The Last Hurrah

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When he was six the circus toured to the town near the commune where his family lived and his parents told him it was ungodly and he was too young, which he already knew to interpret as it being too wonderful and they too poor. After it moved on his parents wouldn’t bother punishing his curiosity so he roamed the dusty straw-strewn grounds like an archaeologist exploring another word he would never know.

The circus-folk were very tidy despite the mess their animals left, and it was a full afternoon of ‘walkabout prayer’ before he stumbled on the smallest speck of circus paraphernalia. But when he found it, he knew it was IT.

The Cygnet Circus’s logo was the only thing left of the charred poster—a young swan in flight—as if the otherworldly artifice had been scoured away with brimstone leaving only three legible letters

Had he seen the whole poster he may have become entirely sure of a different calling, but the large portrait of Malvolio – the circus’ star attraction denoted as the ‘funniest man in make-up’ – had been burned by the clown himself, who had been cursed with a brain that considered much too much at all times

Instead, the boy thought ‘why not me?’ and knew ‘not me’ was not in the eternal shuffle of cards for him. All week their morning prayers had been about witnessing signs of the Lord every day.

*

Whenever anyone happened upon his flapping he would quickly turn it into fits of holy spirit and the other Folk would shake their heads at how he had received an unfortunate touch from the Lord and counted themselves lucky for their bouts of tongues or their deftness handling serpents.

The circus finally returned in the summer of his fourteenth year and despite all his flapping he had only left the ground under his leg’s propulsion or when shoved from behind by another of the Folk, which happened bi-weekly at least.

And he once more found assurance in The Words, as all that month their daily morning prayers were focused on piety and blind faith but most importantly, about the Lord’s message being everywhere.

In town, the bright cyan flyers advertised the last hurrah of Malvolio, a clown known the world-over to be the cure of any ill. The boy did not see the flyers, but he heard tell of the circus’s return and that was the only prompting he needed, aside from the life he experienced among the Folk. He would certainly not have believed the clown capable of such a feat, though he would be doubtless of its divine veracity as a sign that, in his heart, he knew what he must do.

On the last day of the circus the boy climbed the clock tower looming over the big top and flew.

On the ground pacing nervously, Malvolio the Clown, trying to defend his mind from the temptations of nihilism, saw the boy leap. He knew, that if there truly were infinite universes as many theoretical physicists believed, in one of those universes the boy’s earnestly flapping arms would sprout angelic wings and he would lift off over the circus that night reborn—yet despite focusing his entire being on willing his consciousness into that universe he was left to this existence and the inevitable cycle of clean-up and break-down.

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