Flick! In the blink of an eye, the foam ball disappears from the closed palm of Dr. Sam the Magic Man into the fist of an amazed volunteer.
Presto! Saucer-eyed youngsters oooh and aaah as the doctor mysteriously draws a snow-white dove from the bottom of what seems to be an empty red-satin bag.
For all his style, Dr. Sam is still working on his most ambitious production -- to make the letters M.D. appear at the end of his name.
A pre-med student at Georgetown University, Samuel D. Jackson Jr., 19, is working his way through college as a magician.
He says he'll use magic in his career as a pediatric surgeon to develop "the best bedside manner in the business, especially if I work with children.Everyone who goes into the hospital is afraid, and if you can reduce some of that fear, that's magic in itself."
Assisted by his mother, who dresses as a nurse. Sam has performed at schools, parties and associations for five years. He is scheduled to be featured on the Halloween edition of WTTG-TV's "News Bag," a children's news program.
Jackson says his interest in becoming a physician-magician began about nine years ago after a magician performed at his 10th birthday party.
"I wasn't like the rest of the kids who wanted to know how it was done," he says. "I wanted to do it to make people laugh, cry or whatever."
Klea Jackson says her son was already interested in medicine at the time. Never one to discourage the dreams of her four children, she was already planning how the family would finance medical school on her husband's salary as a GS-6 office worker.
Not long after the birthday party, Klea Jackson says, she awakened Sam one night at 2 a.m. to tell him he would work his way through school as a magician. But the boy protested that no one would pay him.
During the clamor, his father awoke. "If your mother says you're a magician, you're a magician. Now let's go to sleep!" he barked.
With that settled, lessons practice sessions and magicians' summer camp followed.
In 1976, mother and son performed on the streets to advertise Sam's show. Sam's mother was sure that curious spectators would lie on the sidewalk in an attempt to learn the secret of Sam's sleight of hand. None did.
Even his mother admits she doesn't know all the tricks and says she becomes so engrossed in the show at times, "I forget to help him with the routine."
At school, Jackson often uses magic to relieve tension. Sam, classmates tease, can you make tomorrow's exam appear? Will you make this grade disappear?
"They call me the magic man around here," he smiles. "When I put on my lab coat, it's like an alter ego. I love it when kids say, 'Dr. Sam the Magic Man.' "
Jackson's shows cost from $45 for a simple 35-minute children's routine to $220 for a more elaborate stage show in which Sam levitates a body. The earnings have been used to buy books, clothes and occasionally food, help maintain his car and cover other living expenses.
Besides about 10 hours a day of study and classes, he has a work-study job and little time for socialzing. Still, he says he borrows about $2,000 annually.
"We believe that he will make it," his mother added. "If we didn't, we would have taken the easy way out."
The easy wasy was a four-year scholarship Sam was offered to attend either George Washington University or Howard University, she said. School counselors advised the family to send him to Georgetown.
The financial limitations will "motivate him and help him develop as a man," Klea Jackson said. "We encouraged him to turn down the sure way and work to develop what he wanted. Black men are not given enough responsibility early enough. And sometimes that's a hindrance rather than a help."
Although Jackson admits that he loves the applause and attention that his work as a magician brings him, he says he would never trade stage lights for the overhead lights of the operating room. Quoting his pragmatic mother, he asks, "When it comes down to it, what will people spend their money for? A magician or a doctor?"