This past Thursday, while the rest of the country was gathered around the dinner table preparing to eat a stuffed bird, one man also had his head bowed, but he wasn’t saying grace.
No, he had no intention of eating the bird that he was standing over, and that’s because this bird was special. This bird was more than an animal, it was a friend and a partner, it was: a magician’s dove.
The dove, Merlin, and his owner, Vincenzo the Magnificent, had been working together for just over three years. Their act, “A Bird In Hand,” was highly regarded within the magic community and had even received some regional success.
Just one week earlier, after a dazzling performance to a sold out crowd of 50, a local talent manager approached Vincenzo about a possible five-city tour. Needless to say, fame was looking imminent.
Then, during the final show of a two-day run at Des Moines Regional Theatre, tragedy struck.
“It was a routine trick,” said an inconsolable Vincenzo, “I’ve ran it back a thousand times in my head… I just don’t understand.”
The trick was a crowd favorite and always the closing act of the night. It almost always resulted in a standing ovation.
“Merlin loved the applause,” said the distraught magician, “Sometimes, when he would flap his wings… It was almost as if he was trying to clap along with them.”
The trick consisted of three parts: First, “The Pledge.” Here, Vincenzo would showcase Merlin to the audience, revealing that it was just an ordinary bird, nothing tricky or false about it.
Second, “The Turn.”
Here, the magician would take Merlin and set him on fire, incinerating him in an instant, much to the horror of the audience. Women have been known to faint during this second act, and children to wet themselves.
Finally, “The Prestige.”
This is the part that makes this a complete trick, the culmination of all that has been built up thus far. Here, Vincenzo rips off his tear-away tuxedo pants revealing that he’s wearing nothing but a jockstrap.
As the crowd watches in awe, he reaches in and pulls out an egg from the front of his jock. Still silent, the audience is flabbergasted to see him crack the egg and Merlin emerge forth from within.
Silence, then raucous applause. Could this be the greatest illusion ever created? Is it pure evil?
No, it’s just a well-trained bird and a magician willing to push the boundaries of bird-centered magic.
But all of that is over.
During the final act of the final night at Des Moines Regional Theatre, something went wrong during the turn.
Merlin was burned-up beyond resuscitation.
Did he forget to wear his flame-retardant feather suit? Was the trick sabotaged by a rival magician?
We may never know, but what we can know is this: This holiday weekend a number of birds died, but only one of them was one half of the best two-member magical act this country’s ever seen.
I’m sure you’re getting a standing “o” in heaven.