The Circus and the Library

When the circus married the library, she was only a small fair. Once the nuptials were performed, however, audience demands increased.

The circus, always stumbling to satisfy, expanded and diversified. With frantic compliance, she added more and more acts.

Although frightened of heights, the circus was compelled to include a trapeze act. Clothed in a scanty, sequined costume, the terrified creature minced her way across the wide expanse. She dared not suggest a regulation safety net, instructed as she had been to keep expenses down. Below, the crowd oohed and awed, warning her to take care while threatening disfavor if she lost her nerve.

She was the pretty girl (such a sweet face), the one in the satin outfit who held the torch when the magician did his tricks. It was she who caught the scarves when he was finished, picked up the rabbit and the hat. When he threw the knives, cavalier in the knowledge that a slip would not cut his throat, it was she who trembled expectantly.

The library, medium-sized when the couple married, expanded at his convenience. No smell of sawdust, no sweat of crowds, and no greasepaint or animal droppings for him. Defined as he was in books, the library was civilized. He recorded history. “Silence please, people are reading.” No animals here, only order, blessed order, and time for all things.

At night, the library closed. The lights were turned off to preserve energy; the shutters were drawn. The staff nodded farewells and filed out, smiling. The library slept.

Not so, the circus. It was in the evenings that the largest crowds gathered and shouted for more.

They waited expectantly for the lion tamer to be eaten, the trapeze artist to fall, and the fire-eater to be inflamed. And even after they finally lumbered out, dropping popcorn and drink containers, leaving to return to their real world, the circus continued. Alone now, without an audience and no encouraging applause, she struggled on: cleaning, packing up, feeding the animals, and mending the broken bones.

The library was the library, open or closed. The books, breathing a life of their own, needed no one to affirm their worth. They waited, confident and uncaring. The circus depended on the crowd, waited expectantly to see the audience’s mood. Fearful that something would go wrong, a bad review, a poor gate, an unplanned-for disaster.

Whispers: “The circus will close down.”

The aging circus, paint peeling from her coloured wagons, her canvas rent, struggled to keep up the show, adding more and more unlikely attractions.

Scheduling was difficult. The audience careless of the animal’s health, the staff’s fatigue, demanded more action. What are we paying for? Might as well stay home and look at T.V. Bring on the lions.

The circus didn’t tame the lions herself; she was too timid. She only entered the cages after the show to clean the cages.

In time, to satisfy demand, the circus bloated her thin frame into a balloon-like fat lady. Comments from her fans and from the media confirmed that she was grotesque. They call it as they see it. Keep them coming, keep them laughing.

One February, the circus wound down; the music limped from 7/8 to 3/4 time. In a retrospective moment, the circus confessed to her seated companion that she took wanted to be in the book business. The library was too wise to concern himself with such carnival fantasies. “A circus is a circus,” he fondly offered. Then to her strident barks, “Keep your voice down, you will disturb the books.”

When the circus married the library, she was only a small fair. When they separated, she transformed into a ship and sailed away.