Engineers Love Circuses Too

Growing up in the outskirts of a sleepy Town, Tyra and her family have had the misfortune of having their house burglarized several times. Once it happened in the middle of the day when her dad was at work, her mother was out on market-day and all the children were in school. Mother would be the first one back home and the scare would take her over to a neighbor’s house to wait until the bus brought the children back home. Another time it was while they were celebrating a party and the doors out back were left unlocked. And twice already when the family was fast asleep.
There never is a good or better time to have someone come in to rummage around in your private space but to have someone in your home while you are asleep has to be the worst time. The scariest too.

After something like that happens, you become keen at spotting whether or not something has been touched and intentionally left behind and somehow everything you touch smells different. Your sense of smells becomes amplified and you know what you know.

That’s exactly how Tyra felt that Wednesday morning in October as soon as she woke up.

She looked around her room. She could smell it. Strange. Everything was like it had been the night before except for that strange putrid smell.

She went down the stairs where her family was getting ready for the day ahead. Strange again. There was too much commotion for a Wednesday.

“I knew it, I knew it,” she blurted out, “what did they take this time?”

“Who?” they all replied in unison.

“What happened to good morning,” her mother chirped as she planted a kiss on Tyra’s forehead, “I’ll have to get a bag of peanuts at the store this week. Oh isn’t it exciting? They’ll have the tent up by the end of the week.”

“ and the parade will be on Saturday,” Luna interrupted, “I’ll wear my new skinny jeans and the purple top that I got for my birthday.”

“What happened? Nothing stolen? ” Tyra still didn’t get it.

“The Circus, silly. The Circus is in town. That’s what happened. Hurry up, or we’ll be late for the bus.”

Like a thief in the night, the Circus had come to the Town of Macondo. Yes yes, that was exciting. But in her mind, only thieves moved around at night.

Tyra was 9 years old with a cultured nose. Their house was the last house built nearly three years ago in a newly developed area. The Circus used to come to this town every year but the three-year hiatus, brought about by the recent economic decline, had caused her to forget all about circuses, clowns, elephants, and peanuts.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday zoomed by with new found positive vibes. The stench from the animals which when mingled with the salty sea breeze become exacerbated slowly became less of a bad stench to those living in such proximity to the circus grounds. Tyra stopped dabbing Vicks Vapo Rub on her nose, with ambivalence at first and then fully determined to stop the practice when her school friends started likening her to smelling like their grandmothers. The last thing she wanted was to smell like her own grandmother who, while sweet and caring, smelled like old pee and Vicks.

“What are we going to do with you and your detective-nose,” her mother would tease, “perhaps you’ll grow up to be a smell-connoisseur,” she’d add.

This always confused Tyra because she couldn’t get a straight answer from any of her teachers about any such profession. And even mother didn’t offer an explanation when Tyra questioned her about it. So Tyra would just dismiss the question. She didn’t like asking too many childish questions because she hoped that her family would stop referring to her as the baby in the family.

That Friday the excitement was hard to curtail. October was a good time for circuses as the air wasn’t as humid as it was the rest of the year. Sunsets came too early though, so the parade was scheduled right after school. This was a safari parade at its best. The animals, and oh what animals, wore festive decorations. There were horses and ponies and zebras. There were tigers and camels and monkeys and dogs. The horses wore bells on their legs that jingled as they pranced along and huge ribbons decorated their tails. The acrobats that sat on the horses looked like Belles straight out of a western movie with their pleated long dresses and plumed hats. They waved and blew kisses at the crowd.

The elephants, all 6 of them with their smiling faces and long trunks walked on their hind legs and rested their front legs, on the waist of the elephant in front of them. They wore fancy belts around their big ears and these were attached to big round rubies and sapphires clustered like grapes that dangled in the middle of their foreheads. And on their legs they wore neon anklets. They got on all fours and went around in circles at regular intervals, much to the oohs and awes of grownups and kids alike. Only the elephant at the head of the group had a long ivory tusk and on that elephant sat a girl with a sequenced outfit and a top hat. There was an elegant gold and red cart full of puppies dressed in little girls’ outfits and this was pulled by two young cows. And a couple of monkeys rode in a caged trailer pulled by someone who impersonated The Terminator. The clowns provided the music and the girls on the unicycles looked like tall Christmas trees with LED lights that moved like disco lights. It was quite The Parade of the year and everyone came out to enjoy it. Only, except for the dogs and the monkeys, the animals weren’t real. They were all engineered by the acrobats themselves who believed that a circus was no place for wild animals. The dogs each had their respective owners as did the monkeys and no animal was ever in any kind of danger of abuse or mistreatment.

The next day and the week that followed people lined up to enter the circus tents. Once settled in, they would take out their bags of peanuts. They’d eat some between taking pictures, and talked and clapped as they were entertained with funny antics from the clowns and animal tricks and acrobatics.

Long after the Circus had left, in every corner of the sleepy town, people could still be heard talking and reliving the excitement. The burglaries became less and a new sense of camaraderie was born. All thanks to the Circus.

A Letter to The Universe


Dear Universe. God. Let me call you God. I want to talk to you today.  My name is Rudolph. I’m an orphan. Well, not really, but that’s how I feel. I’m embarrassed to come to you with my petty request when I know that you must be so busy with all the other problems that are going on in the world. The truth is that I feel lonely. The teacher in school told us that when we had problems, whether big or small, we should find time to write a letter to the Universe. I will write my letter but I really don’t know where to send it. She also said that we should do things out in stages and to gradually move from one stage to the next when we write. I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. I have also worked on an outline so first I want to tell you about my grandma.

My grandma comes to my room every night to kiss me good night. I am already nine and a half years old and my grandmother still treats me as if I were a little boy. She insists on kissing me every time she sees me. I guess she must really love me a lot because sometimes when she’s kissing me and hugging me she hugs me so hard that I can hardly breathe. And many times I have heard her calling me her little orphan. On those times I sometimes see her eyes fill with tears. When I ask her why she cries, she just holds me close and kisses me some more. So that now I don’t want to ask her about that anymore. But I do have other things I want to ask her about.

Recently the other kids in my class have been telling me that I’m an orphan because I don’t have a mother nor a father. At home my grandma has some pictures of me as a tiny baby with a young woman whom she says is my mother. I don’t remember my mother. And neither do I remember my father. But my grandma never ever mentions my father.

Grandma used to tell me that I look just like grandpa when he was my age. We even have a whole album of grandpa pictures as a boy. But recently she doesn’t even mention grandpa who died before I was even born.

Grandma is the only relative I have. Or at least the only relative I know. Well besides my mother. Grandma used to read me letters that came in airmail envelopes. She said those were from my mother. Sometimes there were birthday cards inside the envelopes and sometimes there was even money. The letters made me happy. They smelled like bubblegum wrappers even though there was no bubblegum inside. And the stamps on them were rather pretty as well. But recently there are no letters and no money.

To tell you the truth this is the first time I’m writing a letter to a real person. Well, we practiced writing letters in class one week in school and we all addressed it to Mr. Phillips, the principal. I’m sure that it took him a very long time to read all the letters he got. I want to write a letter to my mother to ask her if I really am an orphan.  And to ask her when she ‘s coming back. I’m a big boy now and there’s a lot that I can do. I think I’m missing my mother although I don’t know exactly what it feels like to have a mother. I just figure it must be the same way that having a grandmother feels.

My grandma is good to me but she’s already getting old. I don’t know exactly when my grandma sleeps because she’s always up when I get up and nowhere near her bed when I go to sleep. She wakes me up early in the morning and makes me rush to eat my eggs, toast and banana breakfast. Then she shows me where my lunch is in the fridge for when I come home from school at lunchtime. Then the two of us leave together. I go to school and she goes to work. At school, when the bell rings we all have to go back home at 11:30, eat and return to school by 12:45 sharp for the afternoon part of school.

When I get home to eat my lunch, grandma is not home. I eat lunch alone. But before I eat I always change from my school shirt to an old T-shirt that grandma sets out behind my chair. This changing of clothes makes me dizzy but I do it because it helps grandma. I air out my school shirt and put it on again before returning to school. So, all in all, I change shirts twice a day; once at lunch and again after school.

When I come home after school I come straight to my room to change from my school uniform to my ordinary clothes. I put my white shirt in a hanger and clip my trousers to the clothes line on the veranda facing the side of the house where the sun is still shining. My school shirt, if it passes my grandma’s sniff-test and it doesn’t smell too rancid, as she takes to calling it, I wear from Monday to Friday.

Here at home, it’s just Grandma and me. She used to work at Mr. Sharp’s in the big white house next to the school grounds. Then, I used to go to meet grandma there for lunch. We would eat lunch together then. But since you made Mr. Sharp die, she has had to work at a different house. A little far so that she cannot come home to meet me for lunch. She works for Mrs. Vargas now.

Mrs. Vargas is the Manager at The Macondo Bank in Town and Mr. Vargas is a Taxi driver. They have 3 kids. Maurice, the youngest one, is in my class. He doesn’t like to study and says that he will go into the taxi business like his dad when he grows up.

God, I don’t want to be a bother to you but I want to ask you to help all the people who live here in Macondo, but most especially I want to ask you to make me a big boy soon so that I can help my grandma so that she doesn’t have to work so hard every day. I don’t know what I would do if my grandma got sick and died. So please God, don’t think of taking her from me anytime soon. But please turn me into a big boy a.s.a.p.

I do my homework at the library every night and Ms. Gina helps me to review my spelling words and sometimes helps me memorize my multiplication tables. The man at the Taco place next to the library is a good friend of my grandmother. Every evening he calls me to go into his place and he and his wife serve me Tacos and orange juice. His name is Mr. Cholin. I want you to send him a tortilla making machine because sometimes when I’m eating there I hear him say to his customers that he is out of tortillas. If you send him a tortilla making machine he could make more tacos for all the people who come to his place. They’re really good tacos.

God, I know that my problems are nothing compared to what the kids in Aleppo are going through. But I promise you this — I will study hard and work well and I will do my best to help people like the people in Aleppo when I get big so please make me big soon.

Thank you, God.

Yours truly, Rudolph.