Excerpt from The Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Lightness of Hands

by Jeff Garvin

The Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin X
The Lightness of Hands by Jeff Garvin
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2020, 400 pages

    Aug 2021, 400 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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About this Book

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THE TRICK WORKED LIKE THIS: I entered the gas station first, playing the part of the suspect teenager, the apparent shoplifter—misdirection incarnate. I prowled the chip aisle, fingering noisy snacks, and then, just as the clerk started to get suspicious, Dad would walk in. There was nothing flashy about the setup, no pyrotechnics or vanishing objects, just a story to obscure what was really happening. That's what magic is, after all: a lie that's more satisfying than the truth.

Outside, our rickety RV with its attached ten-foot trailer sat at the farthest pump, where it would suck diesel until the prepaid Visa ran dry. I hoped fifteen bucks would buy us enough time. Other than the two twenties in Dad's money clip, it was all we had left.

"Good afternoon, young man," Dad said to the clerk in his stage baritone. A wry smile turned up the corner of my mouth; even at a backroad gas station in the middle of nowhere, he couldn't help being the Uncanny Dante.

"How can I help you?" the clerk said. To judge by the mass of his neck muscles, he had probably played linebacker on his high school football team.

"Two packs of Chesterfield mediums, please."

Dad had quit smoking when he got his cardiomyopathy diagnosis. Also, Chesterfield didn't make mediums; Marlboro did. It was all part of the trick—and it worked. The clerk turned away to scan the cigarette display, and I made a beeline for the front door. On the way, I knocked a few cans of Hormel chili off the shelf.

Rule number one: Magic is misdirection.

The clerk spun at the sound. "Hey! Stop!"

I was halfway out the door when he grabbed my arm and yanked me back inside.

"What did you take?" he said.

"Nothing," I replied, basting my tone with indignation.

Over the clerk's shoulder, I saw that Dad had already completed his part of the grift; the old man was fast.

"Give it up," Linebacker said, "or I'm calling the cops."

"Go ahead." I glared, trying again to yank my arm from his grasp. "I'll tell them how you assaulted me!"

Now Dad approached, frowning. "Purcilla! What are you doing?"

Every time we pulled this bit, he gave me a fresh pseudonym, each more ridiculous than the last. We got a kick out of it.

"Forgive my daughter," he said, putting a hand on Linebacker's shoulder. "She's troubled."

He let go of me.

"Now do as he asked, Purcilla."

I rolled my eyes and unzipped my hoodie, revealing a can of BBQ Pringles and a package of Reese's peanut butter pumpkins. Dad was on me in a heartbeat, shaking me by the shoulders.

"You little thief! I didn't raise you like this!"

"Take it easy," Linebacker said, oozing with counterfeit chivalry. It was okay for him to manhandle me, but not my own father. What a hypocrite. "I just want to make sure she didn't take anything else." He glared at me. "What's in your pockets?"

I showed him they were empty. He seemed satisfied and was turning back toward my dad when I said:

"Oh, wait. I do have these." I reached into my back pockets, then presented both middle fingers.

Dad's eyes narrowed. "All right, Purcilla. Back to the bus with you."

I rolled my eyes again, pushed through the doors, and headed for the RV, leaving Dad to close the ruse.

The prepaid Visa had run out as expected, but when I squeezed the handle, the diesel started flowing again, this time free of charge. While I had been distracting the clerk, Dad had reset the pump.

As the tank filled, I took a few deep breaths, trying to slow my heart. The adrenaline rush from a grift was almost as strong as the high from performing—but it faded quickly, leaving me to worry how we were going to book the next job. Get the next meal. Survive.

I opened the secret pouch I had sewn in my hoodie and took out what I had lifted: two unripe bananas, a bag of pork rinds, and Linebacker's wallet. He only had fourteen bucks, but I removed his driver's license anyway and jotted on the back in Sharpie: $14—Dunlap, IN. I stuffed our convenience-store lunch back into the pouch and leaned back on the RV. Dad was supposed to be on a low-fat, low-sodium diet for his heart. I couldn't keep feeding him this crap. We needed decent food. We needed money.

Excerpted from The Lightness of Hands by Tim Garvin. Copyright © 2020 by Tim Garvin. Excerpted by permission of Balzer + Bray. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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