An owl coos into a stiffening wind,
removed from where several town homes stand quietly in this pre-dawn,
rainy, hour. There are cement walkways leading in all directions. One
path in particular bends to the far end of the manicured grounds to
where a battery of outdoor mailboxes are clustered. Upon closer inspection
one residence reads especially worthy. The Mentals: Mary & Marvin.
Voices are heard…“Are you sure you can’t come
with me to visit my mother?”…
“I’d love to, Mary. But my cold needs a few
more days of rest. “
Inside a spacious room light from the parking
lot illuminates both people. Marvin lays on his side across a wide bed,
tightening the collar of his pajama top about his neck hiding true intent.
Across the room Mary is seated in front of a
computer that has a clown on the screen.
“What is it with you and the internet? It’s
filled with weird people. “
“That’s where I met you.“ She turns.
“That’s different. I like me. But I don’t like
She walks to the bathroom, with a round buttocks
that disappears when the door closes behind her with a thud. Thrusting
shower water is heard through the door.
“If she knew about my plans after she and the
kids leave for the weekend I’d be the one in hot water “ he mumbles.
“I need a towel! “ She calls, through hanging
steam, wiping mounting soap from her eyes.
“Coming, my desert flower“ he accepts sheepishly;
quickly gathering a towel, proceeding to the bathroom mumbling. “I know
what I’d like to give her.“ The door opens.
“What’s that, Honey? “
“A maid of your very own “ He hands her the
towel then turns away.
“Not so fast, big boy. “ Her bare arm protrudes
from behind the shower curtain.
“Didn’t you forget something? “ She motions him
closer then reaches out, snatching Marvin inside with her. Passionate
“Where’d you learn to talk like that? “ They
stare. She unbuttons his shirt
“The internet. Where else?“
He whistles through the darkness.
“Whistling in the dark is bad luck. “ Her voice
is now soft and sexy.
“ Maybe for others, but not me.”
The clown on the computer screen winks.
Marvin is in an enclosed porch looking at a
photo of Mary. Sadly, he remembers her last words as she stood in the
doorway, luggage in hand, prepared to leave for a dingy taxi waiting
in the drizzle that can only help the cab’s exterior. Her tone is playful
with an stinging air of ‘now that you’re caught’ in her voice. She playfully
pinches his cheek. “Was Daddy planning to be Mister Single tonight while
I’m half-way across the country?“ She authoritatively pinches his cheek.
“Not anymore. “ Red faced he sulks. The impatient
cab driver honks the horn, and away Mary jaunts.
Back to present day, Marvin begins whistling
“Where’s Mommy?” His twin girls, each wearing
identical pink outfits, hop onto his lap causing him crotch discomfort.
“Ouch! “ He adjusts his seated posture. “She
went to visit Grandma for a few days.” He corals them appearing somewhat
“Can we have a dog? “ One asks.
“You had a dog when you were little.“
“Times were different then.“
“Aren’t times different now?“
“No, it’s the same.“ (Logic only works when
someone is listening.) “Anybody hungry? “
“Meee,” calls the taller, the one missing a
left, front, tooth.
“Meee-2,“smiles the second girl not to be outdone
by her sister.
“I’ll race-ya,“ He initiates.
The girls hop away from his lap springing for
the hall, in the process kicking Marvin where he would prefer to be
un-kicked. “This is child abuse if ever I’ve seen it. They’re kicking
the crap out of me.“
“Are you ok, Daddy?
Doubled-over, he can barely breathe. “I’m fine.“
With that the children disappear into the hall, and down the stairs
to the kitchen. He picks up the telephone. “I’ll call my dopey brother
to take the kids until Sunday night. He’s never let me down before when
I needed a favor.
On the other end a man answers the telephone.
“Hello? “ he asks with annoyance --perhaps clairvoyant.
“I need a favor.” The line goes dead. “I should
never have called that worthless dope a worthless dope. “ Marvin concludes.
By late afternoon dark, threatening, clouds have helped the weather
Inside the kitchen, all is much worse. The girls,
wearing tall chef hats, are behind the stove. Rising smoke layers soot
to every the walls. The twins agree by slapping-five.
“Fire! “ one of the girls chuckles.
“We have a fire. Yell for water. “ Her sister
Marvin rushes into view, immediately doused
by the girls who hold the sink sprayer.
“Why didn’t I think of that?” He mutters, taking
the nozzle from the bubbly little one. A saucer is thrown at him. He
ducks, and when his head addresses itself to the counter he staggers
before falling to the tile floor. He passes out.
A full moon accompanies nightfall. Inside the
home, floor level, Marvin opens one eye. The room swirls in eerie silence.
After winning the battle to stand he does so, staggering from room to
room searching. “Girls.You can come out now.“ His steps hasten, producing
an increasingly frantic “Girls!?” Still nothing.
Outside there is the sound of a small truck starting
and driving away disturbing no one. Left behind is a torn admission
ticket to Circus Miraculous.
The circus reminds everyone of clean, quality
family time, of a value system rapidly vanishing. It tantalizes us with
its high centered tents and the accoutrements of sawdust, bombastic
drums and cymbals, wild animal and all the enticing sights and smells,
all of which are sugar-coated when the man on stilts approaches with
more cotton candy than anyone could in a dozen lifetimes. What a nice
day to be out. Though every day one can get out of bed is a nice day.
And if a person were not looking for their lost children, a trip to
the circus would seem special, almost magical.
Assorted multi-colored juggling clowns peddle
unicycles past a late model sedan that jerks to a halt. Marvin looks
out from the driver’s seat. He thinks, “Forget the kids. When the wife
finds out I let them run away from home I’m as good as dead. “ He envisions
a raving Mary, who points while she yells.
In the moderate distance are canvas tents set
up on a spacious field, resembling a small city placed in the middle
of nowhere. Marvin walks the dirt road to the show grounds via the midway;
the area outside the main entrance that is lined with concessionaires,
rides, and mini side shows each of which uniquely spells out “Welcome
to the second greatest show on earth! “. Swelling crowds filter in,
past a blinking sign displaying: Circus Miraculous.
Short roustabouts kneel to adjust a tie that
holds the tent secure. Watching from many rows behind the center ring
Marvin sits surrounded by eager children all of whom gaze at the ringmaster
in awe. Then the lights dissolve sending the indoor area into blackness.
When the lights brighten Marvin sees an array of juggling clowns positioning
his daughters, juggling them around and around. Marvin hops to his feet.
“I want those two girls!”
“Pervert in the house! “ shouts a demonstrative
parent. Marvin leaps from his fold-out chair, flailing his arms; which
the woman beside him interprets as inappropriate touching She draws
her purse and begins pelting him feverishly. Security guards rush in.
“I want those two little girls! “ Marvin struggles.
“In case you haven’t heard, Mister. There are
laws against that.“
“You don’t understand. Those are my kids.“ Marvin
“Time to leave.“ The guards grapple with Marvin,
dragging him to the exit.
Within seconds Marvin tumbles outside, rolling
across animal droppings before finally coming to a stop at a midget’s
feet. “Everyone’s entitled to a bad day, but this is absurd.“
“Pssst. “ The midget stands over Marvin while
smoking a cigarette.
“Anybody ever tell you, smoking will stunt your
growth? “ Marvin looks up at the midget.
“Not lately. “ The diminutive one snaps.
“I hear, the boss took-on two new roustabouts
this morning to help with the canvas crew. From what I gather, they’re
about the size people you’re looking for. “ He motions to himself. “
And I outta know.” A direct stare from him to Marvin. “ The information
will cost you…I could be in a lot of trouble around her if the others
see me talking to a townie. “
“What’s a ‘townie’? “
“An outsider. “ He says with disgust. “A local.
“My kids working here? What you’re saying is
against child labor laws. “
“Are you in, or out? “
“Two ‘hows.’ How can I trust you? And how much?“
Marvin squints with suspicious thoughts of being the victim of a rouse.
“Twenty bucks.“ Marvin abruptly turns away.
“Do you want to see your kids again, or not?
You’ve got two kids. Around here accidents happen in threes. The way
I see it, there's one more strike coming to you.
Marvin remembers his children running rampant
around the home, destroying everything in their path.
“My interest in this conversation is dwindling.“
the midget announces. His short fingers begin to receive the bills Marvin
counts. “Walk this way. “ Marvin mimics the midget, toward the far end,
past a string of outhouses. The midget stops. He walks into the back
of him. “Not too close.“ He rolls his eyes angrily, “I don’t want people
thinking we’re related.“
From the rear of the center tent, through thick,
old style, curtains fold back just enough for Marvin to see his twins
about to walk the high-wire. “Oh, no!” Marvin gasps, trying to get around
the midget, running for an extended ladder. When he jumps on it the
ladder humorously wiggles. He falls. He starts climbing the main quarter
pole, but slides when reaching the part that is greased.
The girls look down from the high wire riding
bicycles across the taught cable toward each other. The audience loves
it until one of the twins falls! Marvin runs, slipping on a banana peel,
crashing into a mound of stacked bowling pins. The girl hits a trampoline,
bouncing back to a lower cable.
“Daddy!” calls her sister. “Over here! “
Marvin takes a balance pole and vaults up to
high wire. It is too late. The girls are gone. The crowd cheers, knowing
this is all part of the splendid show.
Meanwhile, an elephant extends to scoop the girls,
placing them on its back. Marvin takes a diving leap onto a large ball,
bouncing up and onto the elephant’s back. “Safe, at last.“ He pants.
The elephant raises on its hind legs, sending itself and the girls sliding
backwards into the lion’s area.
“I spoke too soooooon! “ Marvin shrieks.
The lion’s mouth springs open to catch them.
From afar the midget tosses the broken balance pole into the lion’s
mouth, wedging it open, and out the girls trot from its dripping mouth.
The crowd roars.
The lion runs in a circle trying to get the stick
out of its sore mouth. Assorted acrobats run to assist. An ostrich trots
in with Marvin on its back. He reaches down and scoops up his kids,
“ I’d like to stay, but that would prevent me from leaving.“ Marvin
pants. And to the exit they trot away.
“More! More! “ the crowd exalts,
“Are you out there!?” A woman’s voice calls…
Marvin’s perspiring face twitches during this
“I need a towel! “ Mary calls from inside the
bathroom, having turned off the shower water, listening for him. “
His eyes spring open. He walks to the bathroom
holding a towel. He goes inside.
“I’ve been calling you forever. What took you
so long? What happened? “
“I had the strangest dream. “
She takes the towel and begins drying herself.
“Are you sure you can’t come with me to visit my mother?”
“I’d love to, Mary. Suddenly, I feel better.
“ He smiles with fatigue. "It’s been too long since I saw dear
ole’ Mom. "
“Marvin, you’re more mental than I thought. “