Step Right Up!

Sideshow mysteries through a child’s eyes.

A favorite memory: A traveling carnival; a sideshow. There with my father — just him and me — and still young enough to enjoy the clowns and think the World’s Smallest Horse really is the world’s smallest, and to smile and wave at the Fat Lady.

And at the Rubber-Band Woman — short-cropped hair, blue spandex suit, crawling into a box the size of a child’s coffin that would be sliced and diced with guillotine blades and skewered with swords. Me, still small enough to need a crate to see over the edge and through the plastic lid and down at the Rubber-Band Woman, a snakes-nest of blue limbs twisting around and about and through the razor-sharp steel, plus a head — safe and sound enough to look up and meet my smile half-way.

Earlier this week: “Step right up, step right up!” the barker cried. “See the secret of the Rubber Band Girl! For the price of just one dollar, one little dollar, see if she’s safe and sound, or skewered by these many blades!”

I had a dollar, but I didn’t spend it. I knew she was safe and sound. I had the memory — why spend a dollar to mess with a good thing?

Article © 2006 by Steve Spotswood