An improved “Mary”
(Alain was kind enough to improve the Mary presentation. Here’s what he wrote:)
First off, the whole “spin the bottle” effect is a great one, so allow me to applaud you now — clap, clap, clap, clap, clap!!!!
Now, I have a couple of thoughts:
I feel when you introduce Mary, as their cut-to selection, it must take a leap of belief to fall into your story– however, I suspect that if they were to enter the story knowing that it was a story, they would be much more inclined to sit back and enjoy the ride. Therefore, the simplest thing you could do to improve the effect is to NOT introduce a scented handkerchief or necklace, rather have them cut the cards, then ask them if they would like to hear a story of “bizarre intrigue”.
As soon as they know that they are going to be told a story, they will be ready to suspend their disbelief and I think you will have a far more powerful effect. On the other hand, if you begin by trying to pass off this story as true, you will open up several cans of worms which (although this might not be so bad for a bizarrist) I think you’d be better off without doing.
I think you should also want them to wonder if YOU are the “stranger” character– otherwise he will have no real purpose in the story. Therefore, when you describe Mary, don’t describe her as if you were one of the boys. Instead, decribe her and let people know how “most of the kids” thought of her. When the “stranger” enters the picture, try to decribe yourself when you were that age (you might even joke by saying “about a good thirty pounds less than I weigh now!”) then say:
“…no one really knew him very well, he always kept to himself, most of the boys behind his back called him ‘Blacky’ because he always seemed to wear black. Now, Blacky never did anything to hurt anyone, he just stayed out of the way most of the time. Someone once rumored that he was into Black Magick, but we knew that stuff doesn’t exist, right? So Blacky goes to this party and though most everyone seemed a bit stiff from his initial arrival, they did loosen up as he faded into the background– he always seemed to do that exceptionally well.”
“Later that evening, someone suggested we play ‘spin the bottle’. No one remembered how Blacky got into the game, but eventually, it was his turn to spin. Strangely, it pointed to Mary! So Blacky and Mary kissed while everyone watched in disbelief– quite frankly, they both seemed to enjoy this! –and it seemed as though every time Blacky spun, the bottle pointed to Mary. To witness them kiss over and over again sent everyone into a drunken and dazed delirium.”
Spin a couple more times and eliminate down to one face-down card.
“No one seems to clearly recall what happened after that, in fact both Mary and Blacky seemed to disappear (turn over the last card) as certain people do in our memories. Mary was always a good kid, and Blacky, odd boy that he was, is only a bizarre memory to me — but as far as Mary’s concerned (pick up the bottle), I shall always, ALWAYS, keep her near my heart.”
Show the card in the bottle as you hold it next to your heart. Let them examine it briefly, then slide it into your inside coat pocket and, without saying a word, nod and leave.
By performing the effect as written above, your audience will be so drawn in by the story that you will have them wondering if the story was true! Also you will have kept them wondering by only subtly addressing the possibility that you are indeed “Blacky”, AND you will have (in more or less words) let them know that Mary is doing “just fine”– whatever THAT means!
Notice that I did not mention incantations, I think the magic is better implied– until the end! Also I used the name Blacky instead of Peter because it was a nick-name that “the boys” used to call him, thus his actual name is cloaked in mystery.
I have a taste for macabre endings… AND I have a taste for happy endings — but my favorite endings are the profound ones. Endings that leave the audience with questions as to what’s good and bad, right or wrong, true or false, etc.
I hope you can use these ideas as I believe that they will greatly improve on the impact of the story.