Shadow Rodeo (17.8.20)

The night isn’t cold, or exactly hot. It’s a cool, tantalizing barely there warmth that hushes the city. The night of the shadow rodeo. The lights in the buildings cast the world in shadowy, glowing shades of orange, green, and yellow, sunken in deep blue. Traffic is quieted, lessened, put away. Fewer prying eyes, less chance to be seen, more space to play here where play rarely pauses.

Tonight is special. This block is half cut off. A truck rests in the stolen lane, and people trickle out and flow around. Some keeping the perimeter. Some bringing the goods, snuck out into the night. Under the cover of darkness, into this warm cocoon of shadowy light and deep, surrounding blue.

The people here are laughing, smiling, talking and waiting.

The stars of the show seem to dance and whoop, even if their shouts are internal, even if their voices don’t carry. Their engines protest each sudden load, but only jokingly. They whip around in little circles, a whirring quiet roar of machine and happy beast. Their speed surprising and quick to build, usually seen as so cautious and measured. Their riders carefree and reckless. They jump and leap, balancing each new package, human sized at least and rolling on tiny precarious wheels, on the ends of the flattened beams of metal that create their beaks. They spin, quick to offer a helping hand to particularly large and unwieldy loads. They jump out of their corral easily and quickly and are back in only a heartbeat.

This space is calm and joyous, a community of the hidden and invisible. Enjoying the false rodeo at night as the working comes to a close. Maybe those few passing souls saw them, maybe they stayed invisible, forgotten, unknown. The magic didn’t happen in the theatre alley, after all.

But the evening moments when forklifts are cowboys are still magic, of a different kind. For a different audience. The sneaking, the stealthy, taking away the last of the mechanics-bringing magic into the resting truck. Thieves in the night, shadows behind the scenes, laughing to the darkened warm sky as the beasts buck and spin to the beat and rhythm of their riders’ will.

This brings magic and joy to the shadow keepers of the stage. If they do their job right, no one will ever know. And this quiet shared rodeo will be their own slice of magic.

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