The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries

Jute and Fina enjoy their new life as carnival kids and assistants in their parents’ magic act. They go on rides and play games for free, and they have a pet — a goat Fina shrunk to pocket size. The family’s act helps turn the rundown carnival into a huge success, which unfortunately draws the attention of their former master.

Happy Jack looked down at the twins.

“Where are your parents?” he asked.

“They’re here,” Jute and Fina said together.

Happy Jack’s eyes flitted around the stage area.

“I don’t see them.”

“Don’t worry. They’re here. You’ll see.” Fina turned toward her brother. “It’s time to get the basket.”

Jute ran behind the dogs’ cages, and then he was back, holding a basket above his head so large he and his sister could fit inside together. Jute set the basket down. He and Fina took their places on either side as Happy Jack stepped to the center of the stage. Happy Jack wore a rumpled tuxedo and a top hat with dust on the brim. His face was as round as the moon and he had a big, big smile most of the time. Happy Jack III looked like his father, Happy Jack II, and his grandfather, Happy Jack I. Jute and Fina had seen their photos.

Happy Jack didn’t use a microphone, because he could make his voice loud enough so the people in the back row heard him clearly.

“Isn’t Miss Polly a peach? And, those little poodles of hers? Aren’t they darling?” Happy Jack shouted.

The crowd clapped quietly as Miss Polly herded the poodles off stage. Happy Jack waited until they were gone.

Ezra Livingston

Ezra Livingston

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, it’s time for our next act. Maybe your neighbors have told you about it. I know I’ve never seen anything like it before.” He cleared his throat. “I am talking about magic that will leave you speechless. I am talking about magic that will leave you spellbound and guessing.” Happy Jack’s voice grew louder and deeper as he stretched his left hand toward the side of the stage where Jute and Fina stood. “Sit back and enjoy The Amazing Magic of the Family Jinn!”

The band’s drummer tapped his sticks in a soft roll.

“We’re on,” Fina whispered.

Jute lifted one handle of the large basket. His sister took the other. They carried it toward the center of the stage amid the crowd’s applause. The twins dropped the basket on the floorboards. They raised their arms and twirled in place. They reached over the basket’s top so their fingers touched as they spun around it.

The drummer’s beat got louder, and then the flute player began a bouncy tune. Round and round the twins moved. The music swirled with them. And, when the twins stepped back, their mother, Mira, rose from the basket, the blue fabric of her long dress fluttering around her, so beautifully. Her hair was black and her eyes were silvery blue like the twins.

The audience cheered.

Laughing, Mira climbed from the basket and reached for her children’s hands. They danced together around the basket, spinning fast, then faster. Their laughter rang out and those who watched got a little dizzy from the sight. Their feet were a few inches above the stage although the dust drawn from its floorboards hid that from the audience. Mira and the twins sang a song no one in the crowd could possibly have heard unless they had seen the show.

Then, Elwin, tall and thin, and dark-haired like his wife and children, was upright in the basket. His arms were raised as he shouted, “Hala,” and in one effortless leap, he left the basket and stood barefoot on the stage. He wore a costume of black silk, with loose sleeves and pants. Jute, Fina, and their mother, Mira, took their places beside him. The family bowed while the crowd clapped and shouted.

“Thank you, thank you, kind people,” Elwin said.

Elwin held up one finger, as if he remembered something important he had to do. He stuck his hand inside the basket and chuckled as two white doves flew upward.

“I thought it was a little crowded in there.” Elwin grinned at his family. “Thank you, my dear wife and children, for freeing us.”

Illustration by Ezra Livingston

Illustration by Ezra Livingston

Jute and Fina bowed. Their job was done. Their parents were taking over, so the twins skipped to the side of the stage and sat beside the poodles’ empty cages to watch the rest of the act with Happy Jack. For the next twenty minutes, their parents worked together, pulling scarves, flowers, or whatever they liked from the depth of the basket. They made objects appear and disappear. Elwin lifted Mira into the air, and she fell backwards, floating onto the tip of his finger. Jute and Fina clapped with the audience. The twins had seen their parents perform many times since this spring, but they never tired of their magic act.

Happy Jack hummed.

“Your parents are something else,” he told the twins.

Happy Jack could not take his eyes from the stage. Neither could the people in the audience. They were concentrating so hard on what Elwin and Mira were doing, anyone could reach inside their pockets and steal whatever they wanted.

Now, Mira and Elwin danced together on the stage. Their footwork was slow and smooth as they danced a sweethearts’ waltz. They gazed into each other’s eyes. Elwin held Mira’s hands as she climbed inside the basket and lowered herself until she was out of sight. He tipped the basket so everyone could see it was empty.

Jute and Fina held their breath as their father stepped into the basket. His arms were up, and then he, too, was gone. The crowd was silent. Jute and Fina smiled. This was their favorite part of the act, when the audience realized two people had disappeared. The crowd got to its feet and cheered. That’s when the twins ran onstage and bowed. They carried the basket in a wide circle before they left the stage. People were begging, “More, more.”

Happy Jack laughed when Mira and Elwin came beside him.

“I don’t know how you do it. Just keep on doing it,” he said. “The crowds are getting bigger and bigger. Word is getting around, and it’s real good for business. That means people will want us back next year.”

Happy Jack, who was extra happy today, wagged a finger and trotted onto the stage. His arms opened wide. The crowd was cheering still.