The balls danced in Mountain's hands, flying up over his head in perfect arcs. One, two, three, four, five, and the apple, the red flesh glinting in the sunlight, looking ripe and succulent. His mouth watered.
Not yet, Mountain told himself, ignoring the rumbles in his belly. Not yet. He had to wait for more people to gather before he went for eating the apple. It wouldn't be too long now; the crowd was growing, the first folks drawn by his ability and his banter, others stopping to see what had made the first few settle in front of him, and those drawing still others.
It was a kind of magic of its own, the way the crowd grew, the way it fed itself.
"Looks easy, doesn't it, folks?" He chuckled and winked, and then shifted his weight, splitting the balls he juggled, switching to four going in his left hand, while his right worked on the last ball and the apple together.
Applause went up and coins went sailing through the air into his little case. A couple of bills were thrown as well and he dared to tip his hat with his right hand, making a show of nearly missing the ball as it came around to land in his palm again.
Mountain let his gaze roam through the crowd--folks liked it if you made eye contact, even if just briefly. It made them feel like you were putting the show on for them, which in turn encouraged them to be generous with their money and his case. Summer was a good time of year for busking. There were lots of tourists wandering the streets, and the warm weather encouraged people to linger and watch. Families with kids were always a boon, the children wanting to stop and watch him work.
Today was no exception and he picked a little girl who couldn't have been more than six from the front of the crowd to be his helper. "You think you can toss me that magic wand?" he asked, nodding his head toward the little pile of props to his left. There was a sparkly wand with a star on top of the pile and his little helper picked it up. "Go on," he encouraged. "All you have to do is toss it up here. It's magic, you see and I'll be able to catch it."
He brought his two groups together into one, juggling all six items with both hands. "Oh, dear, she seems to be a little bit shy. How about some encouragement? Give her a big hand, folks." The girl's parents started clapping first, but soon the whole crowd that were gathered were clapping and the wand came flying toward him. He grabbed it with his right hand, held it for a moment or two as he kept his balls and apple in the air, and then added the wand in.
"And there we go! Thank you, princess."
He juggled all seven items for awhile, and then began to eat the apple, grabbing it out of the air with left hand, taking a bite as he kept the balls and wand moving, and then sending the apple back up there with them. He took a few more bites of the apple, chewing them up quickly. Damn, he was hungry.
It was well past lunch and he hadn't had anything since the coffee he'd bought at seven. He couldn't stop now, though. This was the best crowd he'd had all day and with any luck it would stay this busy until people headed home or to the restaurants for their supper.
He tossed the core of the apple at the garbage can at the edge of the crescent shaped crowd he'd gathered and they cheered for him when he got it in. Two points.
He grinned out at them and started juggling faster, asking where people were from and making up little rhymes with the town names, his patter picking up speed to match the juggling. He sent the wand flying back to the little pile of props and asked a couple of boys to toss him another ball each, and then let yet another boy toss him another ball.
He knew it looked impressive--eight balls going round and round, but they were all the same size and weight and it was actually fairly easy. Certainly easier than the five balls and one apple combo. You didn't know that, though, unless you juggled.
Another volunteer, a teenaged girl this time, held an oversized top hat for him. She giggled and blushed as he sent one ball after another sailing into the hat. Taking it from her, he bowed and put it on his head. The balls, all trapped behind a trick flap didn't come bounding down onto his head, allowing him to segue into the magic portion of his show.
He kept it going, moving smoothly from juggling to magic and back again with the ease born of lots and lots of practice. Every now and then he'd do the apple trick, or incorporate a water bottle into his magic show--making the water disappear. Down his throat.
It was a beautiful day and an even nicer evening, the air cooling a little as the sun started going down. It was nearly nine before Mountain packed it up. He was starving and exhausted, but he hadn't wanted to go before the crowds did and his pockets were full, a lot of bills mixed in with the coinage.
He packed up his stuff into his case, doing a little mental calculation. He could afford to eat at one of the street vendors, if any were still around, or at McDonald's, for sure. He might even be able to eat at a real restaurant, but he was kind of smelly from the day of working hard in the hot sun, and they were calling for rain all next week, which would keep the crowds moving. Oh, he'd do all right; people felt bad for buskers who worked in the rain and would throw plenty of coins, but no one would stay and watch, or spend the time to dig a little deeper into their pockets for him. So he was best off saving what he had instead of blowing it.
That didn't stop him from looking longingly at the Red Cow as he passed it, the silly plastic cow, complete with udders, hanging from the sign. It wasn't the sign that always drew him, though; it was the fact that they had Guinness on tap and thick steak with beefeater French fries and fried onions on their menu.
He worried his lower lip, the frugal part of him all but screaming at him to move on, but he was a product of his upbringing and the old hippie values his parents had instilled to live his life in the moment urged him to just go in and enjoy himself. He'd worked hard for the money; there was no reason not to spend it. The fact that his parents were vegetarians and would be horrified to see him eating steak didn't faze him one bit. Man was not meant to live on vegetables and grains alone, a fact he'd argued over with them on many an occasion growing up.
He'd just decided to go ahead in when a guy in a suit with a Bluetooth earpiece stopped nearby and cleared his throat.
"You're that juggler. The one who was on the corner of Sparks and Metcalfe."
It took Mountain a moment to realize the guy was talking to him--he'd assumed the Bluetooth was in action.
"Yeah, that was me." He took off the top hat he wore because it didn't fit in his case along with everything else and held it out. "Did you forget to leave your contribution?"
The guy had a nice laugh and Mountain took a better look. Blond hair over a pair of blue eyes, the guy could have been a model, except for the broken nose and the crescent moon shaped scar over the right cheek. Taller than Mountain, and more muscle-y, the guy was just his type. Aside from the suit. Mountain found Suits were usually snobby and too busy to have a decent conversation with.
"Actually, I was wondering if you'd like to have dinner with me."