Joel the Sleepwalker:
                 At the Circus

by Sister Margaret Sutton, rsm

                  Screech!  Tires skidded to a sudden stop.  “Hey,” shouted Joel as he stepped quickly off the country road.

          Seeing a small boy, barefoot and in P.J.’s, farmer Kirk called   aloud, “Lad, what’s up?  It’s early morning and the sun won’t be up for another hour.  Want a ride?”

          “No.  I’m going to the circus.  It’s right over there,” Joel answered, pointing to a dark, open field.

          “What’s your name, little man?’ asked Mr. Kirk, hoping to keep a conversation going.

          “My name is Joel, and I’m not a little man.  I’m already four.  I know my way.  I don’t need a ride.”     

          As Mr. Kirk made a “U” turn, Joel thought,  “I bet he will try to find my house, and Mom doesn’t even know I’m out.”

          As Joel turned to go ‘right over there’, a swarm of fireflies announced their presence by flashing their lights at the very same time.

          “Oh, thanks for the lights, fireflies.  Now I can see,” greeted Joel.

Forming a line, the fireflies lit the way to the place Joel hoped to find--the underground dugout where circus animals waited to perform.

          Joel heard the sound of  “cuckoo, cuckoo,” as he reached the entrance.

          “Come inside and enjoy your time with us,” a cuckoo bird said, as his head went down and his tail went up in a quick bow.  He pulled a string with his beak and the door flew open.  All the fireflies filed in.  They took places around the edge of a high canopy that covered the secret, circular space.  From there they would flicker their lights so Joel could see the actors.

          “But how can I get through this small door? Joel asked himself.”  Then, “What is happening?  Am I getting smaller or is the door getting bigger?  Well, I don’t care now.  I’m in!”

          “Wow, what decorations!  That spider web glistens like silver,” Joel exclaimed, looking up in wonder.

          “Not like silver—like crystal,” interrupted the spider who had spun the web for the occasion.

          “Tiny monkeys are playing on it.  That must be fun,” Joel said, as he watched them frolic on the strands.  “Their bright tuxedos remind me of Christmas tree lights for they make the crystal glitter.  Or is it the other way around?  Wait ‘til I tell Mom.”  I wonder if she’s missing me.   The fireflies were delighted that Joel was so happy; they giggled with glee and made their lights flicker faster.

          Joel watched the playful monkeys leap, take each other’s hands and swing far out.  Some wrapped their tails around the web and let loose.  Joel was absorbed in their antics.

          Music began to play, top lights flickered and an announcer welcomed Joel.  At once he knew that the monkey’s performance was not the total entertainment.  “But I won’t be able to see from down here,” Joel said.  Just then the spider spun a strand of web, tied a special knot at the end, and lowered it on a pulley.  Joel curled up around the knot and hung on. In no time he was towed up to a high seat in the already-formed web.  He sat among the monkeys who now sat quietly on private strands.  The music had called.  “Fun.  Now I can see.  Thanks,” Joel said from his heart. 

          Upper lights blinked twice, then became bright to hail the  “King of beasts”.  Charming cats, costumed in sparkling sun suits, pranced in behind him.  They stepped lightly and quickly, twisting even as did their batons.  Drums, horns, bells, and bugles set the rhythm.   Tigers, dressed in red and gold uniforms marched in on their hind legs. 

                   “Something is different around here,” Joel said.  “They don’t even seem to be as tall as I am.”

                   “Remember,” said the spider, “everyone here is tiny, but we are great.”

                   As Joel watched the well-trained, and delightfully-colored performers, he answered the spider.  “Yes, you are great, and it looks like all of this is just for me.” Joel clapped his hands when he heard the monkeys say in unison, “Yes, just for you.  Just for you.”

                   A spotlight accented the far entrance.  As cymbals crashed, a baby elephant came toward the center stage.  Shiny cloth with fringe on the lower edges draped the elephant’s back.  Tiny lights flashed from the fringes. Their twinkles attracted a baby mouse who dashed onto the floor where she could be seen.

                   “Fancy seeing you here.  Hi,” the baby elephant said. 

                   That’s all the mouse needed.  She set off running up the elephant’s leg, out to the tip of his trunk, and whe-e-e!  The elephant lifted her, gave a quick jerk, and right on his back sat the little mouse, as big as you please. 

                   When monkeys on the web began to clap, the mouse stood and took a bow.  She twirled, danced, and did stunts like an acrobat.  Then, tip-toeing across the back she slid down the elephant’s leg to the floor.  As if to tease, she ran in, out, and around his legs, dashing helter-skelter.  “Cute,” Joel said as she made one bee-line for the exit.

                   Saying goodbye and thanks for all the cheers, the baby elephant raised his trunk, twisted it to look like a pretzel, and then did a quick tapping step with his front feet.  Lifting them, he turned, untwisted his trunk, and pranced around until music gave him his cue to leave.  Cheering continued till the music softened.

                   As the music picked up tempo a happy bear cub, dressed as a clown, peeked through the curtain waving both arms.  He then entered doing handsprings until he arrived at the center under a spotlight.  Joel screamed with laughter as he watched the clown bounce into the air, having springs on the soles of his shoes.   He bounced up and down, up and down.  The third time to come down he landed on a pony’s back; the pony had sensed the exact moment to enter.

                   “Fun.  Wait till I tell Mom,” Joel said excitedly, as he watched the tiny clown spring in all directions like a putty ball.  “It seems like his feet have the hiccups,” Joel told a spider.

                   The fireflies got so excited when the clown  bounced into a wagon pulled by a grasshopper.  They flickered their lights all at once.  As the grasshopper took a leap the wagon tilted backward, but the clown held his own.  The exit door opened for their one last leap.

                   “Look,” Joel called out.  “A kangaroo is wheeling in on a bicycle.  She has her baby in her pouch.  Isn’t that cute?”  Joel followed every movement, and his smile showed deep satisfaction.

                   Mrs. kangaroo squeezed a bottle and sprayed water on the flowers tied to the handlebars.  It ticked her nose.  “That’s funny,” Joel said aloud.  But it wasn’t as funny as seeing baby kangaroo jump from the pouch, put on skates, and take off at her mother’s side.  Holding hands they went very fast to keep ahead of he clown who came bouncing back through a side entrance.  He lifted the little one into his arms, and made small jumps into the air.  The baby kangaroo laughed and laughed.  She had everyone laughing with her.  She was given one extra high jump into the air before the clown placed her on the floor directing her with one big push.  She rolled right through the opened curtain exit.  Waiving to Joel, the clown did a handspring and bounced right out, followed by Mrs. Kangaroo who reached for her darling.

                   “I want to remember this,” said Joel, “and how the clown was dressed.” Flowers were all over his shirt.  His purple and yellow hat had  ornaments that dangled and twirled.  His full pants were of many colors and fit tight around the ankles.  He had a big, red felt nose over his own, yellow hair that flew all over as he jumped, and wide, blue eyebrows that went part ways under his hat.  His eyes lit up every time he bit on the tube he held in his mouth.  “Fun.  I’ve got to tell Mom.”  I wonder if she is missing me.”

                   One special butterfly came to sit on Joel’s shoulder to tell him the circus was nearly over.  What will Mom think if she finds my bed empty, Joel wondered.  But the thought left him when he remembered there was still more.

                   The music got louder, fuller, and peppier as everyone came in to bid farewell and say thanks to Joel for coming. They loved to perform.

                   The baby Kangaroo, sitting on the shoulder of the clown, blew a whistle and the began to sing:

         

Thanks to Joel, our small guest

          It has been our pleasure.

Next time come and bring your friends

           For fun they cannot measure.

 

 

          Butterflies began surrounding Joel with wings for protection as he was let down to the floor by a pulley.  “I’m supposed to be sleeping,” he said to the pure white butterfly who seemed to be the leader.  “Can you help me get back to bed?”

          “Yes, of course.  That’s why we care here.  We know the way.  It’s almost time for sunrise.  So let’s go home before someone sees you.”

          As they traveled, the butterflies flitted in and out, for Joel was pretty slow; sleep was in his eyes.  But, yes, they did make it to his bed on time—on time before farmer Kirk could report a missing lad.  Joel smiled from pure satisfaction, and thanked his guides for rescuing him.                

          “That’s the best circus there could ever be, Mom,” said Joel when she awakened him for breakfast.  “I might be a clown when I grow up.  I can make people happy and give them plenty of laughs.  I would like that!  Yeah, that’s what I want to be when I grow up.

          “When you grow up?” asked Mom.  “Would you like me to make you a costume and get you set up today?”

          “Really?  Oh, thanks, Mom.  I know just what a clown looks like.  This will be fun.  I can go out and make other kids happy.  That’s what I really want to do.  WOW!

          With that, he cartwheeled out of bed with a style all his own.

 

Joel the Clown
 

 

   

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