Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Julius Fucik “Entry Of The Gladiators”
 Derek Fiechter & Brandon Fiechter “The Haunted Tour”
 Derek Fiechter & Brandon Fiechter “Old Popcorn Stand”
 Derek Fiechter & Brandon Fiechter “Pumpkin Scare”
I always have been a sucker for the circus since pretty much as far back as I can remember. This fascination started at a young age with my very first visit to the big top during a family vacation and, from the moment I stepped right up and took my seat amongst the expectant audience, I knew full well that a lifelong love affair was in the making. It wasn’t the unicyclists, trapeze artists, or even tightrope walkers that sealed the deal although I appreciated their artistry for sure. Neither did the jugglers tickle my pickle, while the bearded lady was admittedly impressive, it was nothing I couldn’t have witnessed at my local bingo hall should I have been so inclined. So what does that leave? Clowns right?
You’re darn tooting it does and nary a more sinister breed I have stumbled across in all my forty-two big ones. I was six-years-old and already developing a deep-rooted affection for all things macabre by that point. So when the first whiteface appeared, perched atop a rickety tricycle that sounded like its joints had never once seen a lick of lubrication, and wheeled towards this wide-eyed child with a look of vague instability and another of sheer mischief, I was powerless to resist. Was I mildly spooked? Indeed, a nugget or two may well have breached the rectal turnstiles if memory serves. But one of such tender years frets not over such insignificant chores as wash day laundry and I was far too mesmerized to care a solitary jot about a dash of soiled linen.
Said clown put on quite a show that night and seemed aware that he had fashioned himself a convert three rows back as his gaze invariably found its way back to mine after each bout of crowd-pleasing pratfall. In those moments, he spoke to me and only me, and not a damn person around was privy to the dialogue as his peepers did all the persuading by themselves. In honor of any fellow circus strumpets among us, I shall attempt to convey this muted conversation in as precise manner as possible, as nothing pleases me more than to paint a scene just to get those pistons firing. The eyes cannot lie you see and this particular merry andrew had no inclination whatsoever towards mistruth. As he peddled my way trailed only by a sole spotlight and distant drum roll, the entire tent could have burst into flames around me and I would have remained oblivious. I was far too fascinated with learning how one with such exaggerated features carries himself in a tête-à-tête scenario. My pocket-money was on cryptic and I placed a sidebet on utterly ludicrous to boot. Let’s see if I was quids in by the close shall we? For the reason of not being six-years-old anymore, certain liberties may have been taken with the details of our little heart-to-heart, but the general gist should still reek of authenticity.
“Well hello little boy. I say, whatever have we here?
I’ll lend a smile, with joy no less, if you’ll lend me your ear.”
“Are you…are you talking to me?”
“Please take a look to the left of you, then repeat this for your right.
Do you see any other boys within your line of sight?”
Miraculously no and I could have sworn there were other ankles being bitten when I first took my seat so felt more than a little alarmed to see no other living soul present in that moment.
“How did you do that?”
“I see you’re somewhat curious and wish to learn some more.
I wonder just how much you’ve come here set to bargain for.”
“You’re the first clown I’ve ever met to be honest”
“That’s number one and with a bullet, well isn’t that just grand,
and I guess you would like to know exactly what this clown has planned?”
“I’m not sure. My mother always told me not to speak with strange men in size twenty-six shoes and you fit the criteria alarmingly well”
“Sounds like she’s got some sound advice, that mother dear of yours,
but I’m sure she’d not object if I gave just one guided tour.”
“You heard me quite correctly and if that still sounds at all iffy,
then I’ll gladly give my word that you’ll be back in just a jiffy.”
“I don’t know. Where will we go?”
“Inquisitive one aren’t you? Well I do like inquisition.
I will say this, it will be worth the price of your admission.”
“But can I trust you?”
“That frown of yours would be far better suited upside down.
While wrong to bank on strangers, you can always trust a clown.”
While there seemed more than sufficient reason to argue with that logic, something deep inside assured me that I simply had to take the risk. Granted, I hadn’t received a single straight answer out of my host since he trundled my way, but he was nothing if not compelling with his riddles and didn’t look like the kind of pale-faced Pierrot to take anything less than yes please for an answer. Besides, for as much fun as I had with fuzzy felts and stickle bricks, it just wasn’t edgy enough for me by half while, what he was offering, was positively teetering.
“Let’s just say I place my faith in you and follow. Can you give me your personal assurance that you’ll return me safely afterwards?”
“I cross my heart and hope to die, there’s nothing up my sleeve.
Should I be bogus, what’s to stop you taking your own leave?”
“Okay then. Lead the way”
“That’s my boy, go get ’em tiger, I’ll see you don’t regret it.
What’s more, I give my guarantee you’ll damn well not forget it.”
The problem with being six-years-old is the whole naïvety deal. We’re just not equipped to spot irony or heed clear warning signs. By now the alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear but, instead, I couldn’t get the incessant toll of his off-key tricycle horn out of my ears and, the truth is, he kind of had me at the bright red hooter. The allure of reaching my seventh birthday with my own exclusive stash of memories was just too strong to ignore and I’d vacated my seat before even offering up my response.
“Count me in”
“Goody gum drops, looky here, this kid’s got loadsa pluck.
Let’s hope you’ve stocked up just as well on your beginner’s luck.”
This seemed as good a time as any to stop dead in my tracks and reassess the situation so I did precisely that. Unless I was sorely mistaken, his whole approach was riddled with contradiction, and I’d be on cloud nine with the cuckoo if I took him up on his offer after that last blatant red flag. That said, the kind of shenanigans he partook in only appeared to conclude in pasteurized milk being poured down the dungarees at the very worst and, considering I loved me some cocoa pops and had already shit my pants before he’d so much as honked that horn for the first time, logic was soon replaced by wind-strewn caution.
“Okay then. Lead the way. Let’s get this over with shall we?”
You got me, the last response may be rather steeped in exaggeration, but I was only one pair of dropped testicles from those very words being spoken. The funny thing is, while I did my level best not to convey the creeping dread part of the bargain from my side, he’d already proved to be far smarter than he looked and the 10,000 prickled goosebumps on both my arms were a dead giveaway anyhoots.
“Let’s get this show upon the road, follow my trusty lead.
You’ve had your starter’s orders, now I feel we should proceed.”
“To the left? To the right? Where will I go to next?
If you didn’t know me better, you’d be growing quite perplexed.”
Indeed I was so what a relief then that I knew this old acquaintance well. I mean, two minutes was long enough right? That equated to a long enough duration for the lion tamer to regret mistaking that growl as a yawn, for the human cannonball to burn up at 200mph, and for the bearded lady to trim her lamb chops. Safe as milk remember kiddiwinks as it was, of course, merely a jokesmith placed here for both my sheer amusement and mild bemusement. Now if only he’d quit it with the zigzagging, perhaps I’d have had my eyes on that prize of his.
“I can handle myself. Nice moves by the way. Real unpredictable”
“Keep you guessing’s what I do, you could call it a skill.
A little further and we’ll be moving swiftly for the kill.”
Kill? Still nothing? No of course not, what does a six-year-old boy know of death? Precious little as the Smurfs refrain from dropping in that particular buzzword during their fluff-laden adventures and don’t even get me started on the Care Bears as one of those sorry saps got date raped every thirteen seconds during the eighties. Besides, I was starting to get the hang of the whole irony deal by now and put it down to little more than mild mischief on his part. He’d already hit the nail on he head with “you can always trust a clown” and my curiosity had delivered me to his trailer without incident so I was within sniffing distance of this treat he was proposing and not about to let such a divine aroma go begging. Perhaps in hindsight I should have been more dubious about the sign above his door reading Cloyne as opposed to Clown but, with all the rigorous training involved with the big top, it made sense that literacy wouldn’t be their strong suit. Before we proceed any further, are you at all familiar with the Cloyne? Well you’re about to be better acquainted and I only wish someone had buddied me up with its true meaning all those years ago as it’s utterly devoid of hearts and/or flowers.
You see, the cloyne happened to be an ancient demon from an undisclosed location in Northern Europe who lured a handful of children to his dank lair on the outskirts of town, one for each coldest month of the year, before devouring the little bleeders soul first. I guess you could say he was a wrong ‘un and we were in mid-December so this young whippersnapper certainly fit the bill. Thankfully I hadn’t even began to fill out yet and he could scrape more meat off a ferret’s kneecap than I so I did have that in my favor at least. However, the fact remained that he was starting to look suspiciously like he may act true to form and the air had suddenly gotten considerably chillier so I dared not be too hasty as he fumbled for his keys.
“Can you hurry up please. I’m getting cold”
“We’ll have you warm in no time son, don’t worry about that.
I have my ways as you’ll find out beyond my welcome mat.”
“You keep a lot of warm blankets handy then?”
“Of sorts I guess, though cloynes aren’t really known to heed convention.
I warn you that the fabrics used may spike your apprehension.”
It wasn’t taking a genius to fathom out that he wasn’t proposing moleskin although pelt seemed predestined to play some part. As I pondered rotating on the spot and running to the hills faster than Julie Andrews on Ritalin, the door to his trailer opened wide and he disappeared into its blackened vacuum leaving behind only a solitary finger to further coerce me forth. As I took my first hesitant step into the fray, the scent from inside grew stronger, and almost knocked me clean off my feet. The penny was now beginning to drop and in terms not nearly uncertain enough for my liking so I halted once again and offered up one last dash of reluctance.
“I think I can hear my mother calling out for me. Better be getting back”
“I see you’re feeling ill at ease and think this cloak and dagger.
What can I say but to assure you this clown’s no sandbagger.”
“Then why not turn on the lights?”
“Photophobia my friend, I find it strains my eyes.
Besides wherever would the fun be minus the surprise?”
“I’m really not at all sure about this you know”
“I’m sensing precious little faith and have to say I’m miffed.
What makes you so reluctant to step forth and claim your gift?”
“I’m just having second thoughts is all”
“They’re wretched things those second thoughts, designed to kill the joy.
Just one more step and you’ll soon see that mine is not a ploy.”
One thing was sure, he was nothing whatsoever less than persistent. This clown appeared to have an answer pre-loaded for everything I said and nothing I could say looked likely to curb his enthusiasm. However, it was no longer just the funk from within his lair disturbing me as I could now discern the sound of faint moaning coming directly from the dark recess and it sounded worryingly similar to that of a child around about my age.
“What’s that I can hear?”
“I understand that it may have you fearing for the worst.
Tell you what I’ll explain all if you come inside first…”
Not bloody likely. While I may have been decidedly sluggish on the uptake until this point, survival instinct was now kicking in full flow and I knew all too well that the time had come to make my polite excuses and skedaddle.
“Thanks but I think I’d rather not”
“I’m starting to suspect you’re only here to waste my time.
Think long and hard as punishment’s severe for such a crime.”
“No really, I must go”
“If that’s your final word, then be my guest and leave my crèche.”
Just one more thing before you go, bid farewell to your flesh.”
“Your mother cannot save that skin, it’s much too late for you.
I’ve only one more thing to say, guess what it’s BUGABOO!“
That, ladies and gentleman, was what I like to refer to as the clincher. I may have been culpable of freshness behind the ears but, when faced with a lunging cloyne whose razor-sharp snappers had exclusive designs on my cranium, even a six-year-old whippersnapper such as myself couldn’t help but wise up fast. Oddly enough, after vacating the trailer doorway in record time and making my frantic escape, I soon realized that my pursuer was no longer in tow. Perhaps my fright alone had been enough to sate his appetite? When I considered that three of my steps would compare to one of his lengthy strides, no other explanation seemed feasible. Nevertheless, I dared not slacken the pace, and have never since felt such a tremendous sense of relief as I did on departure of the big top that evening. To my immense repose, the carnival was back in full swing as I stumbled back outside and the familiar scent of freshly dipped toffee apples and cotton candy rushed to greet me. However, something didn’t feel quite right, and I couldn’t seem to place what that might be. All my limbs were present and correct, there was still plentiful skin on my marrow albeit a darned sight looser than previously, and all signs appeared to point to one helluva lucky escape. So why then did I feel so positively numb?
Just then I knew precisely how this jaunt had taken toll.
As mind and body had endured, but I’d misplaced my soul.
The cloyne in question may have failed to crown himself my jailer.
But part of me was left behind in that foul bastard’s trailer.
I checked and then I double checked, with less than twee results.
There seemed no tool remaining for this young child to exult.
All that remained was ever-growing sense of desolation,
and all of this despite not one time offering donation.
A smash and grab was what this was, I fell hook, line, and sinker.
For all his smiles he’d turned out to be something of a stinker.
Now I was left an empty vessel, imprisoned by his grasp.
Without my soul, there’s no parole, until I breathe my last.