Monday, February 1, 2010

The Greatest Show on Earth

He clutched a ticket in one tiny fist, and with the other held tightly to the skirt of the tall, blond, beauty who strode swiftly forward. Circus tents ahead were woven tapestries of brilliant color—gold, crimson, cobalt. They pulsed with the rhythm of blaring music, which slid through the chain-link fence and swirled around his naked feet--a lively music which made him want to dance; it sang of great and curious sights. There was chatter and patter and bustle and laughter, so he hurried to keep up with the woman as she approached the ticket gate.

Suddenly, they were caught by the crowd, pressed and funneled into an orderly queue. A few children held tightly to the hands of patient, red-faced fathers, who pulled them forward into line and eased their steps through the turnstile. Others were carried by loudly-sighing mothers whose grins belied complaints and whose eyes reflected the enthusiasm of their little sons and daughters; this was a long-awaited day. Smiles were radiant, and everyone breathed deeply at the welcome scent of caramel corn and cotton candy.

“Ticket please,” came the voice of a superbly polished gentleman in a top hat, and he favored the lovely lady with a well-worn, yet skillful smile.
She handed hers over as the little boy, copying her movements, held his own fist high.
“Two then, Ma’am?” asked the ticket man.
“Well, actually, no. I’m coming in alone.” She brushed the fist from her long silk skirt, and the child fell back—his eyes wide open and confused.
“He can’t come in alone, Ma’am, although --who gave him the ticket?”
“Well, I gave him the ticket…but that was all a mistake. I can’t very well have him following me about in this busy confusion, can I? It would be dreadfully wearying, so very tiring for one so small; it wouldn't be fair to him, I'm sure.”
She painted her words with an oddly desperate cheerfulness.
“Very well, then,” said the top hat, “I’ll just—and he pulled out a pair of decorated shears….”

The child fell back, a look of frozen hunger on his face, as tiny bits of ticket fell and littered the ground around him.

Far ahead, disappearing swiftly into the crowd, the tall beauty bought herself a pink bouquet of cotton candy and consoled herself by watching the man on the flying trapeze.

Our "Carry on Tuesday" prompt was: "Life is a ticket to the greatest show on Earth."

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