At first, it all seemed like fun and games. Peter the Great was a magician who made a name for himself making things disappear. Not apples and bunnies and watches, like so many other magicians. He’d disappear things like people’s left thumbs or entire parking lots.
His breakthrough was when he was invited to a popular daytime talk show and made the host’s hair disappear. “This is great!” the host said. “It’s like my hair is really gone. I’ve always wanted to see if I have a beautifully shaped head. I think I do. What do you all think?” Everyone had laughed and cheered and waited for the hair to come back.
“For my next trick,” Peter said. “I will need a bowling ball. I think I have one in my coat pocket.”
“What about my hair?” the host asked.
“Oh, if you want that back, you’ll have to invite me on again. I think I’m free two weeks from now,” Peter said. He patted his flat jacket pocket and pulled out a bowling ball.
The host laughed nervously. “You’re joking, right?”
“No, this is a real bowling ball. Here, see how heavy it is.” Peter handed over the bowling ball. The host nearly dropped it.
She handed it back. “Yes, that’s a real bowling ball. Please may I have my hair back today? I really prefer to have hair.” She rubbed a hand over her shiny bald head.
“Oh fine,” Peter said. He handed her a hat.
“I don’t want a hat. I want my hair back. Give it back,” the host said.
“Put the hat on,” Peter said.
The host jammed the hat on her head. Her hair flowed out from under the hat and past her shoulders. The audience cheered. The host cried. Peter became an instant celebrity.
Peter the Great went on disappearing things like noses and trees and shopping malls and airplanes and rivers, and mostly putting things back when he felt like it and not a moment before.
And then, one day, the Statue of Liberty went missing, and everyone knew who did it. Weeks passed, and it didn’t come back. The National Park Service called Peter on the phone. “Did you take the Statue of Liberty?” the park ranger asked.
“Yes,” Peter said.
“Will you give it back?”
“No,” Peter said. “I don’t think so. Not yet.”
“Then we’ll see you in court,” the ranger said.
Three weeks later, Peter showed up in time for his trial in a flash of brilliant blue light. The judge blinked and motioned for the bailiff to start the trail. “The next case is the people versus Peter the Great,” The bailiff said.
“I object,” the prosecuting attorney said. “That’s not his real name.”
“You can’t object yet,” the defense attorney said. “Court isn’t officially in session.”
“I don’t know his real name,” the bailiff said. “His paperwork disappeared. The file was filled with paper flowers. I’m not sure how they all fit in there, honestly.”
“Surely his information was still on the computer,” the judge said.
“No, the pages are full of dancing bananas,” the bailiff said.
“Obviously, we can’t hold a trial without the proper paperwork,” the defense attorney said.
“I’m willing to dismiss the case if he’ll give the Statue of Liberty back,” the judge said.
There was a puff of blue smoke and Peter the Great disappeared. When the law caught up with him, he was making streetlights blink morse code. “Is that a message?” the policeman asked, as he closed the handcuffs around Peter’s wrists.
“Yes,” Peter said.
“What does it say?” the policeman asked.
“It says run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me…” and Peter disappeared in a puff of blue smoke. The handcuffs dropped to the ground, empty.
He appeared a week later in a jail cell. By the time anyone noticed, the cell was filling up with white rabbits. “Are you Peter the Great?” the warden asked.
“I might be,” Peter said. “Would you like your statue back now?”
The warden looked around. “I don’t think there’s enough room for it in here,” he said.
“Fair enough,” Peter said, and he disappeared in a puff of blue smoke.
The statue appeared back on its base on Ellis Island. No one ever saw Peter the Great again. He’d disappeared himself.