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A small circus squatted in the middle of an open field. Tiny, dirty-orange game tents huddled around a dingy, red-and-white-striped canvas big top. Parked haphazardly nearby were several beat-up trucks and an old school bus painted in patchwork colors. Rusted carnival rides lined the midway.
The entrance was a huge oval cut in the form of an open mouth, its red paint faded by the sun. As it awaited customers, a banner just inside waved in a gentle breeze. It read:
CIRCUS OF CLOWNS
SERVING CHILDREN SINCE 1882
Scrawny, shriveled clowns in torn, smoke-smudged costumes stood in silent rows at the entrance. They stared down the long dusty road leading to town.
They waited patiently for the children.
* * * *
Middle school student, Cindy Carver, jerked opened the front door of her home, stepped across the threshold and skidded quickly to a stop. Her mother danced into the living room, holding a juicy red apple in front of her nose.
Cindy's already bad day slid downhill. Fast. The Oom-Pah-Pah song her mother hummed was the one played on circus carousels. And when her mother hummed that song, it always meant they would be going to another circus.
Cindy's mother loved circuses–especially the clowns. Every room in the house contained clown statues, clown paintings, and clown pillows. Every room, that is, except Cindy's bedroom. But that fact didn't matter to the kids at school. They referred to her home as "The Clown House."
Cindy hated clowns almost as much as she hated circuses. She deliberately dropped her backpack onto one of the needlepoint clown pillowslining the long white couch and kicked off her shoes.
Her mother, eyes sparkling, held up several tickets. "Guess where we're going."
"I'm going to take a wild guess. A circus, maybe?"
"Not just a circus, darling. A circus of clowns."
"A circus of clowns?"
"A circus consisting entirely of clowns set up today near Farragut Park." Mrs. Carver tossed the apple up and down. "The clowns run the rides and the midway. And all the acts in the big top feature clowns. Isn't that great?"
Cindy threw herself into her dad's big, brown leather recliner and watched as her mother continued to waltz around the room humming. "Sounds interesting, I guess. When?"
"I bought tickets for this Saturday. I have an extra ticket so you can invite Scott to come with us. Maybe your daddy will be back from his trip in time to go with us, too."
Cindy snuggled down in the chair. "Daddy won't want to go, Mom. He'll be too tired." She bounced her head into the softness of the chair's back. "Besides, I don't think Daddy really likes circuses."
"Don't be silly, darling. Of course he likes circuses. Maybe he won't be too tired this time," her mother said with a smile. "He's only been gone three days."
Cindy pulled herself up out of the chair. "Can I have a snack? I'm starving."
"Take your backpack and shoes up to your room. And change your clothes. Then you can go over and invite Scott." She tossed the apple to her daughter.
Cindy took a bite out of it as she headed for the stairs.
"Hold it, young lady," her mother called from the kitchen doorway. "You forgot your backpack. And your shoes."
Cindy stomped back to the couch, grabbed her things, and took the stairs two at a time. She slipped out of her school clothes and tossed them in the vicinity of the dirty clothes hamper. Her school shoes were shoved in the direction of the closet. One sock hit the hamper, the other landed in the pile beside it. Since the weather was very warm for May, she yanked on her favorite blue shorts and T-shirt.
Truman, her old, blond cocker spaniel, picked up one of her shoes and headed for the door. "Oh, no, you don't," Cindy said with a laugh as she ran after him. "Those are brand new shoelaces."
He blinked his brown eyes at her reproachfully and plopped down on the hallway carpet just outside her room. After watching her for a few moments, he yawned and dropped his head onto his paws. He closed his eyes with an enormous sigh. Instantly, his snorting snores echoed in the hall.
Cindy finished her apple and tossed away the core. As she left her room, she reached down and scratched behind the floppy ears of the sleeping dog before heading for Scott's house.
Copyright © 2004 by Sann Bank