Don't worry, there are no clowns at this circus, so you can relax. Enjoy some fluffy cotton candy or popcorn, buttered of course, and probably too salty. At some point, a man wearing a costume, may or may not successfully get a tiger to jump through hoops of fire. There is scratchy music coming from corners of the tent, and the restless ruffle of people who want entertainment.

The tightrope walkers and acrobats are assorted members of a large family. Their bodies and faces have slight variations. They don't speak English, nor any language for that matter. They communicate with a nod, a tilt of the head, a slight hand movement, eyes meeting eyes. They perform with a safety net, but the net is worn, old, tattered, and there are holes the audience cannot see in the dim light.

Seated halfway up on the bleachers, there is a young girl eating red licorice. She is thinking of a fish she saw last winter, trapped but alive, barely moving underneath a thin crust of ice at the edge of a pond. But that was back when life was a bit more clear, certainly more predictable or so she felt, tentatively edging the front of a green waterproof boot onto the glassy ice, sending cracks in several directions. If she had applied her weight, she wonders whether the fish would have been grateful.

A woman who has seen better days will circle the main ring on a tired white horse. She will be wearing too much pancake make-up and a glittery costume. She and the horse know the routine by heart. A few sequins and feathers will fall into the sawdust. The horse is mostly blind. The woman has had two back surgeries but the scars are hidden. Long ago, she rode an elephant but it died. The woman no longer remembers the elephant's name, but the scent of straw reminds her of how humble and gentle he had been for such a large beast.

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