08-30-2011, 08:11 PM
Now, you'd think that would have been the end of the matter, but Mrs. Shook and the CBB were not surrendering so quickly. They charged once again into the breach with their accusations of Satanism and immorality. As Criss made his way offstage, he was stopped short by Mrs. Shook thrusting a copy of his own book, MindFreak, into his face.
"You want an autograph?" he quipped.
"We demand an explanation!" she thundered. "We've read this book of yours and found a few very interesting things about you, things we believe the good people of Boren should know!"
"Such as how you burned down your parent's house performing a Satanic ritual! You yourself wrote that!"
Criss' shoulders slumped in frustration. "First of all, I think you need to get yourself a new pair of glasses, because I did not mention anything Satanic at all in my book. Second of all, I did not burn down the house, I just set the carpet on fire--"
"So you are an arsonist!" Mrs. Shook shrieked. "He's an arsonist! He admits it!"
"No, I'm not an arsonist!" Criss shouted back. "It was an accident. I was practicing an illusion with some homemade pyrotechnics and burned the carpeting. It says so right in the book. Read it for yourselves!"
Criss took the book and flipped through the pages. "Here, right here." He pointed to a particular paragraph.
I can't reproduce the passage here, because of copyright laws, but it did relate how sixteen-year-old Criss had been doing a pyro illusion and set his mother's brand new carpeting on fire, totally by accident. No mention of Satanism. "Any kid coulda done that," I heard someone say.
"If it had been my kid, I'd have taken him over my knee for it," commented another.
"His folks musta been madder than a wet hen when they saw that," an old man laughed.
The mayor stepped forward between Criss and Mrs. Shook. "Okay, we've had enough finger-pointing and false accusations for today," he spoke like a parent breaking up a fight between siblings. "Let's just bury the hatchet and enjoy the rest of the day. You've made your point, Mrs. Shook, now just leave the man alone."
"Now see here, Mr. Mayor--"
"No, you see here, Mrs. Shook. You and your group here have disturbed a civic function with wild accusations which are in no way based on a shred of truth. If you insisnt on pursuing these scurrilous charges, you may do so in my office tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I insist you and your fellow witch hunters leave this park at once, or I'll have you all arrested for disturbing the peace."
The members of the CBB began to retreat, but not without a parting shot from the formidable Mrs. Shook.
"Just you wait, Mayor! You may be in power now, but just wait until September when you campaign for re-election! We'll remember this day when we go to the polls! You'll be out on your ear for this! We'll vote you out of office, and elect someone who will bring back decency and morality to this city--someone who will get rid of him!"
Criss flinched backward as Mrs. Shook pointed a fat finger squarely in his face. "You're not long for this town, mister!" she threatened him. "We are not giving up until we purge this town of your evil influence! You may believe you're magical, but you are still just one man, and there are hundreds of us!"
Criss did a quick headcount of the group behind Mrs. Shook. "Actually, I see only about fifteen or twenty of you."
At the silent signal given by the mayor, two police officers escorted Mrs. Shook and her CBB group out of the park. The mayor mopped his brow with a handkerchief and sighed heavily. Everyone else milled around, talking about what had just happened.
"You believe that? I mean, what's got a bug up her bustle?"
"I've seen the guy, he's not a bad sort. So he did a few magic tricks, so what?"
"Reminds me of the Eighties, when all that controversy over heavy metal music being Satanic. Remember?"
"Oh, yeah. Ozzy Osbourne biting the head of a bat, backward messages in records, and all that."
"He does need better fashion sense, though. Doesn't he have any decent clothes? I mean, he looks like he garbage-picked his entire wardrobe."
"I don't give a flying fish what they think! Ever since he opened that Magic Castle, my store's been going gangbusters!"
"He's right, you know. More people have been coming to Boren since he opened. He's been good for business."
"He's been good for this whole town, I think. This place was in a coma before he arrived! We needed some excitement around here!"
"Well, he certainly bought some excitement today, that's for sure!"
"This kind of publicity we don't need. People are going to think we're a bunch of hicks living in the Middle Ages or something, hunting witches and whatever."
"Ah, I think it's pretty much blown over by now. No one's gonna take them seriously after today."
Nightfall bought the fireworks display, despite the threat of rain. Everyone ooohhhed and aaahhhed at every burst of multicolored sparks, and winced at the deafening explosion of dud rockets. It lasted about ten or fifteen minutes, with a big finale at the end, then everyone went home.
In the morning, the newpaper carried the story of the fireworks set off by the CBB against Criss Angel, right there on the front page. I read it, and was embarrassed for the both of us. Poor Criss, I said to myself. He wanted to bring some entertainment here, and all he gets is trouble. He was so brave to stand up to those old biddies of the CBB.
I got ready for work. Today was a kiddie matinee, and I had to hostess the event. I had a colorful dress I wore for the kids, almost gypsy-like--a loose pesant blouse with a full multicolored flounced skirt. I even added a blue silk headscarf to go with it. The first time I wore it, Criss looked at me and asked "Do you tell fortunes?"
So, off I went in my gypsy costume to the Magic Castle. I must have drawn a few stares from passersby in that getup; a couple of cars slowed down to look at me. I was tempted to give them the Evil Eye, just for a laugh, but I had to get to work.
As I rounded the corner, the loud wail of fire trucks startled me. I covered my ears as Boren Truck and Ladder Number Two blew by me. I began to wonder what had happened. I looked up and saw thick black smoke rising from the direction of the Magic Castle.
Fearing the worst, I began to run, clutching my gypsy skirt so as not to trip over it. Oh, God! I prayed fervently, please don't let it be the Magic Castle!
My prayer came too late. I saw flames shooting out of the lower level of the Castle. The firemen hooked up their hoses and sprayed water through the broken windows. Smoke enveloped the surrounding neighborhood; residents had to close their doors and windows to keep out the fumes. I could only stand by helplessly, bursting into tears, as I watched the only good thing Boren had to offer be consumed by flames.
Suddenly, a new panic siezed me. Criss! Oh, my God! Where is he?
I ran around the smoking Castle. "Criss!" I screamed through the black smoke. "Criss! Where are you?"
No sign of him. I feared the worst. I moved away from the direction of the smoke and sat down on the curb. How could this have happened? I wondered. I saw the safety inspection certificates myself in the kitchen; everythng was up to code. And I knew for a fact that Criss despised cigarrettes: his was a no-smoking establishment. He had fire extinguishers at the ready whenever he did pyrotechnics on stage, and they weren't very large, just a small flash for effect. He never used any major fireworks inside, in keeping with the fire ordinances.
Fireworks. The Fourth of July. Mrs. Shook and the CBB. "We are not giving up until we purge this town of your evil influence!" she had said. That was it! It wasn't an accident, it had been arson! They couldn't shame Criss out of town, so they chose to burn him out! Of all the low-down, dirty tricks, this was the lowest, I thought. Well, they weren't going to get away with it! I was going to fight them, horse, foot and artillery, so help me, God! But first, I had to find Criss.