At 12:00PM, Preston Presto finally rolls out of bed. He's thankful to finally make magic full-time, but he's still getting used to the late nights—he's lucky to leave the bar or nightclub before 2:00AM. Last night, it took even longer because he had to wait around for the nightclub to pay him after his sold-out performance. "Jerks," Preston thinks to himself as he looks over to his alarm clock.
He stumbles over to his coffee machine, hopscotching around the magic books, cards, handkerchiefs, and props that are covering the floor of his apartment.
The doorbell rings just as the coffee finishes brewing, so Preston has to again avoid the debris and paraphernalia as he makes his way to the door. He opens it to discover something only a magician would find delightful: his straitjacket has arrived in the mail.
Preston's so excited at the arrival that he's already reading the instructions before he makes it upstairs to his room. As a trick popularized by Houdini, Preston thinks it'll be perfect for his retro-themed magic performance.
His persona, "Scary Martini," incorporates old vaudeville magician routines, shock magic, and old-school escape tricks. "Hmm, now I see how they do it," he says out loud. As soon as those words leave his mouth, his roommate pokes his head in the room.
"Nice straitjacket," Barry says. "How does it work?"
Preston gives Barry an unfriendly look and shuts his door. Preston is tight-lipped about his routine. Barry should know better; a real magician never reveals his secrets.
At 2:00PM, Preston gets an email from his agent—no subject line, just a single command: "Call me now."
He dials up his agent and finds out there's an unexpected show opportunity. "Yeah, I can perform in Reno. How much is the pay? Ouch. What about a room? Great, so if they throw in a few meals and some taxi fare, we've got a deal."
Preston has had this agent for a little over a year now. After three years of frequenting smoky nightclubs, bars, theaters, and small concert venues, he's finally established enough of a following to have an agent book his gigs.
Also, his website traffic and merchandise sales have skyrocketed since he opened for a famous shock magician—"Sir Robin of Shocksley." Not the best stage name and, frankly, not the best show either.
At 3:00PM, Preston begins his preparations for the night's show. He makes an inventory of all of the props he needs to load into the truck. Everything must be checked to ensure that it properly functions on stage.
One time, Preston got stuck while performing a disappearing closet trick. He was so embarrassed he wished he could actually make himself disappear. Fortunately, most of the audience had already gone home by the time the fire department got him out of there.
After taking inventory, Preston practices the new coin trick he's inserting into the routine. Magicians practice magic several hours a day to perfect their patter with the audience, their stage presence, and the tricks themselves.
Sometimes magicians will invite a couple of friends over to perform a free show in order to ensure that their sleight of hand isn't obvious to audience members. Unfortunately all of Preston's friends have real jobs, so he uses a mirror to make sure he's not giving anything away.
After spending some time updating his website and making a Hot Pocket appear and disappear, Preston gets dressed at 7:30PM. Being a professional magician isn't as glamorous or mysterious as it's cracked up to be, but he still dresses like the classiest person in the room.
Preston arrives at the club at 8:00PM. Some of his followers are filling up the first few rows of seats, and Preston makes a mental note to say hi to them after the show. He needs to develop a substantial following in order for larger venues to book him, and that means maintaining decent relationships with the people who actually make an effort. He didn't think making magic would involve so much glad-handing, but that's how it is in show business.
The lights dim at 8:30PM as Preston takes his place on stage. Part of what attracted him to this career was the exciting anticipation before each show. His music starts up and he's enveloped by the smoke rolling out of his fog machine. He thinks the same thing he always thinks as the smoke billows up in his face: surely they could make that stuff smell a whole lot better.
Smelly or not, the smoke creates a mysterious atmosphere and hides some of what Preston intends to keep from the audience. Once it clears, he performs a card trick to get the ball rolling.
Audience participation helps establish a bond that keeps them interested in his performance. He sees a cute girl in the audience and asks her to come help with the trick. He doesn't like to single out the prettiest girl in the room all the time, but, frankly, it usually keeps the crowd more interested.
Preston asks the girl to pick a card out of the deck to show to the audience. When she slips the card back into the deck, he'll guess her card. It's a simple trick. Preston adds his own twist by lifting up his hat and revealing the card. He then takes the entire deck and blows on it, which causes the cards to burst into flames.
The audience oohs and ahhs and starts cheering wildly. Fire always gets 'em. The rest of his performance goes off without a hitch.
At 10:00PM, Preston patiently waits to get paid after the show has ended. He's thankful it isn't going to be as late as last night, but it's important he waits for what he's earned. They can mail him a check later, but that involves a whole lot more waiting than the extra twenty minutes it'll take to get paid now. He isn't doing all this just for the love of magic—he has to eat, too.
While loading up his truck, he hears a voice behind him. He turns around and sees an audience member approaching.
"Hey, your show was amazing!" she says. "How did you do that sword swallowing trick? It was unbelievable. I'll never get that out of my head."
Preston gives her his characteristic magician's smile 'n' wink—the one that says "wouldn't you like to know?"—and thanks her for coming. Despite the late nights and difficult road to fame, Preston wouldn't give up magic for anything. Even if his throat is feeling a little raw after downing that scimitar.