Sleight of Hand


You’re walking home from Chester Park Elementary School, where you have the happiness of being in the sixth grade. As you’re passing the windowless flank of a multistory parking garage, a four-eyed classmate of yours named Dresner steps out of the doorway he’s been skulking in.

—Check this out.

The small volume he produces for your inspection has a black leatherette cover. Nothing is printed on it. It reminds you of the sort of book found on the backs of pews. You’re reluctant to touch it.

—What is it?

—Open it.

Before you can, it’s snatched from your hands by another classmate of yours—Falk, his name is. A gangly lout with a face like the Big Bad Wolf’s, he flips through the pages under your nose, while you try but fail to contain yourself.

—That’s disgusting!

—Where’d you get it?

Dresner, used to being ignored by Falk, is thrilled to be admitted to a conversation with him.

—In my father’s closet. Hey, what’s the idea? Come back with that!

Falk laughs at him over his shoulder.

—Or what? You’ll tell your father?

That Dresner doesn’t dare to pursue him as he saunters off can only be due to the fearsome reputation enjoyed by Falk’s headlock. You have to hurry to catch up with him before he reaches the corner.

—You should give it back.

In the shadow of the parking garage, Dresner has sagged down onto his pudgy hams, as if the wind’s been knocked out of him. He looks so stricken even Falk can’t help feeling for him.

—All right, here.

Grudgingly he surrenders the book and disappears around the corner. You make sure Dresner isn’t watching when you slip it in your pocket.


Stephen BailyStephen Baily is the author of three novels, ten plays, and short fiction that’s appeared in some thirty-five journals. His novel, Markus Klyner, MD, FBI, is available as a Kindle e-book. He lives in France.