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THE YOUNG KELLAR by John Mulligan
‘You’ll never amount to anything,’ young mister Kelly; that’s what he said to me, every morning. ‘Squarehead’ we called him, but not to his face of course; he’d clatter any boy that didn’t call him ‘sir’, or ‘Mister Murphy, Sir’.
‘Yes, Mister Murphy, sir’. I would try not to annoy him, so as to avoid the stinging smack of his big hand on the side of my head. He always hit from behind, when you least expected it.
‘What will become of you, Mister Kelly?’
‘I’ll never amount to anything, sir.’
That wasn’t really what I thought, of course. I knew in my heart that I would very much amount to something; I had a plan. I would be a famous magician, ‘the young Kellar’, and I would make millions and be on TV and be famous. I spent all my evenings in the shed, working on my act in front of an old mirror. The homework never really got done, but that didn’t matter; I wouldn’t need to know about algebra and the war of the roses, I’d just have to be able to count the money that would roll in.
It was the last Christmas before I left St Joseph’s, and the concert was the big thing for everybody. Of course he had to have a go at me about that too.
‘So, Mister Kelly, what will you do for the concert? Act the clown, maybe, or play the donkey?’ The class tittered nervously.
‘I’ll do some magic tricks, Mister Murphy, sir.’
‘Magic tricks? Sticking a pencil in one ear and out the other? There’s not a lot in between, is there, Mister Kelly?’
‘No, what? Mister Kelly’
‘No, not a lot in between, Mister Murphy, sir.’
So now I’m on the stage in my tuxedo and I have all my equipment set up. I ask the audience for a volunteer, looking straight at Squarehead in the front row.
‘Would you like to be sawed in half, sir? Not afraid, are we?’
Laughter from the audience. He climbs up on the stage, bows to the crowd.
‘Lie in the box, Sir.’ He lies down, awkwardly; I fasten clasps.
‘Two volunteers to haul the saw?’ I flex the shiny crosscut; it makes a twanging noise. Two young guys come up the steps.
‘I’ll just put some special tape on your mouth, to stop the screaming’ I wave the piece of duct-tape; the audience howls with laughter. I stretch it across his face; he looks nervous, all of a sudden. He’s not so cocky now.
I hand the saw to the two young men, slot it into the gap on the top of the box, cue the loud music.
They pale at the spurting red spray, then laugh nervously. ‘Special effects’, I reassure them quietly, and they keep sawing. The blade drips red as it moves over and back; the audience applauds, goes wild.
Old Squarehead hasn’t much to say now, has he? Not a lot; no, sir!
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