“I heard he made an entire audience disappear in Cincinnati, and they found them wandering the Sedona Desert a week later. The whole audience!”
“Yeah, well I heard he ate an entire elephant on stage in less than 3 minutes.”
Hannah and Mitchell took their seats in the fourth row. The stage curtain was thick purple velvet, and they could see shuffling feet behind it in the crack between the stage and the bottom of the curtain.
“I bet those are his stagehands,” said Mitchell.
“Maybe there’s a hundred of him,” said Hannah.
“I heard that’s true! Well, maybe not a hundred. But somebody said they went backstage at a show in Portland and met him. Only they didn’t just meet him. They met all of him, is what they said.”
“What does that even mean,” asked Hannah?
“Who knows,” said Mitchell.
The buzz of the theater was tightening. It was nearly showtime. The works of wonder and magic were about to be upon them, and Hannah and Mitchell could hardly contain their excitement. They both shared a plastered smile and eyes the size of saucer plates.
“I heard he’s an alien, you know?”
“I heard he’s from a lost civilization that still thrives in the core of the earth!”
“I heard he might be both.”
“Should we have gotten popcorn,” asked Hannah?
“I’m too excited to eat,” said Mitchell.
A man with a waxed mustache and hair like a black brick of pomade made his way down the row of seats and sat down next to Hannah. His eyes were blacker than his hair. And his teeth were whiter than fresh snow.
“Oh, I’m sorry. This seat is taken,” said Hannah.
“I know,” said the Man.
The Man sat. Hannah looked at Mitchell. Mitchell looked at the Man.
“Excuse me, sir. We are waiting for our friend.”
“I know,” said the Man. “I have time.”
“How do you—“
“Luke will arrive moments after curtain rise.”
Hannah and Mitchell snapped their necks around to look at each other. They then simultaneously snapped them back to look at the man.
“How do you know, Luke,” asked Mitchell?
The man stood up. He twisted the left tip of his mustache.
“I don’t,” he said. “Enjoy your popcorn.”
The man walked to the end of the row and turned left toward the exit. Mitchell and Hannah rubbernecked as far as they could before the man disappeared into the remaining crowd, filing in at the last minute. They turned back.
“Who was that,” asked Hannah?
“He’s always late. Why is he always late,” asked Mitchell?
“He’s not late.”
“He’s always late.”
“We’ve been waiting for this show for a year!”
“And never mind. You wouldn’t get it.”
Mitchell looked at his watch. It was 6:28. He turned back around to look for Luke. The crowd had all settled into their seats — no Luke.
“Seriously, who the hell was that,” asked Hannah?
“Who knows. These shows attract all kinds of weird people.”
“Yeah, but that guy was more than weird.”
“More than weird,” snickered Mitchell.
“Yeah,” mocked Hannah. “More than weird.”
“You’re more than weird.”
“No, you’re more than—“
The lights fell dark. The crowd began to chant wildly, “Val-en-teen-o! Val-en-teen-o!” Hannah joined. Mitchell looked back for Luke one last time and then fixated his eyes on the stage. Loud drumming began from behind the curtain, and thick white smoke began to billow out from the crack where they saw a hundred bustling feet.
And then, the curtain rose. A dark silhouette of a man stood enveloped in the white smoke, with a bright white light backlighting his stance—feet wide and both fists in the air. Mitchell used his fingers to whistle. The smoke began to fade. Slowly the silhouette came into focus. And there he was. Standing on the stage in all purple with a purple top hat was the man with the mustache and the black eyes with snow-white teeth. Hannah and Mitchell turned to each other, jaws in their respective laps. They grabbed hands and screamed in delight and looked back at the stage. The man was pointing at them.
And then a bucket of popcorn appeared in the corner of Mitchell’s eye. He looked up–it was Luke. Mitchell took the popcorn and put it in his lap. His jaw hung to the floor. Luke made his way past them and took his seat. He leaned over and took a handful of Mitchell’s popcorn.
“What’d I miss?”
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