Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vignettes by Me, on Themes Picked Randomly: Day 13

Theme 743: Pockets

Somehow I had wandered a good distance off from the rest of the county fair and into a tent where a small crowd had gathered to watch a “prematurely aged boy, wise beyond his years” (according to the placard outside) perform feats of hypnosis, clairvoyance, and mind reading. The boy’s name had slipped my attention.

This boy, who appeared to be afflicted with progeria, performed a number of clever mind reading tricks“Think of a card …,” “Think of number …,” that sort of thing. His assistant, a woman with raven hair wearing a bow tie, thigh-high fishnet stockings, a long tuxedo coat, and nothing else, then tapped me on the shoulder and told the crowd that the boy would reveal my most shameful secret. The wizened boy climbed up on a stool in front of us and tipped his stovepipe hat at me.

Under a foreign compulsion, I left my seat and stood before the boy magician. I muttered, as if the words had been put in my mouth, in preemptive awe, “How could you know?”

The soothing voice of the young mind reader began: “You watched as your sister choked and twisted in the waves crashing over her, and you panicked. Instead of going for help, you tore off down the beach until you couldn’t see the bluffs in the distance any more.” The boy went on, “Quiet your mind now as we leave that time long ago on the sand.”

I stammered, dizzily, “You haven’t explain how you knew though …”

Each of your heads is a pocket where you keep the scraps and keys of your memories,” the progeric boy, his face gray and deeply lined, told the crowd in an oracular voice from up on his stool. He returned his stovepipe hat to its perch atop his bulbous dome and continued, “As soon as your focus shifts, I simply reach in and snatch what I want!

“That still doesn’t explain how you could’ve seen …” I repeated, trailing off.

“Now silence your thoughts as we return to that far away day on the beach,” the anodyne voice of the boy hypnotist droned. “You saw your little sister thrashing in the surf, but instead of calling for help, you ran up the shingle in a nervous fit; you ran and you ran until it was dark and you were alone miles away down the coast.”

A final time I asked, lost in a whirling daze, no longer looking for an answer, “How did you know?” Like an automaton, I took my seat.

The wannish boy dipped his theatrical hat in my direction once more. His alluring assistant, with darkly fluttering eyes and luxuriant black ribbons of hair whisking about her neck, heartily clapped as if to congratulate me on the exposure of my trauma. The boy, with a slight tremble owing to his condition, went on to entertain us with another series of the usual “telepathy” tricks of the sort I had seen many times in such shows.

Afterward, as I left the tent with the dispersing crowd, I glanced a second time at the placard outside: the words “prematurely aged boy, wise beyond his years” were printed over a list of his wonders of mind reading, clairvoyance, and hypnosis. I wondered, seemingly trapped in a loop, how I happened into that little tent in the first place. I never did succeed in learning what the boy was called.

Explanatory Postscript: When I say “picked randomly,” I mean picked from a Master List that I’ve compiled of 999 themes intended to serve as creative writing prompts (from the following sources: 501 Writing Prompts; 25 Creative Writing Prompts; Examples of Themes; List of Themes; 365 Creative Writing Prompts; 100 Themes Challenge Writing Prompts; List of Journal Ideas; and Top 10 Types of Story Themes). To pick a theme at random, I roll three ten-sided dice (the first for the hundreds place digit, the second for the tens, and the third for the singles) and find the theme under the number I have rolled. If I hit a theme I have already written on, I roll again. If I ever roll 000, I make up a theme. The Master List is a secret, so don’t ask for it.

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