I’m glad to say that the circus I worked for never went in for fortune tellers. The modern circus is for athletes and comedians, not crafty soothsayers who bamboozle the gullible with tarot cards and other such nonsense. We once had a problem with one of these characters, an old gypsy woman who lived a short distance from our venue. It all started when a clown fell ill after an encounter with this woman. The doctor said there was nothing physically wrong with him and suggested the cause might be psychological. When I went to see the clown, he moaned that he was doomed because the old woman had put a curse on him. I told him not to talk rot and snap out of it, but he persisted in his morbid superstition. As the fellow played an important part in my act, getting huge laughs when I dragged him along the ground, I resolved to visit the old woman in the hope of working out a reasonable solution.
When I knocked on her door, she peered out of the window and eyed me warily. At length, she opened the door after inserting her false teeth.
“So the talkin’ gorilla comes to pay ol’ Ma Hibberd a visit!” she cackled. “I seen stranger things than thee, my hairy one. Whatcha want?”
“I have a bone to pick with you, Madam,” I replied. “I speak for the interests of the circus in which I am employed.”
“Circus!” she snorted. “Yer call all that prancin’ about with bare-legged hussies a circus? I been in many a real one in my day, so I knows the difference. Yer better come in then.”
She invited me to sit down at a small circular table and seated herself opposite me. I got straight to the point.
“One of our clowns claims that you put a curse on him. As the doctor has discovered no physical ailment, it appears that the clown’s belief in your malevolent powers is the cause of his symptoms. I should therefore be obliged if you would inform him that his fears are groundless.”
“Oh yer should, should yer?” she huffed. “That clownin’ ninny makes faces at me when he passes by t’other day. Makes funna ol’ Ma Hibberd, he does, when she’s attendin’ to her daily duties. So I gives ‘im the evil eye and says I’m puttin’ a hex on ‘im. There’s no turnin’ back now.”
I stroked my chin and took stock of the situation. It appeared that the old woman was as certain of her supernatural powers as the clown and, moreover, had a legitimate grievance that required redress. These facts would clearly have to be accommodated in any resolution of the dispute.
“Would you be prepared to remove the curse if the clown apologised for his earlier misconduct?” I asked.
“If he comes round wit’ cap in hand, I removes the curse. Not straight away, mind, but after two full moons come and go.”
“Our performing season will be over by then,” I said. “Couldn’t you be lenient just this once?”
“Two moons and that’s my last word,” she insisted.
I went back to the circus and considered the options. Don Corleone would no doubt have found a way to reason with this woman, but I rejected the idea of cutting off a horse’s head and putting it under her bed sheets. Horses are arrogant creatures at the best of times, but chopping off their heads to aggravate a third party would be involving them unfairly someone else’s quarrel. Nor was I absolutely certain that the old woman would find waking up with such an artefact in her bed sufficiently intimidating.
I made some inquiries and came up with a more promising idea. To save us the bother of travelling into town, the local supermarket delivered supplies to us every day. As luck would have it, the very same delivery van dropped off groceries at the Hibberd residence. This happened once a week, after the van had visited the circus. The opportunity for doping her food was obvious, but what kind of substance should be used? I took Smacker Ramrod (the circus vet) into my confidence, and he suggested a harmless compound that caused the urine to turn blue.
On the next day that the delivery van was due to visit the old woman, Smacker and I took charge of unloading the goods ordered by the circus. I quickly identified the box of groceries destined for Madam Hibberd and removed a packet of sugar from it. Smacker then replaced it with a similar packet containing sugar heavily laced with the aforementioned substance.
We waited a few days to allow time for the drug to take effect. Smacker then drove me to the old woman’s caravan in his car. I knocked on her door, while the vet remained seated in the vehicle.
“Whatcha want now?” asked Mother Hibberd sourly. “I been poorly of late, so yer not comin’ inside.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “What’s the trouble then? Arthritis? Varicose veins? Blue urine?”
“Yer bloomin’ hairy wizard!” she screamed in fury. “Puts a hex on Ma Hibberd does he? Yer better takes it off or I hex thee back tenfold!”
“Tut, tut,” I said calmly. “Your magic has no power over me, my good lady. If you want me to lift the curse, you must allow Doctor Ramrod, seated in yonder vehicle, to drive you to the circus. When you arrive, you will inform the clown that he is no longer bewitched. While you are gone, I shall perform the necessary exorcism to break the blue-urine spell. In a few days time your water should return to its natural colour, whatever that may be.”
She grumbled furiously and swore under her breath, but did as she was told. I accompanied her to the car, where Smacker gave me a bag containing the exorcism kit. Its only item, of course, was a packet of uncontaminated sugar. While they were gone, I emptied her sugar tin and refilled it from this packet. On their return, I told the old woman that her caravan had been de-hexed and returned with Smacker to the circus.
The clown was quickly restored to good health and assumed that my intervention on his behalf had involved the use of sorcery against the old woman.
“I never knew you were a master of black magic, GB,” he told me in awed appreciation.
“Not black magic, my dear fellow,” I replied. “Blue piss is my speciality.”
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