Birthday Wish

by Ariel Frailich

I’m going to describe a concept that can be used in many ways, and a trick based on it. But first, a bit of background.

Many years ago, I read Jerry Andrus’ Andrus deals you in. In ‘A Folded Surprise’, a card is selected and lost. The performer finds two cards, but neither is the selection. The two cards are shown, placed together and separated, and a strip of paper with the name of the selected card written on it appears between the two cards.

A few years later, in some old publication that I borrowed from Tom Ransom, I found a lovely trick by one of the Bambergs (Theo., perhaps). Offering to do a reading for the spectator, a number of cards are dealt out. Let’s say the cards are 10H, 6C, 8D, 5S, 4H, QD, AH, KS. At first, the performer is baffled by the layout, then understanding dawns. Pointing to each card in turn, he explains: ‘On the 10th day of the 6th month — June — at eight fifty-four, a fair young lady will kiss a dark-haired gentleman’. Needless to say, the time and day match the time and day of the performance, the fair young lady is the spectator, and the dark-haired gentleman is the performer. (Bamberg claimed he got many kisses that way. Not recommended for today’s audiences.)

Turn to 1996. I came up with an idea that combines these two tricks. I would offer to do a reading and the spectator would select a few cards. I’d be baffled by their meaning, until it dawned on me: assuming 10H, 6C, and a Joker, I would say, on the 10th day of the 6th month, you will have a great time because… it’s your birthday! I would then separate the two cards and a strip of paper would appear with the words Happy Birthday written on it.

I thought this would work well for restaurants, because the reset time is negligible, and one set of cards would work for the whole day, so there’s very little to prepare.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with a satisfactory handling for the strip of paper (the one in Andrus deals you in isn’t easily adapted), so I’ve given up on that idea for the time being. However, I think the idea has merit, so I’ve come up with a few variations.

There are three parts to the trick: the verbal introduction, the selection and interpretation of the cards, and the kicker. Here’s a list of possibilities:

Introduction:

  • offer to do a reading
  • claim that you had a dream about having this spectator select a few cards

The cards:

  • use two to four cards and do the day and month only (the original also had a year): Ace through 10 for 1 to 10, two Aces for 11, Ace and 2 for 12, etc., up to 3 and Ace for 31, and same for months 1 to 12
  • use number cards (or even numbered chips)
  • use two sets of Major Arcana tarot cards (they are numbered), using the Fool instead of the Joker

The kicker:

  • produce strip from between cards
  • produce small card from between cards
  • produce something else from somewhere else (even a birthday gift)
  • have staff bring birthday cake to the table at just the right time.

Countless variations are possible, of course. If you come up with your own version, I’d love to hear from you!

Here’s one version. You’ll need two decks of number cards, because you’ll need a duplicate 11 and 12 for November 11 and December 12. You’ll also need a smallish birthday card. I envision a simple card without folds, with a design that allows you to write the name of the person on the card, but won’t look like something’s missing if you don’t. You could use the restaurant’s logo with some additional wording, or a magical birthday image (rabbit out of hat, etc.), and put your contact information below or on the back, whatever is acceptable.

Assuming June 10th, put the 10, the 6 and a Joker (from a deck with matching backs) on top, in any order, and put the deck in its case. Put the birthday card in your shirt pocket. If you have the time and opportunity, write the person’s name on the card.

‘Would you like your fortune read?’ Assuming the spectator agrees, bring out the deck and show the faces of the cards, explaining that this is a new kind of numerology deck. The most common systems of numerology use the digits 1 through 9, plus 11 and 22, so you need a reason to explain the other numbers. If you want to be ‘pure’, make up a deck of four sets of 1 through 9, 11 and 22, and use pairs of cards to make up the missing values.

Close the deck. False shuffle if you like, then force the top three cards by your favorite method. A simple way is to do a jog shuffle followed by a riffle force. Deal the top three cards face up to the table and put the deck away.

Briefly study each of the cards intently, uttering a few knowing and appreciative sounds every so often. Look at the spectator and ask: ‘Do you know what this means?’ Without waiting for a reply, continue with: ‘I don’t either, but it looks impressive.’ Immediately study the cards again, but this time look perplexed. After a suitable pause, straighten up and say: ‘Ah ha, I’ve got it! See, it’s very simple: (pointing to each card in turn) on the 10th day of the 6th month — that’s today, June 10th — you will have a good time because… because…’

Look perplexed for a moment, then pat your pockets, as if looking for something, then brighten up as you find what you’re looking for in your shirt pocket. Pull the card out as you say: ‘… because it’s your birthday — Happy Birthday!’, and hand the card to the spectator.

I can also see this working very well in the middle (or even at the end) of a Bizarre performance. I would present this seriously, using Tarot cards and giving a short description of the meaning of each card. Then, even more seriously, I would explain that this particular combination means something very different…. Still serious, I would explain rather quickly that it means that today, the 10th day of the 6th month, ‘You will have good fortune and many happy returns because it’s your birthday’ as I pull out the card, smile, and hand it to the spectator.

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