"Maybe what?" says Rasia.
"Maybe, before we are eating dinner..." says Vaclav. "Say what you are saying," says Rasia, narrowing her eyes. "Can Lena and I do for you a magic show, in the living room, before dinner?" Vaclav says, very fast, all in one breath. "
All homework is done?" she asks.
"Yes, all is done," Vaclav says, even though his homework is only mostly done.
"Lena, you are staying for dinner?" Rasia asks. "Da," says Lena.
"English!" says Rasia.
"Ye-us," says Lena, with a growl.
"Before any magic is happening, homework must be done," Rasia says.
Vaclav smiles, because he knows that this is her way of saying yes.
Rasia scowls at the room for one extra minute, just to eradicate any funny business that may or may not be happening, then, satisfied, she finally leaves the room, pulling the door almost shut behind her. As soon as she is gone, Vaclav and Lena jump up and down and squeal with excitement, and then start scrambling frantically to prepare their magnificent act.
. . .
Vaclav and Lena turn off the big-screen television in the living room. They push the big mahogany coffee table back against the wall; it is a perfect stage, black and solid and shiny. They have moved the coffee table this way many times; it is easy to push across the big threadbare Persian rug.
Vaclav and Lena stand onstage, waiting for the audience to take their seats.
"Dad," Vaclav shouts, "come on, we're ready!" Rasia is already sitting on the big black leather sofa, waiting for the show to start. Vaclav's father comes in with a glass of vodka in his hand and sinks down into the sofa.
"Okay, so I am here. What are we watching? What are you going to show?" Vaclav's father says.
"Only watch, okay?" Vaclav wears his school clothes, jeans and a green T-shirt, with his bow tie hanging around his neck and his magician's top hat on his head. Lena wears only her normal clothes, jeans and a T-shirt, because she has not made her costume yet.
"First, welcome to my lovely and intellectual audience. Lady and gentleman, you are in for quite a surprise. I am Vaclav the Magnificent, and this, my assistant, the Lovely Lena." Vaclav swings his left arm out to indicate Lena, who takes a long, deep, serious bow.
Vaclav and the audience wait in silence for her to return to an upright position.
"Tonight we have for you a special treat which will astound and amaze you. May I please, from the audience, give someone the honor of volunteering a quarter to give to me to be involved in a magical trick?"
"This is scam," says Vaclav's father.
"Dad!" says Vaclav.
"Oleg, give it," growls Rasia, and with much moaning and groaning, he reaches under his butt and into his pocket and retrieves a warm quarter, then hands it to his son.
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.
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