Ever Since I Was A Little Amazing

Harry Blackstone’s book, Tricks Anyone Can Do (1983), describes a trick called the “Surprising Cigarette.” The verbal explanation of a sleight-of-hand trick is always a little hard to follow, but here’s Blackstone’s version:

 When taking the cigarette from his mouth, the backs of the first and second fingers are placed against the lips, the thumb resting on the chin. The hand is then turned over so that the light really is toward the tips, but with his thumb, he pushes up on the cigarette giving it a second turn as the second finger moves away, which leaves the cigarette between the thumb and forefinger. The trick lies in the fact that two turns are made, not one as appears.

As a kid, I practiced and practiced this move, assuming that when I was an adult and therefore a smoker, it would be a slick move to pull to impress people. Take your pick whether it’s more awful that I thought all adults smoked and always would, or that it was imperative that I learn ways to impress people in order to make friends. The point is, this is a tough move to pull off without giving away the fact that something tricky is happening, even if you use 3/4 scale cigarettes to compensate for having child-sized hands, as I did. [Mom, if you’re reading this, I want  to assure you that I have never been a smoker despite my early misapprehensions.]

Not having worked on my technique for many years, imagine my surprise today when I attempted to insert a fully-charged battery into my digital camera and successfully performed The Surprising Cigarette not once, not twice, but three times on myself, without the audience (me) ever catching on how it was done! Three times I carefully noted the markings on the battery compartment and the corresponding notation on the battery label, lined them up, and then inserted the battery backward, its shiny gold terminals winking in the sunlight as if to mock me.

The trick did not stand up to a fourth, slower performance, but for a moment, as my audience (me) stared in amazement at what I had done, I felt magical.

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