In the hazy days of magic, she learned two new things she had never been able to do before:  to shuffle cards and to swear.  Both enthralling in their own ways.

Shuffling and swearing can be done infinitely and interchangeably.

At first she was repelled by the magician’s constant swearing. 

The ’f’ word was used as noun, verb, adjective, adverb in hyperbolic style.  Profanely grating her eardrums.  At first she even blushed when she heard it, but that soon faded as they shared more time and less space. 

Gradually, she came to incorporate the occasional rookie fluck into the tricks and kicks that engulfed them. 

They sparked off each other – never apart – until one day when the muck finally hit the rotating hooks of a freshly varnished gimmick for their nightly performance. 

It stuck like fuck and ruined the prop. 

The magician was an expert shuffler too.  She later learned he would shuffle everything, not only cards.  Cards were the conduit.  Making them disappear.  Mixing them up.  Bringing them back from least expected places.  It was his code of conduct.  Only after she discovered that she too was a card in the pack – the joker; usually misdirected – did she vanish. 

Afterwards she would say it was he who vanished – it was a better story.  Funnier and less tragic.  Or sometimes she would say they had both simultaneously vanished into a cloud of smoke.  The best finale trick.

By this time, she had honed the skills of shuffling and swearing like a trooper.  She carried them with her for at least ten years – sometimes bringing them out to impress or protect – other times, these cheap tricks appeared involuntarily, almost magically.  

Yet they appealed mainly to other illusionists.  Attracting shysters, spinning coins, cocked hats, clowns and crazies.  She never felt safe in these phases.

She was weary.  Magic tricks were no longer serving her.  In truth, they never had.  She knew it was time to clear the smoke and take down the mirrors.  Removing all varnish, she scrubbed her hands and feet, tied back her hair, cut the pack and shuffled the Tarot cards one last time.  She fanned them face down, pulled a single card and turned it over: it was The World.

To encounter The World in your cards symbolises the moment when your inner and outer worlds become a single entity and you encounter unity and wholeness

She smiled at the final trick of the cards.