The Circus

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Stephen Whiteside
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The Circus

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Wed Oct 19, 2011 5:41 am

The Circus

© Stephen Whiteside 19.10.2011

Silence fell between the two rodents. They were beginning to get to know each other, it is true, and yet each felt the other was different in many ways. Big vs small. Master vs slave. Dreamer vs pragmatist. Each asked himself the same question, what have I got myself into? It was dark outside, but noisy. And strange, frightening noises these were, too. Clicks and shrieks. Cries and cackles. Hoots and whispers. Sounds they could not even begin to describe. Yet behind it all the soft, reassuring, ever familiar burble of the creek, an undercurrent of reassurance, however quiet.

Do you think I could try a bit of cheese now? My stomach feels a bit more settled.

I suppose that would be OK. Take it slowly, though, and don’t have a big piece. Here. Try this.

Horatio took the small hunk between his paws, and began to nibble at the edges.

Horatio is a strange name for a rodent. Almost as strange as Magnifico. Why are you called Horatio? You weren’t by any chance in a circus also?

No, not really. I wasn’t in a circus. Though it did feel a bit like one at times. My parents wanted me to be a hero. That’s why they called me Horatio. But they were old. And then they became sick. And I had to spend all my time looking after them, and had no time to become a hero anyway.

You had to spend all your time looking after them? With no time to look after yourself? That sounds quite heroic to me.

Does it? Well, it didn’t feel heroic. Trust me.

So what happened? How come you’re here now?

Short story. My father died, and my mother became demented. No longer recognised me. She was in a nursing home, which attended to all her basic needs, so I said to myself, Horatio, I said, it’s now or never. Freedom beckons. And here I am.

Freedom, eh? It’s not always all it’s cracked up to be, is it?



No, I guess not.

So what are your plans now?



Peanuts. They are my plans. Shortly after I left home I encountered what I suspect may have been a trap. The bait was brilliant. Peanut butter. Absolutely delicious. I want to find peanut butter that is not in a trap. I want a peanut cow, with lots of peanut milk that I can churn to butter.

Yes, the old peanut cow again. Any other plans, apart from the peanut cow?

No. Just the peanut cow.

You’re not a bit obsessed, are you?



I don’t know. Am I?

Magnifico decided to change the subject. He found Horatio’s strange yearning a little unsettling. How are you going with that cheese? Feeling OK?



Yes, it seems to be staying down all right, thanks. I’d kill for a bit of jam, though. This cheese diet is getting monotonous already. Just thinking about it is depressing.

Well, you don’t have to eat it, you know. Magnifico felt irritated. And unappreciated. You can eat whatever you like. I’m not your boss. Go and get whatever you want from wherever you want.

Sorry. Horatio felt a bit ashamed of himself, and stared at the ground somewhat abashed.

I keep thinking you’re going to ask me about myself, but since you haven’t, I’m going to tell you anyway. As I have said already, I was the strong mouse in a circus. But I got sick of that. It’s a tedious life, the circus. People often think it must be romantic. Oh, I’ll run away and join a travelling circus, they say. But trust me, there’s nothing glamorous about the circus. It’s hard yakka, Most of us have dangerous acts to perform, and it takes a lot of training. Lots. That means early nights, early mornings, making use of the daylight hours. Strict training routine. Lots of attention to diet. And facing danger on a daily basis. And things do wrong. People fall off the high-wire. There are injuries. Bad injuries sometimes. Even deaths. And medical support is poor. It’s hard even to reach a doctor, and more often we don’t.

Then there is the fact that we are always travelling. Never able to put down any roots. And because of that, we don’t have many possessions. We lead simple lives. Have to be able to carry everything as we walk from town to town. And it is always just us. Socially, it is so limiting. We meet a new audience, start to get to know a few of them, then it’s back on the road again. And you start to get on each other’s nerves. You know what each other is thinking without even having to talk. And I had no real aptitude for the role of strong mouse. I had only ever done it to fill in. Sure, I’d applied myself to the task, and managed to make a reasonable fist of it, but I didn’t exactly feel as though I was fulfilling my destiny. I talked to my parents about it, but that was a blank wall. They didn’t understand at all. Just talked about ‘in their day’. ‘In our day we’d be grateful to just have cheese on the table.’ That sort of thing. So I decided to run away.

Gee, that’s tough. People who want to run away from home often dream of joining the circus, as you say. But where do you run to if your home IS the circus?

Exactly.

So here you are.

Here I am.

What’s that noise?
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

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Maureen K Clifford
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Re: The Circus

Post by Maureen K Clifford » Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:34 am

I love how you weave little real life stories and morals into your tales Stephen - it is quite charming and a great way to teach kids a lesson without 'teaching' them a lesson. Your MC spoke without care of his words an then felt ashamed because he realized he had hurt the mouses feelings and showed ingratitude , and they have realized that though both very different an alliance of two regardless of species is stronger than one alone. I like the way you do that

Cheers

Maureen
Check out The Scribbly Bark Poets blog site here -
http://scribblybarkpoetry.blogspot.com.au/


I may not always succeed in making a difference, but I will go to my grave knowing I at least tried.

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Stephen Whiteside
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Re: The Circus

Post by Stephen Whiteside » Wed Oct 19, 2011 8:04 am

Thanks, Maureen. I really appreciate your comments. Let's see what tomorrow brings!
Stephen Whiteside, Australian Poet and Writer
http://www.stephenwhiteside.com.au

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