Good People, Cool Things
Good People, Cool Things

Episode 137 · 3 months ago

137: A Short Story with The Extraordinary Edward

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Fans of this podcast know I'm a big fan of creating "spooktacular" episodes around Halloween. We've explored musicians' worst gigs, chatted with ghost hunters, and heard a few horrific tales.

This year, it's going to be a little different. I'm reading a chapter of my book Kind, But Kind of Weird: Short Stories on Life's Relationships. This story is the creepiest one in the collection, so it's the perfect spooktacular for Halloween. 

And if you want to be spooktacularly supportive, you can order my book here . Or tell someone about this episode, you rock star. Happy Halloween!

Welcome to good People, cool things. This episode is gonna be a little different than usual. Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote a book. It's called Kind but kind of Weird, short stories on life's relationships. I'm super proud of it. Writing a book is not easy. I know. I interview a lot of authors on here and make it seem like it's a piece of cake. But there's a lot of work that goes into it, writing, editing, marketing, cover design. You see a bunch of book covers, it's like you gotta pick between your children because you love them all, but only one can survive. And I guess it's kind of turning into hungry games. We're not trying to get that far down the road here. There are a lot of fun and quirky stories in this book. I had someone tell me it was like if the characters from New Girl wrote a collection of short stories. That's a pretty good description. So it's a way I've helped to promote the book sometime because people are familiar with New Girl. I met Max Greenfield at the l A Times Festival of Books this year. He was very nice. He he has a book as well that's called I don't want to read this book, which is a children's book about not wanting to read. I always like to read as a kid, but I certainly understand why people might not want to do it. But if you've listened to this podcast before, specifically on the episodes that come out before Halloween, you know, I always like to do a little bit of a spectacular, a little bit of a theme around the episode, whether it's the worst gig and musician has had, or chatting with someone that's more into ghosts and horror and kind of supernatural stuff. But in honor of the one year anniversary of my book, I thought I'd read the creepiest chapter. And I've had readers tell me like, oh, that's kind of spooky, that's a lot. That's a lot, So I thought, why not do a fun little reading of it. If you're expecting an interview, because every other episode really has featured interviews. That's coming back next week, but I hope you'll listen. It's still gonna be lovely, it's still gonna be a great time. So here it is. This one's called the Extraordinary. Edward, thanks for listening. Well, this was certainly going to be a dreadful evening. My girlfriend Emily, who I thought was kind, loving, caring, and any other sweet adjective you can think of, had decided we were going out to see a show, and not just any show. We were seeing The Extraordinary Edward. If that name didn't give it away, the Extraordinary Edward is a magician. I hate magic, and I specially hate magicians. They've always got that fake smile plastered on their faces, like they can't believe they're getting paid to play make believe. And they always have an assistant who looks like she hates her job and is one creeped out by the magic maker, but she needs the money for college tuition, so she puts up with his antics. And magicians always try to interact with members of the audience, and that let me humiliate you sort of way. The entire room is in on the hilarious joke, except for the volunteer. Now, the volunteer simply gets mocked mercilessly. I mean, how could you not enjoy anything like that. Emily, on the other hand, loves magicians. Her dad bought her a card set when she was seven years old, and she thought that would be her career path...

For years. Once puberty hit, though, she realized she should do something more meaningful with her life, or at least stop buying new magic sets. Of course, that didn't mean she stopped performing magic. I've only been with her for about nine months, but she's done nearly every trick in the book for me, and by for me, I mean on me. I'd be the lucky guy that got to pick out a card from a pile, or would see a dollar bill fly out of his ear, or I'd get handcuffed to a chair leg, only to instantaneously be freed so long as I clucked like a chicken. Emily made all her tricks seems so grand and elegant too. She denounced herself in a big, booming voice. Ladies and gentlemen, are you ready for some magic? She'd say to the crowd. Mind you, the crowd consisted of me and nobody else. Yet I'd still find myself looking around the room, figuring that at least one of the times she was performing, someone else had sidled up without me realizing. But note, all of emily shows were done for an audience of one, a very uneasy audience of one. Anyway, I suppose I owed her this last weekend, we went to a baseball game. Baseball is not my favorite sport, but since it's really the only thing we have in town, we have to make do with it. Besides, there's nothing like a trip to the old ballpark. The crack of the bat, the smell of the hot dogs, the loud drunk slurring insults at the players. It's truly a magical experience. Unfortunately, Emily did not find it very magical at all. On our last visit, one of the loud drunks happened to be right behind us. By the middle of the first inning, he was insulting the opposing team's starting pitcher, a young prospect named Albert Smith, by calling him fat. Albert and the program I bought Albert Smith has listed at six ft two and a hundred and eighty seven pounds, decidedly not fat, no matter how you define the word. In the bottom of the fourth inning, Mr Drunk ordered four hot dogs fully loaded, then proceeded to consume them all before we headed to the top of the fifth. The belch is and gas that ensued over the next couple of innings reminded me of being at the bottom of a ball pit as a child, you quickly lose your breath and you do everything you can to get out, but nothing works. It's a sad existence. In this instance, things got even worse. During the seventh inning stretch, the drunk somehow spilled two separate beers, the contents of which fell entirely onto Emily's head. She tried to laugh the first one off. That was her good natured spirit shining through. There's only so much cheap booze you can take to the head before you snap. Since the second spill also resulted in the plastic cup knocking her on the noggin, it's safe to say Emily snapped. She slammed her arms down on her seat, spun her head around to glare at this man who had made her life a living hell, but found nobody there. The guy had already made a bee line to get more beer, apparently thinking he had finished his I suppose in a way, he had, though I wasn't about to wait around for him to return. I looked over at Emily and was certain I saw smoke coming out of her ears. Forget that the game was tied. We were not going to stay until the end. Let's go, I said, great idea, she said through gritted teeth. Thanks for a lovely time at the ballpark. Oh boy, I had heard that tone before. Emily brought it out about twice a month to let me know that I had really screwed things up. It had been exactly two and a half weeks since I heard her speak like that, so I was due. We've only been...

...home maybe twenty minutes when she slightly suggested the magic show. Have you heard of the Extraordinary Edward? She said, she was coming out from the shower. Her hair is still wet. It got a little frizzy when she didn't dry it immediately, which made me very happy. Poofy hair is my favorite. No, I haven't, I said. He certainly doesn't sound like a modest man. Though. That's really funny, she said. Her facial expression suggested otherwise. He's coming to town next weekend. He'll be at the Star Gazing Theater. I think it would be really fun to go. What is he a comedian? A musician? She shook her head. Nope, he's a magician. She knew I hated magicians, but she also knew I couldn't say no to this proposal. The look of glee in her eyes made me sick to my stomach. Well, if you think it'll be fun, I said, I'll get us a pair of tickets. Seventy five dollars later, there we were sitting in our seats at the Star Gazing Theater. I usually liked seeing music shows there. The capacity was just over four hundred seats, so it was big enough to feel like you were rocking out, but intimate enough to feel like the band was personally speaking to you. But for a magic show, I was just amazed The Extraordinary Edward could even fill up half the room. The Extraordinary Edward's first trick was a card trick. I couldn't imagine this being much different than Emily's little show. So I leaned back in my chair, not expecting much. And boy was I right. I need a volunteer brave enough to assist me. The Extraordinary Edward called out to the audience. Because card tricks are so dangerous. You never know what mysteries you may uncover, what paper cuts you might endure. Only a real fool would volunteer for this. I'll do it, a voice shouted. I knew that voice. It was so familiar, so eager, so oh no, Emily was volunteering to go on stage. All right, all right, you look like a wonderful volunteer, the Extraordinary Edward bellowed as he pointed into the crowd. Fortunately it was across the theater from where we were sitting. I breathed a sigh of relief. Emily was not the one being chosen. I gave her a look that feigned a tough luck expression, though on the inside I was dancing. The lucky volunteer ended up being an older woman. She looked like she might tip over at any moment from the excitement. The Extraordinary Edward asked the volunteer's name, Helen. She yelled, her voice, causing the microphone the howl shrilly with feedback. The Extraordinary Edward cringed and shook his head. Helen certainly has the enthusiasm, he said, but now let's see if she has the talent to be a successful assistant. Helen's smile grew even wider. The Extraordinary Edward thrust a card into her hands and told her to show the camera what it was so the entire crowd could see it. Nothing fancy, but don't tell Helen that she moved elegantly as if she were the Queen of England, waving during a ceremony. This seemed to be the most important job in the world to her. Clutching the card in her hand like a baby puppy, she let the audience take it in. The card was an aid of clubs. Now that everyone's seen the card, the Extraordinary Edward said, Helen, will place it back in the deck, face down. Please. Helen did as she was told, grinning like she was about to open up her first present on Christmas morning. Now watch closely. Holding the deck...

...of cards in his left hand, the Extraordinary Edward wiggled the fingers on his right hand around, moving them up and down. Having seen Emily do this a number of times, and because I have half a brain, I knew this was purely to kill some time during the set. Yet as I glanced around the room, people were sitting on the edges of their seats, mouths a gape. After what seemed like a few minutes, the Extraordinary Edward finally yelled pow and slammed his hand into the deck. A barrage of cards fell onto the floor, and an audible gasp escaped the crowd. I couldn't help but think of the poor stage hand that had to clean up all those cards. I've had to pick up the fallen remnants of many an Emily trick. I know that those cards stick to the floor like glue. Helen covered her eyes when the hand came down. After a moment, she came out of her cocoon and looked at the lone card remaining in the Extraordinary Edward's hand. She let out a yelp, and now here's your card, the Extraordinary Edward said, holding out the aid of clubs to the audience. People got to their feet, roaring their approval. Emily was one of them. I softly claffed, not wanting to give more fuel to this guy. He turned to Helen. Thank you, darling, you are a wonderful assistant. You may have a seat now. He placed his hand on her shoulder and left it lingering for just a couple of seconds too long, like a drunk coworker during a holiday party. She still had that huge grin on her face. Good for her, I thought, it's probably made her year. The rest of the show plotted along with the usual array of tricks, some levitating wagons, of spinning camel, someone lightning to crash in through a window and strike a match head. Truly pedestrian stuff. Really. After what seemed like an endless barrage of tricks, Emily nudged me in the ribs. This last trick is the hardest one in the entire world, she whispered to me. It's the only one I've never been able to fully understand. What makes it so special? I asked. I had seen Emily be confused by several tricks, but didn't want to provoke her any further. He makes an object disappear, she said, still looking at the stage. I've looked everywhere to see how he does it, magic books, online forums, asking other magicians. There are some bits and elements that people have tried to piece together, like they think it's a trap door in compartment or a mirror or something. But anytime they try to replicate it, they can't do it. Nobody can quite figure it out. I need him to pick me so I can learn how it's done. The extraordinary. Edward was scanning the crowd for a volunteer. My assistant this time must be a very brave soul, he said. You must have nerves of steel and the ability to stay cool. Under pressure, because ladies and gentlemen, for my final trick, I'm going to make one of you disappear into thin air. Looking over at Emily, I thought her shoulder was going to shoot right out of her socket. Her arm couldn't possibly have been any higher in the air. She had a look of desperation to be chosen in her eyes, as if she were one of the last two people in gym class while the more popular kids were picking teams. There's no shame in being the second to last selection, but people remember who was picked last. If Emily didn't get chosen here, it would be even worse than being picked last, and it would make for one uncomfortable ride home. I concentrated my thoughts, trying to give Emily some positive energy. The extraordinary Edward gazed across...

...the room. He seemed to be studying a few possibilities, muling over who would be the perfect volunteer. He was a flamboyant showman and milked this selection process for all it was worth, asking sections to cheer loudly if they felt some one in their row should be chosen, and holding a hand up to his ear during the roaring response. When he finally finished trapsing around the stage, encouraging the crowd to houghton holler until they were hoarse. The Extraordinary Edward looked at us, first at me, and then at Emily. Ladies and gentlemen, I have made my decision. You there, he pointed, you come up here. Emily's jaw dropped. She looked over at me. I looked back at her, then up at the Extraordinary Edward. He was not pointing at her. He was pointing at me. That long, disgusting finger, which was probably covered in dirt after performing all this magic, was staring me in the face. NA, I'm all right where I am? I said, She'd loved to be your volunteer, though I gestured to Emily, who had turned a deep shade of red. Apparently being singled out was only acceptable if the Extraordinary Edward was the one doing it. I didn't ask her. The Extraordinary Edward said, a dead smile frozen on his face. I have chosen you. You'll make the perfect assistant, and unfortunately, I'm not going to take no for an answer. This seemed incredibly out of line to say to a paying audience member. I was still planted firmly in my seat, but Emily grabbed my wrist. Go She said, do it for me. Be the best assistant you can be. With those reassuring words, I slowly got to my feet. You know when someone gets called to come on down on the prices right, and they barrel down the aisle like they're the giant rolling boulder in contestants row as Indiana Jones, it's a wonderful spectacle to behold. My gracing the stage of the Stargazing Theater was the exact opposite of that. I trudged my feet, making unpleasant scraping noises as they slid across the floor. I felt the eyes of every audience member on me and suddenly wished I had worn a nicer shirt, or at least that I hadn't missed that one spot on my chin while I was shaving that morning. Emily was steering louder than anyone in the entire building. I thought she was going to get thrown out for causing such a stir As I finally climbed the top step and walked across the stage, I made eye contact with her. She was definitely happy for me, but it seemed like just the tiniest bit of her wish she were on the stage instead. I shrugged and mouthed. I tried. The Extraordinary Edward held out his hand. I didn't know if he was gesturing for me to stand at a certain spot on stage, or if I should shake his hand. I went for the handshake, grabbing his hand tightly and even throwing in a gentle elbow touch with my other hand. It turns out I'm not very good at reading people's minds. He was caught off guard. Oh, I was just gesturing for you to stand over there, he said quietly to me. I took my place where the Extraordinary Edward gestured. He loudly proclaimed to the audience, this man was brave enough, brave enough to come on stage as a volunteer, who knows he's going to disappear. I couldn't help but think that his use of the term volunteer was loose at best. I also didn't believe I'd actually disappear. Emily had just told me about this trick. I smirked. The Extraordinary Edward took notice. Some one...

...seemed skeptical. He was certainly a perceptive fellow. If nothing else, Let's see if we can't change his mind I heard a loud noise behind me. Turning around, I saw the Extraordinary Edward's assistant, the actual assistant, not wonderfully naive, Helen, pushing a large box on wheels. She came up to me while Edward continued blabbering to the crowd. Just step right in here, she said, on latching the front. Don't worry, you won't feel a thing. The inside of the box was, by my guess, seven feet tall and four feet wide and maybe about two feet deep. That wouldn't give me very much wiggle room at all. It's a little bit of a tight squeeze, isn't it, I said, Without stepping inside. You're not going to be in there for very long, she said, nodding her head at the box. There seemed to be an air of impatience in her tone. So you know you can get in any time, I sighed and told myself I was doing this for Emily. I turned and smiled at her as I squeezed into the box. She was star struck, beaming at the extraordinary Edward. He finished his grand speech about the spacetime continuum, and move next to the box. Try not to scream, he said, and cackled. It makes the disappearing that much more painful. This was starting to get ridiculous. I was quite looking forward to getting out of the box. The Extraordinary Edward shut the door instantly. I was surrounded by darkness. I kept waiting for my eyes to adjust. They didn't. I could still hear the Extraordinary Edward talking, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. I'm sure he was giving another grandiose speech. The man would have no trouble with a public speaking career. He could make any mundane topics sound exciting with his wild gestures and emphatic syllables. Suddenly, my shoulders started swelling up. No big deal, I thought. After all, I had been playing flank football pretty regularly, and this last week I took a nasty fall making a sideline catch, landing right on my shoulder. The adrenaline of the game kept me going, but since it would periodically throb, that's all that was happening. I bet the pain was getting deeper though. I reached with my hand to try and massage the shoulder, but I couldn't move. The box was too tight. While I tried to distract my mind from my shoulder pain. I noticed my left foot had become incredibly itchy. I slipped my shoe around as best as I could, but this was a niche that needed a fingernail, probably all ten fingernails to scratch. The irritation was driving me nuts. As I continued wiggling my toes around, my eyes started watering. They were burning too. It was like someone was chopping onions in front of my house. This was horrible, I thought, I debated banging on the box. Something hand to be going wrong. I raised my fist to knock on the door and realized I couldn't hear the extraordinary Edward anymore. In fact, I couldn't hear anything. Had the trick already happened. It hadn't been more than a few seconds. Maybe that was all the time it took to make someone disappear. It certainly wasn't an enjoyable process. I tucked my fingers lightly on the box. To my surprise, the door flew right off gingerly. I placed my itchy left foot outside. As soon as it touched the ground. The itching subsided. As I stepped out of the box, all my ailments vanished. My feet seemed to be mired in some sort of sand that this was unlike...

...any other sand I'd ever seen. It wasn't sticking to anything and was almost a pure yellow color. I reached down and picked up a little bit in my hand. It sure felt like sand. Maybe it was normal sand that someone had taken the time to die. People have hobbies. Perhaps whoever did this just had a really odd hobby. There didn't seem to be much of anything around. I noticed a few lights way off on the horizon, but they might have only been stars. Outside of those small dim lights, there wasn't a single thing around as far as I could tell. As I let the sand fall from my fingers, I noticed the constant humming in the distance, like a dryer. It reminded me that I needed to do laundry when I got home. My eyes locked onto something in the sand, maybe five inches long, a shiny yellow color, almost like a jar of mustard. It stood out even in the yellow sand. I peered closer. It was curved a little bit, and it had something sticking out from the end of it. That's something whatever it was, and twined itself around the middle. I could barely make the object out. Are you there a voice called startled. I snapped my head out, craning my neck. I looked in every direction. There wasn't a person in sight, but I didn't imagine that. I knew I had heard something. Can you hear me? The voice said again? This time, I thought i'd try to answer back. Who said that? I yelled up at the sky. Where am I? Listen? Very carefully, the voice said, this is the Extraordinary Edward. First of all, I want to tell you that you did a terrific job as my volunteer. I'm very proud of the effort you put forth. And in case you couldn't hear, the crowd went wild. They loved it. That's exactly what I was concerned about. I had no idea where I was, but at least the magic trick was a crowd pleaser. Perfect. So the show's over, I asked, I can go home now, right? There was a long pause. I heard the Extraordinary ad where to take a deep breath before he began speaking yes and no? He said, um, what what do you mean? You see? The extraordinary? Edward said this was my biggest show yet. Can you believe? Two hundred and seven? And people came tonight? I don't care about sales numbers. Man, I said, with a hint of exasperation, Where am I and how can I get back to the theater. I'm going to explain everything. Just please listen the extraordinary. Edward said, like I was saying, this is the biggest show I've ever done, and because of that, I wanted to close with a trick that would really wow the audience. It would completely blow their minds. It would be unlike anything they've ever seen before. That's why I chose to make someone disappear, and from my first trick, I knew it would be you. You had been rolling your eyes the entire night. You didn't believe you were a skeptic. Your attitude made you the perfect subject for my final trick. I knew if I could convince you of the power of magic, I'd have done my job. But this trick is quite difficult to pull off. It tested my greatest strengths as a magician. I've performed it before on inanimate objects and on mice and birds, but never on a human. You were my first. You should be very proud of that. You were a part...

...of history. Congratulations to me, I said, It was kind of cool. To be a part of history. Wait, why did you say were another long pause. I'm sorry, I don't know how to put this, but how about we try it this way. There was a complication with the trick, you see, I had an accountant for your body mass. Like I said, I've only done it with small objects mice and birds. With that calculation altered, I did not like the sound of this. You're going to finish that sentence right with that calculation altered him. Based on our conversation right now, it seems like you're currently in between two universes, stuck in some kind of suspended animation what I said, but this is just a snag, right, You'll get me back to the right universe soon. This pause was the longest. I'm afraid. I'm not sure how to do that. I rubbed my hands over my eyes and shook my head. Maybe if I shook hard enough I could get back to reality. This hand to be a joke. I'm sorry, what did you say? This happened with the mice and birds too, The extraordinary Edward said sheepishly. I could make them disappear, but I never did find out how to get them back. So you're telling me that you've never actually performed this trick successfully, and you still tested it on a human being. I was screaming at the sky now, my voice cracking. Oh no, the tricks were quite successful. The animals always disappeared, and you did too. In fact, I'd say my success right for this trick is it's just the unfortunate matter of making you reappear. That's where I'm a little less proficient. I sunk to my knees in the sand, my hands clutching the sides of my head. I thought about Emily, how I wished I could talk with her. I wondered if she was worried about me. But then my thoughts turned to her in the crowd. How she had probably cheered when the box opened and I wasn't in it. She probably stood up to joining the audience in a standing ovation. None of them knew where I had gone. Nobody likely and gave it a second thought. I was completely alone. Can you tell me about the place you're in now? The extraordinary Edward asked, what do you see from my knees? My eyes connected with the yellow object from earlier. I brushed aside some sand and picked it up, and not formed in my throat there and the palm of my hand was a bird's beak with a mouse's tail emerging from the opening. Good People, Cool Things is produced in Austin, Texas. If you're a fan of this episode, go ahead and hit that follow button that helps more people here the show. You can send me a message Joey at good People, Cool Things dot com. Thank you to all of the guests who have been on Good People, Cool Things, and check out all the old episodes via good People, Cool Things dot com. As always, thank you for listening and have a wonderful day.

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