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Slipping (4/30/10)

“Talc! Talc! Use de talc!”

The six girls tittered behind their hands as Frederic yelled at them.

They had all grown up with the circus and each knew the importance of dry hands. Sweaty hands could cause them to slip and when you are swinging fifty feet above the ground, sweat meant death.

Frederic had repeated this to the girls and now, seven years later, Tina still smiled silently every time she approached the talc bowl for in her mind she still heard Frederic yelling, “Talc! Talc! Use de talc!”

With showtime in two hours she was finishing up her practice session with Jon when he dared her, “No net tonight?”


“We are good together. No net.” He gave her the same look that had made her fall in love with him two years ago. “What do you say?”

“I don’t know.”

“The crowd loves it: dimmed lights, drumroll and the ringmaster taunting them with tales of tempted fates. It will be fun. Besides, we are good and you know it.”

She thought about it and tried to quash the feather of doubt tickling her insides.

Jon raised his eyebrow and she conceded.

“Ladies and gentlemen! Turn your attention to the center ring…” With the house lights dimming, spotlights illuminated a procession of twelve strong men. As they moved into the center ring, the crowd was told that the final act of the evening would death defying feats performed fifty feet above them on the flying trapeze.

As he spoke, a drum rolled and the twelve men removed the safety net from below the trapeze.

With the net removed, the spots dimmed then went out leaving only the ringmaster with his tophat and tails illuminated. He lifted his tophat and when he pointed it up toward the darkend air above the ring two spots sprang to life and illuminated Jon on one small platform and Tina on the other platform across the ring from him.

Tina gripped the bar and swung down and over toward Jon. At the end of the arc, she let go of the bar, spun around and gripped it again before swinging back to her platform.

Jon performed the same move and returned to his platform.

From here, the routine became more and more difficult with Tina and Jon changing places, swinging together or Tina letting go and floating weightless until Jon swings in and pulls her free from gravity’s grip.

Tina swings out again and joins Jon on his bar.

“I know,” he informs her before reaching out and grabbing the other bar as it swings within his reach. He pulls away from her and they return to their platforms.

Tina wonders at his comment but puts it aside, times her next move and steps off of the platform.

She releases her grip on the bar, flips once then reaches out and finds Jon’s hands right there. They complete the swing and when Tina sees her bar moving toward them she prepares to release. “I saw you with Peter,” Jon tells her before releasing her to the other bar.

They part and Tina considers ending the routine. She can signal that something is wrong, climb down the ladder and be done it but when she looks out she sees Jon is alreay mid-swing. She raises the bar, steps back on the platform and launches herself at the proper time.

“Did you think I was stupid?” was Jon’s next question. Through the rest of the routine Jon calmly recounted his observations of Tina’s infidelities.

Tina remained silent, neither confirming nor denying the accusations.

With only only the two most difficult moves remaining Jon asked, “Did you think I would let him live?”

The calmly determined way that Jon spoke these words almost caused her to lose her grip. Jon held her firmly.

They spun apart once more and returned to their platforms.

As they prepared for their final move, Tina looked into Jon’s eyes across the distance and shook her head. No, I cannot do this, she signaled to him. He only nodded once, Yes, you can, before he stepped off the platform and threw his legs in front to gain momentum. He did this three times, swinging higher each time.

Tina watched him arc closer then retreat, synchronizing her timing with his. At the right moment she locked her eyes with his and stepped off of the platform.

She felt herself fall then rise and release the bar…

… the ground appeared then the darkness at the top of the tent. Three times she spun before she reached out to Jon. As she opens her outstretched hands to Jon she feels the air moving cool over the sweat on her fingers.

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