Lorenzo and his red-cheeked dummy Bruno were making quite the name for themselves on the novelty-act circuit. Audiences across the province delighted in their witty repartee, manic antics, and dazzling acts of voice-throwing. Among other astonishments, Lorenzo would pull a black prophylactic glove over his head and fill it with air until it burst into pieces, while Bruno continued blathering without interruption. One time, Lorenzo had two members of the audience sit on his chest and choke him while Bruno sang, in a pitchy tenor, "Nessun Dorma." Another time, he had Max, a strongman from another act, punch him repeatedly in the stomach, while Bruno recited Canto XXXII from Dante’s Inferno. Although it was later revealed that Lorenzo sustained severe internal injuries from Max’s pummeling, all agreed Bruno’s recitation was mellifluous and moving. Problems germinated on the day Lorenzo declared that he and Bruno would be thereupon identified and advertised not as a ventriloquist act, but as a magic act. What are you talking about? asked his agent. I am not a ventriloquist, Lorenzo said, I have no talent for it whatsoever. We’ve been misnomered from the outset. Baffled and concerned, the agent said, So you want me to tell everyone you’re not a ventriloquist but a magician? That’s right, Lorenzo said. It’s more truthful. So from that moment on, Lorenzo’s agent booked the duo as a magic act. Audiences still delighted in their show, by all accounts as bracing as ever. Lorenzo even had Bruno perform rudimentary sleight-of-hand and card tricks to bolster his claim that they were somehow a magic act. A few magicians on the circuit began to grumble. Why was this ventriloquist and his dummy masquerading as a magic act? they wondered. One night after a particularly sharp performance at an Improv club, they cornered him in an alley. What’s the idea? they wanted to know. Why call it a magic act? Undaunted, Lorenzo insisted that he had no talent for ventriloquism whatsoever. Why call himself a ventriloquist? Well, where’s the magic? they wanted to know. Lorenzo pointed to the black leather case where he kept the dummy. Bruno is the magic, he said. The magicians scoffed and one even kicked the case, knocking it over on its side. Angry, muffled sounds issued from the case. You’ve woken him up, Lorenzo said. Not good. What’s he gonna do, said one magician, beat us up? Yeah, said another, is he gonna bite us? Or stab us? The case started shaking violently from side to side. Tell those fuckers I’ll kill them when I get out of here! cried an angry Bruno. The magicians eyed the case. How did you do that? asked one. Did you see my lips move? Lorenzo said. No, said the magician. That’s right, Lorenzo said, reaching down to unlock the shuddering case, no one’s that good.
Is this a failure of science or morality? Science has failed me. Morals escape the parameters of my existence. If I remain very small, very very small, no one will see or touch me, and ergo I will not exist for them. No one will harm me. No one will urge my extermination. No one will covet my fur, my ears, my feet. In this warm black place I have a cold black place in my heart for the hands that put me here and the hands that will remove me. But if I remain very small, if I hold myself still and breathe very small breaths and think very small things perhaps no hands will descend and pull me out of the warm grainy blackness where I wish for nothing, no champions, no vetch, only the mercy that I shall be left alone and infinitesimal.
I warned him not to say the word too many times. He didn’t listen. He walked around the neighbourhood chanting it like a demented mantra: abracadabra, abracadabra. Maddening to say the least. The worst thing was how he claimed to have switched dogs into cats and cats into dogs. He said they were running around in circles. It was something to witness, the neighbourhood dogs and cats losing their shit. Then he said he got rid of all the birds, just like that, and there was something to it, what with the trees all quiet and the skies clear as paper. But when he tried to turn Mrs. Hurly down the street into a cow, she called the cops on him. He told her it was too late, he'd already turned her into a cow, haha. The anxious cops didn’t hesitate tazing him—not after he aggressively repeated abracadabra several times, but after he claimed he had turned them into swine.
He said all he had to do was touch the wand to someone and they would succumb to his every wish. I told him to try it on me. He tapped my shoulder then asked me to pull down my pants. I thought I would humour him and followed his instructions. Next off he told me to squat down as though I were defecating. I squatted and made grunting sounds. He told me the sounds were not necessary and that I should not, under any circumstances, defecate. I told him as he had not instructed me to defecate, I was not about to do so. He told me to shut up and follow his commands. He wanted me to get down on my belly and crawl like a worm to the other side of the room and back. I did so but found the floor too filthy. Why are you stopping? he asked. You need a cleaning lady, I said. That was the next thing I was going to command you to do, he said, to clean my flat. I stood up, pulled up my pants and brushed myself off. You're an idiot, I told him. How do you mean? he said. I ripped the wand from his hand and tapped him him about the head. Cut it out, he said, that smarts. I continued tapping him with the wand. It had some weight to it, made of ebony or somesuch. Tap tap. He flailed his arms and reared his head. I backed him into a wall, tapping, tapping furiously. Droplets of blood formed on his forehead. He reminded me of Christ for a moment. Later, when I nailed his hands to the wall, he really did look Christlike.