Published at
Cover Library Short Stories The Fictile Word
PreviousTable of contentsNext

Four Lilies

The Magician

Fernando Sorrentino
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink

For my birthday, my mother asked me if I’d prefer to have a clown or a magician. I think clowns are stupid, so I chose the magician.

He turned out to be a thin, pale man, with black trimmings—hair, mustache, tuxedo, tie and his bag of magic tricks.

He greeted us all in an old fashioned way, very polite, and we all started shouting:

“Ma-gic, ma-gic, ma-gic, ma-gic!”

The man smiled, pleased, and did several tricks that I’d seen other magicians do before. He turned one handkerchief into seven or eight, he pulled out a white dove from a top hat. Then with a pack of cards like they use in cowboy films, he did a number of tricks I couldn’t understand.

“This conjurer knows what he’s doing,” said my dad under his breath.

I don’t know how, but the magician heard him.

“Thank you for the compliment,” he answered, “however, I’m not a conjurer, I’m a magician.”

“Alright,” said my dad, smug, as usual, “We’ll say you’re a magician, not a conjurer.”

“I can see that you don’t take me seriously. To convince you I’m going to turn you into an animal. Which animal would you prefer to be?”

Papa let out a laugh that nearly deafened us, opening his mouth as wide as a hippopotamus. He seemed to read my thoughts because he said:

“Since I get to choose, turn me into a hippopotamus. And turn the rest of them into whatever animals you like.”

The magician gave a little wry grin, moved his fingers and his arms, and Dad turned into a hippopotamus and for a minute I could see a spark of terror in Dad’s bulging eyes.

“This hippo’s filling up the whole apartment,” said the magician reprovingly, “I’d better turn the others into smaller animals.”

And straight away he turned my mom into a toucan, taking advantage of the nose she already had, probably. Then he turned my grandma into a turtle. He really did a good job on my maiden aunts and turned them into an owl, an armadillo and a seal, all very much like they’d been before. When it came to my bossy married aunt, he turned her into a spider and her henpecked husband into a fly.

He was nice to the kids though. He turned them into cute, cuddly animals: bunny rabbits, squirrels, canaries. But Gabriel who had a broad face and was spotty, he turned into a toad. Little Lucila was only two months old so he turned her into a humming bird.

When I was the only one left he put his hand on my shoulder and told me:

“You’re going to have to take care of all these animals, though the spider and the fly, and some of the others will be able to get along without you.”

And he packed up his bag of tricks and left.

I tried for four days to look after them and see they were fed, but I could soon see that the job was far too much for me to do so I called the zoo. The director himself thanked me and accepted my donation.

I used to go visit my family and friends every day at first, then once a week, but I have to admit that now I hardly ever visit them any more.

Translation: Alita Kelley
PreviousTable of contentsNext
Table of related information
Copyright ©Fernando Sorrentino, 1984
By the same author RSS
Date of publicationJanuary 2005
Collection RSSThe Fictile Word
How to add an image to this work

Besides sending your opinion about this work, you can add a photo (or more than one) to this page in three simple steps:

  1. Find a photo related with this text at Flickr and, there, add the following tag: (machine tag)

    To tag photos you must be a member of Flickr (don’t worry, the basic service is free).

    Choose photos taken by yourself or from The Commons. You may need special privileges to tag photos if they are not your own. If the photo wasn’t taken by you and it is not from The Commons, please ask permission to the author or check that the license authorizes this use.

  2. Once tagged, check that the new tag is publicly available (it may take some minutes) clicking the following link till your photo is shown: show photos ...

  3. Once your photo is shown, you can add it to this page:

Even though does not display the identity of the person who added a photo, this action is not anonymous (tags are linked to the user who added them at Flickr). reserves the right to remove inappropriate photos. If you find a photo that does not really illustrate the work or whose license does not allow its use, let us know.

If you added a photo (for example, testing this service) that is not really related with this work, you can remove it deleting the machine tag at Flickr (step 1). Verify that the removal is already public (step 2) and then press the button at step 3 to update this page. shows 10 photos per work maximum. Idea, design & development: Xavier Badosa (1995–2018)