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Pick a Card

In July, I interviewed a couple of professional magicians and the owner of a magic shop for an upcoming article that will be published in Georgia Magazine.

“Hey, do you remember how obsessed we were with magic tricks when we were young?” I asked my brother, Andy, on a phone call last month.

He remembered and for two weeks, he and I reminisced, discussed magic tricks, and swapped magic videos. In one video I shared with Andy, a magician wowed a group of onlookers by plucking out a certain card no matter how many times he shuffled and cut the deck. Boom! There’s that card again. Boom! There it is again. At the end of the performance, he magically transformed all 52 cards into a particular card. Stunning!

I paused and rewound the video several times, looking for a sleight of hand or some clue as to how the magician pulled off the seemingly impossible feat, but I couldn’t detect the trick.

“Oh, that’s one of the easiest tricks in the book,” the owner of a magic shop told me during an interview later that day. “He didn’t use a normal deck of cards. He used a Svengali Deck.”

I reported the revelation to my brother, who promptly went online and ordered himself a $12 deck of Svengali Cards.

“I can do the trick,” he told me a few days later on a phone call. “It took me about ten minutes to learn how to do it, and it’s good.”

So last week when a box arrived on my birthday and I opened it to find a deck of cards wrapped in a paper sleeve that read, “Svengali Cards,” I knew instantly they were from Andy.

I practiced the trick the following day. My hands are not as fluid as a professional magician’s hands. However, I, too, can perform the trick convincingly.

Talking about magic and learning to do the magic card trick took me back to my child-

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hood. My siblings and I went through the magic phase, as did so many other kids our age. My brother got a magic set for Christmas one year, and we all learned how to do the tricks.

In his magic set, there was a little red plastic egg cup with a little white ball. With the wave of a cheap magic wand and the magic word — abracadabra — we could make the ball vanish into thin air.

I loved learning the tricks behind the so-called magic. Still do.

When I was about ten, one of my dad’s cousins, Tommy Lanier, dropped by for a visit. He noticed a deck of playing cards resting on the bar in our game room, shuffled them, and fanned the cards in front of me, face down.

“Pick a card, Amber — any card,” he said. “Then look at it, remember it, and don’t let me see it.”

I picked a card and peeked at it.

Tommy dealt three cards face down onto the bar and told me to place my card on top, and I followed his instructions. He laid the rest of the deck aside.

“Here’s where the magic begins,” he said. “Do you know where your card is?”

“On top,” I answered, pointing to the stack of four.

“Are you sure?”

I was. He picked up the stack and showed me the bottom card.

“That’s not your card, is it?”

“Nope.” I nodded my head from side to side.

He dealt that card onto the table face down, then moved the next card to the top of the three cards remaining in his hand.

He showed me the bottom card again.

“Is this your card?”

“No,” I answered.

He performed the same maneuver, as I carefully kept my eye on what I thought was my card. Tommy only had two cards left in his hand.

“And neither of these is your card, right?” He placed those cards on the table and started the sequence over until all four cards were on the table again.

“Make a fist,” he said, and I complied. Tommy wedged the four cards between two fingers of my clenched fist. Then he slapped the cards from top to bottom until three cards fell to the ground. One card was left face down between my fingers. “That’s your card …”

I turned my hand, saw my card, and gasped in utter disbelief. Tommy laughed hard that day. He knew he had gotten me. He got all of us that day. He taught my siblings and me how to do the trick — a trick that I can still perform 45 years later. That’s what good magic is all about — making an impact and blowing the other person away for just a moment or two. I will never forget Tommy’s magic trick.

I’ll continue to practice magic using my Svengali Deck. With a little practice, I’ll be able to perform the illusion for my little grandniece and grand-nephews the next time I see them, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll blow their socks off, just like Tommy blew my socks off so long ago. And hopefully, when they are in their fifties and I’m dead and gone, one of them will smile and say, “Do you remember that crazy card trick Aunt Amber did for us that time?”

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