NANTICOKE – Mr. Jay fans out the cards and asks you to pick one. You watch it carefully as he shuffles it back into the pack.
Paying close attention to all of the cards, you watch him shuffle and cut them several times. He offers you your card back. Surprise! It's the wrong one.
Then you look up at him and find your card held between his lips.
At this point, you tend to forget this poised magician is only 12 years old. But Mr. Jay is an old hand at cards. He's been performing this and other magic tricks for three years. Since the age of 10, Mr. Jay, whose real name is Jarred Kraft, has been a professional magician.
Jarred lives with his mother, Stephanie, father, Fred, and younger brother Frede, who is 10. The family has lived in Nanticoke since Jarred was 6 months old.
Jarred and Frede both study with the Agora Charter Cyber School. The flexibility of taking his classes online allows Jarred a lot of freedom in scheduling his appearances.
Jarred pinpointed the start of his career.
"We were on a vacation at Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos. There was a magician there. I asked him how I could learn more," he said.
The magician invited them to a local meeting of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, or IBM. In spite of its name, men, women and children as young as age 7 are welcomed into the organization.
Jarred was now hooked. Local groups of IBM are called "rings." He is a member of IBM Ring 30, which meets in Pittston. He feels that he gets a lot out of his membership.
"We teach each other magic tricks. And we have lecturers," he said.
Membership in IBM is not like union membership, but Jarred does have to adhere to a code of ethics, which includes a promise not to divulge any tricks.
For now, Jarred is the youngest in his ring. But he has taught Frede a lot. At 10, Frede is a willing assistant and he has learned some tricks of his own. Jarred's repertoire includes card tricks, rope tricks, coin tricks and illusions. He has developed advanced skills in sleight of hand.
Sleight of hand is the set of techniques used by a magician to manipulate objects such as cards and coins.
Jarred said illusions are usually performed on a stage and require bigger and more expensive equipment. Jarred is beginning to acquire more equipment for stage magic. But he prefers the work off of a stage.
"I'd prefer to be up close and right up in front of you."
And he likes to combine comedy and magic. Perfecting magic tricks takes lots of time and hard work; but, Jarred said, "I could practice all day."
The young magician is also interested in learning sideshow stunts. "Sideshow is not magic," he said. "It's real."
Although he's too young to begin learning their craft, he is fascinated by sword swallowers and fire eaters.
Magic isn't a hobby for Jarred. It is his chosen profession. When asked where he wanted to be 10 years from now, he quickly said, "In Vegas or on a Disney cruise."
The Krafts fully support Jarred's career. His stay-at-home mom manages his schedule and oversees the boys' schoolwork. His dad is fascinated with the magic.
"He likes it," Jarred said. But he added, "He had to get interested because I can't drive to meetings!"
As Mr. Jay, Jarred has performed magic at parties, political meet-and-greets, and often does Pizza Bella customer appreciation days. He's participated in stage shows with fellow IBM members.
He also appears frequently at charity events, including Cancertacular events. Cancertacular is a Northeastern Pennsylvania organization that raises money for children with cancer.
Jarred wanted to do a fundraiser for Toys for Tots, and with the help of his parents, organized a magic show in Luzerne last November. The members of his ring came out and performed a four-hour show to generate cash and toys for the U.S. Marine Corps program. Marines in dress uniform helped collect donations. He plans to do it again this year.
His mom said his earnings for now are going back into his business. But she said he is allowed to keep tips.
"That's his spending money," she said.
But Jarred was quick to add that at charity events, even his tips are donated to the cause.
Doing more magic is not Jarred's only dream. When he is 16 he plans to join the local volunteer fire department. He will represent the fourth generation of volunteer firemen in his family.
Mr. Jay's next public performance will be at noon Saturday at Pizza King's at 512 Blackman St., Wilkes-Barre.
Anyone wanting to book Mr. Jay for a future performance may call 570 592-2062. He can be emailed at [email protected]. Follow his career on his Facebook page called "The Magic Happens."