The Magic Trick

Jeff was a neighborhood boy who lived across the street and up a couple of houses from mine when I was growing up. He was a year or so older than me and I thought he was pretty cool. His mom was divorced and worked full time. It was the 1970’s and he wore his hair long like mine. We both had a sense of humor and got along well with each other. He had a paper route like many boys of that time, and I would help him deliver newspapers sometimes. One afternoon we were messing around in his mom’s office, waiting for the newspaper drop off time, when he asked if I wanted to see a magic trick. Of course I did, so he took out a match and asked, “You want to see a match burn twice.” “Sure,” I said, wondering how this was going to work. He lit the match, “Here’s once.” Blowing the match out he said, “And here’s twice,” reaching to touch my forearm with the still glowing match head. “Ahh,” I pulled away before he could get me. We both laughed at the joke and watched as the match cooled and stopped smoking. “Let’s go get the papers,” he said as he tossed the match into the plastic garbage can next to the desk. We hopped on our bikes and rode off to pick up the newspapers, fold them and deliver his route. It was a light load and he said he didn’t need any help so I took off back home. I got about half way down our street when I heard then saw fire engines, stopping right where we lived and smoke rising from a house. Of course I thought it was my house, but when I got close enough I could see it was Jeff’s. Immediately I turned my bike around to get Jeff. When I found him with his newspapers I told him his house was on fire and he needed to come quick. He didn’t believe me until I convinced him to just go around the corner and look down our street. He did and we rode our bikes as fast as we could to his house, which now had black smoke billowing out of the windows while the fire fighters hosed it down. It was a disaster for the family, who had to find someplace to stay while the mess was sorted out and the decision was made whether to rebuild or move. A few days after the fire Jeff’s mom wanted to show us both something inside inside of the burned out house. We went to where her office used to be and she pointed to a flat circle of melted plastic on the floor. “The fire inspector told me this was where the fire started,” she said. It was the remains of the trash can. Neither one of us up to that point had any idea we had caused the fire. Jeff confessed about the “magic trick” with the match. His mom told us if anything even close to this happened again she would make sure we reached adulthood in a juvenile home. They ended up rebuilding and Jeff and I had a few more years together before we drifted apart, but burning down his house was one of the highlight events of our friendship.