When I graduated from high school, I was naive and aimless. While leafing through a magazine, I found the name and phone number of a career counselor named Herb. Maybe he could provide some direction.

“What are your interests,” asked Herb. Are you interested in retail work? No? Maybe food service? No? Agriculture? Do you like animals? Have you considered a career in animal husbandry?”

As a single 18-year-old in the early 1970s, of course I was interested in husbandry, but not animal husbandry.

“Isn’t that illegal in most states?” I asked.

“No, no,” he said, “I meant the science of breeding and caring for animals. Blacksmithing. Shoeing horses, for example. There is an opening in the barns at the local horse track.”

“Sure, I could do that,” I said with confidence.

I still do not know why I got fired. I made for that prize-winning filly a perfectly lovely pair of red, satin, spike-heeled pumps. Two pairs, actually. When she pranced out of that gate, she looked stunning. I was so proud. Then she broke a heel on her new shoe, took a bad tumble in turn one, and had to be destroyed. Is that really my fault?

Back at Herb’s office, Herb was at a loss as to what to do with me next. Leaning across his desk, with a conspiratorial whisper he said, “Have you ever considered the world’s oldest profession?”

“The world’s oldest profession? Would that be farming? Or maybe sheep herding?”

“No, no,” he whispered. “You know (wink, wink), turning tricks.”

“Oh, I see. Tricks. Hmm. I would have to have some training. I’ll get back to you in a few months.”

“Sure,” he said. “No hurry.”

If I was going to turn tricks, I wanted to be the best. I spent six months training with one of the country’s finest magicians. My feats of legerdemain and prestidigitation were awe-inspiring. I could hardly wait until Herb sent me on my first job.

When I got to the client’s hotel room, where I guessed the magic act was to begin, I pulled a deck of cards from my pocket, flipped them from hand to hand, and then fanned them out in front of me with a flourish.

“Pick a card,” I said. “Any card. Then slip it back into the deck without showing me.”

“I ain’t here to play cards,” he grumbled.

“You don’t like card tricks?” I asked. “How about the rabbit out of the hat trick? No? I can saw a woman in half. Levitation? Linking rings? What tricks do you like, John? Herb did say that your name was John, right? Isn’t that a coincidence? Every client I have had today was named John. And none of them liked any of my tricks. I haven’t made a dime. Just this quarter,” I said, triumphantly performing my quarter-out-of-the-client’s- ear trick. John was unimpressed.

Herb was wrong. There is no money to be made in this profession.



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