Doctor Harold Majolica and the Sideshow

August 30, 2012 at 11:09 am (circus, Doctor Majolica) (, , , , , )

All the lonely old bastards and freaks join a circus at some point. That would have been close to fact one hundred years ago, maybe even fifty. But today it seems unthinkable – a well educated bird from a clean, prosperous town was destined at one pivotal moment of misjudgement to adopt a gaggle of misanthropes and perverts as his family. For a short time, I am relieved to observe. I have a new job set up for me over in the next county west, but I don’t want to think about that yet. It’s not much more pleasant than my current employment, but I get to live in the one nest and the reek of failure is a little less Victorian in vintage.

I won’t miss many of them for long. It makes a change to be employed somewhere with other animals, but most of them are from more exotic places than I and we don’t have much to talk about. The lions boast tediously, the horses only seem interested in their costumes. Of the humans there were a few memorable characters. Develon the strongman has an acute lack of self esteem which I find endearing. One of the trapeze twins goes out of her way to be kind to me, the one with the slightly longer nose and crooked brow. I can never keep her name separate in my mind from that of her sour sister, her memory will fade quicker than I’d like. Richelle, Nadine, whoever you were; I am sorry. There is one who I feel will stay with me for long time – the unbelievable, the uncanny Garry “The Squawker” Davis. While working the drain on Gale Street as a Constricted Object Retrieval Specialist, I’d received my offer to join this circus from a greasy young lad, whose job I found later to be some strange merge between barker, stable boy and recruitment officer. He introduced me to the ensemble in the canteen as though I were the punch line to a joke they’d all been aching for. Nadine, or Richelle, (the shorter nosed twin) didn’t even bother to hide her giggles when I was introduced.

As laughter subsided I noticed a fellow hunched over his meal at the dining table. A scrawny middle aged man covered in irony grey fuzz, with the tiniest paunch resting on his bone-thin frame like some monstrous pregnant belly. He wore no shirt. His legs were like knotted pipe cleaners, his arms may once have been similar, but they had been separated from his torso a long time ago. Now his shoulders ended in a pair of lopsided grey wings, a little shorter than my own had been. They spasmed and flapped sluggishly. His fork rested between the toes of his left foot.

We became friends, partly because everyone acted as though it had to happen. I juggled, quite badly, but no one in the audience seemed to mind since they’d never seen a crow juggle before. Garry’s act was more sideshow. The wings gave him no talent or even visual intrigue being so grotesque and tiny. It was not enough for poor Garry to stand in the ring in the same way the bearded lady or three armed man could, their very presence giving enough gawp for any audience. Garry had to put on a show, his stage name “The Squawker” was part of a larger act. He pretended to be a simpleton with a country-gothic aesthetic, whose cursed bird appendages had given him a fixation with flight which his hilarious little bird wings only emphasised as futile. He’d lunge about the ring cooing and throwing himself off any structure he could climb arms-free. Part pratfall, part freak, part myth. He was quite popular.

Garry and I never shared a stage. I can’t fly any better than he can with these weighty hands. Besides, Garry never showed any interest in putting an act together ourselves and, despite the prods and hints of the rest of the cast, the Ringmaster seemed ambivalent. Next Thursday I start my new job. I’ll miss Garry, I’m sure of that – but I reckon I’ll be happier if I never see such a sharp and misshapen reminder of my own mistakes ever again. But my own mistake: that’s a story for another time.

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