After studying with the masters, you’d think I’d know how to slip out of a pair of shackles and escape from a supermax jail cell. But I had only completed five of the fourteen classes when they arrested me for sawing my roommate in half. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have attempted such an advanced trick so soon. I wasn’t ready. Not that I’m exactly cryin’ over my roomie. Dan was a cheap, condescending buzz kill who never replaced the toilet paper roll. My cellmate’s a nicer person, and he bludgeoned his entire family with a ball-peen hammer.

Honestly, I had never really thought about doing magic before. It’s not like I had a dream of pulling coins out of people’s ears. But then I saw that online video ad: “Meet your new instructors,” it said. There was Teller fixing me with those magnetic eyes. And Penn! Such conviction in his voice when he said, “Learning basic principles of magic is like learning chords on a guitar.”

It just so happened that I had taken Carlos Santana’s Master Class on the Art and Soul of Guitar. I had mastered a few chords of “Blackbird” and I thought, Hey, maybe I could learn how to pull a real blackbird out of my sleeve.

I couldn’t wait to tell Dan.

“You’re joking. Magic?” he said. “Hey, if you can afford another fucking class, then pay your goddamned share of the rent.”

Yeah, okay, I owed Dan a few bucks. Not to make excuses, but I didn’t get the adjunct economics professor gig at Yale. I was shocked. I mean, I took Paul Krugman’s Master Class on Economics for Chrissakes. Krugman! Who needs a PhD?

“I’m just trying to maximize my potential,” I said. “Think I want to roll burritos all my life?”

“Jesus. Magic. What a fucking moron,” I could hear Dan mutter under his breath.

I tried to tune out Dan’s negativity and stay focused on my craft. After two classes, I was feeling confident enough to put on my top hat and cape and perform for Dan.

“Wanna see a trick?” I asked him.

“You look like a dork,” he said.

“Gimme a dollar,” I said, ignoring the slight. Hey, someone had to be the adult!

All he had was a $5 bill. Figures. Mister I’m-So-Much-More-Successful-Than-You-Junior-Banker. I took the bill and stuck it in my hat. After a little razzle-dazzle with my magic wand, I made it vanish.

Literally vanish.

As in, I had no fucking idea where it went!

I searched under the couch, behind the TV, everywhere. I even looked in Dan’s ears, just to be sure.

“It’s gone, man,” I said. “Sorry.”

Dan was furious. I thought he was going to hit me. He threatened to boot me out of the apartment if I didn’t pay the $875.72 I owed him in back rent, plus the $5.

“You could be a little more encouraging,” I told him. “I did make it vanish.”

“Hey Houdini, make that pile of dirty dishes in the sink vanish and I’ll really be impressed.”

I had taken Massimo Bottura’s Master Class on Modern Italian Cooking. You’d think Dan would have appreciated all the meals I made for him. But no. He said my pumpkin risotto tasted like “a plastic Jack-o’-Lantern.” Then he started calling me Chef Barfaroni. I knew that all great chefs have critics, but it still hurt.

Our living situation deteriorated, especially after what happened next. In class, Penn said, “Once you know a few simple principles, you can build your whole magic routine.” So I decided to quit my job at Chipotle and go for my dream. That night, Dan came home from work and flipped out when he saw all the new magic equipment I had stacked in the hallway and living room. You should have seen his face when he heard the chak chak chak sound coming from inside a covered cage.

“What the fuck is that?” he said.

“Oh, that’s Paul, my new blackbird. He’s part of my act.”

Dan’s face turned red. “You have to be out. By tomorrow night. Poof. Gone,” he said, stomping out of the apartment and slamming the door.

Like I told the jury, I did not plan to kill my roomie. What happened is that he came home shitfaced and passed out on the couch. I thought, Here’s my chance to prove to him what a great magician I am. I’ll saw him in half! Despite it all, I craved Dan’s approval.

I hadn’t learned how to levitate someone yet, so I had to lift him up onto the apparatus. He was still comatose when I fired up the buzz saw. I realized there was a problem when Dan’s eyes popped open and he began to shriek, but by then he was practically in two pieces, so I just kept sawing. I must have positioned him in the apparatus incorrectly, not that anyone believes me.

I’m always asked, Glen, do you have any regrets? Well, sure I do. I wish I had access to a computer so I could take James Patterson’s Master Class on Writing. I have a great idea for a prison escape thriller. I’m sure I could pound out a bestseller before they give me the needle.

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