Lately, the two have been working on the "rubber pencil trick" for finger dexterity. Flick it up and down fast enough, and the solid wooden pencil appears to undulate like rubber. It is for Alan's finger dexterity, to help him regain use of fingers that have limited free movement now.
They also are using the "French vanish," another trick that allows Alan to use his fingers. During Holly's recent visit, Alan made a little red ball "disappear" and then, by moving a seemingly empty cup up and down, made it "magically" fall onto his blanket. Then, Holly took Alan's hands in his and helped him manipulate the little red ball, rolling it from side to side.
As if to say, "I've done my part," Alan asked Holly to do the trick, and the magician proceeded to move the ball lightly in his hands until it vanished and then slyly plucked it from his back pocket.
"That's what I want you to work on," he said to Alan.
Holly, who is 26 and lives in Van Nuys, was 5 years old when he became obsessed with magic and began devising his own tricks. "That's what you do when you grow up in Ohio without any magicians," he said.
He joined the Marine Corps at 17 and during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton in 1978 he lost partial use of both arms.
"We were doing 'rescue the ambassador from the terrorists' and I was with the assault squad," Holly recalled. "I jumped over a rain ditch and landed on the other side, but my backpack and equipment kept going, my arms rotated forward, and I tore up both shoulder blades."
Coin, Card Tricks
Although he still had a grip, Holly could move his arms only at the elbows. He said he was determined to do coin and card tricks again so he began working to regain hand and arm coordination. In the process, he found some other injured men who were interested in magic as therapy.
Later, Holly heard about David Copperfield's Project Magic, contacted him and, while still in the Marine Corps, Holly began doing magic on a regular basis at San Diego Children's Hospital.
He has been at it ever since, moving his act to Daniel Freeman after leaving the Marines.
"I like seeing the patients' eyes light up when they do a trick," he said.
"No one has ever asked me not to come back."