Lesson Plans The Magicians Assistant


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Sabine brought him coffee and sat down on the edge of his bed.

Transcriber's Note

Parsifal and Phan had lived together for five years. Parsifal woke up quickly, clearheaded. He took the cup. He was sitting by a pool. He was wearing one of my suits, my pearl gray suit and a white shirt. He had taken off his tie. He closed his eyes, searching for details. Phan was in the details. He was holding this big pink drink, a mai-tai or something.

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It had fruit all over the glass. He looked so rested, absolutely beautiful. His house had a pool, but pools dominated the backyards of Southern California. Having one was not the same as wanting one. Sometimes Phan would roll up his pants and sit at the shallow end with his feet in the water. Sabine ran her hand over the top of his head, bald now from who knew what combination of things.

She put no stock in dreams.

Essay Topic 1

To her they were just a television left on in another room. There was a time not so long ago that Parsifal never would have told his dreams to Sabine, unless it was a ridiculous dream, like the time he told her he dreamed about going into the living room and finding Rabbit in the wingback chair, two hundred pounds and six feet tall, reading the newspaper through half-glasses. He wanted to believe in a dream that told him death had been good to Phan, that he was not lost but in a place where Parsifal could find him later.

A place with a pool and a bar.

She shook her head and asked how he was feeling. He said fine, but there was a little bit of a headache coming on. That had been on this same day.

After basic arrangements had been made, Sabine took the elevator to the main lobby and the electric glass doors opened up to turn her out into the night. It was January and seventy-two degrees.

A light breeze had blown the smog far out over the Pacific Ocean but had left nothing behind it. She wished she could still smell the blossoms from the distant industrial orange groves, the scent of flowers and citrus that as recently as May had settled on her clothes and in her hair like a fine dust.

She kept expecting someone from the hospital to come after her. Where are you going? The nurse had asked her if there were someone she could call, but Sabine said no. There were a hundred people to call, and none of them the person she wanted. Parsifal had no family at all, except for Sabine, who was always moved to see her name on the line of the medical records that said Next of Kin. She would wait until she was home to call her own parents, because if she called them now they would insist on picking her up from the hospital and bringing her home with them.

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Sabine wanted to be in her own home tonight. It felt a little bit like being drunk, the way her knees grew soft from the shock, the very edges of the grief that was coming for her. She had to concentrate to keep from stepping into the bank of rubbery green ice plant along the sidewalk. Every time Sabine walked down that street she thought that Gracie Allen must have suffered at the end of her life, and that it was her suffering that led the city to give her a street.

And maybe her husband had walked down that street some evenings. Then one day when he felt himself getting older and the walks more difficult to make, he had gone to his friends and asked if possibly he could have a street for himself. It was not vanity.

It was a marker to say he was in love with her. Sabine wished that streets could be bought, like patient wings, so that she could buy one for Parsifal. She would buy it as for away from Cedars Sinai as she could get it. She would give him that, knowing full well that the street that would intersect it would not bear her name. She thought on the drive home that she could use the guest list from their wedding to contact people for the funeral. Not just for tax reasons, Parsifal had said in front of the rabbi.

I do love you. Parsifal said he wanted Sabine to be his widow. And Sabine deserved to be married. She had been in love with Parsifal since she was nineteen, since that first night at the Magic Hat when he had done the passing-rabbit trick, pulling rabbits out of his sleeves, his collar, his cummerbund, the way Charming Pollack pulled out doves. She had been a waitress at the Hat, but on that night she became his assistant, putting down her tray of drinks when he held out his hand, coming up on the stage even when the owner had clearly told her that to volunteer was the God-given right of the drink-buying audience and did not belong to staff.

She had fallen in love with him then, when he was twenty-four years old and stood in the pink stage light wearing a tuxedo. She had stayed in love with him for twenty-two years—let him saw her in half, helped him make her disappear—even when she found out that he was in love with men. At the turn of the key in the lock Rabbit hopped slowly down the hall, making a thumping sound like loose slippers against carpet.

He raised up on his hind legs and stretched his front legs up towards her, his nose pulsing in lapin joy after such a long, dull day alone.

Sabine picked him up and buried her face in the soft white fur and for the first time thought of the white rabbit muff her parents had bought for her as a child. There had been many rabbits, but none as smart, or large, as this one. Sabine was five-foot-ten and Rabbit, a Flemish giant, weighed in at just under twenty pounds.

Like Sabine, Rabbit had once had responsibilities. He practiced with Parsifal and learned the tricks. The third of the white working rabbits Parsifal owned, he was by far the smartest and best behaved. Rabbit wanted to work.

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He hopped aimlessly from room to room, chewing electrical cords, waiting. Her own bedroom was upstairs. She had lived there since before Phan died, when they needed so much help there was never time to go home anyway. And besides, the house was huge. She had slept in four different bedrooms before choosing the one she liked. She had taken another room as a studio. She set up her drafting table. She brought over her architectural models. At night, after everyone was cared for, after everyone was asleep, she sat on the floor and made tiny ash trees that would one day line the front walkway of an office complex.

My funeral Sabine put up her hand. Your people are so much more efficient than mine. Catholics will lay you out in the front parlor for a week, let all the neighbors come by.

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I find that very morbid. Parsifal closed his eyes and stretched. Do you think Johnny Carson would come to my funeral? That would really be spectacular.

I wonder if he remembers me at all. I was too embarrassed to tell you back then, he confided. Sabine put the rabbit down on the floor and switched on the lights. When they left, they left together, in a hurry. He wore dark glasses and held her arm. What she needed now was clothes.

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