Flash Fiction: Dare (246 words)

I watch him carefully, while he smiles at me from across the table. He spins a white feather between his fingers, held as loosely as his secrets. I lean forward, elbows on the table to see every gesture and shadow, and he leans forward as well, daring me to catch him.

His smile tilts a little higher, and he drags a match against the table. It doesn’t spark or spit, just lights as if he had snapped his fingers to make it so. I wait for him to touch the match to the feather, watch the fire catch as willingly in the white threads as it had on the wooden stick.

Then it’s not a feather, and his hand has turned over, and there’s a bird flapping its wings, perturbed to have entered existence while he hangs onto one of its feet to keep it from fluttering away.

He grins at me, and I try hard not to laugh at myself. I have no idea how he did it.

The bird settles into his palm, and hunkers down until its neck is hidden. It glares at me, and the world, he grins harder behind it. It takes me a moment to realize that he’s only reacting to me, while I laugh at the bird.

“Do you want me to do it again?” he asks.

I nod in an instant. There’s no secret as frustrating or bright as a magician’s.

And he’s still daring me to catch him.

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