Caddy was the first to notice that the circus was in town – although nobody ever paid attention to Caddy, because she was only six.
It was the peanut shells that tipped her off. “Daddy,” she said. “What are these?” Her father cracked one eye open, said, “Peanuts,” and went right back to snoring in his recliner.
Caddy proceeded to her mother, who was lying beside the pool with cucumber slices on her eyes. “Mummy,” she asked, “Who eats peanuts?”
Her mother’s cucumber eyes stared at her unblinkingly. “Everyone eats peanuts,” she said. “Even elephants.”
Elephants! The word sent a shivery thrill through her.
That was when she heard the music. It was the kind that made her face hurt from smiling and her feet start to ache with the need to move.
Caddy leaned on the wooden fence. She definitely wasn’t allowed past the gate by herself. She was just looking. She wondered why more people weren’t standing outside, gossiping and wondering at this strange sound.
That was the moment she realised she wasn’t leaning on her fence anymore – she was making her way down the street – and the music was getting louder because she was moving towards it.
Caddy knew she should turn back – but she wanted to see the elephants. She wanted to follow the music before it stopped (for she knew instinctively that it would stop – and soon – because it was much too beautiful to last for long).
So she kept walking.
“Why, hello there, little lady,” said a clown.
Caddy (who had never seen a clown before) stared at it curiously. “What are you?” she asked – and then clapped her hand over her mouth. She wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers.
“I’m a clown,” said the clown, honking its enormous red nose.
“Oh! You like that, do you?” asked the clown, sounding pleased.
Caddy nodded. “What else do clowns do?”
“We make people laugh,” said the clown. “I’m not a very good clown, though.”
“Why not?” Caddy asked.
“Well, are you laughing right now?”
Caddy shook her head.
“Exactly,” sighed the clown. “I’m a one-trick act, I’m afraid.”
“Oh,” said Caddy, hurriedly, for by now the clown was crying – tears trickling down its face, smearing its heavy white makeup. “Please don’t cry,” she said, reaching out to pat the clown’s shoulder – and then she shrieked, for the clown had suddenly sprayed water on her from the giant sunflower pinned to its vest. She wiped her face with the hem of her sleeve.
The clown beamed at her. “They were only crocodile tears.”
“What are you doing here?” asked Caddy.
The clown puffed out its chest. “Why, we’re circus-ing of course!” it exclaimed. Then it peered at her more closely. “What are you doing here?”
“I’ve run away to join the circus,” said Caddy, and she hadn’t realised until just now, but of course that is what she had done; what she was doing.