Has anybody seen the latest Who Do You Think You Are programme on TV? The one with the BBC journalist John Simpson? Turns out his great grandma was involved with Sam Cody the American sharpshooting showman. I’m saying all this, because, as part of his research, John went to some Wild West town in Kent (truly) and met this bloke who showed him how to shoot. At which point, I leapt up from my chair, and shouted something like, ‘My God! That man threw knives at me!’
It was a slow day in the newsroom (I’m trying to sound like Philip Marlowe, here) when Viv from advertising brought round an ad she’d just taken over the phone for the job vacancies page. ‘Knife thrower’s apprentice wanted; position suddenly available’.
‘Sounds like a nutter to me,’ she said. ‘Do you think he’s wanted by the police?’
Max handed the cutting to me, ‘Off you go, then,’ he said, settling back into his chair and lighting his pipe.
It was a publicity stunt, of course. The ad had been taken by Tod Coady, who wanted to get as much free coverage as possible for his knife-throwing and dare-devil pony riding show. (Don’t even think health and safety).
And so it was that I rocked up at Tod’s place with Perce, the paper’s grumpy, foul-mouthed, but rather kind photographer to find it heaving with reporters and photographers and a few very pretty ‘job applicants’. One by one they would stand against a board as Tod hurled knives at them. And then he looked at me, ‘Hey, why don’t you have a go? Don’t you want to join the circus?’
‘She already belongs to one,’ laughed Perce. There was blokey laughter from the lads as they pocketed their notebooks and stubbed out their fags. It was time to go.
‘All right’ I heard myself saying. ‘Why not?’
In the sudden silence I walked up to the board, stood within the outline and closed my eyes. Tod said something like, ‘Don’t move now, Elaine, I’ve got the shakes pretty bad these days,’ and then the first knife thudded next to my head. A four-inch wide, 12-inch long throwing knife.
‘Christ,’ muttered Perce, from behind his camera. ‘We better start advertising for another bloody reporter.’
Thud. The next one stuck quivering on the other side of my face. I opened my eyes briefly to see Tod staring at me thoughfully, his arm up, and then thud, another knife landed. And then another. And then it was all over and I opened my eyes again. There was complete silence from the assembled hacks. ‘You can have the job if you want it,’ offered Tod.
I knew he was joking really, but I was quite tempted. I refused of course, because as Perce said, I had already joined a circus.