He showed her a trick. Nothing up his sleeves. Said magic words. Then presto; a quarter was pulled from behind the child’s ear. The old man gave the shiny piece to the little girl. She showed the coin to her mother who sat there on the park bench beside her. Thank you, she said to the stranger. Thanks, but, no thanks, told her daughter to give the quarter back to the old man and go play on the swingset. The kid frowned. Go on, give it back to him, mom said. He stuck out his hand and she placed the quarter in his palm. Told him thanks anyway, and went off to swing high in the autumn sky.
I didn’t mean any harm, the old man said to the mother. I guess sometimes I get carried away. I’m very sorry, the mother moved down the bench a foot or two.
You shouldn’t do that, she said. Teach children magic. That things come easy in life, she lit a cigarette. Now she’s gonna want a quarter from me all the time. I ain’t got that much money to be giving her quarters mister, she took a long drag.
I’m very sorry, he put the coin in his pocket. I see you two out here every afternoon, he said. I guess I felt it was OK. I guessed wrong, he smiled.
You sure did. It’s creepy, she said. Magic tricks with little girls. It’s not right. How do I know you ain’t got no record. You some kind of child molester.
Oh I’m not that. Not anything really. Just an old man sitting on a park bench. Looking at leaves. Watching children play. Thinking of my younger days.
That’s your problem right there, she said. You looking backwards instead of forwards. I guess that’s what you do when you get old, she moved even further away on the bench. Stood up and crushed out her cigarette. Well, stay away from my daughter. You hear? the old man nodded. She began walking away; mumbling, Ain’t no such thing as magic anyway.