The karate kid made my day.
He comes by, eyes wide, head swiveling, brain probably in sensory overload from the hanging air plants, flashing jewelry, and old-school fantasy books. He’s got a white uniform on with a yellow belt.
“Would you like to learn to juggle?” I say. I don’t bother selling him books any more than other near-by booths would try to foisting on him perfume and knitted cozies. This kid is looking for action!
He nods once, silent and confident. He’s young enough to still have that “I can do anything!” audacity that comes with wearing a karate uniform, and thinks it’s funny when I tell him that the first trick to juggling is learning to drop the ball properly.
Of course he nails it. And the next 5 steps in the juggling process. We get him up to double-throws and catches before karate beckons. It all takes less than 5 minutes, and his form is good.
He’s not the only one. Every kid in the place wants to see me juggle, even without the swords and torches that I’ve stopped bringing because they make the adjacent booths (and the fire marshal) nervous.
A couple more kids are brave enough to give it a shot themselves. I sell some books. I talk with their parents about literary tradition, and what they’re reading now. And I realize again why I like doing shows.
I thought I’d hate shows. The idea of being that guy who lurks at the mall kiosk and preys on unsuspecting passers-by makes my feet itch.
But I’ve realized, that I can do things my way. I can sit back and pass out free smiles. I can eat my sandwich, even with salami. I can teach kids to juggle and grannies to make snowflakes. Or, I can mix things up and teach the grannies to juggle.
I’ve realized I can pretend to sell books as an excuse to talk to people about literature. And if, by chance, someone says they like Tolkien, or Pratchett, or Dragonlance, I can hand them one of my books and say, this one’s for you. These conversations wake the inner child and chase away the off the aches and pains of not being able to run a 5:20 mile anymore.
I like the quiet moments too. I like that lull around lunchtime where the morning crowd is drab-dribbling away and the afternoon crowd is still eating barbecue and wiping their fingers. I like talking shop with Laura who drove all the way from San Antonio to sell books and, well, talk shop.
Most of all, I like the people.
Thanks to those of you who stopped for conversations, lessons, and/or books. You made my day.