Carl was the youngest son of a famous magician. His older brothers had trained with their father and worked as his assistants for their whole lives. By the time Carl came along, they didn’t need any more help.
“Go play outside, Carl,” his oldest brother often said. “We’re busy.”
“You always get in the way,” the middle brother said.
“I’ll come up and read you a story later, Carl,” his dad would say. And sometimes he would, but the stories were never about magic. Too often, he’d get busy practicing or performing and forget to come up at all.
Carl wanted to be the world’s greatest magician. He’d practiced magic on his own since he was small. His slight of hand was good. He did amazing card tricks. But it wasn’t enough.
Carl wanted to do the big flashy magic tricks that made the news. He wanted to perform in major cities to sold-out arenas. He could picture it now, the crowd chanting his name, his face on all the billboards. And then his dad and brothers would beg him to do a show with them.
However, far too early, Carl’s father died. It wasn’t on stage in the middle of a magic trick or when traveling from one venue to another. One night he had a heart attack and died quietly in his sleep.
Carl’s mother had died when Carl was still little, so the boys were now all alone. The older two brothers vowed to continue to perform and carry on their father’s legacy. Carl volunteered to be their assistant.
“We don’t have time to train you now. You’ll just get in the way,” the middle brother said.
“If you take out a loan, maybe you could go to college and be an accountant or something,” the oldest brother said. “You like math, right? Think about it.”
“Right,” Carl said.
“Here,” the middle brother said. “Take the cat. I don’t know why Dad always brought it along on tour. We don’t have time to take care of it.”
Carl took the cat and waved as they left for the show that had been scheduled months ago before their father died. They couldn’t afford to break the contract. Carl was left alone once again in the empty house. At least now he was old enough that Aunt Cheryl wouldn’t have to come stay with him while they were gone.
Carl looked at the cat. “Cat, I guess it’s just you and me. What are we going to do?”
The cat looked at Carl. “How would you like to be the world’s best magician?”
Carl smiled. “I would love to!”
“Great,” the cat said. “I’ll help you out. Who do you think taught your dad how to do magic?”
“Was it you?” Carl asked.
“Well, no,” the cat said. “But I could have. Anyways, why don’t we start with appearances? They’re always important, you know.”
Carl looked down at what he was wearing. His jeans and button up shirt looked okay. “Do you think I should wear something flashier?”
The cat rolled its eyes. “No, I meant for me. Get me a pair of sunglasses. If I’m going to be your agent, I’ve got to look the part.”
Carl got the cat some sunglasses. The cat looked at itself in the mirror and nodded. “You go practice or something. I’ll be back.”
That evening the cat returned. “Okay, it’s time to head to the airport. Get moving, we don’t have much time. The bus will arrive any minute.”
“But I don’t have a bag packed,” Carl said. “Where are we going?”
“You don’t need a bag. I told you, we’re going to the airport. Move it!” The cat started to shove Carl towards the door.
A half hour later, Carl found himself at the airport, still not really knowing what was going on. The cat led him around to the arrivals area. They walked up to a man holding up a sign that said “Harry”.
“We’re here,” the cat said. “This is my client, Harry. He’s here to cover for the cancelled act at the benefit concert. Unfortunately, his luggage is missing.”
The man looked concerned. “We’re so sorry sir. We’ll help in any way we can.”
“Perhaps you have connections that we don’t in this city. If you could help us borrow the items on this list and provide a suitable costume, we’ll go from there.” The cat produced a piece of paper from nowhere. “The show must go on after all.”
The man shook Carl’s hand. “Thank you, Harry. You’re a real professional. I’ll personally make sure that you have everything you need.”
Carl was led to an expensive car and then driven to the city’s largest theater. The man left him in a dressing room well supplied with flowers and snacks. As soon as the door closed, Carl looked at the cat. “Harry?” he asked.
“It’s a magical name with a lot of history,” the cat said. “It’s time to start thinking like a showman.”
“But I don’t have anything planned,” Carl said.
“Just leave that to me, Harry,” the cat said.
In the end, Carl simply needed to go on stage when his name was called and greet the audience. Then he needed to act like he expected the show that followed. There was an ogre made of light and shadows that towered over the audience. In a flash of light it turned into a mouse. A filmy, flowing cloth dragon floated onstage and ate the mouse. The dragon exploded into a shower of flowers, and then the show really started.
The show was broadcast live. Carl’s reputation was made. He was in demand everywhere before the act even ended. The grateful show organizers gifted him all the props and invited him back next year.
Riding the bus home from the airport, the cat was purring. “Well done, Harry,” the cat said.
“Call me Carl,” Carl said. “Are you going to teach me how to do all that? Or am I going to be a stage prop from now on?”
“I’d be happy to teach you, as long as you sign an apprenticeship contract,” the cat said. “Oh, and you’d have to officially change your name to Harry. It’s just a much better name than Carl.”
Carl thought for a moment. “I’d have to read through the contract first,” he said.
“Of course,” the cat said. “But I assure you the terms would be fair.”
“And when you’re done training me, what will you do?” Carl asked.
“I’d expect for you to provide for me in my old age, of course,” the cat said. “I’m a cat.”
“Then call me Harry,” Carl said.
“Excellent,” the cat said. “We’ll take care of the paperwork in the morning.”