The Magician’s Wife
After the magician cuts his assistant in two, he runs off with her bottom half.
The magician’s wife is at home washing dishes. The magician is a man who has never washed his own dishes in his life. His wife has been washing his dishes since he left his mother. He could clean them with magic, but he has never offered. Perhaps he thinks she likes it.
She is still washing the dishes when the top half of the magician’s assistant comes to the door.
One of the stage hands carried me, says the magician’s assistant.
Oh, says the wife.
May I come in?
The wife’s hands are still damp from washing the dishes. She wipes them on the front of her apron.
One of the dishes broke when I was washing them. If my husband was here, he could magic it back together. He’s very good at that sort of thing.
The magician’s assistant nods. He always said he loved my legs.
Hmm, says the wife. It is the first time she’s met her husband’s assistant. She is plainer than the magician’s wife was expecting.
You can come in, says the wife finally. You can help me dry.
The magician tours under an assumed name, in case his wife or his former assistant come looking. He eats room service food, and leaves the dishes outside the hotel room door.
We can’t be seen together, you understand, he says, and leaves the legs shut up in the hotel room. They cross and uncross themselves while they wait.
When the magician returns, he has a brand new pair of silk stockings.
Let’s get these on you, shall we, and slides them tenderly onto the legs. The legs tremble at the softness of the silk. The magician kisses first one knee and then the other.
Oh, you’re beautiful, he says. So beautiful.
During their lovemaking, the legs wrap themselves tightly around him. The only sound is his own grunting and the creaking of the bed.
Do you mind if I turn on the television at least, says the magician. He fumbles the remote control till the set finally clicks on. It plays a commercial for dish soap, a woman’s hands dipping dishes into the water and returning in perfection. The magician briefly wonders if it’s his wife’s brand before returning to his business of pleasing the legs, which flutter in delight.
Afterward, as he falls asleep, he reaches out to embrace his lover, but the legs are already entangled with his, and his arms remain empty.
The Magician’s Assistant
The magician’s assistant is a hand model now. Her hands can be seen in television commercials all over the country. Women envy their beauty. Her agent carries her everywhere so her hands won’t be damaged. While he is showering in her upstairs bathroom, there is a knocking at the door or, the magician’s assistant thinks, a kicking.
She drags herself across the carpet to the door, but there is nothing there when she opens it.
Come back, she calls, I miss you. Come back.
Her agent finds her at the door and lifts her tenderly, kissing her hands.
You have to be more careful, he says. Your hands are so beautiful.
He sets her back down on the couch, and puts her hand into her lap.
There, he says.
There, she agrees, and her hands are folded beautifully. You won’t leave me, will you?
What? says her agent, No, but she wasn’t talking to him.
Cathy Ulrich has always preferred escape artists to magicians. Her flash fiction has been published in a variety of journals, including The Citron Review, Cheap Pop, and Spry Literary Journal.