Posted on July 29, 2014July 27, 2014 by Patricia Ann McNair7.29.2014 Journal Prompt July 29, 2014: On his good days… Share this:ShareClick to email a link to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading... Related
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It was a stunt. To garner publicity for the Lansburgh furniture Store up on Ninth Street. He said it’d be a cake walk and nothing to it and he could do it blindfold if they asked. That’s what he said, though he practiced for three months on the flat roof of our house, and he was serious in that practicing.
I said it was stupid or mad. I said if he fell, well, it didn’t bear thinking about – except he had to think about it and I couldn’t get it out of my head. He fell from the roof of our shed once and he broke his arm in three places. The Lansburgh Furniture Building was a whole lot higher – high as birds fly and clouds.
Josh said they wanted to throw money at him. More than my pa made in a whole year. Just for the one stunt. And who knows, he said, but maybe there’d be others seeing him up there and they’d ask him to do something the same atop their store or business and then we’d be on easy street.
I watched him practice some days. He started with a chair on two legs, leaning back – something all mothers tell their kids not to. And he fell a lot at the start. He’d laid cushions and pillows all around where he was working – if you could call it work – and falling was a soft thing then.
He made progress and soon was balanced on one chair leg easy, his arms thrown out from his sides and a studied smile on his face. Then one chair on top of another, and after that the chairs up on a table and that table lifted onto a chest of drawers. Once he ate a cooked breakfast sitting on that unsteady chair balanced on top of everything else; he was sick afterwards, but he dismissed that.
The kids in the nieghbourhood came some days and they watched and they clapped like it was a circus and they cheered and they shook his hand and some of them got ideas of their own. Josh bowed from that high wire chair and waved and made it all look easy.
The night before the big day it was a little windy and some rain fell, and I said he should maybe change the date. He said that wasn’t possible. There’d be cameras there and all the gentlemen of the press and he’d signed a contract – in blood almost. Besides, he said, he was ready.
I couldn’t watch. He was so high it I could pretend it wasn’t really him. The Lansburgh Furniture Store provided the tables and the chairs, so it was like an advertisement for their goods, and two furniture men, who stood a little back from the edge, set the tables, one on top of the other, and passed the chairs up to Josh. In pictures afterwards I could see what he did and the air moving all around him and his face a stretched white smile.
He took the elevator up to the top of the Lansburgh Furniture Store and was nobody and when he got back down to ground level he was a hero. They interviewed him for all the big papers and the newsreel cameras kept running and he was sure to mention the Lansburgh Furniture Store and every time he did, they increased the money he was paid by a hundred dollars. And he had to sign autographs for the people waiting and wave to the crowds as he drove away.
What the papers don’t show and the cameras neither, is that he was shaking like a leaf for a week after and he couldn’t keep food down and he wasn’t the man he used to be in bed, if you get my understanding. And it was the same for me; it was like I went through it, too.
Three more stores waved money in front of his face and he nodded and said he could do it easy, whatever they wanted. He never asked me, though, and I thought he should.
Wherever I looked I saw him in pictures for the next year and he looked older every time. But soon there were younger and prettier men doing it and girls even and looking like angels in their white floaty dresses. I reckon the money he made maybe lasted a few years, and then he was nobody again.
I still see him sometimes, unsteady on his feet. He has a pitch up on the corner of Ninth, next to the Lansburgh Furniture Store. I drop pennies and silver dollars in his hat some days and he don’t even know that it’s me. And the men from the Lansburgh Furniture Store move him on most days because they say it ain’t good for business with him there.