The Wight Fair Writers & Artists Circle

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Fred Canavans Winning Short Story, Xmas 2018


Fred Canavan won the ‘Sight for Wight’ Christmas 2018 short story.

Ta-dah! by Fred Canavan

 George Cardy, on the morning of his fiftieth birthday, wiped the steam from the bathroom mirror and smiled at the plump red-faced middle-aged man staring back at him. He swiped the razor round his face and sluiced off the shaving foam. Wincing at the nettle-sharp sting of after-shave, he shuffled back to his bedroom. It was the week before Christmas.

      He slipped into a new white shirt, tied a neat Windsor knot in his dark blue tie and hauled on his best grey suit. He checked his flies and flashed a yellow duster across his plain black shoes. George Cardy, amateur magician, practical joker, and assistant manager at Western Commercial Bank in the Yorkshire town of West Pudsley, was ready. Singing `Happy Birthday to me`, he skipped downstairs and bounced into the dining room.

       `Abracadabra!` he shouted, pulled an egg from his wife`s ear, and collapsed onto a chair in a fit of giggles.

       Doreen Cardy, lipstick in hand, turned from the mirror. She pursed her lips in a prim moue of discontent.

     `You`ll have to get your own breakfast, George. Mother`s having her feet done and I`ve to get her to the clinic for half-past seven. Oh, and there`s a letter for you on the table.`

      She was gone. George made a pot of tea and picked up the long slim envelope. She was having a joke, wasn`t she? Like they used to joke years ago. It was a birthday card, surely – maybe even a funny one he could tell them about at the bank. He opened the letter.  It wasn`t a birthday card. He read the first lines.

       Dear Sir,

      `We are instructed by our client Mrs. Doreen Cardy to inform you that she intends to start divorce proceedings…`

      He rested the letter against the teapot. A watery yellow sun peeped round the net curtains, changed its mind and went next door. George looked at his appointment book. The area manager had asked to see him at nine o`clock. He was sure – quite sure – that it was about the manager`s job in the East Pudsley branch. Old Reggy Smithers, you see, had dropped dead a week ago.

           The area manager popped his head round the door.

        `Ah, George, there you are. Do come in and take a seat. No, I won`t shake hands – had quite a nasty electric shock last time, if you remember…`

        `Used to catch `em out at school with that one,` said George, `great fun.`

        The area manager sighed and waved a vague hand.  `Damned shame old Reggy   popping off like that. Just before Christmas, too. Well, the bank have decided…`

       `Oh, yes?` said George.

      `To close the branch and transfer the staff here.`

       `Oh,` said George. There was a silence. He saw the blurred figure of a window cleaner through the frosted glass and heard the rattle of a ladder and the slosh of a chamois leather.

      The area manager looked away. `Of course, adjustments will have to made…`

     `Of course,` said George.

     `Naturally there will be changes…`

     `Naturally,` said George.

     `Some…err…some redundancies, d`you see?` The area manager tugged at his tie and fiddled with his fountain pen. `It`s not me, George. It`s Cyril Hargreaves, our esteemed director. Had it in for you ever since you squirted water in his eye with that trick carnation. But look on the bright side old chap – early retirement!  Spot of gardening, smidgeon of golf – snifter or two at the nineteenth hole – and just think of the pay-off, you lucky devil – I say, is that the time?`

      He sugared the pill at the door.

     `Bound to bump into each other at the Rotary Club. Might even see one of your magic shows, ha-ha! Warmest regards to Doreen. Oh, and do let me have your swipe card, old chap. No really, I won`t shake hands – can`t catch me twice you old smarty-boots! Now, do mind the step on the way out. Merry Christmas, old chap…`

     On the street, the town hall clock chimed the quarter hour. George had gone from happily married man and respected assistant bank manager, to an unemployed prospective divorcee in less than an hour. He stepped, unseeing, from the kerb. A screech of brakes sent him bounding back like a pig on a pogo stick. A red car – it was quite like his own, he thought – skidded to a halt.

     The tattooed baseball-capped chav behind the wheel stuck his head out of the window. `Come on, Grandad! Yer wanna get across or not?`

     `Sorry,` called George, `never saw you.` He waved his thanks, scuttled across the road and held on to a lamp post. He watched as the car drove away, noticed the number plate and groaned at the sheer unfathomable injustice of life.

    `Like my car? It is my bloody car! Hoi, you thieving little-` He whipped out his mobile

and punched in nine-nine-nine. The battery was flat.

         George walked across town to Pudsley Police Station. The young constable behind the desk put down his mug of tea, and gave the traditional sharp intake of breath.

     `Driver had tattoos and a baseball cap? Oh, dear. Needle in haystack, that is. He`ll file the engine number off and change the plates.  Shouldn`t be at all surprised if your car ain`t doing a bank job in Lithuania  this time next week, Mr. Hardy-`

      `Cardy!` spluttered George, `my name`s…oh, never mind.`

      He tottered over to the bus station – just as the number twenty-seven pulled away. He had an hour to wait, and it began to rain. Great fat teardrops ran down the windows of the municipal bus shelter – and down the plump and rosy cheeks of George Albert Cardy.

       In the hushed tick-tocking dining room – how strange it was to be at home on a weekday mid-morning – George brooded on Cyril Hargreaves.  Feller never liked me… jealous of my conjuring tricks. Bloody ingratitude of the man…who  jollied up all those boring bank parties? Not him.

        His eyes rested on the teapot. Another letter? Who on earth…? He flipped open the flap. Doreen`s neat school-girlish handwriting surprised him.

       Dear George,

            By the time you read this note I will be gone. I have taken my things and will be staying at mother`s. Her bunions are better, but her corns give cause for concern. By the way, your agent rang, please call him back.


           Mikey Cohen plonked his feet on his desk, rested the telephone receiver between chin and shoulder, and drew on a cigar.

      `Got a last minute  booking for you, George. Christmas party at the Grand Hotel. – tonight.  Why? Brian the Brilliant`s cancelled, that`s why.  Knocked down by some tattooed hooligan in a stolen car, apparently. Can you do it?`

      `Suppose so – whose party is it?`

     `Western and Commercial Bank, mate – here, ain`t that your day job?`

     `Used to be, Mikey, used to be…`

      `Lovely jubbly, pal. Gotta go…`

           At the Grand Hotel, that same night, Cyril Hargreaves poked the hotel manager in the chest. `Brian the Brilliant,` he snarled. `Where`s Brian the bloody Brilliant?`

         The manager back-pedalled round the reception desk.

         `Currently in Pudsley General Hospital, sir, with two broken legs. However I do have another magician for you – or you could have Theresa the Teaser, she`s a stripper, sir. Does things with a python that`d turn your hair grey.`

         `We`ll stick to the magician,` barked Cyril, and marched away.

      George Cardy, in a silver diamante cape and a bright red fez, took a bow, and looked over the footlights of the Grand Hotel`s  `Heathcliffe  Room`.

   `A volunteer,` he called, `who will be a volunteer for the Great Cardini`s next

 trick?` Two hundred bank staff sat on their hands.

     `I will!` shouted Cyril Hargreaves. `I`ll volunteer!`

      He blustered on to the stage – quite why Doreen was sitting at his table, George didn`t know – and shaking the magician`s outstretched hand, shrieked and howled at the electric shock. The staff tittered.

      `Now then, sir,` said George, `do you have a wristwatch?`

      `Yes,` said Cyril, nursing his quivering right arm, `my proudest possession – to mark thirty years of service with the bank.`

    `Would you care to give it to me, sir?` asked George.

      Cyril was trapped. Couldn`t spoil the party, could he? He gave a cheesy `life and soul of the party` simper, and slipped the watch from his wrist. George wrapped it a white handkerchief, placed it on the small round table he always used, and took out a hammer from under his cape. The audience tittered again.

        `Now then, sir,` he said, `I want you to observe closely.`

        Cyril grinned – and waited. The magician thumped the hammer down on the handkerchief – twice. The audience gasped and tittered for the third time.

      `And now, if you would unwrap the handkerchief, sir…`

       Cyril did.  A  tinkling torrent of shattered glass, tiny Swiss jewels and fluttering flywheels showered to the carpet. Cyril froze. He waited for it all to end. It did.

       George Cardy, amateur magician, redundant assistant bank manager and deserted husband – `merry Christmas, you bastard!`, smashed the hammer –SMACK! – between the director`s eyes with every ounce of strength in his portly body. Cyril dropped like a ton of` nutty slack down a coal hole. The Great Cardini  smiled, and swishing his  silver diamante cape, and flourishing his bright red fez, swung a flamboyant bow to the audience.

      `Ta-dah!`  he said.

          In his cell at Pudsley Prison, George whisked the razor round his face and sluiced off the shaving foam. He shivered at the nettle-sharp sting of after-shave.

       `Ten years,` he said to his reflection in the mirror, `not bad for manslaughter.` George`s monthly magic shows had proved popular with the prison`s gruesome mix of murderers, armed robbers and swindlers – and Chainsaw Charlie had loved the egg from the ear-hole trick.  He thought of  Doreen. She visited every week and had begged for a reconciliation – life with Cyril Hargreaves had been a disaster.

     Ten years, George mused as he opened a pack of playing cards. Ten years of uninterrupted practice…then watch out David Copperfield – here comes the Great Cardini!

     As for Doreen, perhaps she might help him in the `sawing a woman in half` trick. After all, accidents could happen, couldn`t they...?

The end







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