Wednesday, October 31, 2012

farewell to the circus

The circus came to town about a week before Hillary Clinton arrived. They parked in the big lot behind the sports center: a van, a camper, and a station wagon with a sign on top. The sign said “cirkus.”

They stayed right there. It seemed like two guys worked for the circus, but it was hard to imagine them clowning, or doing tricks, or entertaining anyone at all. They looked like they might be taxi drivers. Lean, unshaven, indifferent. Sometimes they would take the car somewhere and leave the camper and van there by itself, the animals still inside.

The animals were a chimpanzee and a snake. I knew this because a chimpanzee and a snake were painted on the side of the van. I also walked by once when the back of the van was open and saw them in their cages. I guess that you needed both things—the chimpanzee and the snake—in order to have a circus. One animal would have just been an animal. Two was something more.

On the morning of my last day in that town I took the dog out for a walk. American flags were hanging from the streetlights. Hillary Clinton had arrived late the previous night. At the government buildings there were cops on all the street corners, and more flags. The dog and I walked through town in a big circle, around the mall, the stadium and behind the sports center.

The van was parked in the carwash back there. Both of the guys were standing around, smoking cigarettes. A tiny motorbike was parked beside the camper. I figured it was for the monkey. The motorbike had training wheels on it. Maybe they had a job to do, or maybe it was just time to move on.

It happened to be Halloween. Kids walked down the street in masks and wigs, their faces painted red and black, eggs in their pockets and firecrackers in their fists. The local news that night was going to be full of quotes from Hillary Clinton. She would say the same thing she always said: the same thing everyone said. Local politicians would congratulate themselves on what she said. The clubs that night would be full of teenagers and young adults attending Halloween parties. They would dance to folk music and hip hop. I could predict these things for certain. But in the morning the circus might be there, and it might not. About this, I had no idea.

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