This is not a story.
A story follows a sequence of events, one manufacturing the next. The concern of these pages is a single event, both infinite and temporal, which has been distorted to fit the dimensions of a narrative. To ape Bertrand Russell, it occurs “once and for all”. It also occurs over just a few billion years…
The date is October 4th, 1959. A huge evening billows over south Michigan’s bare hills, an ochre moon, blazing through scrappy quills, picks out the valley towns and unkempt roads. A sprawling bruise appears on a dark sloping field. Its gaudy colours are a mud blur, but inner lights throw out a gold web of poles and guy ropes. We can hear clanks and hollers on the wind. The Big Top is up, bunting still being stitched to the masthead while kiosks sprout at its roots. Sparks and blurts from a hurdy-gurdy are masked by the silhouettes of shambling beasts.
There is a Frankenstein flavour to the sight: dead parts sewn together and punishingly charged with life.
One man has truly come alive this evening: Ringmaster Leyton Peters shakes off the road’s malaise with an inspection of the righting tents, wading through mud and laden workers with equivalent disregard. “Look alive!” he yells, or “folks won’t know what hit ‘em!” He halts to watch an entryway heaved upright, a test flicker of the sign’s bulbs: Pallento’s Circus and Menagerie. You won’t believe your senses!
Peters tugs his moustache: his workers share relieved glances and rush to the next task. So long, Leyton Peters, he is thinking. Arise August Pallento, showman, swashbuckler and exhibitor of marvels that defy the very laws of Creation…! Pallento practises his rolled ‘r’s with his chest puffed–then he scowls.
Why is it, he thinks before turning, every trainer I hire smells worse than the animals?
“Well?” he demands.
Griggs’ face is haggard, his fingers, lost without an implement of control, scratch his neck like kittens. “Ringmaster, it looks like one of the elephants–Sheba, one of the African cows–made a run for it, see. Bashed right through the bars, brought down some lights and rampaged off that way.” Griggs points downhill where the trees at the edge of the field kill moonlight.
“Get after it then!” The Great Pallento whitens. “Darn it, why am I seeing you?”
“No need, sir.”
Griggs fumbles to explain. “See, it just looks like it.”