This story

THE CIRCUS

by Robert Williams

"At long last, the BBC have finally seen sense and brought back the Doctor!" said Clive.

"Doctor who?" said Des.

"Precisely!" said Clive. "Do you realise, a whole generation of kids has grown up who have never had their own Doctor Who!"

"Knock knock!" said Wayne.

"Who's there?" said Des.

"Doctor," said Wayne.

"Doctor who?" said Des, for the second time in a few seconds.

"Ummm...errrr...oh I've forgotten the punchline..." said Wayne.

"That's not the only thing we don't have any more" said Des. "What about circuses?! There's a whole generation who have never been to the circus! I remember the days when the travelling circus used to come to town! And we'd go and watch the clowns and the acrobats and the performing animals!"

"Oh yes, those were the days," said Mick.

"So why don't they have them any more?" said Des.

"Dunno," said Mick.

"Well in that case I think we should set up our own circus!" said Des.

"Oh no," said Mick.

"Come on, haven't you ever dreamt of packing it all in and running away with the circus?!" said Des.

"No!" said Clive and Mick in unison.

"Anyway, you're too late," said Mrs Greasy, coming out of the kitchen with their lunch. "Farmer Files has just set up his own circus!"

"Brilliant!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Typical," said Des. "You come up with a good idea, and straight away, everyone's copying you!"

He decided they should go and investigate. The others agreed only because watching a circus cooked up by Farmer Files was just slightly preferable to eating lunch cooked up by Mrs Greasy. So Des drove them up to the farm in his Fiat 126 where a large tent had been erected in the middle of a field.

They peered inside the tent, and to their astonishment saw a bunch of performing pigs. Pigs standing on their hind legs, pigs balancing beach balls on their noses, pigs honking horns, even pigs dressed in clown outfits driving comedy cars. Trouble is, none of them were very good.

They walked into the tent and up to Farmer Files, who was holding a chair up at a pig which was sitting in a cage.

"Hello Farmer Files," said Des. "How's it going?"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!!" said Files. "Mornin' Des!! Mornin' Mick!! Mornin' Clive!! Welcome to Farmer Foiles's Pig Circus!!"

"Whoopee," said Mick.

"You be witnessin' foinal rehearsals for our fifth inaugural show this a'ernoon!!" said Files.

"Fifth inaugural show?!" said Mick. "How is that possible?"

"Oooooh arrrrr!!" said Files. "No one be turnin' up to the first four!!"

"And how many tickets have you sold for this show?" asked Mick.

Farmer Files started counting on his fingers. Then he took his boots off and started counting on his toes.

"Oooooh arrrrr!!! None!!" said Farmer Files, finally. "Oi just can't be understandin' it!!"

"What you need to make this circus a success," said Des, "is new management!" He grinned.

"Oooooh arrrrr!!!" said Files. "Des, you be just the man for the job!!"

"Thank you," said Des, grinning further. "Now I'm in charge, this is what you need to do. First thing, get rid of the pigs!"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!!" exclaimed Files.

"Face facts Files," said Des. "No one wants to watch a pig circus!! You need acrobats! Trapeze artists! Tight-rope walkers! Clowns!!"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!! Where am oi be goin' to be gettin' clowns and acrobats from?!" said Files.

Des looked round and grinned at Mick, Clive and Wayne. Their hearts sank.

"And of course you need performing animals!" said Des. "Lots of different animals! Not pigs, but elephants, lions, tigers, seals! You can't have a circus without animals!"

"You can't have animals," said Clive.

"What?" said Des. "What did you say?"

"You can't have animals," repeated Clive.

"What on earth are you talking about?!" said Des.

"They're banned!" said Clive. "You're not allowed to have performing animals! These days it's seen as being politically incorrect! That's why you don't get circuses any more!"

"Well that's no fun!" said Des. "What are we supposed to do instead?!"

"Just not bother?" said Mick, hopefully.

"You give in too easily!" said Des. "Remember what we were saying in the cafe! Think of all the poor, deprived kids who have never been to a circus!"

"Yes, those poor kids who have no option but to instead sit at home and play on their playstations," said Clive. "Come on, children don't want to watch a circus any more, they're more sophisticated these days!!"

"The kids who stand outside the paper shop chewing gum don't look very sophisticated to me," said Des. "Now listen. Nothing is going to stop this circus going ahead. If we can't have real animals, then we'll have...people dressed as animals!!"

He looked round and grinned at Mick, Clive and Wayne again. Their hearts sank even further.

"Okay, Mick and Clive, you're lions," said Des. "We'll get Mrs Greasy to be an elephant. Mike the Manic Mechanic and Dickie the Vicar will be seals, honking horns with their noses."

"What about me?!" said Wayne. "Please please please please please please please please please can I be a clown?! I've got some great new jokes I wanna try out!!"

"Okay," said Des.

"Please please please please please please please please please can I have absolutely nothing to do with your circus?" said Mick.

"No!" said Des.

"Hey, how come Wayne gets exactly what he wants and I get no choice whatsoever?!" said Mick. "It's not fair!"

"That's right, it's not a fair, it's a circus," said Des.

Wayne stuck his tongue out at Mick.

"What are you going to do, then?" said Mick.

"I'm going be the star attraction!" said Des. "The tightrope walker! I've always been up for daredevil stunts like that!"

"You?!?!" exclaimed Clive. "A daredevil?!?! Do me a favour!!!"

"The riskiest thing you've ever done was to start crossing the road when the green man was flashing!!" said Mick.

"He got arrested for that!" said Des.

"You just don't want to have to dress up in a daft animal costume and look totally ridiculous like the rest of us," said Mick.

"That's right," said Des.

"You'll look a whole lot more ridiculous falling off the tightrope!" said Clive.

"Which I won't," said Des. "I'll practice! Farmer Files, make me a tightrope! Please."

Farmer Files found two long poles and some rope. He fetched a ladder, knocked the poles into the ground and then tied each end of the rope to the poles. The rope was about ten feet up in the air.

"Good grief, Farmer Files, that's awfully high up, isn't it?" said Des. "I am a little bit of scared of heights, after all."

So Files climbed up the ladder again and knocked the poles further into the ground. Now the rope was five feet up.

"Hmmm, still too high," said Des.

No longer needing the ladder, Files knocked the poles a further two feet down.

"Knock them down a bit more, I don't want a nasty accident if I fall off," said Des.

Files knocked the poles another two feet into the ground.

"Hmmmm," said Des. "Bit further."

The poles went six inches further in.

"Still too high," said Des.

Files knocked the poles even further into the ground. The tightrope was now just one inch above the ground.

"Still too high," said Des.

Files knocked the poles completely into the ground and the rope was now lying across the floor. Yet Des still didn't look happy.

"Ummm...I think I'll be the ringleader instead," said Des. "You can't have a circus without a ringleader!"

"You mean ringmaster," said Clive.

"Well obviously you can't have a circus without a ring," said Des. "And you really don't have to call me master!"

"What happened to the tightrope walker then?!" said Mick. "The 'star attraction'?!"

"Tightrope walking's overrated," said Des. "Now I'm going to get you all your costumes."

But he came back with some bad news.

"It's okay, I've got myself a ringmaster's outfit all right," said Des. "But the fancy dress shop is right out of animal costumes."

"Oh dear what a shame," said Clive sarcastically.

"Thank goodness for that!" said Mick, heaving a huge sigh of relief.

"But don't worry, instead I've managed to get some animal costumes off Dickie the Vicar, which he used for his production last Christmas of 'Jerry Springer - the Musical'," said Des.

"What?!" said Mick, incredulously. "'Jerry Springer - the Musical' - with animals?!"

"That's right," said Des. "It had an entirely animal cast. That Dickie the Vicar, he likes to think outside the box!"

"Good grief," said Mick. "Well I'm glad I missed that one!"

"I saw it," said Des. "It was rubbish. Now here's your costumes, decide amongst yourselves who wants to be what."

Des opened his bags and tossed a load of animal costumes at them.

"These are fantastic costumes!" said Des. "So realistic!"

"You're only saying that because you don't have to wear one," said Clive.

"Hey!" said Mick. "Since when have they had ducks and kangaroos at circuses?!"

"Since now," said Des.

"And pigs!" said Mick. "What happened to 'no one wants to see pigs at the circus'?!?!"

"It's all I could get!" said Des. "Now stop complaining!"

The reluctant circus stars decided who was going to be what animal. It was decided that Mick would be a sheep, Clive a giraffe, Files got the pig, Mrs Greasy the hippopotamus, Mike the duck and Dickie the kangaroo.

"You're having a giraffe!" said Des to Clive.

"No, you are!" said Clive. "How am I supposed to wear this costume?!"

"It's obvious!" said Des. "You stick your head through this hole in the neck! Then we paint your face to disguise it! Simple!"

"Lucky me," said Clive.

"Now get into your costumes everyone and start rehearsing, the show starts in two hours!" said Des. "We don't want to disappoint our audience!"

"What audience?" said Mick. "Farmer Files hasn't managed to sell any tickets, has he?!"

"Oh yes, I forgot about that," said Des. "Well there's only one thing we can do. Mick and Clive, you go out into town and try and sell some tickets. And quick!!"

"Okay!" said Clive, grinning.

Farmer Files gave Mick and Clive the book of unsold tickets, and they walked off. But instead of attempting to sell them, they instead dumped them in a hedge and went down the pub. Meanwhile the rest of the crew - Mike the Manic Mechanic, Dickie the Vicar and Mrs Greasy - arrived at the circus.

"Have I got to wear this daft duck outfit?!" said Mike. "I was rather hoping to be the human cannonball!"

"Too late," said Des. "You see, I'm going for a hilarious twist on the human cannonball idea. Because our human cannonball is actually going to be - a cannonball!"

Des showed Mike the cannonball, onto which he had painted a smiley face wearing a helmet.

"I see," said Mike. "A cannonball human cannonball."

"Correct!" said Des.

For the next couple of hours the circus participants rehearsed their show. But Des got increasingly concerned, as there was no sign of Mick and Clive returning having sold their tickets.

"I'm getting a bit suspicious," said Des. "If I didn't know those two better, I'd say they've dumped all the tickets in a hedge and gone down the pub!"

So Des drove down to the pub where he found Mick and Clive.

"Oi you two, come on, we've got a circus to perform!" said Des.

"What's the point, no one's coming!" said Mick.

"Who wants a free trip to the circus?!" cried Des, turning to the rest of the pub-goers.

The pub-goers cheered.

"Well come on then!!" said Des. The pub-goers put down their pints and, much to the dismay of Mick and Clive, not to mention the landlord, followed Des out of the pub.

Des drove Mick and Clive back to the circus tent on Files's farm. Meanwhile the pub-goers had to walk, since there was obviously no way Des was going to be able to fit them all in the back of his Fiat 126.

"We're back!" said Des when they arrived back. "Now you two, get into your costumes quick, the audience will be here any minute now!"

"Oooooh arrrrrr!!!!" exclaimed Files excitedly, in his pig costume. "You be gettin' an audience??!!!"

"Oh yes, that's right!!" said Des.

"You be sellin' all the tickets?!!" said Files.

"Umm, well sort of," said Des.

"'Ave you got the money then?!" said Files.

"Ah," said Des, recalling that he had offered all the pub-goers a free trip to the circus. "I'll....see you about that later."

"Oooooh arrrrr!!!" exclaimed Files. "It be important that oi get moi cut, moi PIG empire be in trouble, and at the moment oi need all the capital oi can lay moi 'ands on!!"

"Ah right," said Des.

"How long before they arrive?!" asked Mrs Greasy the hippo.

"Won't be long!" said Des. "They're coming from the pub."

"The pub?" said Mrs G. "So they might not be too hungry when they arrive?"

"Probably not," said Des.

"Well what am I going to do with all these delicious meatballs I've cooked up for them?!" said Mrs Greasy the hippo.

"Play a game of meatball?!" suggested Mike the duck.

"You'll have to eat them instead!" said Mrs G.

"Oh botherations," sighed Des.

The circus crew reluctantly ate their meatballs as they waited for their audience to turn up. They waited...and waited...and waited... Before long it started to get dark.

"They're obviously not coming," said Clive the giraffe.

"I'm bored," said Mick the sheep.

"Anyone fancy a sing-song?" asked Des.

"Ooooh arrrr!!!" said Files the pig. "Why don't you all pop insoide moi farm'ouse with me and watch television with moi porkers?! 'Pig Brother' be on in a minute!!"

The idea of sitting on Files's sofa surrounded by smelly pigs didn't seem terribly appealing to the others, and they declined his offer. Then Files declined his own offer when he remembered that he had been so busy setting up his circus he had forgotten to renew his television licence.

"Well I'm going for a walk, get some fresh air," said Clive. "Anyone coming?"

In order to avoid the possibility of having to endure one of Des's sing-songs, the others agreed.

"I'd better carry on waiting here for our audience to arrive," said Des. "I'll call you in when they arrive. Trust me, they're on their way!"

The audience were indeed on their way - the problem being that they were extremely drunk (which is the only reason they had got excited about the idea of going to the circus) and were taking a very long time to get there. Popping into another pub on the way didn't help matters.

By the time they had made it to the lane which led to Files's farm, the pub-goers, now much reduced in number, were being extremely larey, and were walking down the middle of the lane singing drunkenly. So it was no surprise that when PC Plod came driving up the lane in a police van on his way to an appointment with the opticians, that he arrested them for being drunk and disorderly and hauled into the back of the van.

He hadn't got much further up the lane when he was amazed to come across a bunch of animals on the loose.

"'Ello ello ello!!" said Plod. "What have we here?! Let me make a note of this...a sheep...a giraffe...a pig...a kangaroo...a duck...and a hippopotamus! I'd better get this lot rounded up!!"

Plod got out of the van and carefully approached the animals. Of course they weren't animals at all, they were Mick, Clive, Mike, Mrs Greasy, Dickie and Files dressed as animals, going for their walk, along with Wayne the clown, but Plod didn't realise this because it was dark and he didn't have his contact lenses in.

"Come on you lot!" said Plod. "You're coming with me!" Despite their protestations, one by one they were hauled by PC Plod into the back of the van. "I'm taking you all to the RSPCA!"

Meanwhile Wayne the clown was left in the lane by himself.

"Hey, can't I come too?!" shouted Wayne .

But Wayne was not invited. He was the lucky one - the back of that police van was not a pleasant place to be, what with it crowded full of drunkards and people dressed as animals. Clive and Mick in particular were given an awful lot of ribbing by their drinking mates, and despite requests refused to perform any circus tricks for them.

Back at Files's farm, Wayne had rejoined Des in the circus tent.

"This is getting ridiculous," said Des. "There's no sign of any audience, and now I've lost all my animals! Where are they?!"

"They've been taken away by the police!" said Wayne.

"Have they?" said Des. "Trust them to get themselves into trouble. Oh blow this for a game of soldiers, I'm going home!"

"What about my clown act?!" said Wayne. "I've been re'earsing for nearly a minute!!"

"Perform it to yourself, I'm off," said Des, leaving the tent.

"Okay!" said Wayne.

Meanwhile the less fortunate members of the circus crew had arrived at the RSPCA in the back of PC Plod's van. Plod ordered them out of the van, and handed them over. But the RSPCA person refused to take them.

"With respect, officer, these aren't actually animals," said the RSPCA person.

"Are you sure, sir?" said Plod, squinting at them.

"Yes!" exclaimed Clive, in a rage. "Look!"

Clive threw off his giraffe costume and dumped it on the ground.

"You can't leave that lying there, sir," said Plod.

"It's not a lion, it's a giraffe," said Mike.

"So you are not actually animals," said Plod.

"Correct!" said Mick. "So can we go home now?"

"Certainly not!" said Plod. "You're all coming with me down the station on a charge of wasting police time!"

"Oh great!!!" exclaimed Mick.

So back in the police van they went, straight to the police station (via the opticians where PC Plod picked up his contact lenses). And they all had a lovely night in the cells, while Des had a lovely night in his bed, and Wayne had a lovely night telling jokes to himself. The subject of circuses was never brought up again.


Copyright © Robert Williams
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