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The Price

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Feb. 18th, 2012 | 07:26 am

Poppers tight, first choice whip coiled on top, second choice coiled on bottom, scissors and popper string in a little baggie inside the whip case, in case I lose two poppers in a row and have to re-string a whip while being funny for approximately ninety seconds. Which, for the audience member holding a target on stage, is eternity.

“Don’t worry, Bob, I’m just fixing the popper. That’s the part of the whip that makes it accurate.” Bob shows relief. The audience laughs. I tug a new popper into place with my teeth and set my right arm in line with the celery he’s holding. The world narrows to the whip and the target.

“Remember, Bob—do not move, until I am done. Do not move, until I am done. Just like at home.”

I am one of the top ten best in the world at what I do.

Top three women.

Not that there’s any real ranking, or way to count, but it’s a small world, whip-cracking, and we all know each other. Australians cracking fifty ways, circus front, windshield wiper, around the world, connected sequences with arcane names and a grasp of momentum, the body moving hardly at all unless you use it as a style. North Americans focused on target-breaking, working with nylon as well as the traditional kangaroo, all of us scorning cowhide, cheap whips made in Mexico, sure you can make a noise with that, but it’s not really a whip.  The little cliques of whipmaker devotees, Nice—who made it?, the answer immediately denoting commitment and price. The snide superiority of knowing it’s not how loud you crack, it’s where the whip coils in space, it’s switching from left-handed to right and back again, it’s taking the cigarette from your partner’s mouth in three pieces instead of one, because you can. The need to make it pretty, make the audience gasp as the whip passes your partner’s eyes at the speed of sound, take one more break, not just good enough, earn the applause.

The audience doesn’t know how small I can make the target. My partner—the next target-holder—reminds me of this, “It’s OK to stop early.” She will hold the target until I am done, her eyes sometimes asking, Do you want it? and my response a quiet, off-mike, “I’ll take it,” if I’m at least eighty-percent sure I can.

Most shows, I remember it’s OK to stop. Most shows, I do not risk my dignity and my partner’s face (two thousand shows in twelve years: one forehead slice, two split noses, one split lip, one fingernail, hitting myself doesn’t count but that’s the scar on my right waist), or an audience member’s hand, for the sake of an extra half-inch for an already-thrilled crowd. Three inches is no worse than two, unless you’ve seen them back to back. Unless you know you can do better, you can earn it.

People—and by people I mean men, and by men, I mean skeeveballs in black jeans with hair two days past wash day and a faint eau de Doritos—sometimes ask me, “Have you heard about that club? In that warehouse downtown? Thursday nights?” What they mean is, ‘You’re a dominatrix, right?’ I pretend to be oblivious, preoccupied with something else. Because nothing would be hotter than getting blood on a four-hundred-dollar prop while you come in your pants.

People—and by people I mean everyone—ask, “How long’d it take to learn that?”

Some skills I encourage. “Sure, you could learn trapeze/silks/acrobatics. The closest aerial gym is _______. Costs maybe twenty bucks a workshop. Go sign up—I didn’t start till my late twenties!”

Whip has a different price. I say, “Ten years to get good enough to do it. Ten more to get good enough to do it every time.”

They don’t ask when I started. I don’t tell them about the Southern Town Girls’ Club Medieval Faire, about being fifteen and then sixteen, crushing on the leader of the performers for months, sleeping in his borrowed shirt long after it stopped smelling of him. I don’t tell them about a cowhide whip, first borrowed and then a present, about hours in the field behind his complex, circus front, around the world, right hand, left hand. I don’t tell them about the room where the volunteer punch cooler sat on a folding table, about draining the last of the red bug juice, washing out the cooler and turning it over to dry. I don’t tell them about him bending me over the table, detached, almost preoccupied, that’s what you wanted, wasn’t it?

That wasn’t what I wanted.

But this is.

Thank you.






whipchick is in South Africa again, where the lady in the exceedingly-modern house across the street doesn't know her sandblasted shower glass has been installed wrong side out. Perhaps a note in the mailbox is in order.

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Comments {57}

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ecosopher

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from: ecosopher
date: Feb. 18th, 2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
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This was very powerful, and I didn't see the ending coming. That made me really sad, but I also get the impression that you are very strong and that this doesn't define you.

I loved the descriptions of the whips, the concentration it requires. Brilliant. I remember seeing whipcrackers at country shows. Always amazed me. I figured I would likely hurt myself if I tried.

(Hee. The woman's wrongly installed shower glass made me laugh. Yeah, I'm malicious).

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 18th, 2012 02:15 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - I'm glad to hear the structure is working as I intended! Yeah, I don't hurt myself too much any more, but when I was learning, a lot of hits to the face :)

The neighbor is a...vigorous...showerer :)

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Mars Tokyo

(no subject)

from: marstokyo
date: Feb. 18th, 2012 04:26 pm (UTC)
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This is so fascinating. You really ARE a whipchick!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
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Thanks! It's probably my favorite skill in the show :)

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The New Bubble Girl

(no subject)

from: banyangirl1832
date: Feb. 18th, 2012 07:29 pm (UTC)
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This was gorgeous, illuminating, and sad all at once. Wonderful job. Thanks for sharing!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 01:25 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, I appreciate it!

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basric

(no subject)

from: basric
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 05:42 am (UTC)
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I am truly impressed with anyone who can crack a whip without slicing themselves, I have seen arrogant amateurs slice their cheek open. I love your descriptive phrasing. Well done.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Yeah, it's so easy to get hurt, especially since newbies tend to think the secret is lots of strength and speed, and it should be a lot more controlled! Thank you :)

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Raoul Duke

(no subject)

from: drjeff
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 05:03 pm (UTC)
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What can I say? I love this.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
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Thanks again for the beta, I appreciate it very much! Makes it feel less like throwing words into the void :)

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Myrna

(no subject)

from: myrna_bird
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
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You continue to AWE me every week with your writing, your life, your travels,
your upbeat attitude and bravery. Applause! Applause!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:37 pm (UTC)
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Thank you :) I'm so glad you're enjoying it! I'm a sucker for applause :)

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Andrea Blythe

(no subject)

from: blythe025
date: Feb. 19th, 2012 11:20 pm (UTC)
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Awesome. My brother-in-law and his friend (and my mom a bit, too) are whip enthusiasts. They are all about kangaroo hide whips from Australia. Mostly they do the "cracking fifty ways" style, and mostly just for fun. The friend has progressed to fire whips and will get up on the dock roof for Fourth of July and do a fire whip show at night which is quite fun to see.

I really like the character you've developed her, doing something unique for the sheer pleasure of doing it. She's very cool. :)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:38 pm (UTC)
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How awesome! Did Riz make his fire whips?

Thanks - this person is the me who has it under control :)

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similiesslip

(no subject)

from: similiesslip
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:12 am (UTC)
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There are people we hate for what they took from us but you are on the right road..not discarding the good that they accidently gave us at the same time.

Your skill sounds amazing.

How many hours a day do you practice?

It must feel wonderful to be at the top of your field. Impressive!

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
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That's a good way to put it :)

I spend a few hours a day, a couple days a week on whip, and I practice a bit before each show to stay sharp. The hardest part is recognizing when I'm having an "off" day and stopping before the target gets too small--so ego-driven!

It's fun to be able to entertain an audience with it, but there's so many other skills that my partners beat me at, so it's easy to get taken down a peg :)

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jacq22

(no subject)

from: jacq22
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:14 am (UTC)
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Have seen this and it is a brilliant skill. Life on any of those circuits would attract a few sleeze bags. They sure deserve a bad end. Can see how tempting that would be.

I enjoy reading your work, as your writing is so polished, just beautiful.

I am sure I have no dreams of life in your shoes,-- but once I was a little drunk and bought three plaitied whips and a stick at a country auction. (after a celebration lunch with a friend) I was dealing in vintage objects, and sold them on.

Edited at 2012-02-20 04:15 am (UTC)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:41 pm (UTC)
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Thank you very much :) Country auction sounds like so much fun!

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(no subject)

from: iamthesea
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 10:49 am (UTC)
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I love this and what an epic skill, srsly

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 04:40 pm (UTC)
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Thanks on all counts :)

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not hothead

(no subject)

from: not_hothead_yet
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
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I loved this.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
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Thank you :)

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carcrash heart

(no subject)

from: genesisdesire
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
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You, and your life, completely amaze me.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
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Thanks :) It frequently amazes me, too, in the sense of, "Well, SHIT. I own a BOX TRUCK. How'd THAT happen?" "WAIT. When did I get a TRAMPOLINE and what's it DOING THERE?" and "Yes, these five pairs of spandex pants are WORK ATTIRE, IRS, so SUCK IT."

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shimmerdream

(no subject)

from: shimmerdream
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
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Wow, I did not see that ending coming. This was amazing.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - sometimes it surprises me, too :)

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Kizzy

(no subject)

from: xo_kizzy_xo
date: Feb. 20th, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
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:LOLing over "eau de Doritos":

You never, ever, cease to amaze me.

So...did you ever put the note the mailbox?

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
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Thanks :) It's the smell of comic book stores!

Not yet...I'm waiting for another night of Shower TV so I can take a picture...and THEN I'll do the note. It's like pretending to be a nice person!

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Wild Irish Warrior

(no subject)

from: gingergirlslove
date: Feb. 21st, 2012 05:41 am (UTC)
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This is really awesome! Quite a pleasure to read (except for what happen to you). I was wandering if, and slightly assuming, this is a true skill of yours. Obviously we know now that it is. A year ago, I was actually chosen from an audience to go hold a few targets...with my mouth. It was pretty electrifying, I loved it!

One of our historical theaters was trying to stay in & generate business and they did a Saturday where all the Indiana Jones Movies was being played. While all the preparations were being made to show a movie, they had a man doing a whip demonstration. He gave us a brief history, and had been doing it for most of his life. He was a teacher at a local school for it in a tiny little town about a half-hour away. Yes, he gave best credit to the Australian Kangaroo leather.

I am glad you are enjoying the use of this skill, and not letting incident control your life or imprison you. Again, this is a beautiful read, thank you for sharing.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
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How cool! What a great tie-in with the movie :) My company played the shooting kick-off party for Crystal Skull, but I wish it had been one of the good Indiana Jones!

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