Aware of the consequences of the alternative, Max tried his best to remain on the tightrope. Relying on decades of experience in the art of dancing on a narrow wire stretched across a treacherous abyss, he had started his act with the usual trepidations, yet with a great sense of confidence to finish his performance unscathed. But today’s show was different. Responding to the ever-increasing demands of an insatiable audience, the promoters had upped the ante by providing the spectators with the thrill of observing a variety of dangerous beasts salivating underneath his rope, in expectation of getting their fangs into his mangled body. And now, to top it and heighten the excitement even more, he was supposed to wrestle a polar bear.

The bear, a gigantic monster of more than seven feet, glared at Max from across the rift, where the other end of the wire was attached. A disdainful sneer appeared on his hideous countenance. He must have instinctively grasped the advantages that nature had provided for him in battling a runt like Max. Outweighing him by a thousand pounds, outfitted with gigantic teeth and claws, tightrope dancing shoes that had fused into his feet by evolutionary necessities, as well as an incredible sense of balance, the bear was the poster boy of tightrope fighting. Max knew his only chance of survival rested in his ability to outwit the brute.

Changes in weather patterns that had remained unchecked for a long time had forced the polar bear off his habitat, a place in the north where his ancestors had made their living fishing and hunting on the ice for millennia. Now, just as Max, whose personal history had forced him into similar circumstances, the bear was reduced to scratching out a living as well as he could. But while the polar bear’s limits in aptitude and ability had compelled him to earn his pay in a circus-like environment, Max’s reason for entering the arena was connected to his failure to hang on to a job in an accounting firm.

Moving carefully across the rope to face the bear, Max’s heart was beating rapidly. But the monster had advanced faster than he had anticipated. The rope swinging wildly, Max was forced to drop his balance pole, using both of his hands to hang on. The beast, realizing his chance, attacked him immediately. Max, cowering on the rope, looked up while gigantic saber-like teeth were clamping down on his head…


“Wake up, Max!” a voice shouted impatiently. It belonged to his wife.

Thank God, Max thought, this was only a dream. A terrible nightmare, yet it seemed so real.

“Come on, Max,” his wife continued. “You want to be late for this job, too?”

“Job?” Max stammered.

“Yeah…job!” his wife shouted mockingly. “Maybe this time with the money you’ll make, we can get out of this rat-hole and buy some decent stuff for a change.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah…really! Now get out there. They’re waiting for you. Don’t you hear the crowd? The polar bear is already up on the rope!”