9-21-08 edit 03-06-09
By Lady Euphoria Deathwatch
When I was younger my grandfather would come to visit and he would tell me this story every time. According to him it happened in the town where he was born.
The circus was neither the largest nor the best that anyone in town had seen but you were sure to see a show and anything could and sometimes did happen when the circus came to town. In fact any circus was always worth the price of admission. This was the town of Random and the only thing that Random was known for was that it was the place where the circus elephant died.
You see, many years ago, before cars and trucks, the circus walked from place to place and horses along with other work animals pulled the circus wagons. And Random was the place that the old elephant decided to up and die. She just stopped in the road and wouldn’t move and two days later she was dead. The circus moved on without even looking back at her and the towns people had to bury the carcass themselves. So right there where she lay getting all foul and smelly next to the town square, they dug up the square park and heaved the elephant in. It took all of eight days and every man and boy was needed to help. Using every shovel and even boards they moved the earth and stones with wheelbarrows, carts and even sacks. Mothers and wives made soothing ointment for the blisters on the men’s hands. It took three teams of oxen to pull the elephant into the hole. They didn’t even stop for Sunday services either because the smell on a hot summer day was just awful.
Eventually the mound of earth sunk back into place and people kinda’ forgot about it in their day to day lives. But every year when the circus came back to town it was all that they could talk about. Strange things started to happen with every circus show from that day on. Nothing you would expect, like hearing an elephant trumpet in the still of the night or seeing an elephant walking down the street by itself. No, they experienced things like high wire performers that would fall from their tight ropes but not get hurt, falling far too slowly to be in real time. Tents would blow up into the air like a cyclone had picked them up but not one thing inside the tent would be disturbed. Wild animals would get loose and be found sleeping in someone’s chicken yard with all the chickens accounted for and not one person harmed. You just didn’t know what would happen but it would certainly be a head scratcher.
After a while the circus’s didn’t come around as often. Going to the circus wasn’t as popular as it had been and it was too hard for most of them to turn a profit so a lot of them just closed down. And the ones that did still travel weren’t coming to small towns anymore. The town of Random was down to a small third rate circus every five years or so.
No one thought about the elephant buried under the town square anymore. Some kids didn’t even know about the story of its death or the circus mystery miracles. Old folks sat on the park benches and dozed in the afternoon sunlight over the elephants bones as bees buzzed over the summer flowers planted in the park.
Marcus Williamson was the first to realize that the trucks and vans driving around the square were from a tired, run down, fourth rate, one ring circus and that they were heading for the empty lot next to the supermart store.
Not one word had been forwarded of their coming. They just showed up like it had always been that way and acted like they should have been expected. In fact that is just what they said when someone asked. That they were supposed to come here again but no one in town could remember that particular circus ever being in town before.
Mr. Warner owned the empty lot and let the circus park there but didn’t want them to set up their tents on his property. The lot had recently been black topped and he wanted the macadam to settle without large tent pegs being driven through it. The only place left with room for the tents was the town square itself, so they set them up there.
The people on the square scrambled home to tell the others and to get their money ready for a ticket. By the time the show started the next day almost everyone in town was crammed into the large, well worn, patched up circus tent. Some bought tickets for both the afternoon and evening performances. Word had spread like wild fire that this wasn’t a show to be missed. The old stories were being told in every house and on every street corner. No one wanted to miss a chance at seeing an elephant miracle for themselves.
Everyone was on pins and needles wondering just what would happen this time around, flying people or tame tigers on the loose? Maybe it would be something never seen before.
People strained to see around the people in front of them as all the performers came into the ring and lined up in a circle to start the show to the sound of trumpet music over the loud speakers.
Jumbo’s circus had a lot of things but mostly it was full of used up circus people and animals. It did not have an elephant. The first circus to be without an elephant since the day the old elephant had died on the road around this same square.
As the fanfare music ended, the ground started to rumble and tremble under the tent as the circus people bowed to the applause. The tent pegs slipped out of their moorings. The rigging came down first, only moments before the tent canvas itself and the earth belched the smell of sulfur. People were coughing and their eyes were tearing as they scrambled to safety.
When the towns people finally make it out from under the tenting and pulled it back to try to rescue the circus people trapped under it, what they found instead was a crater with a dead elephant. The elephant was wearing the word Jumbo printed on a tattered and faded material sash on it’s back laying at the bottom of the hole. Not one circus performer was ever found. They had disappeared. Their belongings on Mr. Warner’s lot were searched to find someone to inform of the calamity. The only information they could find were some very old papers that told Random that the circus people were the direct descendants of the circus that had left the elephant behind for the towns people to bury so very many years ago. And now all the town could do was to bury the elephant in the hole again for it to rest in peace.
The mayor got up a collection for a one fourth scale statue of an elephant to be placed on the center of the square and the children in the town of Random play and ride on it’s back to this day. Only they don’t know that it is anything but a plaything to keep them happy on a summers day, and the elephant in the ground underneath them doesn’t seem to mind. Just to be on the safe side the town of Random doesn’t have a circus come to town anymore. But no one misses going to the circus when it comes to a town close by, because it just might be close enough to see an elephant miracle for themselves.