Monday, August 19, 1996

The Amazing Chuck

A sign reads: "SEE THE AMAZING CHUCK and his FLYING MACHETES"
Passers-by often wander in out of curiosity,
to witness this spectacle, be it scam or outright atrocity.
A curtain of multi-colored beads conceals the on-goings from outsiders,
while black-and-white photos of Chuck's former deeds
are suspended in artificial webs by grotesque, paper spiders.
Pictures of Chuck himself, juggling deadly saws,
swallowing swords while his audience awes.

At the end of the hallway, there is a new sign, placed here to create suspense:
"NO REFUNDS FOR THE SQUEAMISH THIS SHOW IS INTENSE"
Those who brave their way past this must form in a single file,
paying three of their tickets and finding a seat in an aisle.

Every night, they come inside; women, men, old and young.
To settle down on the cheap, wooden benches, amidst the scent of hay and dung.

An over-enthusiastic announcer speaks through a p.a. long ago useless,
a tin canny voice in buzzing speakers, full of drama, daring and ruthless:
"What you are about to witness is a feat of death-defying bravery,
lingering on the edge of self-destruction, from an age of unrivaled chivalry.
So sit back, relax, soak in the insanity
and marvel at the perils of this freak of humanity."

By now the silence grows, as the curtain draws upwards,
with the squeaking of old ropes and pulleys shattering the last few whispered words...

Enters Chuck, a marvel of a man, rippling, wiry muscles so lean,
not a single hair on his body, even his eyebrows shaved clean.
He stands before them naked, with only a leather sheath,
barely covering his crotch so bare, protecting him beneath.
His eyes contain a piercing glare that stabs outwardly at their souls,
a feeling of unease consumes them, but he bows politely, while his outstretched hand rolls.
The show speeds along swiftly, with Chuck juggling all sorts of gadgets,
from bowling pins to bowling balls, to hammers and saws and ratchets.
Truly a marvel, the crowd giving much applause,
this strange little man is wonderful, they approve of his single cause.
He balances on one hand, on the head of a rusted nail,
and with his feet juggles tire irons, cheers coming forth in hails.

And now comes Chuck's assistant, a man of more than nerve,
who catches the descending tire irons with grace. he is truly at Chuck's serve.
Then, the recorded music fades and Chuck's aim returns to the crowd,
and the announcer bellows boldly in a voice that once was loud:

"And now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls alike;
we have come to our finale and Chuck is just getting psyched.
Please observe silence for the remainder of the show
or you could cause our hero's concentration to go."

And a drum roll launches into loud crescendo,
and the assistant steps up, with a cry of, "HEAVE HO!"
The machetes are flung high above the stage
with Chuck appearing under, his face in a rage.
Seven, they are, but in the lights' glare, a dozen,
and Chuck's hands rest at his sides, his face as if frozen.
Then, a cymbal crashes like a thunderstrike from heaven,
and Chuck's mighty prowess easily masters all seven.
From awesome flight to deadly fall, the machetes encompass the attention of all.
Young children grip their fathers' arms
while mothers cover their startled eyes,
their husbands are on the edge of the bench
as each perilous instrument descends, then flies.
Faster and Faster, the action grows,
Chuck juggling six while one stands on his nose,
and the gleam of the spotlight as it strikes flawless steel
entrances those captives to a state so surreal.
It seems they are at Chuck's whim, his only purpose being to amaze.
Past and future are dead to the moment, their bewildered stares petrified to a daze.
And just when it seems it can grow no quicker,
he lifts his foot to cut the tension thicker
and the resting machete flies high from his face,
slicing through the arch of the ever-growing pace
and reaching its peak, it stops and turns downward,
but Chuck remains calm, with no sign of coward.
It falls through space, passing again through the others,
Charles raises one hand without slightest bother.
His remaining hand works madly to keep up the chase,
the crowd holds its collective breath, a danger they could taste.

Then Chuck screams and something is not right,
His face twists in agony and the knives lose their flight
with a crash and a thud, but he moves not to save,
but stands in silence, staring down at the stage
at a growing crimson pool, with three fingers at its middle,
and the audience steps forward, little by little,
to bare first witness at this unjust mistake,
the men biting knuckles while their wives nails rake.
And by and by, Chuck raises a pathetic head with seeking in his eyes, all heroism dead,
this sweeps through them as each gaze is met, and finally, with a choked voice, he makes said:

"Sorry folks, i'm afraid i've let you down.
You're all entitled to a full refund.
Without my fingers, i'm a failure and a clown.
Now if you'll excuse me, i've just become no one."
And with that he makes his exit through the back curtain,
to go forward toward a fate of which none is certain.
They watch him, then leave, not uttering a word,
feet shuffling slowly, the only sound heard.
A man stands with tickets, but none are received,
they've witnessed a tragedy, but have not been deceived,
and they step outside, into the cool night air,
to blend back into the rest of the fair.

copyright 1996 Christopher B. Wyble