Houdini may not die (short story)

Harald Renner

Karl-Heinz is my charming older brother. He's thirteen and goes to high school. Everybody thinks he's great, not me. He can't do magic, like Aunt Hildegard does. But he tricks so that everyone screams up and gets scared that he cuts into his tongue or slits his stomach.

When his performance is over and there's no blood splattered and everyone has clapped, Daddy strokes his head and asks in the round: "Isn't he gorgeous, the boy?"

He does magic with razor blades when colleagues visit my dad. The trick is this: My brother opens a pack of new blades. Everyone can see that they are very sharp. You can even cut cardboard with it. Then he swallows the blades. He then bites a thread from a yarn reel. He'll swallow it afterwards. Afterwards he drinks a glass of milk in one go. The razor blades are all neatly attached to the thread, which he pulls out. He shows his tongue so that everyone can see that it is not cut and that nothing bleeds.

I don't know if the trick interests the visitors as much as they pretend. The guest pats my brother on the back and tells him he's gonna be a second Houdini. He must say that because my father is his boss. He is happy and laughing when you say something like that about Karl-Heinz. Last month we went to the cinema with the whole family. There was an old movie. Its name was "Houdini, King of the Variety". I used to dream about the movie after that. It was so creepy how the wizard hung with his head tied down in the aquarium. He couldn't free himself because his appendix had burst. The fire brigade smashed the aquarium glass. But then the wizard was unconscious and died.

My brother was the only one who told me about the razor blade trick. But I can't tell anyone. He doesn't really swallow the sharp blades. He takes blunt ones in his mouth, which are already threaded on the thread. It is also related to the yarn reel. It's hollow in the middle, and the blades with the thread fit in it. He does not swallow the sharp blades, but spits everything into the milk. That's how the trick works.

My aunt Hildegard can't trick like Karl-Heinz. But she is a magical witch and knows how to cast a spell. She's a salesgirl in a toy store around the corner. When she looks at our photos, she closes her eyes and creates really creepy magic stories. They're not so scary as the razor blade trick. They are more like fairy tales, where everything is fine in the end.

A month ago I found my picture of the bitten apple in my cigar box. There I also keep the photos of my golden hamster Fifi. Aunt Hildegard looked at the picture for a long time. Then she stroked over it with her index finger. She said she could cast a spell with a magic apple. Ban spells are used against evil spirits, epidemics or misfortune on the road.

She cut the apple in two. Then she took fresh mint from the garden. Both apple halves were rubbed into it. After that, I had to say out loud what I wanted to banish. I was wondering what was most important. I told Fifi not to climb up the curtains anymore. If you don't notice it, after a few minutes my hamster will fall on the floor from the very top and hurt. I also don't want Karl-Heinz to mix up the razor blades and accidentally swallow the sharp ones. That was my second spell.

The third thing I wanted was to stop dreaming about Houdini at night. I'd rather dream of the red remote control car. It's an old Borgward Isabella. A month ago, the toy car was in the window of Aunt Hildegard's store. Now it's disappeared. I wanted the Borgward so much for my birthday. When I was finished with the spells, my aunt carved a match on both ends to a small skewer. With that, she reconnected the apple halves. Then she wrapped a green ribbon around the apple. I had to bury the fruit in a place that only I knew. The spell does not take effect until the magic apple has decayed.

The spell works very well. I don't dream about Houdini anymore. Fifi still climbs up the curtains, but now I feel fine when it happens. Karl-Heinz does not swallow the sharp razor blades, but spits everything into the milk, as it is right. Today is my eighth birthday. On my gift table is the red Borgward Isabella with remote control. No one else in the class has it because Borgwards doesn't exist anymore.

Karl-Heinz brags like Napoleon. He says it's stupid to bury apples. You'd better eat them. I don't think it's stupid at all. Because now I know that you can do magic without tricks and bullshit. But only if you're a magical witch.