Funeral under the Big Top

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told.  Some will be fun, some will not.  Some will be great, some will be less so.  Some stories are true, some are merely possible.  This is one of them.

Funeral under the Big Top

The funeral had gone rather pleasantly.  The general tone had been upbeat; more of a celebration of life than a series of “How will we ever get by without Arnie?” cries.  His daughter had told a story of how he had gotten stuck in a tree and hung upside down by his ankle while his five and seven year-old children tried to navigate a ladder.  Arnie’s wife, Anna, had spoken kindly of the forty-six years they had shared together.  Her kind words and deep affection brought everyone to tears.  So most in the crowd were surprised when it turned out that Alfred was the one to give Arnie has final send off.  They certainly didn’t expect him to bring a monkey with him.

Arnold and Alfred’s childhood had been an interesting one.  Their parents didn’t have skills that were suited to office jobs, so they took whatever opportunities came their way.  Their father worked any construction job he could get.  He drove off early in the morning to whatever faraway location the worksite was in and did not return until long after the sun had set.  Their mother worked at a downtown theatre.  Her schedule usually had her working matinees and late night shows.  She really enjoyed her work in the costume department, but it forced her boys to take care of themselves after school.

Arnie and Alfie were never bored.  Quite the contrary; they could find all sorts of ways to entertain themselves.  There was swimming in the neighbor’s pool (assuming that the Crimpes weren’t home).  They could ride their scooters downhill and see who could get to the bottom of the hill fastest without losing control and flying onto the docks and possibly into the water.  Then of course, whenever spring came around, there was the circus.

Every child has their favorite diversion.  Some children have a cherished doll, some girls like jump-roping; but for Arnie and Alfred Dansville, they were always ready to go to the circus.  Their parents tried to take them whenever they could, but it was never often enough.  “They’re only here for a few months!”  “We only saw them once last week,” and other sorts of pleas were uttered.  The boys would save and collect any amount of change that they thought might add up to the price of a ticket.  Soon, the kindness of the circus folk took over.  The elephant handler noticed how often they were around and how enthralled they were by all the proceedings.  Sam, for that was his name, took them under his wing and taught them about life under the big top.

The boys became experts at more than just handling elephant waste.  They visited with Terry the Terrific, (whose real name was Stu) and learned all sorts of magic tricks.  By the time they were teenagers they could palm coins and make cards disappear like professionals.  The acrobats changed performers every now and then, but each one of them wowed the boys with their death-defying tricks.  (It was these high-wire specialists that got Arnie stuck in a tree.  The boys knew they could never soar from a trapeze, but they spent many of their adolescent years climbing and swinging from trees.)  Horace the Clown was surprisingly the quietest of the bunch.  He always seemed tired after each performance.  However, when the Amazing A’s were around; for that’s what the circus called them, Horace always found the stamina to amuse them.

Yes, the circus was an endless source of fun for the boys.  They brought their parents with them whenever they could, but the performers seemed to be okay with having two eager assistants on hand.  They learned that timing is everything and how to keep an audience eating out of your palm just like Edgar Elephant.  They survived the awkwardness of puberty by hanging around the sideshow “freaks” who always told them it was okay to be a little different.  Had the circus stayed around, it seemed a certainty that the Amazing A’s would join them.  Yet as the years passed, the crowds dropped off year by year.  By the time the boys were old enough to notice girls and cars, the circus had faded away.

The boys grew older and they grew wiser, but they never fully grew up.  Arnold had always enjoyed the life of a clown.  His living room was often full of people as he joked with them and took pratfalls.  He had a few more bruises than he would like, and he had taken a few broken bones when a joke got out of control, but he considered it all worth it.  He saw the smile he put on peoples’ faces.  That was enough for him.

Alfred, on the other hand, liked to juggle.  That was what he did.  He didn’t like for his hands to be busy so he always had something in one of them.  He took the skills that he had learned from Stu and Horace and spent countless hours blending the two trades into one feat.  It wasn’t something he pulled out at party tricks, but his close friends knew what to ask for.  Arnie was the performer, Alfie was the perfectionist.

Aflie’s trademark move was when he would throw bouncing balls in the air.  He’d juggle three and act like it was no big deal.  Then a ball would be replaced by a banana.  Then another.  And another.  He was juggling three bananas in the air and a bouncing ball would appear.  Soon he was juggling three bananas and three balls all at the same time.  His trick usually ended with three balls bouncing and juggling in the air with one hand, while the other helped Alfie eat the three bananas and wear the peels as a hat.  (The notable exception to this trick was when Alfie first laid eyes on his future wife.  He was so distracted that he tried to eat a ball while bouncing a banana off the ground.  He would later say that she had distracted him too completely; but also claimed it was his most rewarding performance.)

Just as the circus eventually headed off to their next destination stop, so did Arnie.  It had been a pleasant death as those things tend to go.  He died in his sleep at the age of seventy-four.  He had entertained and blessed many people in his life, as was evident by the people standing on the peripherals of the room that had every seat occupied.  As Anna returned to hers and tried to stifle her giggling, Alfie started to get up from his.  His wife patted him on the hand and turned her attention to Anna.  Alfie was not alone though, for his pet monkey, Alfonzo, had leapt from underneath Alfie’s chair and climbed up his arm.

Alfie shared a few childhood memories of the circus while Alfonzo sat on his shoulder and chewed on some fruit that Alfie had thoughtfully put in his jacket pocket.  Alfie was appearing to wrap up his salute with a story of the two brothers riding on Edgar Elephant during one of the circus’ last shows.  That was when Alfonzo began acting oddly.

Alfonzo picked three pieces of banana out of Alfie’s pocket.  He pulled them close to his chest, hopped up on Alfie’s head, and started juggling.  As the crowd chuckled and applauded, Alfonzo produced a batch of bananas and quickly began juggling six bananas in the air.  Alfonzo was not to be outdone and soon pulled three more pieces of banana from Alfie’s jacket.  The audience couldn’t contain themselves.  They roared and applauded, getting to their feet as Alfie juggled half a dozen bananas while Alfonzo juggled his.  Astonishingly, Alfie and Alfonzo traded pieces a few times.  Alfie would be juggling five bananas and one little piece while the Capuchin juggled five little pieces and one full banana.  For their finale, Alfonzo gulped down the six little pieces as they fell, one by one, into his mouth.  Arnie started to put the bananas into his pocket and ended with a single banana.  This he peeled, nibbled on, and stepped back up towards the microphone.

“You all know that my brother, Alfred, liked big productions.  So Alfie, that was for you.”



About Cosand
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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