Waldo the Sword Swallowing Midget was being carried out on a stretcher when Lucius arrived. In the stage manager’s office, Oliver Bunco was pacing and chewing nervously on a big cigar.
Lucius called out, “Everything alright, Bunco?”
“Did you see Waldo? Poor sod; he pulled out the big one and pulled part of his gut with it.”
Lucius grimaced. On the stage he could see The Great Samsoni throwing his knives at Polly. He looked shiny. “Hey Bunco, you ever see Samsoni sweating?”
“Sweating? Never,” said Bunco as he and Lucius moved into the wings to get a better look.
If a knife thrower loses his nerve he loses his assistant. Onstage, a nervous looking Samsoni was getting a slow handclap and Polly looked uncomfortable as she stood against the board, a balloon clenched between her teeth. Samsoni glanced at the crowd and, as he drew back the heavy bladed knife, the sweat dripped into his eyes.
“Better bring that ambulance back,” said Bunco as he lowered the curtain.
Stagehands carried poor Polly away on the board she was now impaled to and Samsoni shuffled past silently. The crowd jeered and Lucius looked down at the two apples and the egg in his hands. His comedy juggling routine usually went down well but not tonight.
This crowd wanted more and looking at his bag of props Lucius knew what to do. He could hear the band playing his music and before he knew it he was out there with three large, double headed axes in his hands.
The audience sat in silence but the band played on and Lucius stared into the darkness while they vamped. A loud trombone brought the axe juggler back to his senses and he began.
He started with a standard cascade and few under the leg throws that were greeted with silence.
He moved it up a notch with some over the shoulder work. Nothing.
They want more, thought the juggler, I‘ll give them more.
He started some high throws letting the axe handles float around those big double blades. Suddenly, one axe was tossed with greater weight sending it higher than before and Lucius spun around below it. The axe came down and he caught it perfectly.
They cared not.
He sent it up a second time, fitting in two spins before it came down.
The audience were unmoved.
A third time the axe went up with Lucius spinning three full rotations below and still they didn’t care. There was nothing else for it. He sent the axe up again, higher than before. He spun once, twice, a third and a fourth time while the double headed axe floated above before stalling and making its decent.
With perfect timing Lucius leaned forward, arms outstretched, a smile on his face and for the first time in his life performed the neck catch.
It was the loudest ovation of his short career.