11. Jun, 2016

The old acrobat

There was an old man
Walking on a silk tight rope
Till he grew wide wings.

He flew away from the tiny circus where he had worked all his life. On and on did he voyage and travel the skies: old cities with red and golden roofs, icy mountain peaks and grey foamy oceans, forests where wolves and deer lived… he roamed and roamed till he reached the furthermost corner of the world. There he saw a sign. It said: the island of children.

He thought it would be a nice place to rest before going home, for all his travels had made him long for the old friends, the clowns and the acrobats of his tiny circus. But he would be glad to meet some children. Besides, he was very tired.

When he landed on the shore, he saw little boys and girls playing in a circle and singing in an unknown language. Yet, even if he could not make out the words, his heart understood that sweet melody and it took only a glance for the children to welcome him in their midst.
They walked in a circle, hand in hand, and the old man was mad with gladness, for the children were celebrating his arrival. This much he understood.
He lost his shyness and let the children lead him in the thick of the forest where they played hide and seek. By the time the last child freed all his captives with a fast move, the old man was so happy and relaxed he wondered how long ago he had been a child. As he remembered his childhood in the circus, he saw his face reflected in a stream nearby and saw himself as a child: no more wrinkles and drooping eyelids, no longer a toothless grin. His eyes were wide open and alert and his smile was sweet and young.

A sudden thought crossed his mind: what if he stayed where he was and stayed forever young and carefree?

As he meandered in his thoughts of eternal youth, he lost track of time and of the children. Soon came the night. A strong wind rose from the North and blew among the trees, stripping their branches and uprooting their trunks. The man ran for his life, but had nowhere to go. A tree fell on his head and he died on the spot.

When he opened his eyes he was in a strange, yet familiar place, where he could see scores of clowns and acrobats of all varieties. The master acrobat was on the highest trapeze and performed the most elegant exercises on his own. Everybody was very busy. The man looked up and the master acrobat looked down: their gazes met. They saw each other in one another’s eyes. The master acrobat came down a rope ladder and invited the man to sit in his tent.

“Where am I?”, said the man.
“You are where you belong, in a circus”, said the master acrobat.
“But I was on the island of children…and wanted to stay there.”

The master acrobat smiled with a strange glint in his eyes. At the wave of his hand, a veiled woman, an odalisque came in. She handed a paper roll to the master acrobat. He scrolled down and read with a serious face.

“Your name is not in the list of children.”
“Look again,” said the man. His face grew white and tired at once and he stammered as he talked.
Then the odalisque held a mirror to his face and he saw his old self, with wrinkles and all.
The old man understood. He asked: “Can I take my place in the circus now?”
The master acrobat said: “There will be a show: it will be the best you ever took part in.”

They shook their hands. The master acrobat smiled. The old man beamed with pride and took his place on the tight rope. The feel of the rope on his hands made him feel ancient and ageless at the same time. There was no other place better than a tight rope, he thought.


Image by Dawn Hudson via www.publicdomainpictures.net