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The Silly Clown and The Man Who Loved Circuses

Imagine if you will, a Man Who Loves Circuses ... here was a throwback to the days of yore when mediæval thespians and travelling players would entertain good King Richard with their tumbles, conjuring and bear baiting.

In the twentieth century, however, the Man Who Loved Circuses found little in the normal travail of everyday life with which to whet his appetite for bluff, honest human entertainment ... save for circuses.

Many is the day he would tramp the bleak streets of London in search of trapezists, wirewalkers and tumbling fools. On one such day, just as he feared his daily endeavour might fail, he came upon a billpost roughly pasted to a wall, its blaring colours and ungainly typefaces at variance with the sordid dirty bricks to which it was forever affixed until the melt of the fell slushy snows of January should wash it to oblivion.

"Come To The Magnificent Circus" it broadcast to the blank stare of our hero. "See the amazing high wire act, the death defying quadruple somersaulting trapezists, Madame Petulengro's Amazing Performing Poodles and, by public demand ... The Silly Clown !" You may imagine, dear reader, the warm gush of fulfilment and anticipation which swept through the frail collection of flesh, bone and stringy sinew that was the Man Who Loved Circuses.

And Lo! It came to pass that The Man Who Loved Circuses attended the circus that very night. Sitting at the circumference of the magic ring he thrilled as the lights fell. The ringmaster, resplendent in red serge and silk shinings announced each act. The trapezists performed impossible feats, effortlessly throwing their bodies through the air, seeming as if to have received the gifts which only the birds enjoy. The wirewalkers danced and juggled on a wire so slender it was as a single silk strand, the performing poodles quipped their busy way through fiery hoops and formed pyramids of impossible height from amongst their number. And then ... The assembled multitude hushed, the arena was plunged into black night, a single drum rolled and suddenly the darkness was split asunder by a spotlight beam of such brightness and narrowness that it seemed to rend the very World. Caught in the furthest point of its incisive reach was ... the Silly Clown!

The crowd erupted, children screamed, women cried and grown men were seen to wipe a surreptitious tear. The Silly Clown bounded into the ring and continued straight across, leaping to the top of the circumferential barrier directly opposite The Man Who Loved Circuses and but an arm's span from him he looked down. Addressing the hero of our tale he intoned, in a rich baritone, "Are you the front end of an ass?" The Man Who Loved Circuses attempted, without success, to hide his perplexity and whimpered in reply,
"No". An insignificant response, but all that he found possible.
"Are you the rear end of an ass?"
Again our friend was bereft of response except a mournful "No".
"Then you must be no end of an ass!"

The crowd exulted, an elderly man had a seizure, such was the height of his delight, whilst several younger women were seen to have fits of laughing hysteria and grown men became speechless with mirth. All except the Man Who Loved Circuses. He could not find the clown funny, try as he might.

All around people were happy and laughing, he was drowning in a sea of delight, but a sea in which he could not swim. That the joke was at his expense was clear, he knew not why nor even how. Shamed by his incomprehension he rose from his seat and even as his visage took on an ever ruddier hue he left the auditorium, the sarcastic and sadistic wails of derision from the audience accompanying him to the point of egress.

Alone in his garret the Man Who Loved Circuses gazed at the poorly distempered walls and peeling wallpaper. How could this have happened to him ? Why had he not seen the joke ? Why was he the butt of the Silly Clown ? He had no answers and, as is so often the way with the human temperament, his ignorance slowly turned to hatred. He would repay the Silly Clown and in kind, but just as his revengeful thoughts began to consume him a more sanguine concept emerged. What if it was just bad luck? Of course that must be it! He did not know the Silly Clown nor vice versa, it was the purest chance, an unfortunate happenstance, but what to do?

All night he pondered and as the dawn rose and the twittering of birds overcame the small noises of the rats and mice gnawing at the wainscot, he had it! He would attend the circus again and watch carefully whilst the Silly Clown chose another victim.

All day he exulted in his cleverness and planned for the evening. Once or twice he even found himself smiling secretly at the thought of the discomfiture to be visited that night upon another. Surely here was the measure of the Silly Clown's genius, that he, the Man Who Loved Circuses could be laughing at a joke he had yet to hear!

And lo, the evening came and the Man Who Loved Circuses entered the Big Top. Taking again a front row seat, yet one which was on the opposite side to the site of his former distress he waited.

Once more the imposing figure of the ringmaster, resplendent now in blue with silver trimmings, announced each act. The trapezists performed impossible feats with no net to protect their bodily existence, effortlessly throwing their bodies through the air as if suspended upon celestial bonds. The wirewalkers unicycled and blindfolded hopped on a wire of shimmering steel. The performing poodles snapped and postured through the fiery hoops and formed pyramids of improbable height. And then ... The assembled multitude hushed, the arena was plunged again into black night, a single drum rolled and suddenly the darkness was split by the spotlight. Illuminated in the furthest point of its incisive reach was ... the Silly Clown!

The crowd rose as one, children mewled and puked, women fainted and grown men roared their approval. The Silly Clown bounded into the ring and continued straight across, leaping to the top of the circumferential barrier but not as he had done before; changing direction once again he ended directly opposite the Man Who Loved Circuses and looked down. Addressing the hero of our tale he intoned, in a rich baritone,
"Are you the front end of an ass?"

The Man Who Loved Circuses was minded to leave at once but was held by a strange power he did not understand. He whispered in reply,
"No".
"Are you the rear end of an ass?"
Again our friend was bereft of response except "No".
"Then you must be no end of an ass!"

And so it was that crying in his fierce acknowledgement of dishonour and deceit the Man Who Loved Circuses was once again driven from the theatre of dreams.

In the following days his hatred and need for revenge grew stronger and more cold. He knew what was to be done. He made an arrangement to meet with the Grand Vizier of Circuses, than whom no man knew more about circuses. The Vizier would explain all and defeat the Silly Clown on his behalf. At the appointed hour he presented himself at the tent of the Grand Vizier, a massive construction of silk and brocade with colours of the rainbow enmeshed in the weave of its rich fabrics.

The Grand Vizier listened, intent and grave, whilst the Man Who Loved Circuses recounted his tragic tale. When all was told and the man was left limp and exhausted through the travail of reliving his shame and distress the Vizier considered for some time. Eventually in a deep brown voice, redolent of the mists and mysteries of the orient he said, "My son, yours is indeed a tale of woe. But alas my powers are insufficient. The Silly Clown is a practitioner of the darkest of arts and I am powerless to help you."

Distraught, the desolation of the Man Who Loved Circuses was pitiful to behold and the Grand Vizier was moved beyond telling.
"Or perhaps, just perhaps…."

"Perhaps what oh Great Practitioner?"

"Perhaps if you could locate the Master of Wit and Repartee he surely would assist you. There is no power he cannot overcome nor deploy. If any man can help you it is he."

"And where shall I find the Master of Wit and repartee?" "As to place, there is no precision. The foothills of the Himalayas is the greatest aid I can be to you. Now away ! Seek the Master for it is there your troubles shall be laid to rest."

Man Who Loved Circuses left that very night. Travelling by rail and hired contrivance he travelled across Europe to the very edge of the Asian mass. Arriving at an enchanted forest he mustered his courage and forged through without mishap. At the shark infested ocean he swam strong and true and arrived safely at the far bank. He hiked through desert and slowly, oh so slowly his route began to rise. The temperature dropped with the altitude and he began to see snow capped mountains on the horizon.

After several days he was struggling through snowdrifts and across rock crags. Eventually he approached the last major face of mighty Everest itself and there, as if by magic, he found a small rough wooden shelter. With trepidation he approached and then entered. Within all was bare, no food, no furnishings nor accoutrements of any type.

Seated in the lotus position at the very centre of the floor was a wizened old man dressed only in a white loincloth despite the temperature which was many degrees below freezing. The man was snowy haired and bearded. With a shaking voice Man Who Loved Circuses addressed the figure.

"Excuse me sir, but are you the master of wit and repartee ?" There was a silence which lasted for several hours before the response came.

"I am my son. And you are the Man Who Loves Circuses, you are here to tell me your troubles. Draw near, sit, and recount them. And so it was that the Man Who Loved Circuses did as he was bidden. He explained about the delights of the circus, the music, the dancing the coloured lights. He described the dress of the ringmaster, the actions and feats of the trapezists, wirewalkers and performing poodles. And then, his voice cracking with emotion, he came to the Silly Clown and his fearsome joke." When he was finished the silence was palpable.

The Master of Wit and Repartée did not move, only a very slight rise and fall of his chest indicated that he had not expired. At length he responded.
"My son, such a tragedy has befallen you. Of all people to fall under the baleful spell of the Silly Clown, you who have never done more than enjoy and exult in circuses should not have to suffer so. And yet ... there is nothing you can do."

The Man Who Loved Circuses thought he would expire from very disappointment and was about to protest when the master resumed his discourse.

"No you can do nothing, but I, the Master of Wit and Repartée, I may yet be able. I shall accompany you back to the far off land from which you hail and deal with the Silly Clown on your behalf, or perish in the attempt!"

And so they left, arm in arm. Down the foothills of the Himalayas they travelled, across the desert. Together they swam the shark-infested ocean and dared the enchanted forest to do its worst. Eventually they managed to find hired transport and travelled together across Europe to the very heart of London. Even now they journey was not ended and they continued to the place where the circus was now resident.

Taking their seats beside the ring they waited. Sitting at the very circumference of the magic, the Man Who Loved Circuses thrilled as the lights fell. The ringmaster, resplendent once more in red serge and silk shinings announced each act. The trapezists performed unbelievable feats, effortlessly throwing their bodies through the air, seeming as if to have received the gifts which only feather can bestow. The wirewalkers danced and juggled on a wire so slender it was as if it was not there, the performing poodles quipped their noisy way through a multitude of fiery hoops and formed pyramids of impossible height from amongst their number.

And then ... The assembled multitude hushed once more, the arena was plunged into black night, a single drum rolled and suddenly the darkness was shivered by a spotlight beam. Caught in the furthest point was ... the Silly Clown ! The crowd erupted, children threw fits, women shed tears of wonder and grown men hurrahed until their throats bled. The Silly Clown bounded into the ring and continued straight across, leaping to the top of the circumferential barrier directly opposite the Man Who Loved Circuses and the master of Wit and Repartée.

Addressing the hero of our tale he intoned, in a rich baritone,
"Are you the front end of an ass ?"

The Man Who Loved Circuses gazed anxiously at the Master of Wit and Repartée, but he made no move and so he replied as strongly as he might
"No".

"Are you the rear end of an ass ?"

Once more our hero sought the solace of the Master of Wit and Repartée, but he remained impassive. With trepidation he prepared to respond once more when the Master of Wit and Repartée rose.

Standing at his full height he mounted the ring and gazed untroubled into the depths of the soul of the Silly Clown. The crowd hushed, bemused. The Silly Clown, unsure, stopped. He swayed, almost imperceptably.

Unhurried and strong the Master of Wit and Repartée stared at him until, in a voice like thunder, resplendent with the magic and craft of his calling he uttered
"Sod Off, Silly Clown !"

[Thanks to Jim Corbett]

15 October 2017  |  sitemap   |  | | Privacy
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