New Orleans, to the untrained eye, is the bee-hive your nephew just blew pot smoke into.
I have an untrained eye.
It is beautiful.
We walk down Frenchman, it is dark, loud–late. A man stands at a small table, he looks like a guy I used to know, a musician; five years sober, now.
A deck of cards sits on the table. We glance at it.
“Mind if I teach your boys a little lesson Ma’am?” he calls after us. We turn. I shrug, my brother shrugs, my mother nods. We go back to the table.
The man taps his fedora, “I am Rooster, Rooster the magician, no idea why they call me that,” he takes off his hat, a tuft of hair is all he’s got. He winks; it is a wink like a subconscious thought, so subtle you could swear it never happened.
“Do I seem like an honest man?” he says, rolling up his sleeves.
“Sure,” my mother tells him.
“Okay, watch close.”
He has my mother pick a card, show us–Queen of Spades. She tucks it back in the deck. His hands move like two butterflies, we watch close. He talks the whole time, but the cards are all I can focus on, we’ve been drinking. The deck gets set down.
“Now, wouldn’t it be impressive if that top card were your card?”
We all nod. He flips it, it isn’t–Six of Hearts. He pulls the Queen of Spades out of the air. We clap against the side of our drinks.
“Now,” he says, taking up the deck. “I told you I was an honest man, did I not?”
“And I told you I’d teach your boys a lesson, did I not?”
My mother nods.
“Well, here you go, this is what I did–” he holds out the deck, showing us how he cut it when my mother slipped the Queen of Spades into it. “See here?” he says, flipping the deck around in his hand, The Queen of Spades dances between his fingers, swimming in and out of the deck. He slows it down, moving the card slowly enough so we can see exactly how it all happened.
“Wow,” we say, almost in unison. “Understand the lesson?” he asks, slipping the Queen of Spades back into the deck and setting it down. We all frown at the deck.
My brother is the first to say, “No.”
The Rooster mumbles something, we look up. He is smiling, Queen of Spades between his teeth. He spits it out, catches it.
He smiles, “never trust an honest man.”
My mother left him ten bucks.