What manner of men are these,
That keep their thoughts in parenthesis?
A man of thoughts and not of action,
Likely belongs to a brotherhood faction.
So free your SELF from binds that tie,
That keep you in limbo until you die.
Travel alone on your path of choice,
They’l follow your lead and also your voice.
Thus spoke Fred

(And so the author took Fred’s advice. The message is too somber for kartoons and krazy pictures. Allusion and metaphor were the only remaining tools. And so he proceeded.)

Fred spoke, as follows, to himself; “I presume that the clown-owl is a lackey sent in by the ringmaster. The message on the scroll appears to be a piece of misinformation to direct attention away from the absent ringmaster. But who will control the circus acts if the ringmaster is nowhere to be found?” Fred walked back to his seat amongst the audience. He was quite perplexed by the whole thing. His senses seemed to be picking up the odor of a rodent.

At that moment a lone man appeared from behind a curtain. He had a leather apron and a trowel with which he motioned to something that remained behind the curtain. He whispered to the unnamed beings hiding behind the curtain. He then quickly turned to see if the audience had observed this secret message. Pleased that they had not, he continued his whispers and knowing winks. A single sheep’s head appeared from behind of the curtain. Then another. And another. And another.

The man in the apron found a small motorcycle at the side of the circus ring. He started it and rode around and around. He was adept at keeping his balance atop of the oak curbing that circumscribed the ring. The sheep followed him with their eyes and heads. They spun around and around attempting their best not to lose sight of his every move. They became dizzy and their legs became wobbly. One by one they toppled on top of each other.
Without a ringmaster to control the timing of the acts other eerie things occurred. A group of men walked out into the middle of the circus ring, careful not to fall over the stupefied sheep. Amazingly, these men all looked alike; nose for nose, height for height, hair color for hair color. All appeared to be from the same family or inbred by some fault of nature. All had blue suits, white shirts, ties and wing tip shoes. They moved with precision. All to the left. Then all to the right. Their arms were precise also. First up, then down, then in a motion that stated “NO!” They danced and danced until sweat ran from their collective brows. And the sweat ran until the grease paint on their faces started to run. It was only then that the audience could see the true features of the dancers. They were all donkeys! Some old. Some young. Some of the older ones appeared to lead the macabre dance which continued on and on. It was a monotonous dance without any creativity. Just back and forth and up and down. Every once in a while a small bray would escape the lungs of a younger donkey. This would break up the monotony of their actions but would change nothing.

The dogs and the clown-owls and the donkeys continued with their separate acts. The sheep just lay in the sawdust that covered the circus ring floor and trembled. The man in the leather apron appeared dejected and sat on the edge of the ring as his small motorcycle laid on its side sputtering and smoking; wheels still spinning in the air.

Just at that time four acrobats walked out into the dusty and smoke filled ring. There was hardly room for all of them. Their leotards were a bright yellow color with purple piping. The piping was so defined that it clearly could be seen by the most distant audience member. A rope ladder dropped down from somewhere near the top of the circus tent. One by one the acrobats climbed up the ladder to reach a dimly lit platform. The audience strained to follow their moves. A trapeze could be seen swinging back and forth.
The acrobats appeared to be arguing about something. This was not good for the pendulum like movement of the trapeze; the arc it traveled became smaller and smaller. It was apparent that one of the acrobats would be required to leap onto the slowing trapeze to give it momentum. Suddenly one acrobat ripped off his leotards only to expose a nun’s habit underneath. From beneath the skirt the nun deftly removed the white cap of a novice and donned it. With that she forcefully shoved a fellow acrobat off the platform and towards the trapeze. The unbalanced acrobat fell backward. His head hit the trapeze bar as his arms flailed wildly in the air. He fell straight downward and landed on top of the sheep. The nun leapt at the wildly swinging trapeze bar and successfully grasped it in both hands; habit swinging to and fro.
The two remaining acrobats discussed something in earnest and then climbed back down the rope ladder. One went to the left. The other went to the right. Both avoided the dogs. They whistled and warbled as they departed only to return a few seconds later. Then the one who departed to the left apparently changed his mind and departed once more; this time to the right. The remaining acrobat looked upward at the nun who was slowly losing her grip on the trapeze bar. This remaining acrobat walked over to the poor acrobat who had been pushed. He lifted him up and asked if he was all right. The response was a weak “yes.” With that remaining acrobat placed him directly beneath the nun who promptly fell from the trapeze. He/she landed on the recovering acrobat and broke his neck. He died immediately. The remaining acrobat and the nun bowed their heads in memoriam, pointed at each other, curtsied, and exited; stage left.

The audience, clowns, dogs and mini-cycle rider all remained silent and stunned.
Finally one of the clown-owls walked behind the curtain and returned with a large wire-mesh cage full of frogs. The cage sat on a table with three legs. He shoved aside a few of the sheep and the dead acrobat so that he could place the cage in the center of the circus ring. As he stood back the frogs awoke from their lethargic stupor. One by one they would look around to see who was watching. As each individual frog was sure that he had an audience (even one clown-owl would suffice as an audience) he would jump into the air. Typically the frog would only jump to a moderate height. He would look around to see if his audience pitied him for this very poor showing. A lamented croak would escape his bulging throat. The audience did not react.
One by one the cage full of frogs repeated this mournful act of pitiful jumps. And the audience continued its bored look because, of course, they could not determine what these poor beings were attempting to do. The croaking became sorrowful and everyone wished that it would stop. It did not. It almost sounded like a human phrase; “poor me, poor me, poor me.” One of the clowns walked around the circus ring with a large cardboard image of a crying moon. It added a nice touch of sadness.

The dejected leader of the sheep remained sitting on the oak curbing of the circus ring. His motorcycle continued sputtering and the wheels were still slowly spinning. Without warning he leapt up and shouted “Hallelujah brother” as if he had just remembered something.

Reaching into the small saddle bag on the tiny motorcycle he pulled out a piece of oil paper with something bundled inside. A white string was tied neatly around the package, crisscrossed in the shape of a cruciform, and then tied around the package in the other direction. At the top of the tied string was a fine example of a bow. The man carefully placed the package on the sawdust of the circus ring floor. He deftly pulled on the ends of the bow and the string fell to the ground. He then loosened the string and un-wrapped the remainder of the oil paper.

A ghastly sight was beheld by the audience. There, lying in the middle of the unwrapped oil paper was a dead fish. A fish that, by its odor, had been dead for at least two weeks. Covering the fish were hundreds of little white maggots. They wriggled and crawled on each other to no apparent ends except to escape the dead fish. The maggots knew that this was only a circus act in their own minds, so they had quit being maggots. They failed in their basic being. Realizing their failure before it had actually happened (or may not have happened had they not planned to fail) they decided to make a sacrifice. One by one, all following each other, they crawled up the wooden legs of the frog cage. It was there that they made their sacrifice without a word. For maggots, like predestined failures, are silent. Worms do not bray, do not croak, do not howl, and surely do not hoot. The frogs had a decent meal but decided not to jump any higher because someone may always expect them to jump higher ever after.

The ringmaster never appeared. The circus acts continued to become more ghastly and weirder with each passing minute. There was howling and braying, croaking and hooting. The acrobat-nun reappeared from time to time. She would take bows for the audience and then disappear just as quickly. The clown-owls ran faster and faster around the ring. Their big red flat shoes kept slapping the floor and raising a cloud of sawdust. The faster they ran the more smoke poured out of their briefcases. And then it happened! One of the briefcases flew open and the flames inside ignited the sawdust cloud. It exploded and caught the sheep on fire. The man leapt on his tiny motorcycle and exited the circus tent. The dead acrobat awoke due to all this commotion. He climbed back up the rope ladder, where upon, and once again, he purposefully fell to his death.

The bleachers finally caught on fire and several hundred members of the audience perished in the flames. Some members escaped and found respite in other venues of show business. They remained however, only audience members. Well, that is not quite true. A few found respite as puppeteers and one or two became resident ringmasters (that means that they showed up to direct the circus).

That particular circus found a new ringmaster and survived, albeit not quite the same show.

Frogs continue croaking in various ponds. Donkeys and asses still bray in various corrals. Fickle birds warble amongst the dark hemlocks. Dogs howl in the night. Other beings make their selves known in other ways, except for the worms. They are not to be seen or heard unless you dig in the dead leaves, muck, and dung piles.

Fred spoke no more.