Circus Act In Black Dress

We joined forces and bought him an amazing present for his birthday. Then we put on smart black suits and black hats. We took the present and went to his place. It was two at night and murky. The fair was empty. Only a few pairs of lovers were kissing hidden in the merry-go-round or near the stands. The rare passers-by were walking home slowly as if asleep. Nobody cared about the four of us or about our present.We finally got to his trailer. We left the present aside, behind the garbage cans in the garden.We knocked. He finally opened the door. He stared at us and blinked a few times in hesitation. He couldn't fathom what was going on."A very good evening, my old man!" Fandango exclaimed in his jovial voice. Of us all he had the best jovial voice. No wonder he had been appointed head of the clowns department."Many happy returns! Health and a happy life! For he's a jolly good fellow!" We all took our hats off and bowed.He bowed back although he wasn't wearing a hat or a black suit. He was in a green striped pajama."It's your name day today! As beautiful a day as you are!" Fandango went on with the lines of a song in the same festive voice. "We love you. We came to congratulate you and give you our present. But before that we want you to rest assured that we deeply care for you. Do not look for the value of our gift for the most precious gift of all is our friendship. The four of us are your true friends.""I know it, boys. Thank you very much," he said and smiled."Oh, no, you don't. We are just going to prove it to you. There you are!" And Fandango pointed to Asmodie, the dwarf giving him the right of bearing out his friendship first."You know, old man," Asmodie began haltingly, crumpling the edges of his black hat in his hands, "You will remember of course that Mirabella, your wife, went to the hospital on Tuesday night to visit her ill cousin. That is what she told you. Well, it is my duty as your friend to let you know that she went to no hospital whatsoever. I ran into her in a beerhouse near the railway station. A reliable person told me that she was seeing a man in the band that plays there, the bass guitar or the solo guitar or perhaps the harmonica, I don't know. Their drum man told me. But don't be sad, old man. She is not the first and will not be the last woman who cheats. Everybody in the circus knows what sort of a woman she is…. You were the only one who didn't. It was my duty to tell you. You must find out how loyal your friends are to you. We will stand right by your side. We will never leave you.""A friend in need is a friend indeed," solemnly proclaimed Costin-the-Terrible, the mouse trainer. We had given him that nickname because he was terribly dumb. "I had known for a long time that she was cheating on you. It occurred to me then that this could be your only chance to break away from her and from everything that ties you to her. Your only chance to go somewhere to forget her completely. Just like taking a medicine. Sweep her away from your soul as quickly as a pang of appendicitis would disappear. I fought hard for that but I succeeded. The management finally agreed. The manager himself signed the papers. You are given a grant to go away for one year. We will miss you terribly, of course, but it's all right. The most important thing for us is your recovery. You will be all by yourself there, in 'splendid isolation' and will be able to put a distance between you and everything else. You will have books, a radio, the mountains, plenty of air and a sanatorium full of disabled children to entertain. Now I think that you will even have a television. You will be given pencil and paper. You could write your memoirs or prepare a new and very original performance. We shall visit you by no means. Summer is wonderful on the barren peaks of the mountains.""Especially when here," I added in the drooly voice that I used to address the audience when my act of flames swallowing was over "When here trouble seems about to overwhelm you. I didn't want to embitter you further but I have to tell you that the arrangement for your house lease failed. On the first of next month you will have to turn the house over to its owner. I tried to bribe the head of the house allocation department, on your behalf, of course. He took it as a deadly offence. I fear he will even lodge a complaint against you in revenge. The devil with him. Fortunately you are going away form all this trash. Within a year everything will be long forgotten.""Halfwits," Fandango concluded. "You are so lucky to get away from this cheap farce. You see, one can put up with everything when in good health. That is not your case though. This brawl here doesn't do you any good. What you need is peace and a quiet life. I have seen your electrocardiogram. Old pal, they have lied to you all the way. I didn't want to interfere and expose them as quacks but now that we are all alone as friends I can tell you openly that your health is no joke. I guess you must know that better than anybody. You must have had your warning signs. Heart condition is not something to laugh about. You'd better mind your health and let the devil take this clown job! I am telling that to you as your friend.""Because we all love you very much," Costin-the-Terrible repeated.We then went into the garden, carefully lifted the present and brought it up to him.We laid the black coffin in the middle of his trailer."A happy life, old pal! For you are a jolly good fellow!" we all said in a choir. We took off our black hats and sang 'For he's a jolly good fellow' three times.It was wonderful to see four people so smartly dressed, four great artists of the National Circus, in black, singing.Then we went each to his trailer. It was only at the funeral that we found out that it hadn't even been his name day that day. His name Andy actually came from Andrew, not from Alexander.

by Petre Bokor (b. 1940)