the juggler

by James

Brie. Gouda. Roquefort.

Cheddar. Edam. Red Leicester. And now he was stuck. Maybe it was the numbing drone of the night’s conversation - was that why he couldn’t name more than six cheeses?

Cream cheese. Did that count? What about the light version? He found himself smirking. On the other side of the table the little birds paused their twittering to look at him as though he was an interesting worm. He had tried to talk to them but he had nothing in common with a triple set of stereotypical partner’s wives, all chiffon and pearl, pecking the expensive cheese into crumbs on their plates. All of them raised their beaks when he stood with the wine bottle.

He took what was left to the other side of the dining room where his wife was sitting with the other lawyers from her firm, deep in conversation on topics she had promised would not come up. He was a top sport and he was old boy for bringing the wine. At least they made eye contact. His wife squeezed his leg but didn’t break flow for a split second.

He collected the cheese slate on his way to the kitchen. It came with a set of small cheese knives, six different knives, all with bulbous handles and differently shaped blades. All of them sharp. Razor tipped.

He selected the three most awkward looking, ran fresh water into the sink and then washed them carefully, drying them quickly to prevent them spotting. Now he stood in the middle of the kitchen cradling these blades gently, getting a feel for the weight, relishing the cold of the metal against his skin.

He tossed the blades quickly, one after the other, all of them in the air before he plucked the first, tossed it, then plucked the second. The blades shimmered as they danced, and his face split in delight as the circle of spinning blades grew higher and grew wider.

The washed blades were safe in their velvet lined case when his wife entered the kitchen.

He said, ‘How’s it going in there?’

She approached him slowly. She looked at the knives in their box, then she looked at him.

She said, ‘You’re not a bloody juggler anymore. You promised. You know I’d never live it down with those pompous fools – that I married a street performer?

‘I wasn’t! I was just washing the-‘

‘Please! You had that look, and the look on your face right now.’ She sighed, then softened. ‘Let’s take the kids to the park on the weekend. You can ride your unicycle…’

Upstairs the kids were sleeping peacefully, Molly with her new puppy cuddled to her chest, and Dean with the ball of streetwise fluff that Cat’s Protection had still charged them fifty quid.

He missed his days at the circus, juggling flaming brands and chainsaws, but come to think of it, this life wasn’t such bad one after all.