Before the Knife Throw

A short writing exercise where I had to use the following words: hamburger, baffle, cold, nuts, astound, alluring, knife, shame.

I slumped in the hard plastic chair with a sigh as I stared down at my hamburger. I really didn’t feel like eating; I never did before a show. How the acrobats could sit and eat a full meal before flipping, tumbling and spinning through the air was a skill to baffle us all. You’d think they’d be sick from all the swinging, but it had never happened; not once. I unwrapped the burger and bit into it reluctantly; it wasn’t even that good. The dry roll and overcooked meat was a challenge to chew, but at least I’d added onions and ketchup to soften the disappointment.

I finished as quickly as I could before hurrying out of the towering dining marquee and jogged across the trodden down grass to my trailer. As I entered I noticed Sam was out; he must have been practicing already back stage. I had to change before I joined him; I could hardly go out wearing faded jeans and a thick sweat shirt. It was so cold that I was reluctant to lose the warmth of my baggy clothes, but the show had to go on. I pulled on my purple tights and matching sequin covered leotard, finishing it off with flat ballerina styled silk shoes before stepping out into the fresh air. I shivered as I crossed the grass, weaving between trailers as I made my way to the big top. If I were a man I’d be freezing my nuts off.

I passed a faded old poster as I entered the big top, the page almost as tall as I am. Our ring master was on the front with the caption ‘Monroe’s Travelling Circus. Tricks to amaze, acrobatics to astound, and animals to thrill.’ There were tour dates listed below the picture, and we were half way down the list. The show was becoming routine. We’d been on the same circuit for five years now, and only minor changes were made to the acts each time. Despite the routine, there was still something that people found alluring about it all. People came back year after year, and some would even visit more than once, in more than one town.

I moved on through the open tent flaps, past the looming security guard and through to the performers’ private waiting area. I nodded greetings to friends as I passed; many of them preoccupied as they made final preparations to go out and perform. Sam was no different. I found him where I’d expected to; taking up a long space near the back of the waiting area with a throwing board. I watched as he stared at the board, a blade held loosely in his hand as he focused his pale blue gaze at the cracked wooden surface. There were so many holes in the board I was surprised it could still hold the weight of a dagger. I watched as he tossed the long weighted knife, unsure whether he’d hit his mark or not. He grinned. He’d hit his mark. He always did.

“You doubted me. Shame on you Chi!” He chided as he gathered his blades. We’d be on soon. I felt him at my side, one arm resting across my back assuringly while the cool metal blade of a knife brushed the back of my thigh. We’d be on soon. I felt my knees shake as the time drew nearer. I knew I shouldn’t have eaten that dried out burger.

The End

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