Clown-killerAs I looked into his angry red eyes and smelled the wine-taint on his breath, I somehow got the feeling that this guy didn’t really want to kill me, even though his hands were getting tight around my throat.
I had been entertaining a few hundred kids and parents at an outdoor amphitheatre in the city, and the show had been going well. I had sat a child on my shoulders while I rode my unicycle, taught a Dad to juggle, and built a pyramid of kids.
A clown-band behind me had provided appropriate musical accompaniment throughout.
The time had come for the fiery finale, which I was to perform alone, for safety’s sake.
As I was about to light the first of the juggling torches, an uninvited guest staggered onto the stage and set his eyes on me. Zombie-like, he had raised his arms and stepped straight up to me and grabbed me by the throat.
I’d heard 300 people taking simultaneous breaths as the band had fallen silent. No-one had moved as all attention had became focused on the real-life drama being enacted centre stage.
I dropped the lighter and the torch and, looking hard into those eyes, I suddenly understood that poor young drunken character’s dilemma: Motivated by an impulse for attention, he had made a bold, dramatic entrance and had set in train a certain course of action that theatrical logic dictated must be carried to a dramatically-satisfying conclusion.
He didn’t actually want to murder this clown in front of all those witnesses, but could think of no other way out, other than a humiliating backdown. Clearly, he hadn’t thought this through. I realised I had better help him out.
I lifted my hands and gently held his wrists and began to sway slowly, side to side, and then step -1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3.
Someone in the band picked up that I was trying to waltz, and laid down a 3 / 4 rhythm for the rest to follow.
The audience breathed out at last. The man smiled, relieved of his theatrical responsibility, and followed my lead. He let go his grip on my throat and took my hands and we waltzed together for a dozen bars, before I spun him under a fingertip and with a flourish I invited the audience to applaud his performance.
They were very generous. He took a deep and ostentatious bow –I curtsied- and he began to leave the stage. I ran up behind him and mimed kicking him repeatedly in the bum, to universal mirth.
After that, my fire-juggling final act was a bit of an anti-climax.