Doug and Jack’s first meeting:
Finally, as he had known he would, Doug went back to Jack Flash’s tent. This time he sat through the whole performance twice. He still could not figure it out. If the red headed carnie was a fake, he was a damn good one. The sword swallowing part was probably done by some mechanism that collapsed the blade by sections although it certainly looked seamless, catching the light without one ripple or distortion.
How Jack managed to elude those knives, though, was something else. The blades belched out of the machine in clusters and did not spread very far yet they hit the wall behind Jack in many places. He did not seem to move. Was there some clever distortion in the light that tricked the eye? Doug felt a compulsion to find out. The third time he moved forward and took a seat right in front, just behind and to the left of the humming box from which the knives emerged.
This time Jack noticed him. He went through the whole routine and disappeared behind the wall only to emerge again as soon as the rest of the crowd had left. He came back through the partition which Doug had decided was subtly divided, this time without a handspring or any capers. He stopped a long arm’s length from Doug, and planted his fists on his hips.
“What’s with you, Dude? Do you get off on steel or something?”
Up close, Jack was a striking looking man. His face was tight and clean, more angles than curves. When he parted his lips in a mocking smile, he revealed even, white teeth. His eyes were a changeable mixture of colors flickering from blue to gray to green. When he shook his head, Doug would have sworn the ears that peeked for an instant through the wild red locks were as pointed as Spock’s.
For a breath, he hesitated, not sure what he wanted to say. “I can’t figure out what you do, how you’re doing this, the knife thing. I’m pretty sure the sword folds in on itself but this other—it’s the weirdest trick I ever saw.”
That was when Jack grinned, an honest but mischievous grin that made him look like some kind of elf. “I move things,” he said. “No trick, really. It took some practice and refining a talent I guess I was born with but it’s easy. At least for me it is. A mechanism in the machine lines them up and then shoots them out by pneudraulic force—that’s compressed air power, actually.”
“But they don’t stay in a cluster and they don’t fly straight.”
“Nope. That’s ‘cause I make them move.”
Doug snorted. “You’re shitting me. Okay, I get it, trade secret or something. You don’t want to give it away, spoil the act.”
Jack’s face went serious then. “No, I’m not shitting you. No reason to. It’s not a trick or technique somebody could copy or steal. Here, I’ll prove it.” He pulled a coin out of a hidden pocket and flipped it into the air. “It’s real silver. Catch it and you can have it.”
That looked easy enough. Doug grabbed, just missed, and tried again, a half dozen times. Just when he was sure he had the shiny disk, it slipped sideways, darted up or down just enough that he could not get a finger on it. “Damn! What the fuck are you doing, really?”
“I don’t know how to explain it. I just look at it and think to it to go this way or that, speed up or slow down. That’s all there is to it. Never met anyone else who could do it although I heard about a guy, saw him on TV once, who might be able to. He bends spoons and stuff somehow. Similar, I guess.”
Intrigued in spite of himself, and still half-way sure he was being hoodwinked. Doug surprised himself. “Show will be closing in a bit, won’t it? How about you come along and I buy you a beer or two while we talk some more about this. You might want to get out of those crazy rags, though. Likely to get too much attention.”
Jack didn’t hesitate. “Sure thing.” He strode to the doorway and placed a “closed” sign to indicate there would be no more shows this evening. “I’ll be with you in about five,” he said. “Or I can meet you just outside the gate. I take it you’ve got wheels.”
“Oh yeah,” Doug replied. “Look for a candy apple red GTO.”