fear of death adds spice
to a life well lived although
fear must be groundless
Joe watched the water rise, and for a moment was nearly as nervous as the audience. It was ever thus. The essence of the trick was that there was no trick: he really did escape from the shackles, chains, and cuffs. Or he could do it that way if he was a fool. Joe was no fool.
By the time the water reached his knees, his hands were free. Not that the audience could tell, he knew it was important that they believe him trapped and certain to die.
Hence the dramatic music, the curtain shielding him from view in his “final moments”, and all the other trappings for the stage.
His favorite ending to the escape was to hop out of the water as soon as he was hidden from view, then settle down with a newspaper in the cheap seats to wait while a shadow puppet show plays out of his apparent drowning. At the peak of the frenzy, as the audience is screaming for someone to do something, a pin spot focused on the tank from behind would suddenly reveal that the tank was empty.
The curtain would drop to reveal that there was nothing left in the tank but a pile of chains at the bottom and a few fish swimming in circles.
Joe enjoyed listening to the stunned realization sweeping across the audience that he hadn’t died in front of them. Did he vanish? Did he become a fish? Was anything what it seemed?
Joe stepped forwards, dropping the coat and newspaper that had concealed him from casual discovery, and accepted the applause that he was due.