It's Sunday. I'm having another great day. I went and helped out a church group, which feeds the homeless, like I used to do, with William, in the park.
I asked the main woman, at the church group, what she need, from the city, to hold such an event. She told me about the licence and so on. I told her I was thinking of one day of starting my own such "ministry."
She said, "That would be great, but until then, why don't you just join us?"
This church group is a bunch of good people. They offer a great meal, of all the churches, that do this. They also give out clothing, shoes, bus passes, phone cards and other needs.
An older Black man, a friend of mine for years, showed up late for the feeding. He looked so disappointed that he missed the free food. I had stayed after, to pick up left over trash the homeless people leave, all over the place. I gave him the plate I had set aside for me, with a cold can of Sprite; another friend, who was also there,gave himsome of his fried chicken.
We hooked him up with a meal. He was so thankful. He almost seemed surprised anybody cared enough to help him. He said he had just come from the hospital. He looked weak and sick. He's a good man, having a real hard time in life. As I said, I've known him a long-time.
I wasn't sure I wanted to tell the rest of the story about Nick, the escape artist, but I decided to go ahead and share it with you.As you recall, Nick worked the boardwalk, at Clearwater Beach, Florida. It's a new tourist area, not far from where I live.
The other night, I watched Nick perform. It was gut-wrenching, to see him squirm and twist, trying to get out of his finale. Last night I went back to the beach to see if he was performing.
Guess I went back to see if he had the courage to show up, again, and go through the agony Sure enough, Nick was there, in the same spot. A crowd was gathering.
From a distance, I watched him get ready for his show. I noticed the whole front of his leg skinned, almost to the bone. The scrapping was result of his collapse on the concrete, the previous night.
He gathered the crowd around. Again, a couple hundred people stood watching. He ran through his preliminary tricks, which the crowed enjoyed.
Finally, Nick came to the finale. He had his assistants put the straight jacket on him, pull his arms between his legs again and buckle them tight behind his back. Then he had two strong men wrap the 100 ft/ 1 inch thick black rope around and around his body and tie it into several knots, when they finished, to make sure it wouldn't come loose.Lastly, one of his assistants turned on the intense music, this accompanies his performance.
Nick began convulsing and twisting as he had before. This time, he wasn't nearly intensive as the night before. Shortly, his face was dripping, non-stop, with sweat, almost to the point where he couldn't even clear his eyes to see.
About fifteen minutes passed. I could see the worried look on his face, again. Nick had begun to doubt he could do it this time.
I sensed he was reminiscing yesterday's experience. Fear set in.
After about 20 minutes, Nick fell to his knees, exhausted. He looked at the crowd, saying, "I don't know if I can do this."
A man yelled out, "You can do it!"
I heard another person say, "Just calm down; take a deep breath."
An older woman, who was in the back, of the crowd, said, "Pray for him."
Nick staggered up from his knees. He twisted violently, for another 5 minutes. Finally, he dropped to his knees, again.
He looked to an assistant, telling him to turn the music off. Nick shook his head. In a humiliated tone, he said to the crowd, "I can't do it. I'm sorry."
I didn't know what to think or feel.I had to walk away, and think for a minute. Most of the crowd felt sorry for Nick, and put money in his bucket anyway.
"He's just a kid", they said, walking away. "He's trying to do an almost impossible escape." They shook their heads and smiled, with compassion toward, him.
As the crowd scattered, I continued to watch him from afar, trying to learn from his experience.He flopped down on his stage, hung his head low between his knees, his forehead in his hands. Ashamed and embarrassed," I thought.
His adorable, blond girlfriend stood there. She tried and tried to console him. Nick ignored her. She finally walked away, giving him some time and space.
Nick sat in that position, for a long-time, never looking up.I watched for a while longer. Nick didn't move from his humbled position.
Finally, it was time for me to go. I said a prayer, for Nick, as I walked away.
There is much to learn from the story of Nick and his experiences, both the successful and the unsuccessful. I will let each of you ponder those lessons for you, rather than try to interpret it for you.
M Adam Roberts lives and writes from Clearwater, Florida.
Click above to tell a friend about this article.