Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Balancing Act

The morning's downpour was a rainstorm of no less than biblical proportions. It had turned much of the sidewalk and street into a waterway that even the most skilled Venetian gondolier would think twice about navigating. Separating the waters covering the sidewalk from the waters over the street was an expanse of elevated concrete that in the best of weather provided only a hurdle to be overcome by pedestrians crossing this, the busiest thoroughfare in town.

Some are more poised for life's balancing act than others. She was a natural. Where the puddles rose above the height of her heels she used the concrete curb as a bridge. Then with a clear plastic bag in each hand she navigated its length from the boxed lunch shop on the corner to the office down the street. I haven't seen such perfect balance since my two-week stint with The Greatest Show on Earth. 

Back then the undisputed masters of the high wire were a daredevilish duo known as the Carillo Brothers. Working far below them was me, a lowly cotton candy hawker who would gaze up at the stars thrice daily to witness them perform "for the first time anywhere" virtually the same exact but always breathtaking tightrope act. While the pair never worked in high heels, they did some pretty amazing feats of acrobatics on a thin wire suspended very high up in the air and, wherever the law permitted, without a net. So dangerous was their act that it demanded absolute silence.

During one particular show in which the pseudo siblings were defying death as usual, I was outside the arena loading up on cotton candy. Inside the ringmaster pleaded, "ladies and gentleman we ask you to remain completely silent as the Carillo Brothers perform for the first time anywhere one of the most dangerous acts of funambulism in the history of the circus." I had no idea what was going on, otherwise I would never have burst through the arena doors shouting louder than a dozen thunder claps, "HEY, HEY GET YOUR COTTON CANDY HERE!"

Thank goodness we happened to be in a jurisdiction where the pair were legally required to work with a safety net beneath them. If we hadn't been, the story would have ended here and rather badly (especially for Pedro and his unrelated "brother" who I think may have also shared the identical handle, Pedro). While I was unable to watch the act unfold, I've been told that the two were fortunately able to soar through the air before landing with what was described as absolute panache and with not a scratch on either. 

The poor candy floss boy, on the other hand, did not go totally unscathed by the incident. It was at the exact moment that I busted through the doors yelling at the top of my lungs that I came face to face with one of the most feared circus bosses under the Big Top. It was the one they called The Rolling Kaiser. Moving like an express train through a darkened tunnel, the fire in his eyes said it all. One rumbled "GET" and the other "OUT!!!"  I complied with the request as fast as my Converses could carry me and have never looked back. 

When the circus rolled out of town it rolled out without me and I moved on to a different kind of circus that was my high school career. I wasn't on the show long enough to pick up any cirky lingo or skills but one trick I did learn was to always keep my ears open and my eyes peeled lest I miss the greatest show on Earth that is all around us.

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