Excerpt of Vaclav & Lena by Haley Tanner
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NO ASSISTANT, NO MAGICIAN
"Here, I practice, and you practice. Ahem. AH-em. I am Vaclav
the Magnificent, with birthday on the sixth of May, the famous
day for the generations to celebrate and rejoice, a day in
the future years eclipsing Christmas and Hanukkah and Ramadan and all pagan festivals, born in a land far, far, far, far, far,
far, far distance from here, a land of ancient and magnificent secrets,
a land of enchanted knowledge passed down from the ages
and from the ancients, a land of illusion (Russia!), born there in
Russia and reappearing here, in America, in New York, in
Brooklyn (which is a Borough), near Coney Island, which is a
famous place of magic in the great land of opportunity (which is,
of course, America), where anyone can become anything, where
a hobo today is tomorrow a businessman in a three-pieces-suit,
and a businessman yesterday is later this afternoon a hobo, Vaclav
the Magnificent, who shall, without no doubt, be ask to perform
his mighty feats of enchantment for dukes and presidents
and czars and ayatollahs, uniting them all in awestruck and
dumbstrucks, and thus, one day in the future years, be heralding
a new era (which is a piece of time) of peace on earth. Ladies and
gentlemans, I give you, I present to you, I warn you in advance
of his arrival, so that you may close your eyes or put your hands
on your face if you are afraid, Vaclav the Magnificent, Boy-Magician."
"Eh," Lena says in a grumbly voice.
"Lena, what we are having here is perfect introduction to the
act. It is long and perfect and made of only the best and longest
thesaurus words," says Vaclav.
"After third sentence, say, 'Magic is art of control events
using supernatural powers,' " says Lena. This sentence is a favorite
of Lena's - she memorized it from The Magician's Almanac,
which is a big old black book with gold around the edges
of the pages, all about magic and tricks and illusions. Vaclav kept
checking the almanac out of the library, so last year for his birthday
she put it in her backpack and took it home with her, so that
she could give it to him for a birthday present, and it could be
"That sounds good, but is not belonging in the act. I already
told you. This is the introduction, complete. Seal it now with the
magic birthday candle." Vaclav folds the notebook paper on
which the introduction to the act is written, and he holds it out to
Lena. Lena does not take it from him. Lena holds the magic
birthday candle in her left hand and rubs its spiraled ridges with
her thumb. In her right hand, she holds the lighter with which
she is to light the candle. The wax-dripping paper-sealing is an
important part of anything Vaclav and Lena write, and it is
Lena's job, exclusively Lena's, to light the magic birthday candle,
to hold it high, and to then let the wax drip onto the folded
paper, sealing it for all of time.
Under Vaclav's bed, next to a forgotten sock, among many
gatherings of fuzzy, dusty things, is a shoe box full of pieces of
notebook paper folded and sealed with Lena's wax drips. The
things written on them are important declarations, pacts, lists,
and other artifacts of the lives of the young magicians.
"We write and finish now, Lena, and tonight I will ask permission
to have a show."
"Impossible," Lena says.
"Possible. I can make this happen. Maybe not tonight but
soon. And so we seal the introduction, which means we can
begin on the act. Once we have permission, we perform. Light.
Melt. It is done."
"Unfold. Write. Magic is art of control events using supernatural
"I will not, Lena, no. This is not part of the introduction of
the act; this does not belong. It is very good English, but it does
not belong. This is the introduction, which we must seal, so that
it will be, and so that we begin work on practice the act."
Excerpted from Vaclav & Lena
by Haley Tanner. Copyright © 2011 by Haley Tanner.
Excerpted by permission of Dial Press. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.