It was a humbling day for Chris.

He was standing on the metro floor, a black top hat laid neatly on the tiled floor below him. He did his typical showman routine, looking lively but it did not work for the metro walkers. He sighed as he looked at his plastic watch, the dials running a minute or two behind. He sat down to eat lunch, grabbing the five dollar sandwich out a brown bag.

It wasn’t before long that an asian woman in a black dress came up to him. He glanced up. She looked down. Her eyes traveled to the black top hat sitting close to him. “You do magic?” she asked, his eyes looking to the hat and then back to her. He pointed his finger to the sandwich but then realized this was probably his best bet to make money today. He put the sandwich back in the brown bag and got up.

“Alright then,” he said, taking out the hat. He grabbed from inside of it to pull out a white rabbit. “That’s Bolero.” He pushed down Bolero and then pulled out a deck of cards out from the hat. He flipped them around to show her in a way that he couldn’t see. “Pick a card, would you?”

The woman scoffed a bit as she picked the four of diamonds. Chris compressed the cards into his left hands and then tossed them into the black hat. He shook it around a bit and then whistled a bit. From the inside of the hat came a black snake, slithering up with a card face down in it’s small mouth. He grabbed it and flipped it over.

“You chose four of clubs, right?” asked Chris. The woman nodded no. Chris flipped over the card again, but instead of the ornate blue patterned back of the card, it was the four of diamonds. “So this is it, then?”

“Very good… for a novice,” she said. Chris bowed with the hat in his left hand. “Charming, a good showman… ain’t too shabby looking for a hobo either.” He smiled as she seemed to be deep in thought.

“Well, typically people pay me after this point.” he said. She still seemed to be deep in thought. Then she opened her mouth again.

“Well, I’m not paying you for that. However, we do need an assistant for our next couple shows, me and my husband,” Chris perked up. The woman looked at him and then cleared her throat again. “Are you up for the job of being an assistant for David and Jessica?” she asked.

Chris stood up and held out his hand. “When do I begin?”

A man with a bushy moustache and monocle was resting on a rocking chair outside a tent. His eyes would open and then shut for a long time before opening again. Shortly after closing his eyes like that for a third time, a fly appeared in front of his face, playing a small buzzing sound. He burrowed his eyes and then clapped between where he thought the fly was, only to realize he missed moments after hearing a satisfying clap followed by the irritating buzz.

He went into the tent and sitting there was a simple wooden chest with a latch allowing him to swing it open. He pulled out a rifle and headed back outside, waiting for the annoying buzz to bother him once more. He heard it and then looked for the source of his irritation before attempting to fire. Once he did, he pressed against the trigger only to be knocked back from the shot. It was clear he had no idea how to use it. The sound echoed across the valley.

Two figures came into view. One was his wife, another was a completely different man that he had never seen before. The man burrowed his eyes as he looked at the man talking with his wife. It was too far to tell, but he had already come to a hasty conclusion; this is was an affair. As they got closer and closer he walked back into the tent to put the rifle away. When he came back, he heard their talking and laughing, which agonized him ever so more. He never heard his wife laugh before.

“Who’s he?” asked the man to his wife. The wife’s smile disappeared from her face as she motioned towards the other man.

“This is Chris,” said his wife, shaking her fingers on her hands towards him, giving him an “glow” of sorts. “He’s a new assistant for the next few shows, I suspect he could learn from us and we could learn some from him, as well as keep him off the streets. You would do that for a fellow magician, now wouldn’t you, David the Great?”

The man fumbled up his brow before finally speaking. “Fine! I suppose!” Chris reached out his hand and attempted to shake hands with the man but he would have none of it, standing up and walking back into the tent. His wife looked at Chris. “He’s not very open with new people.”

Chris glanced at a mirror back stage, glancing at his cards and hat. He took out a carrot from his sleeve and dropped it into the hat with a munching sound soon following. Bolero crawled out of the hat and headed towards Chris’ hand but was frightened when the door slammed inwards.

The husband of the woman was here and he was furious. “What is that rodent?” he asked, pointing to Bolero. Bolero hopped back into the hat as Chris grabbed it and placed it on his head. The husband was not pleased and ripped it off his head, attempting to shake it’s contents out. Nothing except for the black snake, which slithered towards the husband. Chris quickly grabbed it and it slithered back into sleeves. The husband look back into the hat and saw nothing in there.

“Do you take me for a fool, an utter fool?” he asked Chris. “And furthermore, what is up with you bringing these… vermin in with you?!” He threw the hat onto the ground and attempted to feel up Chris’ sleeve. Chris’ lower lip moved upwards as the husband cursed silently to himself, angering himself as he failed to find the snake. “Don’t bring those to the show.” he said as he gave up, leaving the room in barely contained rage.

There was a tap on his now closed door. The snake exited down Chris’ back as he opened the door. “You okay?” asked the wife. Chris nodded. “Five minutes until showtime.” she said, nodding her head as she closed the door. He glanced around and picked up the hat, pulling Bolero out from it.

“It’s alright,” he said as rubbed the back of the rabbit. “It’s alright.”

The curtains pulled back onto the small stage as the great David and Jessica were tied in chairs. They attempted to free themselves but it was apparent easily they were not getting out. From the bottom of the stage, Chris appeared onto the stage. He looked to a captive audience of dozens and grabbed the ropes, untying them from their bonds.

Now the show could begin. As David took center stage, Jessica and Chris departed to watch the action from behind the stage. Chris noted a cage of doves not too far from them but made no word. He glanced at Jessica’s shoulder and noticed something he hadn’t discerned before, a series of black bumps written across her skin. She glanced over, clearly noticing Chris’ descry and said nothing.

It was their turn to go up. They had barely rehearsed this, but it didn’t seem to daunt either of them. Chris’ arms were tied to a large board as Jessica was given a bunch of knives. With precision throw, she missed the human spinning on the board, the icy metal blade mere centimeters from nicking an artery. He nodded his head as she threw more knives. As the blades hit the board, she championed over the last blade before flinging it at his face.

In slow seconds, the blade hurled towards him, the ever present feeling of death suddenly becoming a reality. And then everything stopped. The blade, the crowd, Chris. The only thing that moved was Jessica, who ever so slightly looked at Chris. The board spun to the left and the knife resumed collision, missing Chris’ head.

She bowed as Chris uneasily grinned.

He stared at the mirror again, watching his hands as he attempted to levitate some cards. He was going over what Jessica had told him to review. He remembered the show last night, the bruises on her skin, the knife heading towards his face but just stopping to let the board turn. She was right, he was a good novice, but had much to learn.

He focused his fingers, moving them ever so slightly though the card’s two dimensional edges. As he managed to make it look convincing in the mirror, he tore off the taped card from his thumb. He set it down, peeled the tape off carefully and glanced at his plastic watch with the dials behind the times.

It was time for rest, he supposed. He sat back in his chair and closed his eyes. As he fell to sleep, he heard noises he wasn’t sure what the context was for, but they didn’t sound good.

“...The assistant!” the sound of a wine bottle being smashed and fashioned into a many edged sword followed. The silent jerk of this new weapon could be felt as things went silent. He heard a loud thud as somebody fell to the floor.

The next morning, Bolero hopped around as the door suddenly swung open. Chris opened his eyes in a flash as he watched as David stagger in, many wounds over his body. He went towards the rabbit but Bolero merely hopped away.

“Yer damned rodent! I thought I told you to get rid of it!” yelled David. Chris looked at David, the anger not as fierce on his face likely because the wincing of pain was more evident on it. Yet, the intent was there. Chris looked at his watch. It was 2 in the morning.

“You realize that’s a rabbit right?” Chris asked as David huffed over to Bolero, who seemed to treat his presence as a game now. Chris set the hat low to the ground and Bolero hopped in, shuffled inside. David sighed as he poured himself a glass of booze.

“I don’t even know Jessica hired your sorry ass in the first place, what with your filth and inexperience…” droned David as he took a sip. “A real drag on the David and Jessica show, the worst.”

“What, you think you’re too good for me?” asked Chris. David didn’t nod or say anything, he just hung his head downward. “I didn’t mean it like that.” he said after some thought. David slouched over and then fell over.

Chris cautiously came over, the body of a man who had hated him since he first came into his view now on the floor. He did not breathe, his heart did not beat. Chris came over to the man in anxious tension, not sure what to do. He was pretty sure David was dead.

Jessica creaked the door open to see Chris hunched onto his knees over David, and then came over to him. She touched her husband’s neck and then stood up. “Well… he’s dead.” stated Chris. The need to shout or do something about it didn’t come. Jessica and Chris just stood for a long time.

Chris grabbed his hat and the deck of cards, plopping them inside. Jessica looked at him and sighed. “Where are you going?” asked Jessica. She pointed to David.

“I can’t exactly stay here if there’s no show to perform for.” He placed the hat on his head and headed outward.

She rubbed against her blackened spots as she watched Chris walk away. She looked at David’s body one last time before departing her own way to a new show.