Here’s a little fiction piece in honor of the Shrine Circus coming to town this Saturday (at which I might protest). Weird note: despite the claims, most money made by the circus does not go to the Shriner Hospitals, which are actually a good charity outfit. But both things were started by a Freemason group – the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.
Boys Will Be Boys
I only went to the circus once, as an eight year-old glutted with popcorn and glee. Imagine my disappointment, my outrage, when I saw elephants and tigers bullied around (as I, a big round Polish boy, was bullied by kids smaller than me), made to move in unnatural ways. Even at that young age I could see the pain and anger in their faces, could hear the despair in their sounds. With disbelieving eyes, I watched men beat them and whip them when the elephant didn’t do a headstand quick enough, or when a tiger didn’t jump through a flaming hoop at the tamer’s sharp command. Not even on the playground, not even when my father was drunk, did I see such cruelty. Appetite gone, I set down my popcorn. Why would my mother bring me to this? She knew I cried whenever I saw an animal die in a movie…when we gave away our dog because it was too hyper…when I found the dead cat in-between the houses. It wasn’t her own amusement, because looking up, I saw her face painted with boredom, clownish hands clapping half-heartedly at the stupid show. The smells of sawdust, dirt, and animal began to nauseate me – somewhere in them I could sense the stink of shit and sickness and hunger and violence. I looked at the elephant, and he looked at me, and…something happened. I don’t know what. That small dark eye must have sucked me in like a black hole, because the next thing I know, I am huge, I am strong, and I am – being led back into a holding area, chained up, swiped at with a sharp hook when I resist. Open wounds on my back and legs burn, bubble with disease. I fight! I’m not going to be their slave! I’m going to be free! The little man with the hook goes flying when I slap him with my trunk. They’re shouting, No! They’re shouting, Stop! But I’m tired of listening when they say No and Stop, but when I say No and Stop, I’m ignored. I’m an elephant, and I’m pissed. I crash through a tent, while that pervert is twisting balloons and all the little ones are around him. They’re screaming, but I don’t care any more. One of them falls under me; I feel his bones crack like eggshells under my feet. Running fast and free, away from the acrobats and clowns, from the caged and the starved. I would let the others go, the cats and the chimps and everyone who is locked in this hell, but I don’t know how. All I know is away from here. I become grey thunder, a seismic roar that knocks aside bicycles, benches, garbage cans, whatever’s in my path. Then they come, the men in their boxes, and block my path. They surround me, shout at me, rope me in. Then I found myself back at home. I was facing the time-out corner, so I must have done something bad. Honestly, I was glad to be there; better the time-out corner as a little boy than beaten and chained as a big elephant. My mother came into the room and asked me if I was done being bad. I said, Yes. I didn’t know what I had done bad, but my face felt swollen and my knuckles were red and shredded. She said, All right, now go wash up and get into bed, no supper for you tonight. As I walked to the bathroom I heard my father, chugging down beers by the TV as always. Ain’t nothing, he said to my mother, boys will be boys. About time he fought back, anyway. But, my mother said, I don’t want him thinking violence is the answer. Besides, it wasn’t just that, he was mouthing off to me, and eating up everything in sight. Ever since we got back from the circus, he’s been acting crazy. Boys will be boys, my father said.