Lilith and the Half-Cut Magician
'Settle, children!' shouted the usher. The lights began to dim.
The sea-front theatre was old and spooky. Someone (a ghost, perhaps) pumped the wheezy organ, conjuring an overture for the show to start.
Lilith, the magician's assistant, entered to applause. She was young and wore a basque, fishnets, dainty heels and all the trimmings. She stood alone on stage for a long time, looking like a pornographic photo from the Victorian era. Harry Bingo, the magician, was nowhere to be seen.
At last he stumbled onto the stage, an old bloke in a frayed suit and a kiddies’ cowboy hat. Lilith hissed at him from behind her false, ruby red smile.
'Allo boys and girls' slurred Harry. 'I've ‘ad a tipple or two. Can yer tell ?'
He giggled and checked his pockets. 'Gordon Bennett…' he said 'I can't find me magic candy.'
He performed a couple of tricks - both fell flat. His preparation was slow; his sleight-of-hand laboured. Somebody booed. Bingo got tetchy.
He regained his composure and announced it was time to saw the beautiful lady in half. Lilith shook her head. 'Not on my nellie!' she said in a strong East European accent.
They had an argument then, right there on stage. 'Come on, Katerina love…” said Harry “I've sobered up now, honest.' But it was too late. Lilith walked off. The boys in the audience groaned.
Harry tried again but had an attack of hiccups. His magicians’ patter creaked like a scuttled schooner. But at least he got some laughs.
When it was all over we ambled along the promenade. A girl who looked like Lilith passed by, swearing in a foreign language. I stood with my sixpenny ice cream, listening to the hiss and rush of the evening tide and Harry Bingo's lonesome tears.