One of the drawbacks of living in a trailer is the lack of a suitable window from which to empty a bucket of water on anyone who bangs on your door late at night. I was often disturbed in this way during my circus career, and on one memorable occasion it was the ringmaster’s moustachioed face that greeted me when I opened the door.
“Can I commin, GB?” he said, slurring his words.
I smelt alcohol on his breath and regarded him with distaste. He was always like this when his wife was away visiting relatives in France. Adulterous skirt-chaser though he was, the ringmaster felt Cécile’s absence keenly when they were apart.
“Have you been drinking?” I asked.
“Course I bin fuckin’ drinking!” he replied. “Why elz would I be here?”
“Well, what do you want?” I inquired testily.
“I wanna talk, you big-airy fool.”
I didn’t like the sound of this, and would have shut the door on him if I hadn’t suspected he might urinate on my doormat. I decided to let him enter in the hope that he would leave peacefully after I had let him have his say.
“We’ll talk for five minutes and then you’re off to bed, OK?” I said firmly. “Your own bed,” I added carefully.
He came in and sprawled over my couch, while I watched him impassively from a nearby chair.
“GB, I bin suj-an-utter-bastard,” he moaned, rubbing his face with his hands.
I agreed with him entirely, of course, but tactfully withheld my true opinion.
“You must be very tired,” I said. “A good night’s rest and everything will look different in the morning.”
“I’ll be dead in the fuckin’ morning!” he spat out bitterly.
“No you won’t,” I said like a schoolteacher correcting a simple error. “You’ll just be hung-over. I’ll ask Chef to prepare one of his concoctions.”
“My wife, I want my wife!” he bleated tearfully. “She’zo lov’ly. She’zo kind. I don’ deserve her.”
There was much in what he said, but once again I chose my words carefully.
“There, there, she’ll soon be back.” I said with as much sympathy as I could muster.
“Suppose she finds som’un else,” he sobbed. “If she did I’d shoot’im and then kill myself!”
“You devotion does you credit, but I’m sure that Cécile intends to honour her marital vows in full.”
“How d’you know?” he asked sharply. “Hav-ou bin talkin’ to’er behind my back?”
“No, no,” I said reassuringly. “She tells everyone who will listen what a happy marriage she has.”
This was the first outright lie I spoke and it had a powerful effect on the ringmaster.
“Really?” he whimpered, with a wistful smile emerging from beneath the tears. “You’re a real friend, GB. Give me a hug, you big-airy guy.”
Everyone has his limit and mine had been breached. Embracing that slobbering oaf was out of the question.
“I will do no such thing!” I announced adamantly. “The liquor has made you foolish, ringmaster! Remain seated, man! Stay where you are, I say!”
But it was too late! The ringmaster was on his feet and stumbling towards me with his arms outstretched. I deftly avoided him as he approached and tripped him up as he staggered past me. His belly landed on the floor with a thump and only his bloated body prevented his head from getting a bash. He didn’t try to get up and appeared quite contented in his new position. He even seemed to be singing a little song into the carpet. There was only one thing for it. Taking a firm hold of both the ringmaster’s ankles, I hoisted him upside-down so that his head was a few inches off the ground and facing away from me.
“Are you crazy!” gasped the ringmaster. “This izzunt a hug! I’m gonna throw up.”
“Not in my trailer, you’re not!” I retorted.
I proceeded quickly to the door and carried him outside like a fisherman holding a gigantic tuna by its tail. The ringmaster had stopped protesting and was now giggling like an imbecile. The silhouette of his trailer was visible in the moonlight, and when we arrived there I let him down gently. I then removed the keys from his pocket and opened the door.
“Go inside!” I ordered.
The ringmaster grunted, vomited and groaned. He then began a laborious crawl towards the door of his trailer, like a wounded crab looking for a rock to hide under. When at last he was inside, I threw in the keys after him and shut the door firmly. Five minutes later I was back in bed, muttering to myself about the additional duties expected of circus performers these days.
The ringmaster came to see me next day wearing dark glasses.
“About last night, GB,” he said hoarsely. “Best we keep it to ourselves, eh?”
“My sentiments exactly,” I replied curtly.
“That business of carrying me upside down……..”
“It was just the quickest way of getting you back to your trailer,” I interjected. “You were in no condition to walk there on your own.”
“Yes, but GB……..”
“No, I couldn’t have carried you over my shoulder. You might have got sick and the coat I wear isn’t machine-washable.”
“Stop interrupting!” exclaimed the ringmaster. “What I’m trying to say is I found it rather stimulating. If we drove off somewhere quiet, could you do it to me again?”
My initial shock at this request gave way to a cynical realisation as I recalled the ringmaster’s infantile giggling after I had hoisted him. His fetish was similar to that of the judge who dons nappies and asks to be burped by a big-bosomed matron. Fortunately, my knowledge of movie dialogue gave me an apt reply.
“Ringmaster,” I said, meeting his eyes with a steady gaze. “One is cool, but twice is queer.”
The ringmaster lowered his eyes and nodded: “Right, GB. Right you are.”
He wandered off and never brought up the subject again.
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