086: The Juggler

I remember The Juggler from many years ago. The mystery had to do with why he’d been ejected from the party he’d been hired to entertain, how it was that he’d suffered a broken arm, and various painful looking marks on his cheeks.

He was a multitalented juggler, who could play the guitar while sustaining the orbits of several balls before the audience of stunned children. He was also a teacher. He played the guitar, juggled several balls, and told the children to always pay close attention to the relationship between sight and sound and then, suddenly, a blue ball would appear in the mix of balls, its sourse unknown.

When I first met The Juggler he demonstrated a rehearsed spontaneity. He shook my hand and nodded and smiled and said, “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Through the touch of his hand, the judicious nod, the buttery, elongated smiled, and the way he produced a gold coin for me after completing the hand shake, I could tell that he studied each of these moves with an exasperating perspicacity, so much so that his greetings, as he moved from each of the attending adults and then onto the children with a different trick for each, appeared spontaneous and individualized. This juggler was a wonder.

I didn’t tell him that I disliked jugglers, magicians, or any other sort of hired party attraction, including artists, musicians, and face painters. But this was not my party; these were not my children. So I remained quiet.

In any event, the party kicked off with The Juggler taking his place in the yard surrounded by children. He began with two red balls then added two green balls. He began with conventional juggles. He added a fifth ball, which was yellow and contained blinking lights. He kept adding balls until he was juggling more than ten in a nice tight oval. He’d close his eyes. He’d open his eyes; then he’d perform a spin, a hop, an amazing back flip. Not a single ball fell to the floor.

The reaction by the adults was puzzling. The attending men stood back and observed The Juggler with obvious disdain. They might have been jealous as none of them possessed any of the abilities demonstrated by The Juggler. They pretended, however, that his amazing skills were trivial compared to their own expertise. I could see this in the tension of their shoulders, the tight fists, the way they turned their eyes to the ground or to each other or to the sky. They were not jugglers; they were business men; teachers; good parents; stock brokers. They pretended to laugh in awe at The Juggler’s synthesis of balance, coordination, and musicianship, as he had now produced from nothing I could see a small acoustic guitar and had begun to play something from Bach (JS) as he reduced the amount of balls in the air to five then increased their number to ten.

“It’s a trick,” said one of the parents.

“It’s all bull,” another man agreed as if he knew the equation he could just as easily take The Juggler’s place and play that tune, manipulate the balls, and rub the top of his head in a circle simultaneously.

Things changed when The Juggler completed the tune, caught all the balls, then held one of them up so that the children could watch it as he moved it in a circle.

He said, “You see a ball. It’s a blue ball. Look at it.” Then he let go of the ball and it fell but before it hit the ground it disappeared. “You see my hands.” We did see his hands. He held them palm out to all of us as evidence of his honesty. Then, slowly, he went to a knee and lowered his thumb and pointing finger into the grass as if to pull something out of the ground and this is expertly what he did. When the tips of his fingers appeared above the surface of the grass, they held the top most branches of a small tree. He pulled that small tree out of the ground as if one hundred years of growth was happening in the few moments it took for him to slowly raise three feet of vegetable form with the tips of his fingers.

The adults stood stunned. The children sat wide-eyed as if they’d just seen a favorite book character appear before them. The mothers all came out of the house (as they’d been inside ignoring The Juggler) to stand behind the children wordlessly. Even I had to admit that this trick had merit.

“We are built,” The Juggler said, “to experience the world as a product of each of our senses. We see what our eyes can see and hear what our ears can hear. We know that a ball will fall if dropped. We also know that trees can’t be pulled out of the ground by the fingers. Each of you,” he said, “is built in exactly the same way. All of your eyes despite whatever subtle degrees of difference of color and size and defect work exactly the same way. Your surprise at my last trick has to do with what you believe is the unexpected, the chaotic, some break or abnormality in the normal workings of the everyday. It, of course, is an illusion.”

As he mouthed the word illusion, he waved a hand over the tree and the tree suddenly shook. The limbs and leaves fell away to reveal little Jimmy Williams standing there with a slice of cake in one hand and a fork in the other, which produced an explosion of clapping from the children. One of the parents said, “I hadn’t even noticed little Jimmy was missing.”

The show proceeded. Cake was brought, with a slice gone, of course. The Juggler juggled, played his songs. One moment he wore yellow hair, then brown, then blue. Tall one instance, short the next, the men standing off conspiring now to get ride of him, to find some flaw, some moment when they might swoop in and beat him into the street as he had now become evidence of their own incapacities, their ignorance, and throwing unutterable weaknesses back in their faces. And I joined them because despite the wonders he showed the children, I found each trick, each gesture, and the inventiveness and uniqueness of whatever prop he happened to be manipulating at the time, like the twig that became a truck or the juggled knives that fell and stabbed the grass and immediately sprouted flowers, as lies, abominations, abnormalities, arrogant simulations.

“That dude’s toast,” a friend of mine said.

“He’s going to pay,” another said.

“I’m just waiting for that clown to go to the bathroom,” said Jimmy Williams’s father. “When he does, I’m going to pull him limb from limb.”

I wondered if The Juggler was aware of the aggression building against him, did he suspect the plots in hatch, the hard revenge held in momentary reserve, one man scraping the nail of his thumb over the tines of a plastic fork as he watched The Juggler with bared teeth. I never found out exactly, as I was called away to attend a patient at the hospital soon after intermittent puffs of smoke came from The Juggler’s ears as he sang a song about a mouse and a cat to the tremendous laughter of the children and the red hatred of the parents.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *