Alice hurried back down to the city square to find Sam and Ham and tell them what she had to do, but before she got a chance to rehearse the debrief, she found them sitting on a park bench, glasses of beer in hand, watching. With the hypnotic beating of the festival drums sending a pleasant pulse through the air, a group of teenagers were bringing the rhythm to dance with some skillful acrobatics off the backs of benches and down handrails.
“Now that’s clever,” said Sam, as a boy jumped off a trash can, launched himself into the air and ran along the wall of a confectionary stall.
“Not in the slightest,” said Ham the Naked Taverner. “That’s just basic Parkour. Watch as I show you intermediate Parkour.” With a glow of pride, alcohol and obesity, he handed Sam his beer and leaped onto the back of the park bench. With surprising lightness given his handsome bulk he sailed through the air until he caught the neck of a streetlamp. There he remained, waving at an astonished crowd and hanging like a flag, his limp ding-ding fluttering gently in the wind.
“What a grotesque sight,” uttered a passing gentleman with a wrinkled nose. “There should be a law against people doing street acrobatics in their birthday suits.”
“Oh, there must be. I should imagine there is a general consensus on public nudity,” answered Sam, smiling up at his skillful friend.
Suddenly a firework went off from somewhere in the square, and instead of zooming skyward and exploding in beauty it landed on the second story balcony of Haephestus Luxury China and Glassware, where it continued to hiss and spit in an unsatisfied fizzle. Alice screamed, catching the attention of the wrinkle-nosed gentleman who spun round to see what the screaming was about.
“That’s my shop!” he shrieked, at a pitch not unlike that of Alice. “It’s going to blow up!”
Ham slid down the lamppost, took a running jump and caught the butt end of a first story beam jutting out through the white brick wall opposite. He heaved himself up with furious strength, ignoring the gasps from the crowd below. Clinging to the crumbling wood he grasped the next beam up, and then the next, until he was three stories above the packed city square, the Taiko drummers still beating furiously. He lurched onto the slats of the sloped roof and fumbled his way to the top, where he took one last hop and sprung over the gap between buildings, grabbed the boutique sign and swung himself onto the balcony like a graceful hippopotamus. He stood there, for a minute, wheezing.
Then, with the irritated firework in one hand, he used the other to launch himself off the balcony railings and landed with an almighty thud in the throng of cheering fans. The aftershock of the landing rippled through his physique for a number of moments.
Fut…fut…pfft, went the explosive, and died, prompting a crescendo of applause. Ham wrung himself into a contorted position as he clutched desperately at his chest at the same time as attempting to puff it out proudly.
Sam was holding Alice as she trembled in fear. “That was very brave, my friend,” he called to Ham. “And your un-aerodynamic shape is no impediment to your courage!”