art by Melissa Mead
The Vanishing Girl
by Michael T. Banker
There's something about the Vanishing Girl.
I watch her from the Presto Portraits booth of the county fair. A man in a cowboy hat is painting my portrait with punchy, animated strokes; if he's not finished in six minutes, the portrait's free. He tells me to angle my head left, and that's when I see her. The Vanishing Girl, her sign proclaims her. I allow myself to stare. After all, I'm posing for a picture; I can't look away.
The girl leans drearily forward, sucking on a strand of muddy red hair. Give me something of yours, her sign reads, and I'll make it vanish before your eyes! No tricks, just magic. Only two dollars. But one look into her flat hazel eyes and I have a hard time imagining her mustering the energy to paint the bright red letters of that sign.
As I watch, a customer approaches, corralling her young son beside her. "Oh look, Patrick, magic! This should be fun. What should we give the lady?"
The boy shrugs up to his ears.
"Well, let's see..." the woman reaches into her purse and pulls out a pair of blue-handled scissors. "I can get these back at the end, right dear?"
The Vanishing Girl's eyes widen slightly, as though she doesn't understand the question. "No," she breathes. "I can only vanish."
The woman seems to consider arguing but then sighs and produces two dollars. "Well, here we go then. Patrick, can you see?" She bends down to pick up her son just as the girl reaches out her left hand and touches the scissors.
The woman didn't see it. She thinks she was duped and complains loudly. The girl merely looks at her like she's a troll spouting toads instead of words.
I saw it, though.
I'm distracted by my cowboy-hat-guy telling me my portrait is done, and with twenty seconds to spare. I thank him, making pleased sounds about his work, and find a new vantage to watch the girl.