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"The Tightrope Walker"

from: Mandarin Bureaucracy


The Tightrope Walker

by Pablo Baler

Translated by Michael McGaha


            No one, among so many joyful spectators, would have believed that that little old crippled man had been the tightrope walker in the circus.  But after the accident that marked his final act, Faustino had ended up paralyzed on one side.  And even though fifty years had gone by since that day, his left foot could only take little, shaky steps that were unaware of the ground’s resistance, and his arm insisted on contracting against his chest.

            The owner of the circus had been kind enough to employ him as an assistant, and Faustino spent his days watering the sand and smoothing the arena.  But at night, before turning off the lights, when no one saw him, he would spread out a rope on the ground, walk on it with affected difficulty, and dream that he was the world’s best tightrope walker.  For this last, intimate acrobatics, Faustino made use of a trick that only tightrope walkers know: no matter what happens, never look down.

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