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A cast of few players make a circus

"This is my best day ever," exclaimed my five year old, after school. "I got a ticket to the circus, for free! I can see clowns, and snakes, and everything!"

Despite his age, he recognized the necessity of framing his weakly disguised request with the right words. He lacked the insightfulness, however, and the ability to read fine print, to know that his free ticket would cost me ten bucks, a gold tooth and my first born.

Nevertheless, the blurb about "High Flying, Dare-Devil House Cats" intrigued me. I couldn't resist the image of felines flying through the air, possibly shot from cannons, choreographed to music, under the big top.

But forget the tent. We sat in fold-out chairs in the Armory. Forget the rings and the ring master. A worn out old woman in cabaret castoffs stood on a tiny stage. The word "CIRCUS," printed on a banner, reminded us of our purpose.

No elephants. No lions. No parade. No clowns pouring out of Volks Wagons. In fact, all the people employed by the circus could have comfortably fit into a VW, with the clown, and driven back to Nevada, cats included.

A few tense moments, however, held us enthralled. Like when the nacho-selling, juggling, dog training, stage hand carried a flaming prop off stage-left and extinguished it next to a built-in cabinet, with imposing red words that said, "CAUTION, HIGHLY FLAMMABLE - KEEP FIRE AWAY."

Then the balloon hocking, coloring book pushing, snake handling, trapeze holding guy hoisted a girl into the air by a rope running over the top of a rafter and back down under his own hindquarters. We caught our breath. She spun and flipped over the concrete floor, without a net, back-dropped by a huge OSHA poster printed, "SAFETY," in caution-yellow lettering.

As advertised, snake charmers graced the stage: two guys with three snakes in a black box. If holding a snake over your head, while loud music thumps, charms it, then I suppose I've had the wrong idea about men playing piccolos while venomous vipers dance out of baskets.

Of course, after every three acts, we endured a five minute "infomercial" about a "special, featured, one-of-a-kind, valuable circus trinket" that "ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls" could purchase at an "exceptional" inflated price for the next two minutes.

To boost sales, the attractive young hula-hoop dancer hypnotized the men in the audience. Pulling his wallet out of his back pocket, in a trance-like state, my husband leaned over to me and whispered, "That sure is a lot of parts all moving at once." When he settled back in his chair to enjoy the show, I heard him murmur to our oldest son, "This is for the daddies."

And finally, as seen on no other stage of that size in the world, the high flying, dare-devil house cats rolled out.

Five famished felines leapt from platform to platform, desperately searching for a kibble. One refused to perform and found himself popped into the box marked "Chinese Take-Out." But for the grand finale, trainers pressured a gangly fur ball into climbing a 20 foot pole to the tiny landing at the top. They swirled the limber post until the cat got so freaked it jumped, a screaming spread eagle vault, landing on a sheet held by the nacho guy and the hula-hoop girl.

To my husband's chagrin, I laughed, at us, until my stomach hurt. He reprimanded me, "These people work hard and they do it for peanuts." Maybe he caught a glimpse of the elephants.

See what I mean about hypnotized.



Web posted on Thursday, April 28, 2005











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