Timothy Gager

A Circus Story

Jerry takes the kids to the circus for the same reason he took them to church since the divorce; the same reason he does everythingescape. His five-year-old daughter Sherri places her sticky Cracker Jack hand into his as his son walks ahead with a popcorn box printed with the word "CHEER” on it. They need some cheer. Good times need to be more than the clowns flopping in center ring, but Jerry has never laughed at clowns; only at life. He gets a kick out of the average-Joe “Kings of comedy” in a bar or such place—that type of clown is funny to Jerry. That’s a real frickin’ clown. Sherri is terrified of all of them.

Jerry remembers his own feelings, when he was a five-year-old attending the circus. He was astonished, not just that the elephant openly pooped on the ground, but also when a man fell from the high wire. How quickly they carried him away on a white gurney, the place so silent that Jerry did not dare scream.

Today’s noise in the arena sounded like an orchestra tuning up until an enthusiastic public-address announcer stops the shuffle in Jerry’s head. The kids snap to attention like they are trained to do, and Jerry looks over at his son shouting into the empty popcorn box, using it as a megaphone.

After his wife left, he prayed loudly but nobody heard. The ring master slaps a few of the clowns, and his daughter says, “I hope this never ends.”