I was talking with a well known politician a few weeks ago, when the subject of Flash Mildew
came up (it always does). The politician (who prefers to remain nameless) met Mr. Mildew
many years ago before he began his public career. He related the following story to me:
I sat next to a magician one time. He was abrasive and rumpled - not unlike Herbert Becker. He dressed like he had access to Siegfried and Roy's discard box. When I asked him his name, he simply said, "Flash."
Flash looked about fifty, and he had an odd demenor; and 'de more I pressed him about his age, 'de meaner he got. He reminded me of my wife's mother - they both had moustaches. He had a lilting and melodious accent - New Jersey, I think. His hands so casually - edged closer to my pocket with each passing moment. I moved further away.
"Youse like card tricks?" he asked. He didn't wait for an answer.
Over the next four hours, Flash showed me every known variation on a card trick with 21 cards, and attempted to amaze me with something he called a "Foo Can". Every now and then he would reach up and remove a quarter from my ear. He won $1.35 from me playing "French Fry Monte", and he made a dime disappear by folding a napkin over it. I was trapped in the booth, and he simply ignored my requests to move aside to allow me my freedom.
He had just finished a trick using a row of cards and the little toy car from his "Happy Meal", when the nine coffee refills he had consumed hit his bladder. He stood up, and said, "I'll be right back. I'll do somethin' really special for youse - somethin' as old as dirt itself." He walked stiff-legged into the bathroom, and I made my move.
I hurriedly left the restaurant, and turned to make sure Flash wasn't following me. My eyes probed the shadows, afraid that I was not alone. I walked toward where I had parked my Buick, and reached for my keys. The Buick was gone, and in my pocket was a note. I looked at it for a moment in shock. It was written on the back of a red playing card, in red ink. I had to take it over into the light of the streetlamp to read it. It said:
Your radio pre-sets really bite, there's no map in the glove box, and the spare tire's flat. Have you no pride?