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Moon Juggler At the Dream Circus

She would put her fingers in the old dead rivers and toss up the moon, and the audience would watch it spin through tinsel stars, tinted spotlights, before it came slowly down. They gasped at all the right moments, frightened for her, but never once had she failed to catch it. Imagine that: the moon cracking to pieces all over the floor.

She would stand on the elephant's back sometimes to perform her routine, while Arlo led elephant, woman, moon, in circles around the stage. You know I have to say it: they were in orbit. And their centre of gravity was the Ringmaster in his cape and cold-eyed watchfulness. He saw dollars, not magic, in the moon's dance. He saw dollars, not thighs, hips, through the juggler's diaphanous black dress. She did not see him. She was divining the rise and fall of the moon. But later, they would leave their money and their magic on the outside of their caravan, and she would brew Russian tea, and he would sing Welsh songs, and between their eyes and their mouths was the real enchantment of the circus, although the patrons never knew it.

When she spoke, her words sounded like cinnamon, cloves, kissed sea ballads. But she seldom spoke, not even with him. She lived in the shadow of the moon. She did have friends - the elephant, the stage-sweeper. And her best friends were the two-headed woman. She had been known to smile, she had been heard to laugh. But not often, and there weren't enough people who wondered why. They saw the thighs, hips, through her diaphanous dress, but didn't look into her eyes.

A thousand stars lay behind those eyes. An endless, soundless dark. The Ringmaster knew it, when he took off his top hat and remembered how to be human. The elephant knew it. She herself though barely knew it, for she drank it down like black smoke, and she tossed it up like cold wild light - and only when the moon reached the apex of its rise, and tipped, and in that moment could come down to her waiting hand or, caught by a breeze, a miscalculated angle, an elephant's sigh, come down to break all over the ground - only then, for a second, did she feel the infinite dark, and herself a tiny light in it, that might dance or might fall, cracking into pieces.

Just as I was finishing this tiny story, I received a message from Rachel Nightingale to say her interview with me is up now on her website. I had to smile askew at my trickster muse, for Rachel is the author of Harlequin's Riddle, a novel about travelling players.

ps, the elephant here is only a device for the story, in real life I am strongly opposed to the use of animals in circuses & I'm even in two minds about zoos.


  1. i love this! the first paragraph, and the last sentence, especially.

    and when you said in that interview, "the best stories realign us with love", i thought YES... really, that could stand as a definition of the best art generally. or the best of anything....

    as i was reading this post, the characters were very visually clear in my mind. i had just scrolled through some of chiara bautista's artwork, and i think your very clear evocation merged with bautista's artistic style to create an unusually vivid mental impression as i read. which was delightful, a much needed bit of cheer on this morning.

  2. "When she spoke, her words sounded like cinnamon, cloves..."


    I am bothered by zoos too...and even more so, circuses. If we want to see animals we should put ourselves in cages and go visit their world.


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