dropped the Queen of Spades on the green tabletop and then placed a red deuce on either side.

“Mr. Johnson, I believe you were kind enough to help me the last time I was here,” Squeak said, smiling at Lonnie Johnson. “Would you be so gracious again?”

Even grumpy Lonnie had become a fan the last time. Still, his pals were surprised with how much enthusiasm was behind his “Sure. Where you want me?”

“Just pull your chair up to the table across from the cards,” Squeak said. He motioned to the rest of them to gather around beside and behind Lonnie.

“If memory serves me, Mr. Johnson, you prefer that I go slowly and deliberately,” Squeak said with a sincere smile.

“Yep,” Izzie interjected. “Lonnie's got one speed, it's called yesterday.”

Other than a hard glare, Lonnie let it go.

“As you see, we have the two of hearts here,” Squeak said, pointing to the card. “And we have the Queen of spades here and finally the two of diamonds over here.” He repeated it as he slowly turned each card facedown.

Unlike his previous performance, though, rather than scoot the facedown cards from one location to another, he just looked at Lonnie. “So, where is the queen.”

“Well, it has to be there,” Lonnie said pointing to the middle card.

“Unfortunately, it appears the Queen has let you down,” Squeak said. He turned the middle card over to reveal the two of hearts. “Looks like she moved over here.” He turned over the Queen of spades to the left of the center card and then turned over the other card, the two of diamonds.

“Tell you what, let's start with just two cards,” Squeak said. “We'll use the two of hearts and Queen,” he said, pocketing the other deuce.

Squeak pointed to the queen on Lonnie's left and then to the deuce on his right. Again, he repeated it as he turned each card facedown. He never touched the cards again. “So?”

Quickly, but with less confidence, Lonnie pointed to the left card.

Squeak turned it over to reveal the deuce. “I'm afraid that queen is a sneaky one.”

Applause erupted, even from Lonnie. “But how did…”

Squeak put the deuce in his pocket, leaving the queen face-up on the table.

“I believe you deserve one more chance to find the queen,” Squeak said pointing to the card. Slowly, he turned it facedown in front of Lonnie.

“Even you can't screw that up, lightening rod,” Izzy shouted.

Lonnie pointed at the card with a look of wonder on his face.

Squeak turned the card over to reveal a joker. “I'm afraid the lady can make fools of us all.”

There was a moment of silence and then applause, hoots and hollers three times larger than the crowd.

Re-Living History Is For Suckers

After more spellbinding sleight of hand and a brief intermission, it was finally time for a rendition of Houdini's Disappearing the Elephant trick, which went unfinished during Squeak's previous Apache Flats performance.

Because of the wintry weather, Hooter and Squeak reconstructed the prop at about a fifth of the original size.

“Well, it's plain to see you can't stuff an elephant in there,” Hooter said, surveying the box. “What do you plan to vanish?”

“Whatever you can find that will fit,” Squeak said with a pale face and weak smile.

“But, given what happened last time, maybe you ought to direct the traffic as to what goes in there.”

“Nope. Like I said, I'm cured,” Squeak tried. “Besides, you can't fit a bull in there anyway. Surprise me.”

Looking back, that was Squeak's second mistake. The first was trying to revisit the previous fiasco, therapy be damned.

Hooter shuffled through is mind, trying to come up with the perfect object for Squeak to vanish from the mini elephant box. It had to be unique. Hooter knew folks within driving distance with an eclectic range of pets and stock: a one-legged parrot that could recite by heart some of the bluer routines by George Carlin and Ron White; a pot-bellied pig with a high-pitched snort that would balance a marshmallow on its nose before tossing it in the air and sucking it down with a sound reminiscent of a toilet flushing; about every breed and cross of dog you could think of; a wheezing and infirm camel; monkeys of three different breeds, one of which could throw a pretty decent loop at a miniature roping dummy; a de-stunk skunk; and a ferret whose stench could hang with you for days.

Each seemed, too large, too small, or just too boring.

“Put a couple together, now that could be interesting,” Hooter thought.

Encores Ain't for sissies

“Again, my apologies for my abrupt departure last time,” Squeak said, motioning to Hooter to make ready. “And, I'm sorry the inclement weather and the need to keep all of the magic indoors means that we can't make an elephant disappear, or something that seems as large as one.” He seemed to stutter over the last few words.

“I believe you're in for a treat just the same…,” Squeak continued.

As Squeak explained the history of the trick, behind him Hooter led out the object to be vanished: Jasmine, the marshmallow-sucking pot-bellied pig. And, sitting atop the rotund porcine and swinging a piggin' string, decked out in a purple vest and red hat, was Carl the roping capuchin monkey.

The audience hooted and hollered their appreciation when they saw the monkey and his steed.

“The trick ain't making it disappear,” Izzy hollered. “The trick is how you came by that varmint to begin with.”

More laughter.

“I can tell I'm in for a treat, too,” Squeak beamed at the audience. He began turning toward the back of the stage. “You see, I told Hooter to surprise me. I'm anxious to see what he's come up with.”

Hooter had no way of knowing that Squeak's substitution therapy after seizing up when he saw Teddy the bucking bull—the therapy that was supposed to cure him of his fear of bulls—was Jack—the undead capuchin monkey from the Pirates of the Caribbean. When Squeak saw the movie, there was something about that monkey, it' shining eyes, needle teeth and haunting screech that petrified him. He couldn't sleep for a week afterwards and had given up bananas completely.

During his therapy, Squeak was forced to watch movie clips of the hideous beast over and over again.

So, when Squeak turned and saw Carl twirling a loop, jumping up and down on the pig's back, he squealed in such a way that Jasmine apparently thought signified one of her own. With the joy of a dog being reunited with lost family, Jasmine ran after the fleeing, squealing Squeak as Carl hopped and spun his piggin' string faster and faster.

‘Well, you made him disappear again,” Lonnie said.

“Good riddance,” shouted Nelda Isselfrick, clenching tightly the watch on her wrist.

“If only that parrot hadn't been so flea-bitten,” Hooter muttered to himself.

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