Circus Madness: A Novella: (Part One)
Author's Note: I co-created this tale with a friend of mine, whom I shall refer to as Doc LS (a.k.a "Moppet"). If he's out there, he knows who he is. I want you to know I couldn't have created this work of fantastically weird, surrealistic, wonderful bizarredom without you! And now... Circus Madness.
George Sanders found himself unable to go to the circus with his family. He sat in his living room, absurdly shaken by a ridiculous dream. And in this dream his senses had been assaulted by an assortment of motifs, which when taken together, had convinced him that he had been trapped in the circus from hell.
His wife's name was Sandra. Their one child's name was Tommy. He was four years old.
It was Saturday and George Sanders had been back home for only two days, after having been away on business for two weeks. He worked hard to give his family the good life. A large, luxurious home in a pretentious, gated, upper middle class/rich, and exclusive community.
There was an Olympic-sized swimming pool in their backyard. Their life was, for Sandra, of prominent membership in all the fashionable philanthropic organizations, and the complete socialite lifestyle. And it was a pricy private school, the Gifted and Talented extra enrichment program, Cub Scouts, swimming lessons, and judo for little Tommy.
Mr. Sanders was an investment banker. Individually, he had been a beneficiary of the federal government's troubled asset relief program (TARP). The government had poured hundreds of billions of dollars of tax payer money into keeping the banking system afloat -- for the sake of all the little people who wouldn't be able to get car loans, home loans, student loans, or even keep their jobs, if the American banking system were allowed to disintegrate.
The government's troubled asset relief program and capital injection procedures came with modest demands concerning a tax payer, nominally majority stock holding share in these banks, and the restructuring of those institutions, which the government had given the most help to. Some of the more outsized banks had to be broken up into smaller, more manageable, less dangerously extensive and interconnected entities. UltraMaxx Capital had been one such bank, which had been divided into seven smaller units.
Not only did George Sanders not get terminated, but he got promoted two levels within one of those smaller units. His luck was such that he didn't even have to relocate. The only move he had needed to make was down the hall to the corner office. For some reason George Sanders had been viewed as one of those regrettably necessary, though inarguably very talented financial professionals, who may have been one of the technicians, let us say, that had been critically involved in creating the exotic financial instruments that had turned out to be one giant time bomb that had exploded and dragged America and the world into the financial and economic crisis of 2007/2008/2009; because he and others like him were the only ones who could unravel the tangled webs they had woven -- and do this "safely."
George Sanders was very insecure about his fantastic fortune but he never showed it, not even to his wife, and indeed, he never admitted it to himself. As far as the world could see, of course he was one of fate's favored sons. Of course he was one of the crucial financial elite at the top of the heap of American's knowledge-based economy. Of course he had weathered the storm. Of course he was invincible, untouchable.
Of course he had thrived while others had fallen. Of course all the planets, moons, and stars had aligned properly for him, so that he had gotten richer while the working man and the poor had gotten poorer. Of course he had gotten his bonus too.
The federal government had had no choice, so their spokespeople say, but to bail out a huge American-based multinational insurance corporation. Allowing GIA to fail had not been an option. The threat of "systemic risk to the system" had been too great and terrifying. GIA got almost a trillion dollars of tax payer money, much of which they had needed to use to pay off various obligations to other financial institutions.
When the public learned that several hundred million had been set aside by the banks to pay out bonuses, the media said the public was outraged. The president made a speech calling it an outrage. Members of congress made speeches calling it an outrage. One or two of the people's repesentatives got behind the microphones to declare that if the banks did not give back the money, they would pass a bill to "tax virtually all of it."
But when everybody remembered that the United States of America was a nation of laws and that contracts were sacrosanct, the pandemonium died down. The media stopped saying how outraged the public was and the politicians quietly let the matter drop. The financial executives got their bonuses. And George Sanders did too.
George had been busy before this latest financial meltdown, pulling in an averge of fourteen hours a day, and at least half a day on Saturdays. Now he put his shoulder even more firmly to the wheel, as it were. He put in even more hours. While it was never clear that such a grueling schedule had ever been necessary, then and now, George Sanders constantly assured his wife and son that he was doing it all for them.
Sandra had finally managed to prevail upon her husband to take some time off. George was treating himself, and his family, who was to be graced with his presence, to a rare full Saturday off. Well... small steps, small steps.
So it was Saturday and the family was going to the circus. George was tired, not in small part because of the fact that he had spent half of the hours he should have been sleeping the previous night, pecking away on his laptop in his study. He had finally gotten to bed, arose the next morning, showered, and started to dress in one of his business suits, as if he was going to work.
Sandra's eyes had snapped open at that moment, and she demanded to know where the hell he was going. At that moment he remembered, oh yes, he had promised his wife he was taking Saturday off to go to the circus. George had said whoops, was sheepishly apologetic. He put down his suitcase and took off his suit, changing into casual clothes.
It was five-thirty in the morning. In George's opinion, Sandra was at her loveliest in the early morning. He said that since they were both awake, why don't they have a little morning tryst? Sandra sighed, rolled her eyes, and turned on her side with her back to him, and went back to sleep.
Three hours later George was having breakfast with his son. He half listened as Tommy brought him "up to speed," to use the parlance, as to what had transpired for the past two months in his little man's life. It struck George with a pang as he realized how excited Tommy was to be going to the circus -- as a family.
After breakfast George pecked away for a few more hours on his laptop, in his study. After that he took a nap. It is from this nap, from which he'd arose at his wits end. He was trembling slightly and he kept looking up at the ceiling and cocking his ear in that direction.
His wife had found him in that state, in his study. When it became clear that not only was her husband out of sorts, but actually somewhat debilitated and not immediately able to go to the circus, she went out to the car, where Tommy had already been waiting in the back seat, and told him to go to his room because there would be a short delay. Tommy took it well. He was somewhat jaded for a four-year old. He didn't know what the problem was and didn't ask. He was used to being let down emotionally by his father.
The little boy's face became benignly blank. And the only sound he made as he went to his room was to hum a tune that went something like: "da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da......."
Back in George's study, she crisply extracted her husband's narrative concerning the dream that had made him take leave of his senses.
In his dream it seemed that George was the proprietor of an International House of Pancakes restaurant. Everything was going quite normally. It was busy at the peak of the lunchtime rush. The waiters and waitresses were running back and forth with two or three plates of food at a time.
Thing began to take a turn when a woman, who'd been sitting alone in a booth, looked up suddenly and said, "Waiter! Waiter! There are faces in my soup again. Every time I come here I get faces in my soup!"
Another patron, sitting alone in a booth said, "Goddamn it! This coffee always makes my soul leave my body for a minute!"
At that very moment, what turned out to be an unnaturally huge elephant crashed through the roof of the pancake house. The beast was big even for a pachyderm. It is hard to convey the fantastic dimensions of the creature. This was the Mighty Joe Young, if you will, of elephants.
The animal that fell through the roof made full grown bull elephants look like babes. The impact had made the ground shake with tremors that had also been strong enough to affect establishments on both sides of the street, knocking patrons of said establishments off their feet.
In the House of Pancakes, a deep crevice was put into the stone floor. The walls had violently shaken. The windows had been smashed. Plates and glasses had flown off the counter and all the tables. This combined with all the shattered windows had spread glass debris everywhere. Patrons and employees were covered with glass.
The place looked like a hurricane had struck, which was not far off in terms of the damage done. The woman, who had been complaining about faces in her soup, was hopelessly trapped under a part of the fallen roof. Her dying words were, "Gonna... call... Health Department about... this... all the... time... faces, faces I say, faces... in... my... soooo.... Soup."
George has blocked this part out of his memory and he did not even relate the following part to Sandra, his wife, even though it was only a dream. Nevertheless, it is a fact and it must be said that for at least ten minutes, the chaos had reduced George Sanders, this mighty corporate warrior, to crawling around on his hands and knees, wailing and calling for his mother, and asking where his "blanky" was.
Most of the tables and chairs had been reduced to splinters. Food and beverages were splattered everywhere. People were screaming, of course, but none louder than George Sanders, for at least ten minutes, as we have mentioned.