Mathilda was a magician’s assistant until she said fuck it & became a magician herself. She quit her secretary day job & swapped her Buick for a baby blue Vespa, puttering down the boulevard to go buy flashy dresses for her debut show. The wind lifts her hair into a cape, the ends of it billowing from her turtle-shell helmet. She’s flying, until she stops & enters the boutique & a woman with a sleek ponytail gives her a gaudy robe & a dressing room with a snake plant in the corner. Escorts Mathilda through the racks. She cradles piles & piles of gowns in her arms like bundles of wheat, adding a new one each time Mathilda says something like that’s cute or ooh, I like the sequins. Mathilda’s zipped into inkblack bodycons & corset tops & loud pleats & goddamn, doesn’t she look like the queen of illusion?
She leaves with four flavors of taffeta & tasteful cutouts & glows the whole way home. Parks her moped in a tree’s shade outside her apartment & runs inside & dumps the bag of dresses onto her bed. Her answering machine pings in the other room, three messages waiting because her cell phone was absolutely not for business-related calls.
Even though her grand act won’t happen for a few days, she slides into a shimmering mermaid dress with lilac accents & doesn’t take it off. Not to vacuum or disinfect the bathroom sink or watch reruns of Cold Case Files whilst inhaling copious amounts of lo mein from the corner takeout place. Each day is another dress. Another chore. Another batch of hours preparing for that moment everyone in the audience stares through her. When everyone is collectively happy & heartbroken at the same time, each trick of illumination & perfectly-timed handkerchiefs causing them to almost believe in something remarkable, for a fraction of a movement before remembering the truth of it: that there’s always an explanation when something appears wonderful.
& yet Mathilda perfects her dazzle. Practices until she can finesse her neighbor’s Chihuahua from a bowler hat because who the fuck would expect that. Conducts research on the failures of Houdini & the history of the chopping box & develops a trick of her own. It’ll be the grand finale. The sleight-of-hand-and-body that brings the audience back for more.
Mr. Magician wants her back. Can’t saw himself in half. The logistics are just impossible.
Too bad. Mathilda has her own spectacle to get ready for, sick of being boxed like a doll & divided again & again. No more accomplice-ing. That’s a promise.
Hannah Cajandig-Taylor is a poet and flash writer living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she reads for Passages North and Fractured Lit. She’s also the author of ROMANTIC PORTRAIT OF A NATURAL DISASTER (Finishing Line Press, 2020). She’s a self-proclaimed Nancy Drew aficionado and plays too much Animal Crossing. Find her on twitter @hannahcajandigt.