This is it, the first half of the final installment in my extended trilogy. You will soon learn how the label of celebrity was attached to my shoulders. Please turn to another blog now if you are squeamish. Oh no, maybe not that one, try this one instead.
Part VII - The grand finale, part I
The two minute horn sounded and the producer wasted no time in odering the miniature car salesman up onto the tightrope. He tried to protest, but like everyone else in the camp could not stand the evil stare of the producer for very long. Up he climbed, hindered by his blindfold, fishing rod, overhanging belly and incredibly sweaty palms, he slipped twice on the short ladder, the second time landing heavily on one knee. I cringed, almost feeling sorry for both him and the former folk singer who was quietly wimpering somewhere near the centre of the tightrope. Not quite completely sorry of course, because the only harm they were likely to come to was getting wet, and it crossed my mind that they were both being more than a little pathetic.
I say 'were likely to' and 'a little pathetic' with a hint of regret, but that is what I was feeling at the time, and as a responsible rapporteur I feel obliged to tell it like it was.
Being next (and last) in line, it was my job to guide the blindfolded miniature car salesman towards his target. I told him to keep moving whilst I tried to locate the nearest cage using my tried and tested method of Superitis triangulation (v3.1). I thereby easily located the cage, which was bobbing in the swamp water at a bearing of 35.5 degrees, 20 meters north-shorewards, 3 feet lower in altitude relative to the lateral pointing axis of the folk singer's left foot. I shouted these co-ordinates to the blindfolded miniature car salesman and told him to prep his fishing rod. He asked for clarification, but I could find no simpler way to explain where the cage was and simply re-iterated my previous instructions.
The miniature car salesman simply didn't get it. He started shouting at me in the most unsavoury language and tugging angrily on the safety wire with his hands. This made the poor folk singer whimper even louder, which in turn wound up the miniature car salesman, which in turn caused the producer to yell at everyone to 'get a fucking move on, we're running out of film'. I was a paragon of calm in comparison, though I didn't relish having put on the blindfold in about 30 seconds and climb up onto the tightrope.
The producer signalled that I should prepare to get up on the tightrope
'Fuck this, I'm fucking getting off here, fucking contract or not' shouted the miniature car salesman, as he suddenly removed his blindfold. Well, I say removed, but he only got halfway. Having let go of the safety rope with one hand to pull the off the blindfold, he could only manage to uncover one eye before being seized by a sudden paralysis. I could have sworn that his uncovered eye actually bulged slightly, but it was just a trick of the light as the video shown in court later proved.
What happened next was one of those slow motion moments that happen to us all at least once in our lives. I'll try and describe the unfolding scene both accurately and sympathetically, using the present tense for illuminative purposes.
On the left is the producer, waving her arms at the ensemble on the tightrope. She is standing on the edge of the swamp, shouting so vehemently that her barely smoked cigarette tumbles from her mouth onto the wet grassy floor and into the water. I strain to hear the words agains the background of the folk singer's screams. The miniature car salesman is standing completely inflexibly on the tightrope, his uncovered eye fixed on a point somewhere in the middle of swamp. I try to focus on what he is staring at, but all I see at first is reeds and slime. Then, ever so slowly, out of the reeds emerges first the head, then the body of the largest estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus, Schneider, 1801) I have ever seen.
It starts swimming, oh so smoothly and silently towards the two stricken 'celebrities' on the tightrope.
Now, what I knew about the behaviour of these crocodiles at the time was this:
a) they are opportunistic feeders
b) they are sometime cannabilistic
c) once they catch something, they never let go
There was also something else I thought I knew about crocodiles but I just couldn't put my finger on it. The thought vexed me as I watched the producer waving her ams like a banshee. She obviously hadn't seen the crocodile and was actually motioning for me to get on the tightrope.
"Crocodile!" I shouted helpfully, whilst pointing to the middle of swamp, opening and closing my arms to simulate the snapping action of a crocodile's jaws. The producer looked confused momentarily, then her face turned to one of pure anger and she launched such a torrent of abuse in my direction that I almost blushed. There was something in her expression that reminded me of my mother on the day she found my fathers collection of homo-erotica in one of his drawers. I was twelve at the time and no clear understanding of what was going on, but I soon learned many new things.
Then it came to me in flash. The one thing about crocodile behaviour that had so far eluded me.
It was this....
d) larger males will attack any mammal at the water's edge
The first spurt of blood shot up six or seven feet into the air, accompanied by a sickening crunch of splintering bone. The crocodile had changed direction whilst I was watching the producers face and had headed straight for her. Its huge jaws had opened and fastened themselves around the producer's midriff, clamping tight shut faster than I could have slammed shut a hardback book. The poor woman stood no chance, and I will spare you any further details of her demise. Enough to say, I think, that her last words were 'Get this fucking thing off me Crumble....' as she sank into the swamp, dragged down by the thrashing body of the largest estuarine crocodile I ever did see.
It was a moment of great tragedy for all concerned, but the situation threatened to get much worse unless I acted quickly. The crew were all frozen with fear, the miniature car salesman was frozen with fear, and the former folk singer was frozen with fear (and had been for 4 minutes).
I *had* to get up on the tightrope......