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Send in the Clowns

This is a work of the author’s imagination, an alchemy of memory and soul’s longing.

Beth joined the turn-lefters, pulled off the highway, and found a park beneath a giant fig tree before the twins even registered. Then heads turned like open-mouthed clowns. Confusion; at last, the dawning.

They’d been restless, constrained by seatbelts and resigned to weekends of bushwalks, caves of glow worms, and low-ropes courses. Today, they were expecting the waterfall trail in the hinterland. Physical activity. When the inevitable had occurred—“Muuuum, he’s being mean to me.” Lucy-Ann kicked at her brother. “Am not,” Jack cried back, slumped in his seat with a huff, rubbed at his scrunched nose—Beth hadn’t intervened. She tried not to exercise her power too often, not since the mums at the school gate had asked how she managed to get the twins to listen and do: the first time, every time.

“Unnatural,” they’d muttered, envious. “Considering . . . ” Marking Beth as different on two counts.

“Are we there yet?” asked Lucy-Ann, blinking rapidly at Jack, her glass-green eyes a mirror for his. She sucked the ends of her fringe into spikes.

Beth nodded, smiled. She’d made one of each. They were seven years old and she still had to pinch herself. Mainly to stop staring at the twins in a manner that bordered on obsessive. Was this normal? There were only two names Beth could have bestowed on a boy and a girl with red hair and freckles—though Enid Blyton’s Jack and Lucy-Ann weren’t twins, but siblings, adopted by the Mannerings in the Adventure Stories.

The striped tent on the oval was unmissable, unmistakeable.

Jack flung off his seatbelt. “A circus? I can’t believe it!”

He was out the door before his words sank in. Had Beth done the right thing? Yes, she decided as she scrambled from the car. It was the trickery, the set up. They’d watched that documentary about children in family circus troupes, witnessed the behind-the-scenes grind of mucking out animal cages, washing leotards, endless rehearsal and injury. The hardened faces under paint.

She caught at a twig-thin arm of each child. “Let me fix your hair.” She spat in her palm and smoothed down Jack’s wayward curl, ran anxious fingers through Lucy-Ann’s matted locks.

Beth had never been to a circus. And she would let nothing dint her excitement. Better late than never. The childhood she’d wanted back when she devoured her Enid Blytons. Big Top adventures. Outdoorsy pursuits. Picnics. Hiking, camping, rowing. Midnight feasts.

The twins wouldn’t feel they’d missed out. No blanks to fill in later on. Life experience overcame the risks of an imagination.

When her parents’ yelling started, Beth would slip out her bedroom window along the branch that scratched at the glass. In the cradle of branches, she’d hidden a metal trunk. Inside, the poppets—and books. Each a self-contained world, so real she tasted the ginger beer, smelled the kerosene lanterns of smugglers, and heard the steady drip, drip, drip in secret tunnels. Worlds more real than her own. Even there, adults couldn’t be trusted.

When crockery smashed on the tiles, downstairs, Beth had made vows to the bound-stick poppets, dressed in feathers and leaves, sitting obediently against the bark. She’d not always imagined twins. Sometimes she would have four, or five, or seven. And a dog.

But never an only child, a lonely child. When she grew up, she’d promised them, hers would have adventures.

As a child, the author sketched detailed character studies of her future offspring. Names, birth dates, hair colour, temperament, interests. By age sixteen, her eldest’s name was set in stone, especially whenmuch latershe made her bargain.

Ringside seats. Blue plastic barriers. Tacky silver cardboard stars on the spangly curtains beyond. Not what she’d imagined.

Smells of fairy floss and popcorn wafted through the tent flaps, gathered the chaotic waves of chatter, squeals and demands into a nadir. Beth gazed up at the gantries and steel ropes. She grasped Lucy-Ann’s hand, pointed at the harnesses.

“They’re always attached. The trapeze artists practise heaps and if they fall, they’re caught by nets.”

“Okay,” Lucy-Ann said, her gaze distracted. In the front row, a woman with a blonde bullet hair-do was contending with her buzz-cut son’s demands for chocolate.

“You’ve had enough sugar.” The mother gestured at the bag of lollies clenched in his fist. “I said no,” as he continued his whine. Exasperated, “Greg, do something.” The husband-and-father leaned across her. “Tom,” he uttered. No threat to his tone, no wheedling. Just the name. And the boy slumped in his chair.

Lucy-Ann watched on—fascinated—licking her fairy floss into stiff sugar spikes, matching her hair.

Her lip curled. “I want chocolate.” Beth sighed. Without a husband-and-father, she had no back up, no team. The burden was hers alone. She, too, could deny them with a single word. But that’s not how other children worked. “Jack. Chocolate?”

But Jack was fixated on the audience seated across the ring. “No,” he said. “I want what they’ve got.”

Beth bit her lip, hesitated before looking: a family eating hot dogs. The mother and father wiped small hands and faces with serviettes. Messy. That’s how kids were.

“Sure, but stay here. Don’t move. And, Jack—look at me when I’m talking to you—both of you are not to talk to anyone until I come back.”

Bound to her own seat by the order, Lucy-Ann gripped Beth’s as though it might follow her. Beth excused herself along the row, blushing and mumbling apologies as she trod on the feet of husbands-and-fathers. At the food stalls, she’d appear like any of these women—just herself, without the constant maintenance of a mask. A brief respite; the twins’ obedience wouldn’t last long.

In this momentary relief, Beth mused how little different they were to these other kids with their jaded, disillusioned faces. Circuses were outdated, occupying empty school holidays under the guise of “quality family time.”

Beth might always be single. No relationship had ever made it past three months. Men saw her as odd, quirky—in a good way but, until it wasn’t. She blamed her insular upbringing; role models distorted in funhouse mirrors, so that she hadn’t learned the rules of how to be a girlfriend. Beth finished school, finished a degree, took another, and again. Her adult friends peeled off for other halves and “real jobs,” as her father had called these careers in nursing or teaching or Etsy businesses. Beth graduated from Enid Blyton to Shirley Conran, Jane Austen, Stephenie Meyer. She’d really tried.

After yet another break-up in her early thirties Beth had visited her mother in Tasmania. They walked along the shore of the Huon River. Her mother’s grey hair was knotted with beads and crystals, which clinked whenever she bent over to fossick for the twigs and rusty metal for her sculptures. Until then, they’d never spoken of Beth’s troubles.

Since the divorce her mother had had plenty of lovers. All artsy, all younger. Always one waiting in the wings. Short-lived affairs did not seem to bother her. Beth often thought it benefited her, that perhaps she needed men to leave before her mask slipped and the banshee appeared.

Her mother poked through Beth’s findings, flicking out debris from the mound of glass and gumnuts. “Honestly, darling. You should just go to a nightclub and get drunk.”

Beth thought she’d been helpful on this clear, fine day. Yet, this dismissal. Stung, she waited for an explanation, but her mother was rubbing roughened bark from a gnarled tree root, only to toss it away.

“It wouldn’t need a father—and you wouldn’t even have to raise it if you want to finish your PhD. I could.” She stood, easing the tension from her back.

Beth stared, confounded. “It” was a baby. With the toe of her sneakers, she prodded at a piece of green glass stuck stubbornly in the dried mud. A child wasn’t an “it,” made up of found objects. If—when—Beth had children, she would raise them herself. As mischievous, witty, resourceful as any in those novels. She felt a flare of rage—Beth’s yearning for an idealised childhood had been the motivation for her dissertation topic.

“I’m submitting next year. Hopefully. There’s plenty of time,” Beth said, giving up on the green glass, and sat on a rock. She shovelled the mound of gatherings into the basket, absentmindedly pulling the wings from gumnuts and crumbling them between her fingers. Her research question was on issues of authorship in Enid Blyton’s novels. Specifically, Beth refuted the contention in current scholarship that the author’s imagination had been stymied by limited life experiences, leading to repetition of plots and themes. Beth proposed that it was this lack of variety that inspired Blyton’s prolific flights into fancy.

“Stop that.”

Beth looked at the pile of wings and bodies at her feet.

“You should consider it.” Her mother brandished a black feather to sweep in the view of gently rocking boats and, in the far distance, hazy hills. “All the fresh air and clean living it would have. Not like on the Gold Coast.” An exaggerated shudder. “It was crass then; I can only imagine it’s worse now. Seedy and superficial. Artificial.

Beth opened her mouth, but in truth couldn’t defend her hometown of Southport against this arrow. The tans and boobs were as fake as the Versace that draped them. But the Gold Coast wasn’t all nightclubs and tourist dives.

“Send it down to me and I’ll give it back when it’s a teenager.” Her mother laughed, braiding the feather into the rope of grey dreadlocks down her back. “Your problem then.”

Beth scowled. After her parents’ divorce, she’d only acted out because she thought that she might finally gain her father’s attention.

“You cannot be serious.”

Beth didn’t want to bring a child of hers into the world this way; she was already too much like her mother to want to repeat her mistakes.

Author’s note to mother: It really was a ridiculous suggestion.

“How funny.” Beth forced a smile at the pair of clowns. They wore the baggy trousered garb of overgrown kindergartners, slap-stick tripping over their shoes. Painted like life-sized fairground dolls—male versions of Worzel Gummidge’s Aunt Sally. Beth was unnerved. The reality was saggy jowls, stained teeth, and runnels of sweat in the painted masks. Men demeaning themselves for a forced laugh.

“Watch the one with the braces,” she whispered to Jack. “It’ll be part of the act for one of them to dak the other.”

Lucy-Ann leaned across. “That’s not funny, that’s bullying. You said we should tell on bullies at school.”

“Well . . . yes, but you have to laugh when clowns do it.” Beth pronged her fingers at the corners of her mouth, then at her eyes to direct Lucy-Ann’s attention. Context was difficult to define. And now wasn’t the time: the blonde woman in front glared pointedly, as much as Botox allowed. Always another mother listening, noticing, marking Beth out, judging her ability to control the twins: too much or not enough. Mothers, she’d learned, could spew never-ending commentary. Maybe because they didn’t have the power of a single word to get their darlings to fall into line.

The older hatless clown tripped himself, only to get up and go down again. The crowd fake laughed. Beth smoothed down the dog-eared licks of Jack’s hair. “Laugh,” she urged the twins, as her own smile dropped.

Their identical faces split, revealing perfect teeth and pink tongues coloured fairy-floss rainbow. Her pigeon pair. Beth dug her fingertip into her cheek, lifted, but hadn’t the will. Jack’s and Lucy-Ann’s was genuine laughter: full-bodied, rhythmic, continuing when, on cue, the audience’s ceased.

In the sudden hush, mothers narrowed their eyes, pinpointing their lack of decorum. Her lack. But the husbands-and-fathers made half-hearted grins, reached out hands to touch their own sons and daughters.

Beth exhaled sharply in alarm, hissed for them to shush.

“A volunteer!” the hatless clown demanded, his pallor more zombie-like in the slickening heat. The twins still jerked, issuing small hee-hees.

“Quiet,” Beth said, desperate. Waning.

Too late. No time to ponder the inefficacy of her command; the zombie clown locked eyes with her and closed the distance. She could’ve drowned in the soupy air. Her mind gasped for exits; her body grasped by the pinching, prodding of her children.

Beth swam up, took a deep breath and placed a limp finger on her chest. “Me?” she mouthed.

Over the shoes of husbands-and-fathers once more, then she stepped into the aisle, unsure her feet would not betray her and shift into fins, sending her slithering into a slop of humiliation at the ring’s barrier. All eyes were on her, and she took what she was offered without question, and, finding an anchor, registered the object in her hand.

A lemon.

The clown with braces played to the crowd, antics juvenile, as he produced a tall spike such as the ones park rubbish collectors might use, and made suggestive actions. Beth glanced towards Jack and Lucy-Ann.

They sat on the edge of their seats, waiting, watching.

Why she’d been given a lemon, she couldn’t imagine. The swampy pulp in her stomach settled. This’d be an experience to recount later, she thought, casting her mind forward and then back: Remember that time in our childhood when we went to the circus and you were part of the act?

So, Beth listened carefully to her instructions.

“Throw it?” she repeated.

The clown with the spike nodded, jabbing a finger at Beth, making an arc in the air to the pointed end of his spike, eliciting a ripple of laughs. Beth’s neck flushed.

They were so inured to obeying this contract, a clown just had to scratch his arse to be thought hilarious. Beth wondered if people simply laughed out of fear of what might happen if they didn’t—the spell broken.

Beth couldn’t mess this up; she steadied her focus on the clown. With an exaggerated hip swagger, he leaned back, positioning the flat end of the spike on his chin so that it was almost perpendicular. Burning with shame, she’d been unable to clarify exactly what would occur once she’d thrown the lemon.

An ordinary, supermarket lemon, wasn’t it? She enclosed the fruit, its waxy skin now slippery in her palm.

The clowns had seemed too close. Now, they were too far away. She squinted at the spike, heard the echoes of future memories told, and chanted silent affirmations.

Beth hadn’t played ball sports—team sports—growing up. Not the sports where parents rallied at sidelines, ran lamington drives for uniforms, and gave up plans for spontaneous weekend adventures. Not for any lack of desire. Beth had pleaded to play lacrosse, but, apparently, that wasn’t a sport that children played on the Gold Coast in the 1980s, especially not single children of single, embittered mothers. By then, Beth’s father had left for his “real marriage” and “real family.” Lacrosse? Ask your father’s fancy new wife. She has the money and time, and big, fancy car to drive you around all weekend. Beth hadn’t asked.

Beth lined up the plane of her left hand with the clown, pulled back the lemon to her right ear and flung it with all her might. He dropped the spike and ducked, lurching and weaving, long after the projectile sailed past. The hatless clown scooped it up, danced about the ring while mimicking Beth’s overarm throw.

That’d been a mistake.

“Crazy lady!”

The volume rose. The crowd leering raucously, mouths ghastly wide.

“Crazy lady. Crazy lady.” The more he repeated the taunt, the louder the crowd’s laughter.

Beth retreated quickly to her seat, and couldn’t bear to apologise for the trodden toes and draw further attention to herself. She glared at the twins, who giggled as she sat down. “Cra—”

Beth cut Jack off with a slap on his thigh. The blonde in front turned around and scoffed.

Beth tightened her mouth. She’d been exposed. All three of them. As though they had Not Normal tattooed on their foreheads.

Beth pursed her lips and leaned close to the guy. But he hadn’t beckoned her with the promise of a kiss; instead, he touched her forehead.

“You’ve got a capital D right there,” he said, tracing the letter. Beth straightened. The acoustics weren’t great and the doof-doof through the speakers jackhammered her skull. At nearly forty, Beth was far too old for the nightclub scene, and she didn’t enjoy giving her mother the satisfaction of having her ridiculous advice taken. But here Beth was. Clock ticking, etcetera.

Beth gazed up at the man she’d latched onto when she’d had fewer drinks in her. Time spent talking and avoiding the dance floor hadn’t made his features any less hazy.

“What do you mean?”

He sniffed. “Clear as day. D for desperate.” He lifted his lapel and turned away, tilted his head.

Was she to follow? Beth’s mind raced. She wished for daylight; it’d make this whole hook-up seem less confusing and . . . less nefarious. Beth felt desolate, a dunce, and dirty. And, yes, desperate.

She grabbed her handbag and caught up with him by the toilets. The young women queuing outside the ladies’ helped each other with bra straps, asked opinions on going home with some guy when they would anyway. To them, a middle-aged academic in a patchwork skirt and oversized tunic was invisible.

“I’m not,” she said, tapping the dark-coated man’s shoulder before he disappeared into the gents’, “desperate.” He cracked open the door, glanced inside, then pushed it wide.

“You coming?”

Beth gulped. A bad move: the ammoniac ether singed her nostrils. She stepped gingerly across puddles on the cracked tile floor to the row of sinks. Above them were burnished mirrors, hazy in the dull glow of fluorescent tubes that flickered to life every now and then.

In these flashes, Beth’s eyes darted to take in reference points to fill in the shape of him. He reminded her of a younger Nick Cave. But more from an aura about him than looks. His eyes were black coals. High on something.

Beth stepped back. Had she read him wrong?

“How badly do you want one?” His directness caught her and she reeled toward him.

Beth stopped trying to second-guess. She was quite clear on one thing.

“I want two.”

The authorin a rash moment (though an inevitable culmination of years building up to it)made a pact with the universe, the greater being, the genie in the lamp. And she didn’t renege. But she soon learned what it had cost her. She can’t complainif she does, she’s often reminded of what she’s gained: two beautiful children. Compensation.

Heat rose to Beth’s cheeks, knuckles bunched in her lap throughout the juggling, plate-spinning, and trapeze-swinging. The ringmaster introduced the acts, describing how the performers were related to each other.

“And the littlest member of our troupe, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, at just three years of age,” he paused at crackling feedback on the microphone, “Miss Maggie Jenkins. Already training with her mother Katrina.” He reeled away as the child strutted out in a miniature purple leotard, turned a handspring after a nervous look to her mother.

Beth’s thoughts turned cynical. Reproducing generations of circus folk would certainly keep them loyal to the family business and salaries low. Child labour. She was mentally constructing the Jenkinses’ family tree when Lucy-Ann screeched.

Beth’s nerves shot off rapid rounds.

The two clowns had reappeared with a bucket supposedly full of water. Beth swallowed her shush, slipped low into the plastic seat with a squeal of sticky thigh.

“Oi! That’s the crazy lady!”

Beth burned.

Her tormentors turned from each other, pointing her out then re-enacting her earlier shameful performance.

The twins shook violently. Beth dug her fingernails into their legs. “Crazy lady,” they taunted. She dug deeper but they didn’t register the pain.

“Hey, Jonno,” the hatless crown stage-whispered to his partner. “D’ya think we should ask the crazy lady to throw the bucket at you?”

Jonno mimed a series of calamitous events that began with electrocution through to the collapse of the tent. The audience’s raucous laughter pounded Beth’s skull like bass from the speakers at the nightclub almost eight years ago.

The twins knew she’d lost control, and they laughed and clapped and oohed with the others. Like the automatons they were. Titters of “crazy lady” whistled towards her from all directions. Beth sat mute, rigid with terror, unable to build herself back up.

Diminished in Jack’s and Lucy-Ann’s eyes. This would be the story they would one day tell: the day at the circus when they learned their mother was a crazy lady who could no longer pretend. Not now her wound had been revealed to these real families with husbands-and-fathers and children brought into the world the usual way.

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, from my family to yours, thank you and good bye.” The ringmaster removed his hat with a flourish and bowed deeply.

If Beth hoped to quickly flee this scene of her unmasking, the twins had other ideas, their eyes and ears caught on the hooks of the sideshow stalls outside. With her power ebbing, she could hardly say no. Wherever they moved, however, she sensed ripples of discomfit and gawking at her; at her interaction with the twins; as though her spectacular failure to throw a ball hinted at something more deeply unsettling about a woman with two fatherless kids. Underperforming, or overperforming, there was always something wrong with her. Two parents together had no need to resort to trickery.

Still, she relented to Jack’s nagging and paid five dollars for him to toss three rings over coke bottles. It was all in her head, she tried to tell herself, taking deep breaths of the sunshine. A little steadier, she noticed the stallholder was the mother of the tiniest troupe member. Gone was the purple leotard, replaced with stonewashed jeans and an oversized t-short advertising the name of the circus. Homemade. Employees, business, and family.

“Wahoo!” Jack shouted, as one of the rings circled the neck of a bottle and settled. Had to be a throwing game, didn’t it? Beth was torn between pride that he hadn’t received her physical incoordination, and the further exposure of how different she was to more capable, more experienced, more normal parents.

“Yay for you,” Beth said, settling the twins’ argument over the prize by snatching the bear from the stallholder’s hands. Its Styrofoam innards crunched as she yanked the kids away. She was brought up short at the shooting gallery, recognition hardening her bowels like clay: the clown with the spike. Jonno. No trace of face paint. Instead of a plastic hat, he wore a trucker’s cap, and the circus t-shirt was tight across his stomach. Two rifles against his shoulder.

But as he spruiked for punters, his eyes roved over Beth without a hitch—no crazy lady—and he was suddenly more terrifying than he’d been in costume. With his mask on, he could force people to laugh at her. Without it, he was just normal.

What she lacked, what she could never disguise. Without her mask, there was nothing to fall back on.

And despite the past seven years of constant effort, Jack and Lucy-Ann would learn how she’d wronged them. How wrong she was. As the twins ran ahead, spotting the car beneath the giant fig, Beth wished she could undo it all in an instant. But she had two children, and there’d be consequences.

“I want two,” she’d said. Not an only child, a lonely child. Two would become best friends and collaborators, and Beth the cherished mama.

All it took was one night getting drunk in a nightclub, just as her mother had suggested. The shadowed man leaned against the bathroom basin, long legs crossed at the ankles. The fluorescent tube flickered, picking out the flecks of vomit in the urinals, the soiled squares of toilet paper on the cracked tiled floor in pools of liquid. But he was right. She was desperate, with rapidly dwindling hopes of ensnaring a partner long enough to conceive one, let alone two children naturally.

Though she’d conceded that to her mother, she would never let the old woman raise her kids. Never let them become emotionally and socially stunted, unable to maintain functional relationships or even small talk at university events. When Beth fell back on her thesis topic, students glazed over at the mention of Enid Blyton; some hadn’t even heard of her.

The man pulled off paper squares from a Rizla packet.

“No thanks, I don’t smoke,” she said. Tobacco, or drugs, given the soulless pitch of his irises.

He shook his head. “They’re for the spell.”

Beth was glad of the dodgy lighting to mask her embarrassment. She made non-committal sounds; but she was so far out of her department, more in her mother’s.

“So, what have you got? To make them with,” he added. She detected condescension.

Beth clutched her arms about her waist. For some reason, she’d thought they would be made from her. Flesh, blood, DNA. She opened her handbag. At the top was a well-worn copy of The Magic Faraway Tree returned to her that afternoon by a student.

“A book?” Beth gained her nerve and gestured for him to move aside from the sink. “Sort of like papier mâché.” The tap sputtered water when she turned it.

Grunting, he straightened to his full height. Beth sought Blyton’s spectral forgiveness for the sacrilegious act as the pages became a pulp mush in the filthy sink.

“Should work,” he said, drawing out a pen. “Now the words,” as Beth frowned. “You want them, you gotta give something up for them. What does your soul desire?”

“To be normal.” No need to think twice. After all, look where she was—she’d more or less forsaken it just coming here this night. But she might pretend better if she wasn’t so lonely.

He wrote the word on the square of paper and stuck it into the pulp, which Beth could swear began to thicken and bubble.

“Now you have to add something else.”

“What? Why?” Beth stepped back. What else did she have to forsake?

He laughed. “You sure you’re ready for kids? You gotta feed them. What fed your soul as a child?”

Beth sighed heavily, watched the pulp breathe into form. No longer ink on paper. Books had fed her—no; it had been what books created.

“Will I lose it too?” she asked, wondering if she was in too far to back out now.

“No. But what fed you cannot feed them.” His laugh echoed in the bathroom.

“Then . . . imagination,” she said. He wrote it on the second paper, and the pulp gobbled it up.

Her imagination had kept her safe, still gave hope, horizons for a more expanded, eventful life. Hell, it’d been the sole focus of her career to understand the relationship between experience and imagination. And without it, she wouldn’t have been brought here this night. But her kids shouldn’t need books to learn how to be real, she reasoned. They could learn empirically through people and places.

The man kneaded them into shape, whispering in a language Beth had neither read nor imagined. Changed to English. “But if you allow them to use their imagination, you will lose what you yearn for most.”

Beth swallowed down bile. Hadn’t he already taken it?

Throughout a number of stories, the author has reproduced themes of compromised motherhood, being an outsider, otherness, what makes us human. You get the picture. No doubt, they’ll be recycled again in her pursuit to add emotional truth to her fiction. …If she is brave enough to risk revealing her shadowland once more.

“Is this a trick?” Jack asked warily, when Beth told them to stay outside the car.

Enid Blyton had been unable to forgive her father’s abandonment of her to create a new family, and an idealised childhood was preferable to the real world of treacherous adults. To grow up, Beth had to stop seeking her father’s approval, climb down from her tree-cradle. That meant committing treachery.

She knew what they’d be thinking. That as soon as she pulled out of the car park, she’d give them thirty seconds to think they’re abandoned, then come straight back, laugh, and say hop in, you silly billies.

Beth wound down the window. “No, it’s not.”

“What do you mean?” said Lucy-Ann.

“Use your imagination.”

The twins turned to each other. Lucy-Ann giggled, then Jack. Beth buckled herself in and put the gears in reverse.

She completed a three-point turn and looked back. (They always do.) All that remained of the twins were pages fluttering in the leaves.

She had thought she’d longed for this thing called “normal”. But now she understood what her soul truly wanted, what she’d wanted her whole life. What she had really traded that night.

To be loved. Wasn’t that what normal was?

The author wishes her children to know that despite resemblances to some of the events at the circus that day, she has used creative license. They are real. They’ll know this because she encourages them to read. The author will concede she should’ve thrown underarm.

About the Author

Kali Napier lives in Brisbane, Australia—on the unceded land of the Yuggera People. “Send in the Clowns” was written with the financial assistance of the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland’s Individuals Fund for a short story writing mentorship with the incomparable Dr Angela Slatter. Her short fiction has been published in The Dark and other literary magazines and anthologies, and was twice-shortlisted in the 2020 Australasian Shadows Awards. Kali can be found on social media Twitter:@KaliNapier and Instagram:@Kali.Napier.