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The traditional line of patter that accompanies a card trick. Of course, at some point the performer is likely to force the choice of a particular card in some way, so it doesn't really matter which card you pick.

"A card? What'll I do with a card?"
"You can keep it, I've got 51 left."
  -- Margaret Dumont and Groucho Marx

I must have been around 12 or 13 years old. I spent just under half the time staying at my mum's place, the rest ostensibly at my father's, although I spent a good part of that time out and about with my friends; for various reasons, the atmosphere at my father's was tense most of the time, and I stayed out as much as possible. By contrast, the atmosphere at mum's was warm and friendly; my mother did everything she could to make sure that my friends felt as if they belonged, and it was generally considered the coolest place to hang out.

Paul's home situation was far worse than mine. The atmosphere at his place made my dad's house seem like a cheerful picnic. He lived with his manic-depressive mother and was almost never allowed to visit his father, so for him there was no respite. Consequently, he spent as much time as possible hanging out at with me at my mum's.

Paul was always fairly paranoid. We all knew that about him, even though, as far as I can remember, paranoia wasn't yet part of our vocabulary. He'd take some innocent remark completely the wrong way and brood about it for days. He always suspected people of mocking him, or laughing at him, or trying to undermine him. He was a gloomy, angry person. But seated in the uncomfortable old armchair in my mother's front room, he would visibly unwind and relax.

Until the card-guessing incident, that is.

When they were still married, my father often referred to my mother as a witch. I think this was really because she had always had a strong sense of intuition, something that he himself has never possessed, understood, or seen the use for. My mother played on this: I think it both amused and flattered her in some way. For myself, I never for a moment doubted that she could, in a limited way at least, read minds, since she had read mine so many times. By extension, I saw no earthly reason why I shouldn't have the same abilities. They seemed infinitely more enlivening and interesting to me than my father's stifling logic. My mother and I therefore shared a general acceptance of the possibility of such things as telepathy and premonition. It was not even considered particularly unusual.

Given all of this, it was no surprise at all when, in the middle of a purely theoretical discussion regarding telepathy between my mother, myself, and a rather bemused Paul, she suggested that we try a little mind-reading. Sure, why not? Taking a pack of ordinary playing cards, she selected one at random and held it in front of her face, its back to me, and told me to allow a picture of the card to form in my mind. This happened almost immediately: two black blobs, pointed at the bottom. So, the card had to be.... the two of spades?

Which is exactly what it was.

I have no idea if my mother was as shaken by what had just happened as I was. On one level it seemed perfectly natural, but on another I knew that something very unlikely had just occurred. Ultimately though, it was just more weird shit between me and my mother: stranger things had happened, and probably would again. After a short silence, my mother and I both began to laugh. I very quickly became aware that Paul was not laughing though. In fact, he was looking from one to the other of us in ill-concealed discomfort.

Paul left quickly after that, after repeatedly refusing to admit that there was anything wrong. My mum ventured the opinion that we had probably just 'freaked him out' a bit, and I tended to agree.

We were both wrong. It quickly got back to me at school that he was convinced my mother and I had concocted some elaborate trick to make him look stupid. I tried to talk to him about it, but really, the more I tried to explain, the more incredibly unlikely the truth sounded.

Paul stopped coming to my mother's house after that. We were never really friends again.


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