The last time I attended a circus, I was 10 years old and Ringling Bros. was promising everybody a chance to view a “real-live unicorn.” The unicorn turned out to be a goat that somebody had managed to deform in such a manner that it had only one long horn. I was able to locate a passage that explained how this is done:
“Goat horn buds are only on the skin when born. The inside half of each bud was reattached in the center of the forehead, swapped so the curving would grow inward and make a straight horn.”
Then yesterday, my niece Shelby (drink your juice, Shelby!) asked me if I would accompany her and the family to a circus. Knowing that this was a tiny, privately-owned one-truck and one-ring show, I thought it would be relatively harmless to venture out to the county fairgrounds and take a peek.
I don’t even know where to begin. I have witnessed my share of crazy shit under a BIG TOP in my day, but this beat all I have ever seen.
We entered the massive striped tent and took our seats on creaky bleachers that two hours later would feel as if they had been constructed out of cinder blocks and razor wire. With a bang (well, almost), a flash pot erupted with less pyrotechnical fury than a stove-top grease fire. I immediately fell into a fit of uncontrollable laughter.
We were introduced to our “Ringmistress,” and I don’t just say that because she had XX chromosomes, but also because it’s quite possible that she moonlights as a prostitute. Her name was Rachel. Rachel the Ringmistress was a blonde woman in her late 50s who was as uncomfortable on a microphone as a traitor at a Congressional hearing.
She was raised upon a trapeze with the grace of a drunken hippopotamus and proceeded with aerial acrobatics so clumsy that an ambulance would have been necessary had she been higher than 18 feet above the ground.
Then Rachel the Ringmistress sent in THE clown. There was one clown in the show. His name was J.T. Clown. He was Mexican and the name given to him at birth was José. I know this because Ringhooker Rachel just gave up on using his stage name and unwittingly referred to him as José throughout two-thirds of his performance.
Later, we were introduced to Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a zaftig woman in a pink leotard with more keyhole openings than Fort Knox. She twirled a hula hoop with her cankle for 15 minutes before Rachel announced that Elizabeth would spin no less than 50 hula hoops around her 5-foot, 180-pound frame. She gave them three or four spins before they began to ooze down to the floor, leaving my 11-year-old niece muttering, “Well, I could have done THAT!”
It was then that things got really magical. Ringwhore Rachel informed us that today was “National Circus Day” as sanctioned by “an important circus delegation” and that we were all part of some incredible coincidence to be in a ramshackle tent with poorly dressed Mexicans and abused animals. Because today was such an auspicious occasion, we were all to come down front and purchase a 10-page coloring book that had been drawn by a circus artist so acclaimed that we never heard of him.
She then opened a book to display a page that someone had crudely scribbled “FREE TOY” on. This meant that some lucky child would not only get 10 sheets of printed Xerox paper, but a balloon shaped like a crayon as well. (I never did see a child win that useless inflatable crayon, but I guess that’s the gamble, isn’t it?)
The cast appeared to give up at this point and launched into the “Grand Finale” in which Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to Be An American” played and three fatigued men of various races, six Mexicans and one middle-aged whore angrily waved tiny flags as a two-gallon confetti cannon erupted as triumphantly as an elderly cumshot.
And during ALL of this, one hateful drag queen sat with her family on a water-damaged bleacher and laughed her ass off. It was still not a unicorn, but it was a beautiful, BEAUTIFUL day.