Here’s my buddy, Randy Enos, telling a story from his art school days. See Randy’s editorial cartoon archive here. –Daryl
I learned a trick when I was a kid, from one of my father’s fellow insurance salesmen who used to pull the trick on some of his clients when stopping by to collect their premiums.
Here’s how it worked. He asked if they had a deck of cards. Then, when the deck was presented, he asked them to pick a card from it. When that was done, he would make a phone call.
He’d say, “Hello, Wizard?” And then, “Will you please tell this woman what card she picked?!” He’d hand the client her phone. She would then be shocked when an ominous voice would intone, “the five of diamonds!” Her card!
I’ll reveal how the trick was done toward the end of the story, but first I must note that in 1954, I was off to art school in Boston with a friend from high school who was going to go to the Conservatory of Music which was very close to my school. We thought we’d both rent a double room in the vicinity. When we found a place, we were surprised to find two more of our high school friends there. They were going to the Engineering School right in the same neighborhood. So, there we were; all together. On our first night, a drunk on the street was making a racket so we opened the window and one of my pals shouted, “Shut up!” The drunk looked up at the window and said in Drunkanese, “What’s the name of thish street?” My friend said, “St. Stephens.” The drunk replied, “Who’s that, the patron saint of silence?”
We had an attractive youngish couple as landlords. The woman seemed delighted to have all these young men at her rooming house and she was a bit flirtatious. Eventually, she had an affair with one of the other art students that was living there.
At any rate, one evening, as was our habit, a bunch of us boys decided to go down to the corner cafeteria which was often our nightly hangout. We’d usually stay there drinking coffee until the wee hours of the morning. Mrs. Landlady’s husband worked a night shift at one of his several jobs; she asked if she could come along.
I had never done the trick before (I don’t think I did) so I decided that I would try it on them at the cafeteria. I told them I’d be along soon and I quickly tried to give Ronnie, my roommate, a crash course on the trick. He was to be my voice on the other end of the phone call. Ronnie wasn’t going with us to the hangout. He’d be there near the hall phone so he would be a perfect collaborator. To be the “Wizard”, he would have to know the verbal clues I would be giving him. I wrote them down.
“Hello, Wizard?”= diamonds
“Wizard?” = hearts
“Is this the Wizard?”=spades
“Please put the Wizard on the phone”= clubs
Once the suit was determined, the “Wizard” then starts counting slowly… “ Ace … King … Queen …two … three …” etc. until the card in question is reached, at which point, I, the caller, would interrupt immediately to say, “Please tell this person which card they chose.”
I rehearsed it with him and told him in no uncertain terms that he was not to fall asleep but to stay vigilant and near the phone for the next 30 minutes or so.
So, off I went to the cafeteria to join my victims. Shortly after arriving, I told them that I had brought a deck of cards because I wanted to show them a neat trick. I had someone pick a card and then I made the call to the house from the pay phone without anyone seeing the number I was dialing.
It rang and it rang. And then it rang some more and finally a voice answered. It was not Ronnie! It was our landlord who came home early from work. I was sputtering something and he said, “Who is this?” I told him and he said, “Is my wife down there with you guys?” Then he slammed the phone down and walked the short block to drag her home. We all sheepishly followed, went to our rooms and listened for the next hour to the heated argument a floor below us. Ronnie slept through it all. After a while, a taxi arrived and Mrs. Landlord left carrying luggage. I felt really bad even though Mr. Landlord tried to assure me that it wasn’t my fault that they were going to get a divorce. I couldn’t help feeling that I was, somehow, the catalyst in the whole thing with that stupid trick. A short while later they did get divorced.
I have never done the trick again, and I would warn anyone attempting it to just be careful. Okay?
Read more more of Randy’s cartooning memories: