I dreamed I was the administrative director of a traveling circus show with all the standard talents – the buxom blonde tightrope artiste/wild horse rider; the heavily muscled power lifter; the debonair lion tamer; the countless dwarfs and clowns and jugglers and acrobats. A hodge-podge group – a standard circus band.
And I dreamed that we had a huge show to put on somewhere. But we had to get there first. It was quite a prestigious thing – performing in front of all the right people – kings, queens, diplomats, socialites. If we could get there, we could put on quite a show. How to get there? I suggested a plane or a bus. But on one else would hear of it. A motor vehicle of some kind – any kind. To get us there in time. It was an important performance, and we didn’t dare miss it.
But they said, “No – camel caravan will do much better. The equipment is too bulky and we can’t stand being cooped up in there for so long – all of us together, when we drive each other crazy, as it is. We enjoy each other’s company, but…”
“It was an important engagement, though,” I countered. “We can’t afford to take any chances.” And I arranged for a plane to take us to our performance.
We herded onto the plane. The lady, the muscleman, the lion-tamer, the clowns, the dwarfs, the bearded lady, the elephant, the horses, the chickens… the works.
We were not in the air ten minutes when the pandemonium that had been mounting broke loose – the dwarfs were doing back-flips over the seats, the lady was laughing hysterically, the muscleman and lion-tamer were wrestling, the elephant was roaring and tossing plastic champagne glasses around, the clowns were chasing each other up and down the aisle. All hell had broken loose, and up in the cockpit, two dwarfs were bothering the pilot.
The pilot came on the intercom and said he was touching down. He couldn’t fly like this, and he was landing the plane. No one but I heard a word he said, and when we came to a standstill in the middle of a desert, the troupe rolled off the plane looking bewildered.
“Are we there yet?” somebody asked.
“No, we’re not there yet,” I shot back sarcastically. I was frazzled from the short ride, nonplussed, had a bug up my ass that wouldn’t quit. I wanted everything neat, clean, orderly, and on time. At this rate, we would never get to our performance.
“Now what do we do?” someone asked.
I didn’t respond, only turned my back on the fucked-up mess of them and went to sit on a rock.
Some of the dwarfs disappeared for a few hours, then came back, leading about five camels. Not enough for all to ride on, but enough to carry the luggage and some of us. There were two horses, too.
We loaded up. We knew we were headed east, so we couldn’t go wrong, if we kept our eye on the sun. “Don’t worry,” one of the dwarfs said to me kindly, “if they really want us, it won’t matter when we get there.” I snorted and climbed onto one of the horses they’d given me, as the brains (however unheeded) of the group.
For days we wandered. Under the hot sun we dragged. For weeks. For months. The desert was endless. The sun was unbearable. When we stared, there were shenanigans and lots of hopping from camel to camel among the dwarfs.
But after a week or so, that stopped. It was all we could do, to keep on. The lady, the muscleman, the lion-tamer each carried a number of dwarfs in their arms, and the acrobats and jugglers trudged wearily beside the camels, holding themselves up by the harness. Water was low and we were weary. But with no tents to stay in, and a show scheduled to put on, we would not stop.
Then we reached an oasis. From a distance, it looked like just another mirage. But as we drew nearer, we realized it was real. If we’d had the strength, we would each of us have jumped down from our camels and hurled ourselves at the pool of water. But the most we could do, was to keep the camels headed in the right direction.
I was relieved. Now we could replenish our supplies and move on. Now we could reach that appointment, however late, and live up to all those kings’ and queens’ expectations. It was about time, and I was secretly elated. We stayed the night, then decided to stay another. We’d been wandering too long, we reasoned, to push ourselves that much again, prematurely. I wanted to get on the road again. The city couldn’t be that far. We had a duty to fulfill, and the last thing we should be doing, was waste precious time.
I tried convincing the troupe to move on, but they would hear nothing of it. The days stretched into weeks, dragged into months, and still no sign of any wanderlust. I talked things up over meals, clandestinely trying to sway the most influential members of the group to my way of thinking. But they wouldn’t hear of it. They only smiled and patted me on the back. “Relax,” they said.
Our days were lazy. Filled in with little more than eating, sleeping, sewing and mending tents, and playing board games. The rest of the troupe seemed content with our broken engagement. The others eyed me with some amusement and did not hide their remarks and jokes about me. I withdrew from the group, lived on the outskirts, and read the three books I brought with me over and over again.
Then one night we had a meeting. Once a week we had these meetings, gathering in our mess tent, sitting on folding chairs, swapping stories and ideas. Each week was different – a different topic, a different bent to the conversation. That night, someone had come up with the idea that we could put on a show for ourselves. That drove me mad. Because we were so close to the city – I knew it. We were within striking distance, and none of the performers showed any interest in moving on. And now they were talking about putting on a show… for themselves.
“What do you think of this?” was the question and everyone had their say, going around the makeshift room. Most babbled gibberish and the dwarfs started running and jumping and doing back-flips under, over, onto people. As we went around the room, it was obvious that none of them had a clue why we were where we were, and that most of them didn’t care.
I listened with muted anger, as these fools babbled on about the most pointless of subjects. I could see what was going on. I had seen it coming from the start. But not a soul had listened. And now, months on down the line, they were finally asking, what do you think of this? It came my turn. I began to speak. I started from the beginning, pointing out what had gone wrong, dwelling on each detail and sparing them no I-told-you-so‘s.
At first they listened politely, then rapidly grew bored and turned to amusing themselves. I was unsparing in my analysis, but as my voice raised, so did their noise level. I knew the situation in side and out. I understood perfectly the finest of aspects of our situation. My hindsight was 20-20, and my prophesies were as accurate.
But no one listened. They paid me no mind whatsoever. And non one understood a word I said. No one, that is, — except the tall, thin, dark man sitting beside me. He had been there all the time.