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The Policemen’s Circus for At-Risk Youth

The caller on the cell phone connection promised that it was okay to say no, but Blayne had his doubts. How did the man get his cell phone number, and wasn’t it unusual to get a solicitation on a cell phone? The man seemed to know an awful lot about Blayne Bevel, about the Krupp-Bevel family and about things like his credit card number. Blayne agreed to buy two tickets to The Policeman’s Circus for At-Risk Youth.

“But what about your twins?” the cop asked. “Were you planning to hire a babysitter?”

“How did you know about the twins?”

“Aren’t your twins four years old? Perfect age! They put on a great show under the big top. Can we put you down for four? You won’t regret it. Do it for the our kids. Looking at your annual income it looks like you can afford it.”

Blayne had always been an easy mark. He hired Gypsies to seal his driveway, he was talked into extended warranties and he didn’t test well. With the game on the line he choked. In high school, he would be paralyzed asking girls out on dates. He kept a drug store diary with a key to record his anxieties. He  married into his wife’s children. Helga Krupp informed him of their wedding plans on the first date and Blayne didn’t argue. She insisted on a duplicate diary key. She was half a foot taller.

“Put me down for four,” he said.

“That’s the sport. Could you confirm that the security code on the back of the card is 433?”

Helga hit the ceiling.  “Eighty bucks for a two-bit circus!” she exclaimed.

“You don’t understand,” he replied, “they knew everything about me, and we don’t actually have to go.”

“For eighty dollars you better believe we’re going,” she said.

“The Big Top” was nothing  more than a quilt of blue tarps tied together and propped by several sagging PVC pipes. There was a small circus ring in the middle. It was a dismal show. Overweight policemen near retirement age performing poor quality acrobatics. The wild animal show consisted of five mangey German Shepherds  whipped  into submission by a crew cut “lion tamer” attired in police issue motor cycle pants and boots and a red cordoroy smoking jacket.

The 100 or so spectators, who generally had the demeanor of a defendant in a communist show trial, included approximately twenty “at-risk youth” in their early teens seated in the front row. Confetti water was thrown,  twenty foot hankerchiefs were pulled. A testament to the social compact, Blayne thought, that a group of juvenile deliquents with bleak futures would pretend to laugh at forlorn police clowns who would one day drive them to jail. He was so relieved that the show was over that he bought everyone slurpees on the way home.

And so another year came to pass and with it another call to Blayne’s cellphone. It was a disposable phone this time, with a new number.  Blayne didn’t take the call. And he pleaded with Helga to avoid answering the phone under any circumstances. But, later that week he was stopped for driving 37 in a 35 mph zone. He tried to appeal the citation, only the traffic judge refused to dismiss the case though 37 was within the legal margin of error. The judge rubbed his clammy hands and refused to pass the case to muncipal court.  “I can’t, I just can’t,” he mumbled.

The next day, Blayne came home and discovered a cat burgler. He chased the burgler away with a baseball bat and even copied the license plate number of getaway car. Blayne waited  hours for the police to arrive and take a statement. They never came. A detective appeared at Blayne’s doorstep the next day to investigate Blayne for assault. The burgler filed a complaint. As soon as the detective left the telephone rang. He answered.   “Yes, put me down for four tickets,” Blayne said.

“You won’t regret it,” the salesman said, “this promises to be the best show ever.”

Of course, the show was worse than any show ever. This time Blayne counted only five at-risk youth , and these lads were bound at the legs to cheap resin chairs with riot ties. And this time they did not pretend to laugh at the desperate antics of the police clowns as they tazered each another with real tazers and maced each other with real mace. At one point a black officer wearing exagerrated gangsta attire stood before the crowd and exclaimed, “Can’t we all just get along.”  At that moment a clown car drove into the ring with a dozen keystone kops who got out and viciously beat the man as he lay on the ground. The crowd gaped.

 There was only one “lion” this time, its back was so completely whip-scarred there wasn’t any hair left. At one point, a trapeze artist lost his momentum and hung suspended above the ring. A ladder appeared. Blayne worried that the policemen would try hide their shame by shooting the entire audience and he began to mentally plan an escape.

When all seemed lost, the lawmen convened a meeting in the middle of the ring. The normally cowed audience became restless. Blayne witnessed a heated debate featuring tears and gesticulations. A metal pan eight feet in diameter was carried inside and filled with several barrels of kerosene.    After a miscue, a Cirque D’ Soleil soundtrack was played on a boom box and the pan was iginited with a thrown match. Then a “highwire” performer began to inch his way along a nylon rope suspended not two feet above the flaming pool. The rope was taunt and the short potbellied leotard clad policeman crept over the fire holding a balancing rod.

At first, the at-risk youth were transfixed. The walker stepped across with surprising agility as the flames lapped his feet. There were two or three close calls when he began to lose his balance, but in each case he deftly righted himself. He was making excellent progress and it looked like he might actually made it across when  Blayne noticed that the nylon was beginning to melt. He wanted to shout  a warning. It was too late. The rope snapped and the man fell into the pool. Flaming kerosene flooded the entire floor and the immolated performer ran wildly throughout the crowd setting scores of others on fire.

Blayne grabbed Helga by her hair and the twins by their shirts and dragged them under the tent and out into the cold night. The last thing he saw was a dragon made of fire. Blayne had always been fascinated by fire. All inside were surely killed. The twins demanded slurpees. The story never made the papers and Blayne was never bothered after that. There was no retaliation. From that moment on he drove as fast as he wanted.

After that night, he began to wear a belt buckle with a triple B design that Helga had once given him for his birthday as a private joke.  Blayne Buford Bevel. His father named him after General Buford of Gettysberg. He told acquaintances that it stood for “big brass balls.” He beat his wife and sex was better than ever. He insisted that the family name no longer include Krupp. Helga had Blayne’s baby, Bradford Buford Bevel, Brad for short. Blayne neglected his adopted twins after the new son and heir was born. “They’re lucky to be alive,” he said.

Everyone gave him new found respect.

Epilogue

Some two years later, while vacationing 800 miles away near The Grand  Tetons, the Bevel’s mini-van was stopped while doing 80 in a 70 by  the Wyoming State Patrol. Blayne had his license and proof of insurance ready, but the trooper merely leaned down pensively by the driver window and said, “You have no idea the kind of pressure we’re under. How difficult it is to face the day, to face the evil. Each of us carries a great weight. We don’t expect the people to love us, or even to forgive what happened. We just want understanding.” The two men prayed together on their knees.

Comments

  1. Jonathan Potter says:

    Wow! Another twisted fable from the pen of Webb at long last. Love it.

  2. Jonathan Potter says:
  3. Jonathan Webb says:

    Thanks Jonathan. Needs work to find a voice, but that could have taken years.

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