The Show Must Go On

The dancing Elephant was near collapse as its trembling form was led away from the circle. The crowd had cheered and clapped their way into a form of collective stupidity, entirely unaware that the loud thud they heard when the curtain closed was the poor animal slumping to the floor and immediately dying.

Out of view of the gathered audience circus staff kicked the dead creature, wondering if was actually finished this time or whether it was simply ill, again.

The show must go on, of course.

Moments later, a distorted and whimsical rendition of The Star Spangled Banner began to play throughout the large tent, whining and crackling, weaving in and out in offensive form, almost as though it were being played from a stretched magnetic tape twenty years beyond adequate use.

The curtain shifted once again. Three small children in the front row saw just enough that it would scar their memories forever. The massive shape of the elephant they had just fallen in love with was laying on its side, being hacked with large blades as blood and excrement flowed out around it.

They looked away in unison, tears starting in their eyes and a tormented cry rising in their throats, just as a small car rocketed into the circle, kicking up sawdust as it sped into the waiting space.

Their parents either side of them didn’t notice their anguish, mesmerized by the raucous arrival of anarchy.

Cartoon honks and whistles rang out as grotesquely decorated faces peered from the holes of the ridiculous vehicle, grimacing, seemingly growling as the little car came to a fumbling stop.

With barely a second wasted the distorted figures began to emerge, straggled and matted wigs almost slipping from their scalps, their bulbous, overweight bodies bouncing and dancing ludicrously.

Their gaudy costumes flapped around with every extreme gesticulation, primary colors blurry with movement occasionally caught in the bright lights frantically swinging from above like guards seeking an escaped prison camp inmate.

The audience cheered as a large bucket emerged and one of the hilarious clowns motioned to throw, again, and again, taking aim at a family of four in the front row. He teased them repeatedly with the inevitable shower of confetti.

Laughter echoed around the tent as the rebellious group of clowns encouraged their comrade, performing a kind of choreographed dance routine, showing him how he should perform the maneuver.

The audience joined in, relishing the opportunity to be bad, savoring the participation as their voices rose and subsided with each exaggerated threat to throw the contents.

One, two, three…

Bathed in blood, the family of four sat in stunned silence for a fraction of a second as the cheers from the crowd halted, replaced by a sharp intake of breath.

A curious murmur began to ripple through the assembled crowd as the sound of sobbing children bobbed along beneath.

As the colorful troupe of rebellious clowns looked to the lights above and rose their arms in unison, their gaudy paint could be seen dripping from their wrinkled, distorted faces.

The music stopped, the lights dimmed, the first shot rang out.