Ed Coonce ~ Charles and Cordelia

belle-epoque-xx

Charles, an ambitious entrepreneur, was no longer amused.

During the early spring, he and his girlfriend Cordelia had reached a boiling point in their relationship. Snow still lay scattered in the hollows of the Parisian streets and he was, as usual, worrying about their lack of income.

Cordelia was a Prancercize instructor and parlor magician who hired herself out for weddings, bat mitzvahs, bachelor parties and assorted gatherings. Her sleight of hand and prestidigitation skills were slipping, however. Her act had deteriorated to nothing more than vague misdirection that fooled no one.

Charles finally addressed what he saw as a problem.

“Face it, Delia!” Charles told her in a condescending tone. “Your magic is terrible! You’re not fooling anyone!”

“No, look,” she replied, anguished.

She pulled a doily from the sofa, held it up, and waved one hand, then pulled a flower from under the cloth, a rotting rose with its stem broken and its petals nearly all gone.

“See?” said Charles derisively. “You’re hurting our bottom line!”

They bantered about for a bit and decided to get Cordelia some assistance. They would consult Chriss Angel.

Chriss came by to impart what wisdom he had. He told Cordelia that all she had to learn was how to disappear and show up somewhere else, in another costume, preferably something with lace and fishnet and satin. She agreed, with a sweet smile and a slight wink from her left eye.

Charles didn’t like the looks the two of them were exchanging. After Chriss left, he voiced his suspicions.

“You were coming on to him!” He pointed his finger at the door, in the direction Chriss had left.

She slapped him hard, then gave him a piercing, manic, paralyzing evil eye until he apologized.

“Sorry,” he said.

Cordelia returned to practicing, tossing the doily and the decaying rose in the kitchen compactor. She left the house and crossed the street to the park, where a group of schoolchildren were playing kickball.

She waved one hand imperially, and a pet chihuahua disappeared from the grasp of a nearby young girl, leaving the youngster disoriented and tearful.

The dog reappeared moments later, materializing in the undergarments of a rotund genteel Spaniard walking on the Place de Catalogne. The astounded gentleman pulled the barking and biting pooch from his trousers and tossed him into an alley. The Spaniard suffered a rather nasty bite to one testicle, forcing him to hobble into a corner drug store, where he received a salve and a stern warning from the druggist.

“I would suggest a leash, m’sieur,” said the druggist.

Cordelia, meanwhile, was emboldened by this small success. “It works,” she told herself.

Back at the house, she gathered a few belongings and her best frock, stuffed them into a round suitcase, and told Charles goodbye.

“Whatever,” he responded.

She once again waved her hand and faded into nothingness while Charles was intently reading the financial pages of Le Monde.

Cordelia materialized moments later at La Caféothèque, where Chriss Angel had already seated himself. Excited, they ordered desserts, she, a puff pastry in the shape of a starfish, and he, a thin sliver of key lime pie. When they had finished, and before the waiter had brought them their cheque, they both disappeared forever.

Charles spent the next two weeks secluded in the house, listening over and over to his dreariest Charles Aznavour records.

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