The Ball
     “He bounced around, not unlike a ball… endlessly it seemed he bounced. High, low, fast, slow. He spun sometimes like a gyroscope, twirled like a top, and if any one word described him, it would be ‘unpredictable’.”
     The patient leaned back and took in a breath. He held it momentarily before exhaling, as if savoring the smoke from a fine cigar. He looked down to his hand, already it was moving towards his mouth. He chuckled, for you see he did not smoke and never had.
     “But all of that changed. The word changed to ‘annoying’. He made others nervous. All that bouncing, of course every now and then he would break something or bump into someone. Very polite he was, always apologized, but his energy was constant- what the source I wonder? It was constant. He would roll and start to spin, until eventually launching into yet another bouncing frenzy. It was his life.”
     At that moment the day suddenly turned dark A bird flew into the window of the Head Doctor’s office. The sad thud was just fading when the Doctor sneezed, then hurriedly he rolled his chair over to the window and saw ominous black clouds moving across the sky at an incredible speed. Rays of light shot through spaces here and there like lasers. The clouds disappeared into the horizon and the sky was dark no more. Looking down, there was no dead bird to be found. Just the same old crowd of midgets, clowns and various freaks picketing his office. How long until they just get tired and go away? He never imagined what lengths the Association of Retired Circus Performers would go to extract revenge for a mere statement. Its not like he killed one of them, but he would, and they knew it. They would not cross the line. There it was, painted on the parking lot, wavy was this line, hastily splashed down it looked like blood dropped from some wounded giant that had since moved on. When will they move on? Supplies are getting low, and the Doctor had no intention of changing his opinion that retired circus performers suck. He looked over to the billboard he had erected to advertise his new office location. The slogan ‘Come to the Head Doctor for all of your psychiatric needs, unless you are a retired circus performer, in which case you suck’ did indeed look like the scrawling of a madman, laid down with thick, red paint- intentionally resembling blood. The accompanying stick figure of a hanged old clown was hard to make out but got the point across.
     “I am a Doctor, not an artist,” he said proudly.
     The patient! The Doctor turned from the window and wheeled back behind his desk. If that wasn’t a bird flying into the window, was it just the product of an overactive stressed out imagination? The sound of it was so real. The doctor looked over to his patient, sitting on the painted chair. It was a nice leather chair at one time, but now with red paint splattered all over it, it was ruined. The whole office was painted and in ruin. That is what insurance is for. The freaks will pay for this. They drove him to do this. Boredom is a serious thing.
     The patient! They had both been barricaded in the office for over a week now. They shared a hatred for all old things circus related. They roamed the halls together, sometimes separately, occasionally shooting at the protesters with beanbag shotguns or teargas grenades. Sometimes just screaming into the bullhorn, venting hatred. Letting it go.
     The patient! We are in session. Got to think. Got to work. Need some sleep.
     “What I wouldn’t give for some real bullets,” he growled, eying the riot control equipment stacked by the door.
     “The old freaks getting to you, Doc?”
     “What were you saying, about your… friend?” asked the Doctor, trying to keep his voice calm and reassuring, despite the goings on outside the clinic.
     “Yes, my friend.” The patient again mimicked a smoker, and the doctor pretended to write something on a pad, because the paper had all been used to make airplanes- little flying messages, covered with words and stick figures, aimed to stoke the spirit of the mob. Let them live in anger, see how much they can take. Like swine, rolling in anger, messy acidic anger. He could help them if he didn’t hate them. They need to let it go, and they just might. This may be the end of the line.
     “My friend,” continued the patient, “well, like I said, bouncing was his life. But they let his air out, flattened him until he could barely roll. It was pathetic. His spirit was crushed, he was never the same again.” A slow, deliberate exhale. “Now he just sits there, every now and then a tremor- the desire to bounce once more.”
     The Doctor started to cry.
     The circus mob could hear him, and quieted. The whole world seemed to weep with him for the man who could bounce no more. Indeed, it even started to rain.
     “Come on Tommy, let’s go!” the old dwarf called up to the thin man perched on the roof of the clinic, who was reeling in a fake bird which dangled from his fishing pole.
     The crowd dispersed.
     The Doctor cried.
     “Come on, Tommy, let’s go!” Walking into the room Tommy’s mother, Fran, was shocked to see her son holding a red crayon, crying, and on the walls were stick figures of hanging old clowns, burning big top tents… an apocalyptic circus scene. Again.
     “You’ve been daydreaming! Your father is going to be very disappointed, Tommy.” She frowned, shuddered, and took him by the hand. She led him out into the day, a day so beautiful in and of itself. She had to be strong, but she wanted to cry. Tommy released her hand and ran over to a flattened ball. The wind seemed to push at it- he picked it up and dropped it. Thud. He laughed.
     Fran called her husband, Pelt, and said “Tommy did it again.”
     “Clowns? Red crayon on the wall? Crying then laughing at the flat ball?”
     “Yes.” Pause. “Maybe we should take him to the Head Clinic, Pelt.”
     “The one with the sign? You know the Circus Union would skin me alive if we went there! No, he’ll grow out of it. He’ll be alright. I’ve got to go- the freak show is about to start. Are you still coming?”
     “Yes, we’re off to the circus,” whispered Fran. “Love you, see you in a bit, you hairy, hairy man of mine.”
     “I Love you, too, my bearded lady.”

A short story by Scott C. Stuart

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