The circus. He'd always imagined a grand old circus when he was younger. The towering, conical tent, the daring trapeze artists, the wild animals. He knew, obviously, that that latter was cruel. He had no desire to see elephants and lions who had been drugged and dragged from their homes, crammed into train cars, and broken for the sole purpose of being presented to American audience.
But the circus was had always felt like a liminal space to him. A alternate realm where, once inside the tent, nothing was truly real and reality twisted to the whims of the ringmaster.
Standing here now, in what must have been the 40s, or maybe the 50s, again, the circus was divorced from time--stone in the river, solid and unmoving as time rushed around it--he couldn't help but be wooed by the magic.
So what if the tigers were beaten. So what if the lions were starved. So what if the elephants lived only half as long as they would in the wild. In the circus, everything and everyone was only alive so long as you were there in the tent, watching them perform. The gymnasts and lion tamers, the beaded lady and the wolfboy (another antiquated "freak" show he did his best not to engage with), the animals and the ringmaster himself, they all shut off with the lights. Their costumes disappeared into boxes and trunks, the animals, the magic gone, shrunk down to miniature size, returning to their porcelain form where they were delicately wrapped in newspaper and packed away in velvet line traveling cases. Each with their own spots molded perfectly to fit their unique forms.
Then came the clowns. The ringmaster was out, introducing the next act with a voice that seemed to boom across the ages. Somewhere in the Cretaceous period dinosaurs raised their heads at the sound of "Ladies and Gentlemen" rumbling through volcanic canyons. While at the same time a group of kids in the twenty fourth century cruising the airways on their hover bikes ducked their heads as "We proudly present to you" zoomed past their ears.
But before the next "death-defying", "stupendous", "thrilling" act emerged from behind the deep red curtain at the back of the tent, a miniature car zipped onto the scene. Whipping around the stage, coming calamitously close to hitting the stage--the ringmaster jumped as if his toes were in mortal danger--the pole holding up the high wire--they narrowly missed it, swerved back, narrowly missed it again, traveled around in circles around it three times as a clown in the back seat put his hand out and held off the pole as if that was the only way to avoid disaster, then back to the ringmaster's stage where he tossed a handkerchief at them and in response they tossed a frying pan, they finally came to a stop several feet away from the stage where they paused, motor running, while the spotlight, still tracing their path, finally caught up and came to rest on the car, which, now that it was stopped looked more like a miniature volkswagon bus.
So, the 60s, then. But again, time doesn't matter here.
The bus driver was the first to emerge. Opening the door with a grand wave, his bus driver's cap in hand, when he tried stepping out he tripped, somersaulted three times and when he finally came to rest he was ass up with the hat sitting atop his rump. The crowd roared.
As if his emergence signaled the popping of some unseen cork, a cascade of clowns quickly followed, one after the other, streaming out of the bus in impossible numbers. Green hair. Red hair. Blue hair. Big shoes. Polka dotted shoes. Plaid pants. A kaleidoscope of nonsense rushing streaming out of the driver's side door. And when that proved too small to handle the overflow, out they came from the passenger side door, out from the trunk. The hood popped open and a clown sprung out, engine in hand, wandering back and forth as if he were trying to deliver a pizza in a hospital.
All told there must have been a dozen clowns. Two dozen. The numbers didn't matter. Hats hopped from head to head. Shoes flew off feet. Noses were exchanged. Wigs. All part of the show. Planned pandemonium to confuse you, make you forget truly how many clowns there were the way a casino tricks you into forgetting you're burning money for nothing.
From centerstage, having recovered from his tragic flying frying pan attack, the ringmaster reclaimed his post and began shouting through his microphone at them.
"You've ruined it," he cried. "You've crashed the show. It's all your fault!"
One by one the clowns stopped. Their big, oversized shows nailed to the floor, they continued looking around, their heads sliding from side to side like toys meant to entertain kids when in reality all they ever did was terrify.
"Are you happy?" The ringmaster asked. He had the look of the dwarf from Emerald City. Big red mustache. Bozo hair. At least, that's how he remembered him. Rosy cheeks. Who knew if that was how he really looked. It had been decades since he'd seen Wizard of Oz. Which of course was the point. This was the circus. Nothing mattered, least of all the truth. If that was how the Emerald City gatekeeper looked in his mind, then that was how he looked. The clowns were real. The bearded lady didn't cry herself to sleep every night. The animals never died, went hungry, or stared at the moon and dreamed of the Savannah. This was the circus. "Do you enjoy hurting people?" The ringmaster finally asked. "Is that it?"
The clowns looked around at each other. One pulled out his pockets. Nothing. Another tugged at the waistband of his oversized pants, fished around, come out with a fake fish. He offered it to the other clowns then, finally, to the ringmaster. He kicked it out of his hand and sent it tumbling through the air. Another clown, who knows which one, the driver, the green haired one who now had a red wig, rushed over, opened his pants, accepted the fish.
The crowd roared. Cheered. Clapped.
"You're terrible clowns!"
A wave of aahhs as the clowns, detected, bowed their ea
The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:
Begin Start typing to begin
Words Reach 50 words
Words Reach 100 words
Location A circus
Event Your character travels into the past
Letter Use the letter S
Words Reach 200 words
Words Reach 300 words
Words Reach 400 words
Prop Include a frying pan
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Character A jovial bus driver
Words Reach 700 words
Sentence "It's your fault."
Words Reach 800 words
Words Reach 900 words
Words Reach 1000 words
Letter Use the letter R
Sentence "Do you enjoy hurting people?"
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