He pulled the orange spandex with its ridiculously sparkly sequins over one leg, then the other. He stood up and began tugging at the waist, getting everything in its place. He looked across the dressing room at the mirror and laughed at himself. Tonight was his first performance, ever.

He squeezed into more shiny clothing and started pacing the room. Other performers encouraged him as they came from or passed him on the way to their own time slots. Everyone had seen him practicing with the team and knew he was a natural, so there was nothing to worry about.

The manager yelled at people and lined them up. He had animals, humans, props, lights and music to worry about and wouldn’t allow the audience to experience a single dull  moment. Everything had to be perfect. He shoved boxes, stands and electronics around as needed, told dancers to fix their makeup and had everyone in their place as they were needed.

He rubbed chalk dust all over his hands while he waited for their cue. Sweaty palms could ruin a show like this one. The three of them lined up in the dark. The spotlight hit them, and traced the path they ran to the swings. Each grabbed a rope, placed a foot on a bar, then held on as winches in the ceiling jerked them from the floor. Their performance would take place at forty feet in the air.

The music started and they went to it. He swung back and forth in time with the others, pushed himself backward off the bar and tucked it behind his knees. He curled under the bar and reached both arms out just in time to catch the female performer. They swung together for only a few seconds before he tossed her back. Lights strobed in different colors and the songs changed as he caught the other performers and threw them around to catch perfectly-timed swings and hands. So far, the show was perfect. But he also didn’t have to leave his swing yet. His jump was one of the biggest in the routine.

The moment he’d been the most worried about was approaching. He’d practiced it more than a hundred times now and fell less than five of them. He knew what he was doing, but he also had an audience tonight. People paid to be impressed, they were watching, hoping to see something spectacular. Even if he fell, it’d be quite the show and it wasn’t like he could change his mind now.

He shifted his weight, took a deep breath and had a full two seconds to think about it. There was time to look for the hands that would catch him. They were so far away. He exhaled, swung and let go of the bar.

★                     ★                    ★

There’s something terrifying and exhilarating when there’s a hint of danger mixed with spandex and orange sequins. Most things worth doing will be a little scary and few of them require the gaudy attire. They demand risk. Meaningful endeavors put you forty feet in the air and have people taking pictures of you when you’re between trapezes. The thing about those pictures is that none of them ever seem to capture the hope and hesitation that we all experience when we’re waiting to be caught.


This was written for One Word at a Time, hosted by Peter Pollock. Check out the other stories!