"The drains are blocked," said Robert Elesco to himself. Lugubriously.
As well as being a circus clown, Robert fulfilled many other tasks for the circus outside of performance times. In this day and age of depression, a circus could not afford their normal squad of pure clowns: clowns who dressed all day as clowns, clowns who truly fitted the role of clowns between first and last light, clowns who only removed their red noses and baggy tunics before going to bed, clowns who, even in that bed, dreamed real dreams of being real clowns inside and outside those same dreams. No, these days, Robert at least had to remove his outer 'clown' during non-performance times to act as the general circus factotum.
Today, he listened to the swish swish swish swish swish of trapezists rehearsing their flights in the heights of the Big Top's flimsy roof ... above what he often imagined to be the huge safety-net spider weaving its web beneath them. He listened, too, to the croaky roars of irritable lions in their den and the fitful trumpeting of thud-heavy land animals in another part of the circus menagerie. He listened, too, to the sound of better clowns than himself – allowed to wear their own tokens of 'clown' for longer – acting the light-hearted fool in the tussocky area between the smoking caravans.
Meanwhile, Robert stared down at the circus drains, knowing he was dutibound to clean them. They were clogged with fur and custard. And with other dubious substances. It may seem strange to the casual reader that – with an impermanent feature such as a travelling circus – there were purpose-built drains as mobile circus outlets aligned with any ready-made apertures already embedded at the derelict sites where the circus was often consigned. Yet, strange to report, there were such contraptions that Robert needed to pack up at the end of each pitch. It was his job to keep them wholesome prior to packing.
His face grew sad stains that outgrew the rouge. His own red nose – that he kept wearing during the day as the sole token of being a clown – suddenly plopped off and actually fell into the drain as he bent down with his drain-shovel. He did not care. He had fallen out of love with that particular nose. He vowed to go into the circus ring next time with his own real nose on show – naked as the day it was born.
Today, at the very seat of the blockage, he discovered a tiny creature's body within the muck at which he poked. He spontaneously threw it to a mangey lion who gobbled it in one mouthful.
Swish swish swish swish went the trapezists. Not so many swishes this time – because one of the trapezists, presumably, had earlier fallen through the safety-web. Robert Elesco blankly wondered why he found himself sobbing. Teardops dropping down his nose into the hollow drain.
(written today and first published here)