The Big Top
By Jeremy Monroe
“She’s all hot air,” they say. “It’s a circus,” comes the reply. “Hot air head to foot, front to back, top to bottom, side to side. She’s just hot air and that’s for sure,” they say.
She knows, and she still goes on. What else can she do? The show must go on, as they say in the biz, “the show must always go on anyway.”
So, all gussied up in her spangled, multicolored leotard, she toe steps into the center ring to thunderous applause. The hot spotlight follows her every move.
Light footed, she approaches the ladder to the sky. Her leotard sparkles as she ascends the ladder skyward, hand over hand, foot after foot, up, up, up, and up even more. Finally she reaches the tiny square foot platform. From below, she appears floating in mid-air. Once there, she grasps a balance bar and steps out on the spider-web thin wire, the wire barely visible to the crowd so far below. Heads craned back, jaws agape.
Midway across the wire she stops. The crowd stops breathing. Now? they wonder, is it now? Certainly soon.
She lets go the balance bar. It floats down slowly dipping one end toward the ground. It lands on the ground with a thwack! It bounces a few times finally rattling to rest. She stands still, balanced on the fine wire, no balance bar, no net.
She takes a two step leap leading to a flip and a cartwheel. As deeply thrilling as these feats were, the crowd looks skyward, waiting, wanting more. Settling down to a stand-still, she stands poised, hands at her sides. She is waiting. From below, it seems she stands there forever. The crowd sends a few nervous coughs.
The Ring Master cries into his microphone: “No net! No net!”
No net is needed for her final feat. She takes a deep breath, then another, and many more still. Her metamorphosis takes place. Finally she is filled. Her own hot air balloons her entire body, as though she were, finally, a human balloon. She has expanded to thrice her normal size and more. She waits. Finally, with the audience now gasping for their own breath, she steps off the wire and opens her mouth. A balloon she jet propels and screams wildly about the circus tent. Around and around she jets, sputters and streaks. Finally she exits the big top through the main entrance skidding to a stop on the midway sawdust. The audience screams in appreciation and the finality of relief from the tension. The lion roars in his cage.
The Ring Master steps into the spotlight.
“Laaaadiieees and Gennnntlemennn!” he announces at the top of his lungs. He removes his top hat to mop perspiration from his brow.
“Now, for a one of a kind event. This afternoon, for his final act in the Big Tent, you shall witness a Lion Tamer perform a unique feat that will Truly Thrill and Amaze!”
On cue, the lion roars ferociously. Saliva runs from his jaws as the elderly Lion Tamer opens the gate and steps into the cage. No chair. No pistol, No whip.
The crowd roars . . .