Greetings and Salutations most exceptional readers of the blog,

It’s Monday and time to spin another tail. Thanks for tuning in. Because of time constraints we are spreading this story out over three blogs. I hope you enjoy. It would be nice to hear from you. Give me a shout out if something moves you. It is the wish of every writer that the reader is engaged by his or her work. I can’t know this if you don’t tell me. Also, if you like what you read here, share the love, mention me to your friends, family, and strangers alike. I have no shame.

Juggling Time

by Dave Benneman

The sun touched the ocean, playing out its daily drama and attracting tourists to Monti’s Pier. The appreciative crowd erupted into spontaneous applause that drifted on the sea breeze to Guy Lafitte, who laid a length of rope on the weathered boards outlining his piece of the pier. The tourists would now stroll the gauntlet of food venders, souvenir peddlers and street performers.

The competition among the entertainers was fierce, but friendly. He hung his modest banner, a former pillow case with DEFYING GRAVITY painted in day glow orange, then set out his clubs in a neat line. In the next stall, Anita, who made herself up to look like a mouse, complete with ears and whiskers, gestured people over to see the Mighty Mouseketeers, where her trained mice would dazzle the kids and adults alike. Volcano Joe spat jets of fire into the air lighting up the twilight. Joe was a big crowd pleaser. Across the pier the Greek perspired over a grill filled with Italian sausage, onions and peppers. Gulls squawked overhead incited by the aroma of grilled meat surfing the salt air.

With more than a little finesse, Guy flipped his top hat into the air. It soared end over end until it settled upright in a niche created by the rope along the leading edge of his space. He surveyed the crowd carefully to see if anyone noticed. One young boy was intrigued enough to pull his mother to a halt.

With no fanfare, Guy selected three clubs and spun them into the air.

Two little girls with ice cream dripping over their fingers, joined their mom and big brother with dad trailing behind clutching a fist full of napkins. Guy had the beginnings of an audience. With a finger alongside his jaw he sighed loud enough to be heard over the other hawkers and performers. “I seem to have forgotten something.”

He continued spinning the three clubs through the air, but took his time to scratch his head. “Ah yes, music.” He turned away as if he’d forgotten the clubs completely and fired up his boom box. Queen led off with We Will Rock You. He was back in time to save the forgotten objects from hitting the ground. A smattering of applause drew the attention of two young couples. He took a long drink from a water bottle, all the while keeping the clubs spinning with one hand.

The bluest eyes he’d ever seen stared right into his soul.

“How many clubs are there?” he asked her.

Ice cream graced her chin as she stared over his head.

Her brother started to butt in, but Guy silenced him with a look. “Let her answer.”

“One blue, one red, one yellow. Three!” she cried in triumph.

“That’s right.” He applauded her. “Three is so yesterday, right?”

She nodded solemnly. Chocolate ran down her arm and dripped from her elbow unnoticed.

“Let’s do five.” He picked two and added them to the blur of color swirling overhead. His boom box shifted into Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. This time the applause was greater and now his audience stood two and three deep in places. A modest collection of greenbacks accumulated in his hat.

“How many now?” He nodded to the little boy this time.

“Five.” As the word left his lips, Guy kicked another club into the air. “Six now.” The boy corrected just as Guy’s foot lifted another club into the rotation.

“How many?” Guy teased him.

“Seven!”

The Cookie Lady peddled slowly by, hawking her home baked delights from her tricycle. Guy maintained seven clubs while engaged some of the passer-buys firing off his litany of nonsense. “Hey. Where you going?” Did Joe start another fire? You should wait until I drop some of these. Or his favorite when a grandma was passing. What are you doing later? Want to go dancing?

Finally Rod Stewart was Having a Party and Guy sharpened his focus. He used his true talent to slow time. Only a little, but enough to kick another club into the air.

The crowd joined the boy in shouting eight. Around Guy time shifted again. It did so unnoticed, or so he believed. For him, the clubs traveled through syrup instead of air. The noise of the pier sounded like a tape slowing down.

“Nine!” The crowd exploded with whistles and cheers. His audience grew, blocking the thoroughfare. Everyone was curious about all the excitement. Color soared high above his head.

A panhandler, new to the pier, left his cup of spare change and walked slowly toward the excitement.

“Ten!” Sweat dripped from Guy’s face. His shirt clung to him.

The panhandler inched closer, staring intently.

“Eleven!”

Fatigue caressed Guy’s limbs. The weight of time sagged his shoulders.

“Twelve!”

“It’s time to wrap this up.” The strain of keeping the blur over his head in motion instead of clattering to the ground embraced him. He kicked the final club into the air.

“Thirteen!” The crowd yelled.

“A baker’s dozen.” Aretha Franklin asked for a little Respect from his boom box. The panhandler’s steely gaze distracted Guy’s concentration. He struggled to keep the impossible number of clubs spinning a minute more. This was the moment everyone waited for. An expectation the impossible number of spinning clubs had to come clattering to ground any second. The crowd sang along with The Queen Of Soul. When they sang R-E-S-P-E-C-T Guy took his cue to bring it home. He caught one club and slipped it into his gear bag. The young boy who was first to arrive at his show counted backwards while the crowd continued to sing. “Twelve.”

“Eleven”

The deadbeats stealthily slipped away from the press of the crowd. “Ten.”

“Nine.”

“Eight.” In the exodus, he lost sight of the homeless man who caught his attention earlier.

“Seven.”

“Six.” Each club stowed safely in his duffle.

“Five.”

“Four.”

The last three came in together. “Three, two, one.”

His playlist arrived at the final song and Barret Strong launched into, Money. Bowing, he picked up his hat and thrust it into the dissipating crowd singing along with Mr. Strong. “Thank you. Thank you.” He made eye contact with every person who made a deposit. “Same time tomorrow. A whole new act. Defying Gravity performs nightly at Monti’s Pier. Tell your friends.”

His very first customer was still there, a bouquet of bills blossomed in his hand. Guy knelt down to be eye level. “Did you enjoy the show?”

“Yeah, you were great.”

“You’re too kind.” Guy felt the panhandler watching him again. A warning flare burst into bright life in the pit of his stomach. “Is all that for me?”

The boy nodded. “Thirteen dollars. One for each thingy.” He thrust the money toward Guy. “My dad said that’s fair.”

“Thank you.” Guy shook the young man’s hand as he looked around to find the dad watching. “That’s very generous. Will you thank your dad for me?”

“Okay.” The boy spun away and joined his family where mom busied herself trying to unsticky his sister’s the fingers.

“Better get a move on myself.” He grabbed his rope. Stuffed the money from his hat into a pocket and shouldered his bag. With each move he stole another look at the beggar. The clear steady eyes watched his every move. That was hint the first. This man was not what he appeared. Clean fingernails. The second hint, and all Guy needed.

Bag on his shoulder, he zigzagged between cars across the dim parking lot. Back tracking to insure no one followed.

With the coast clear, he backed over to his windowless van. The back door opened with a screech. He jumped in behind his bag and clambered over his bedding. He watched the mirrors on both sides as he crouched between the front seats.

In the left mirror the vagrant walked along the side of the van looking in every direction. He spoke into a cell phone. “I lost him.” He moved directly in front of the van.

The jackhammer in Guy’s chest was too loud. He slowed his breathing for fear of being heard.

“Nah. He made me.” The man turned in a circle like a searchlight. “He won’t be back. Damn it to hell. We had him.” A dark grey sedan stopped in front of the van and the imposter-beggar slid into the passenger seat.

Guy would give them time to clear out then head North on Highway One toward Oregon. He made mental plans while his pursuers sat not ten feet in front of him. He scoffed. “If you fools only knew.”

The smell of flowers drifted to him, drowning out the smell of his fear. “What are they waiting for?” A sense of dread nagged at his brain as sleep threatened to pull him under. Clumsily he climbed into the drivers seat and thrust the key in the ignition. They were out of the car approaching his van from both sides. He shifted into drove and floored it. The screech of metal was the last thing he heard.

TO BE CONTINUED

Gracious, we’ve left Guy in quite a pickle. Tune in again on Wednesday to see what happens to Guy in the next exciting chapter of Juggling Time. Until then, as is our custom we leave you with an inspirational quotation.

“Juggling is sometimes called the art of controlling patterns, controlling patterns in time and space.” Ronald Graham

Thanks for tuning in,

Dave Benneman

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