Every year the circus would stop in a spot by the sea, alongside a traveling fair. There a gypsy lady offered to tell his fortune but he declined, having no need of the future. One night, when he was almost grown, he went with a bunch of other circus kids to the fair to take some rides. There was a girl who stepped the high wire, a girl of dark hair and sparkling eyes. She took him to the top of the ferris wheel because she liked high places, and there she kissed his painted smile but no matter how hard he tried, he could not leave an imprint on her face.

So he took her to the rifle range and won for her a plush rabbit of the softest and tenderest pink. He whirled her in the waltzers, and up among the stars. He took her down beside the sea and played his spoons for her, and there by the waves he took his heart and tucked it in the pocket of her spangled costume. But she just laughed, and ran away.
- if you can catch me, you can keep me, she cried

And he chased after her, across the night beach of burning fires, back to the fair. He chased her up the rollercoaster and down the other side. He chased her through the funhouse, though everybody laughed at him. He chased her through the ghost train even though he was afraid of the skeletons. He broke free of their bony hands and chased her still, but she was fast, and his clown shoes slowed him down. At last he chased her into the hall of mirrors, thinking he could corner her there.
But she went right through the glass, where he could not follow her. He called and called, and pressed his face against the mirror searching for her, but he could not see inside. When at last he drew back he saw himself in the mirror, minus his smile.

 

 

 

<the painted smile