Monday, November 11, 2013
Pete Catalano: Rev 1: ZOLTAN THE ADEQUATE
Name: Pete Catalano
Genre: MG Contemporary Humor
Title: ZOLTAN THE ADEQUATE
HARRY BLAINE IS THE WORST MAGICIAN EVER. That’s what the billboards would say after I totally embarrassed myself during my first performance. Wait, not just any billboards. I would be in the middle of Times Square and the bazillion lights from the three-hundred-and-sixty-seven electronic screens and digital billboards twinkling back at me would all be flashing those very same words so that everyone in New York City would know. And then there would be the tourists. Every tourist from every country would go back home and tell ALL of their friends, so after a short period of time, a good portion of the earth would know how totally terribly my first show ended. I think it would be kind of crappy to be twelve years old and made fun of in Cantonese.
“Harry?” a voice called.
“Harry?” it called again. I couldn’t decide if I was actually hearing it or if it was a figment of my imagination.
"HARRY!" My daydreams burst into flames as everything came into focus. Peeling paint walls. Graffitied desk. Twenty sets of eyes staring at me as this class, so close to the end of the school year, started off a little rougher than usual.
“Mr. Blaine, I’m not sure what your other classes are like with your head-in-the-clouds attitude,” Ms. Shufflebottom said, “but here we do our daydreaming at home. Now sit up straight, eyes focused on the front of the room, and for goodness sake, pay attention.”
She turned and walked back toward the front of the room. The other kids started laughing. Well, Ms. Shufflebottom, I thought, this is exactly what my other classes are like.
When I started my first day of middle school nearly nine months ago, I realized I’d always had this intense desire to be the “life of the party” or the “cool guy,” even though there was no history of my being either one of those . . . ever. More than anything, I wanted to be noticed.
Recognizing that I needed a gimmick, a trick, a ploy, something that would get their attention, I decided to get back to my first love . . . MAGIC! I practiced as hard and as often as I could. After school, before school, even during school, I would run through the tricks and steps in my head until I couldn’t think about them anymore.
I even picked a name. A name that would stand out, but at the same time lend itself to getting a few laughs. There’s nothing like a few laughs to help people remember who you are. So that was the day Zoltan the Adequate first took the stage.
One day, my opportunity to amaze, tantalize, and astound presented itself in the form of a flyer telling all the details about the Spring Talent Show. There would be two weeks of preparation followed by everybody in school being assembled into the gym to either witness the thrill of victory or to cheer on my own agony of defeat, which sometimes felt inevitable.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Criss Burton, my best friend since first grade, said as he pushed me toward the sign-up sheet. “Come on, Harry. You’ve been talking about your magic for as long as I’ve known you. But that’s all it’s been, talk. Now you have a chance to do something about it. Now you have a chance to make something of yourself in this school and I get to ride your coattails . . . and I’m great at riding coattails. So what’s it going to be?
“It’s not as easy as it sounds,” I hemmed and hawed as I took one step toward the sign-up sheet and then shuffled two steps back toward Criss. “There are details to be worked out, props to be gotten, sets to be built . . . ”
“My shoelace was untied, the sun’s in my eyes.” Criss laughed as he mocked me. “Come on. Sign up for the Talent Show and let’s shut some people up around here and start making my life easier. What are you afraid of?”
Just as I was about to take Criss’s advice, which really terrified me, put my fear behind me, and sign my name, my nemesis in magic, Lance Blackstone, stepped away from a group of girls that had been surrounding him and walked right past me almost glided up to the sign-up sheet.
Turning back to the girls who giggled and waved, Lance pointed his finger at the sheet, waved it quickly through the air, and Criss and I watched as his signature appeared on the very first line. A thunderous applause broke out in the hallway . . . and all he had done was sign his name with a little flair.
“That’s what I’m afraid of,” I whispered to Criss. “If signing his name gets that kind of response just wait until he does his act.”
Lance Blackstone has been practicing magic for as long as I have, but he was always terrible at it. There were always wrong cards, no doves flying, no rabbits being pulled out of any hat, and nothing ever disappeared except for his audience.
Lately, however, he somehow managed to get good. I mean, he got really good.
There were just no logical answers for some of the wonders I’ve seen him perform to the amazement of the roaring crowds in the cafeteria. As each trick he performed became more astounding than the last, people flocked around him. Every guy wanted to be his best friend and every girl wanted to be his girlfriend.
“So,” Criss repeated, “you gonna sign up or not? If not, that’s fine, no big deal, let’s just get going to our next class and you can wait until high school to stop being invisible.”
Criss made me mad with those last couple of words and he knew he had, too. I gave him my toughest scowl and then marched right up to the sign-up sheet, fumbled a few times for the pencil as it danced on the string before me, but once I had it firmly in my hand, I signed my name big enough for someone down at the other end of the hall to read.
I turned around to see how much applause that little bit of flair would get only to see the crowds were gone, and Criss, best friend that he was, stood there and gave me the “slow clap” we’ve seen a dozen times in the movies. Of course, I took advantage of every clap as I walked back toward him.
“Let’s get out of here.” I grabbed him and we headed down the hallway.
“Harry,” Criss started chanting in the hallway as we walked along, waving his arms up in the air, trying to get some of the stragglers we passed in the hall to join him. “Harry, Harry, Harry . . . Come on. Give me something.”
I raised my fists up into the air and moved through that ghost-town of a hallway, pretending that there were hundreds, no thousands, of kids applauding, reaching out to shake my hand or just touch a piece of my shirt as I triumphantly pushed through the crowd. Man, it felt good.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. I walked past the sign-up list half a dozen times, and each time saw a few additional names appearing throughout the day. By the time the bell rang at three o’clock, there were eleven names on that list with Lance and me at the top and no one else worth mentioning below us.
The race to the Talent Show was on.