What can I say about the writer of this piece? I am fortunate to consider Richard Wood a friend; he’s also a damn good writer whose first novel, A Prodigal’s Foole, is in the shops and begging for a sequel. Fortunately, he’s currently working on that right now, which pleases me greatly. I love his writing – genuinely love it – and this is an excellent example. Read and enjoy.
We were all enjoying a wonderful evening at the circus—the popcorn had been buttered perfectly and the rollercoaster had been just rickety enough–when the clown making balloon animals exploded. There was a loud “pop” followed by the spraying of revelers with a fine red mist of blood and the distinctive smell of human offal. I used to be a paramedic. You never forget that smell.
There was a shocked silence, then screaming. It was like a giant anthill had been knocked over by a seven year old. The circus had been setup in the Brooks Orchard parking lot outside of town. Apple picking season was still months away so the management had decided to use the large flat grounds for the small troupe of freaks and vagabonds who’d come to town.
We had all parked right outside the carousel; I remembered that distinctly. But when the bright lights and spinning ponies appeared, there was no parking lot to be seen. Just row after row of apple trees.
“C’mon!” I’d shouted. “The cars must be through here!” I was used to being in charge in a crisis. I was trained for that and people followed my lead.
We made our way through the trees…then through brambles, sharp thorns slicing through fabric and skin alike. We crested a small ridge, only to find ourselves back at the carousel. The organ music and brightly painted wooden animals were somehow mocking us.
The rides and stalls suddenly went dark. The only lights in the moonless night were coming from the massive tent erected at the center of the circus. The red, orange and yellow beams poured from the top like some sort of kid’s volcano experiment. We were all drawn to it. Moths to a bug zapper.
Should have known.
We entered. There were maybe a hundred of us then. A spotlight was trained on the center ring. There was a ringmaster, dressed in a top hat and brightly colored tailcoat. Next to him was a little girl of about eight. She was blonde, hair falling in little Shirley Temple-esque ringlets about her head. She had crystal blue eyes and was wearing a pretty floral-patterned sundress and a pair of black Mary Janes. But it was her smile that told me all I needed to know.
“He wasn’t funny and ruined my balloon giraffe!” the sweet little monster was screaming. “Had to be punished!”
The ringmaster told her something very rude at that point. I’ll bet you can guess what happened next. If you said ‘ringmaster bits everywhere,’ you’d be right.
“You,” she said, pointing at me. “You can be ringmaster now. I want to see clowns. I want them to be funny.”
I don’t know how long I’ve been ringmaster. What I do know is that there are only twenty of us left. We gave up looking for an exit a long time ago.
I’ve also become pretty good at making balloon animals.