It was a spectacle for the ages. And I had a front row seat to it every Monday morning. My elder brother, decked in his precisely tattered bomber jacket, would be whistle a familiar tune. The crisp, morning air in conjunction with intermittent splashes of the cold Amsterdam canal water never failed to electrify our spirits. My brother, if in a genial mood, would let me help. But most days, I would sit in my small seat on the boat, next to my brother, scrunched up like a ball of cotton, just absorbing every bit of the performance unfolding in front of me.
An inevitable crowd of people, meant to be grinding their way to work, would stop and gather around the edge of the canal. The canal was the arena and my brother its glorious gladiator. Unfazed by the simmering expectations of the gathered crowd, my brother would continue his merry whistling. The same lyric-less tune, over and over, rising in pitch, over and over, until it would reach a crescendo.
I’d notice the familiar flicker in his eyes, as they lit up, sensing their prey. A quick, efficient movement would anchor the boat. With a gazelle like grace, his fingers would dance and weave in intricate ways on the control panel, culminating in a loud mechanical screech. A bear- like claw, awakened from its slumber, would stretch itself out in the sun. It would hover for a moment over the water, trying to get its bearings, before making a plunge into the dark abyss of the sludgy canal.
For a moment, nothing would happen. And then it would all happen very quickly. The claw would struggle, splashing around as it overpowered its prey, commanded by my brother’s experienced hands. A collective gasp would emanate from the gathered crowd. The skin of my arm would break out in goosebumps. The claw would emerge victorious with the prey dangling in its monstrous grip — a rusty, muddy bicycle, plucked from the depths of the Amsterdam canal.
And everyone would applaud.