The Juggler Denies

Schadenfreude is not just the overwhelming desire for someone to make out with misfortune; it’s also what every member of the audience wishes would befall The Juggler.

They want him to drop the ball, the ring, the club, the torch. They want his routine interrupted by the gods, by the weather, by a random muscle spasm or non-lethal aneurysm.

They want him to misjudge the rapid descent of the unboiled egg, so that it shatters on his forehead, scrambling his widow’s peak. They want the diabolo to veer left of the string, launching with spinning rage against the concrete and crashing through the window of a nearby coffee shop.

They want him to fear the seven white stage balls orbiting his noggin, since there’s no chance in hello he’ll be able to catch them all without sprouting an extra pair of arms. They want the devil sticks to fiendishly tap-dance against the hardwoods and the twirling torch to bounce off his head, igniting his hairsprayed hairdo and turning him into a human torch.

They want him to miss the twirling chainsaw so that it bites into the first three inches of his Italian leather boots, resulting in a collective gasp from the crowd until he extends his toes—big, long, middle, ring and…wait for it…the pinky—to show that he is miraculously unharmed.

The crowd leans forward, their ever-present mobile phones upright and on target, hoping to bear witness to a tragedy, to capture a sense of failure they, personally, would never commit (since they never attempt such brave acts, which, as brave people know, occasionally result in failure).

They desire a disaster…and The Juggler denies. He knows where each throw peaks and the path of its purposeful plummet. And even though his hands appear busy rocketing the other balls into the widening blue, they still know when and where to quickly dart, catching the earth-bound objects with the greatest of ease. Much to the disappointment—and ultimately the delight—of the crowd.

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Jonathan Hermann juggles words, balls and small children in Alexandria, Virginia.

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