The Great Occam Cobb – Chapter 1

Jonathan was fascinated by magic.

For as long as he could recall, it was something that undoubtedly enthralled him. Perhaps it was that the enigmatic nature that drew him towards it. He remembered witnessing his first act of wonder on the streets, when an old man had a random woman select a card from a deck.

He could still recollect the old man’s appearance. He had pale skin veneered with a river of frozen ripples across his face. His cheeks sagged to his chin as if pocketing small bundles of change. His eyebrows were white and bushy, veiling his eyes while complimenting his dense mustache. He wore a classy suit, featuring a tasteful vest beneath. A golden chain looped precariously from his vest, disappearing behind the flap of his jacket. On his head, he had on a top hat which added to his already towering height.

The woman appeared rather extravagant herself, donning a quite lavishing red dress with a brown fur coat, her brunette hair resting comfortably upon the fleecy collar. Even in the heels she sported, she barely measured up to the old man’s chest.

He had her gaze upon the card before returning it to its home in the deck, shuffling them while he entertained the audience with an array of phrases, gaining their laughter in return. After the cards had received enough attention, he fanned them out in a smooth and yet swift motion. Every card held their red backsides to the audience, all but one. In the heart of the arched row of cards poked the white tip of one rebellious one. At that moment there, everyone including Jonathan had gasped. The old man asked the woman to retrieve the card.

As she did, he inquired if that was the card she had selected, and regardless, right or wrong, he would later tell her something about the card she was removing. The woman procured the card, staring at it before slowly shaking her head in discontent. Jonathan remembered how he felt at that moment: he felt sorry for the old man and held his head down in dismay.

However, the old man wasn’t finished. He simply shrugged his shoulders feebly before asking the woman why she had taken two cards from him. Confused, the woman argued back that she hadn’t. Yet, the old man pressed on, ensuring that she in fact had taken two cards and that one was in her coat pocket. She was hesitant, but slowly she placed her hand in her pocket and immediately her eyes lit up.

Jonathan’s lit up as well unable to gauge the possibility of the old man’s act. The woman removed her hand from her coat pocket and to everyone’s amazement, a card was in it. The old man once again asked her if the card she now held, the two of diamonds, was the card she had selected. With quivering hands, she was speechless, simply nodding, producing an extended smile and showcasing everyone the card.

Everyone around applauded, but the old man held up his hands to gesture silence. He notified everyone that he had vowed to inform the woman something about the first card she had selected. He asked her if the first card had been her original choice before selecting the second one. She was speechless again, holding one hand to her mouth. After a few seconds, she claimed that it was, but that it was something she had decided in her thoughts.

It was at that moment, the crowd burst into a thunderous applause, even louder than before. The old man’s lips curled into a satisfied smiled, and he issued a long leisure bow.

After that day, Jonathan was forever instilled with captivation. From then on, he recognized that a magician is what he wanted to become.

Jonathan witnessed that act three years. From that moment on, card tricks were the tool he toiled with, anxious to create a routine of his own that would have crowds applauding in amazement.

Of course this was all a pipe-dream, if anything. He lived with his mother in a rather rundown part of the city. His father had passed some years ago when he was too young to remember. His mother had claimed that he died from stress, of working so hard at the shoe factory barely keeping their heads above water to make ends meet. They were just shy from being dirt poor, and with his father gone, the weight of that burden now resided on his mother who worked long hour shifts.

Jonathan tried to pull his own weight to assist his mother functioning as a paper route boy. Every morning, well beyond even the slightest glimmer of light, he would wake to meet his boss, Mr. Garrett, at a stand down the corner. Mr. Garrett who was a rather impatient pudgy fellow was reluctant to hire the boy at first, but caved after Jonathan proved his worth by working the first few shifts free of charge. Jonathan was hard-working at his job often finishing earlier than Mr. Garrett’s past employees; because of such the man barely had anything to say against boy.

So when Jonathan went on again about the headline on the papers about The Great Occam Cobb, he indulged the boy.

“Mr. Garrett, it’s him again!” he exclaimed excitedly.

Mr. Garrett was lazily fanning through one of the papers. He was an objectively large man and always seemed to have a frown pressed across his lips. One of his hefty fingers rubbed his brow, after correcting the cabbie hat on his head. Afterwards, he lugged his attention from the paper he was reading.

“What’s that?” he asked in a monotone voice.

“It’s him, The Great Occam Cobb!” Jonathan answered, giving the name his best announcer voice.

Mr. Garrett sniffed briskly, before returning his attention to the paper. “Oh that coot, huh? Is he still at it?” he asked dryly.

“At it?! He’s the greatest magician in the world and it says he’ll be performing here all week starting next week!”

Mr. Garrett was silent, turning the pages nonchalantly. “Mr. Garrett, did you hear what I said?! He’s coming here!” Jonathan repeated in a voice even more excited than before.

The elevation in his voice seemed to startle the man as if pulling him out of a trance. “That’s great, kid,” he said without looking up, the top of his hat bobbed from nodding.

“It’s fantastic!” Jonathan replied, staring wide-eyed at the black and white photo depicting a man. He was rather young with black hair combed and greased to the side complimenting his classy suit. One hand rested just under his chin with fingers curling around it while an eyebrow was raised. His other hand poked from under his arm clamped tight to a wand. His entire expression seemed as though he was peering deep into Jonathan’s eyes, almost inquiring him if what he would see was genuine magic or deception.

Occam Cobb was Jonathan’s favorite magician or perhaps “idol” was a better word for it. Although, he had never attended a show of the man, the rumors of his talents and reputation were enough to fuel his imagination of what the man could do. He heard nothing less than: “Occam Cobb Was a True Magician of the Ages” or “Occam Defies Laws of Physics” or his favorite, “The Great Occam Has Surpassed All His Predecessors, Creating a New Genre of Magic”. Of course, these were all headlines on the newspapers, but even the words from people were no different.

Regardless, Occam Cobb was coming to his city to perform. The thought alone set a spark of vigor through Jonathan’s body. He immediately dug in his pocket to pull out a beaten set of playing cards. He was able to purchase them after saving up enough. At the time, he was uncertain to buy them, but his mother insisted that he could, since all he talked about was magic. She said it was okay and that it would be his early birthday present for that year.

“Alright, Mr. Garrett, can you pick a card, please?” he asked, holding up the fanned out deck.

Mr. Garrett sighed behind the paper, before dropping it and sluggishly grabbing a card. He quickly peered at the card barely looking at the face before putting it back in. Jonathan smiled devilishly while shuffling the cards, attempting to once again give his best announcing voice:

“So you picked ‘that’ card, huh? You think ‘that’ suit is the one to do it? It’s possible I might never find it, but you can’t resist the image of the card in your mind, can you?”

When he was finished shuffling, he put his finger on the top of the deck.

“The card on the top will be the one you pick!” he exclaimed. “Are you ready?”

Mr. Garett had a glazed look in his eyes, issuing another brisk sniff. With the awkward silence, Jonathan continued:

“Okay! Is this your card?!” he said, lifting the card, revealing it to him. The card revealed a three of spades.

Mr. Garrett nodded with an unfazed face. “Yeah that’s it. Good job, kid,” he replied, returning to his paper. “You’re all done for the day, right? You can go home then, see you bright and early tomorrow.”

Jonathan barely heard his words, having returned his attention to the picture in the paper. He smiled to himself admiring the photo. He knew Mr. Garrett had seen the trick a million times. He needed to make a new trick though, one that would surely blow the minds of everyone away. Better yet, if he could meet Occam Cobb, even if just for a second, he could show him his trick, and maybe it would be enough to amaze even the greatest magician.