I always hated carnivals, ever since I was a little kid. My dad used to work at this one circus, this traveling company, I don’t remember the name, and he would be gone for months with them. Every time he came back, my mom would get all cheerful and she’d put on his old dress she had with stupid flowers all over it and a big ribbon tied around the back, and she’d take me to the circus where my dad worked and we’d watch the clowns and the elephants and the poor old tiger without any teeth. That tiger was the only thing I liked, but he died when I was about six so after that I had no fun at all.
See, other kids loved all that stuff. They ate it up like candy, like ice-cream, like I don’t know what. They thought that it was all hilarious. But the thing is, they didn’t see how all the clowns yelled at each other inside their RVs, and they didn’t see the weird bearded lady kissing one of the skinny acrobat guys, and they didn’t see the way the elephants were prodded with these big pointed sticks, like devil’s pitchforks. They didn’t smell all the booze and the smoke and that weird rubber smell that I finally figured out was condoms but only when I was way older.
But I never told the other kids about all that stuff. Why ruin the magic for them, you know? I mean, when I saw this magician perform these coin tricks on the street once, with his hat on the ground for money, there were all these people around him wanting him to show them how the trick was done and I wanted to scream at them not to ask for that because that would ruin the magic.
I guess that’s why I never really believed in magic, though, you know, the real kind with wands and spells and stuff. I knew that everything was an illusion – even parents were illusions, really, because they weren’t always there when you needed them and they would pretend to listen to you even when they were really thinking about something else. But then one summer my dad made me come with him on the circus’s tour even though I didn’t want to, and I found out that there was stuff in the world that hardly anyone knows about, stuff that I know no one will believe me if I tell it.
But hey, I’m in prison now, with thirty other guys in my cell-block, and maybe my story will at least give them something to talk about when they work at the wood shop or the kitchens. It’s worth them all thinking I’m crazy if it’ll give me a chance to get this all off my chest.
2 thoughts on “Illusion”
Love the voice in this!
Premise kind of reminds me of what I’ve heard about The Night Circus. And I just watched Water for Elephants the other night (last night?), so it’s funny to find you wrote a piece about circuses. Serendipity or whatnot. =]
I want to know where this story goes! More, please!