When the Circus comes to Town by Richard Soos

In which Archie is reborn and E.R. is all alone.

Christmas Lunch had been a disappointing affair without his Mother.

Archie put on a brief talent act for his uncles, who then told him that the only show he will ever be on is a freak-show.

And regarding presents – it was a disaster.

The cheap dartboard he was given, instead of being made of bristlewood, was actually a paper crepe streamer rolled tightly into a huge disc, with the dartboard printed on its face. In the overnight rain, it had swelled into a hulking blimp.

That week a thief had come by, and finding his garaged bike with 2 flat tires, left the gate open so the dog could wander off, and then cut a tiny slit onto his outdoor trampoline surface.

A few jumps in, the farting tear noise of the trampoline revealed what had happened. He got off the trampoline, saving the farts for when one of his friends would come by. Poorer for Christmas instead of richer, he looked longingly down the one-way street and found an arrow tucked along the curb. It was scrawled in chalk by a child, and here, and there, and 50yards further another and another.

E.R. was in her element. Whizzing by on her Malvern Star bicycle and scanning the street obliquely for space to lay her next arrow, she congratulated herself. All the boys will be in on the game. And she, she would just run and run, knowing she couldn’t be caught. She hadn’t told the other girls. Especially not that girl Kelly who said she knew Karate. Ugh, as if. Nor had she told that pill Archie, she thought as she had skidded past his yard and laid a hidden arrow out of spite What was it about him. She saw a small oil slick and recalled his story of when he saw a spatter of oil in rings of color in the wet gutter. How he had fled home in terror and screamed ‘Mum, Dad, Some of the rainbow has fallen down!’.

And so the game was afoot. An arrow chase was on and the trail was fresh. E.R., still a child on her pink bike, had started laying a trail with arrows of where she had been; inviting the neighborhood boys to the chase.

Archie wandered inside and bellowed to his Dad.

‘Hey, there’s a fresh trail of arrows outside. May I use the binoculars to see where the Arrow chase goes?’

‘No. Don’t you have a bike?’

‘Well if I had pumped up the tires would the bike have been left there?– so let’s pretend I don’t’.