The circus must have been English because the chatter of swear words and jokes around the afternoon's activity was mostly cockney accented. In my memory, which might not be reliable, it was all "facking this and facking that". There was a peculiarly domestic routine going on, llamas being fed like pets, costumes being hung on a clothes line, all that sort of thing. We felt like we were spying into something genuinely unusual and unseen - the secret life of the circus.
I moved further along the ditch and climbed into a familiar place where I used to sometimes sit, the nook of an ash tree at the very corner of the field. It overlooked the back of a caravan, and, craning my head, I could see the jumping glow of TV set behind the caravan's net curtains. My friend had climbed up beside me. We sat in the tree for a while and soaked things up, sniggering about the double German class going on without us. Then the door of the caravan opened.
A clown emerged. His face was not fully prepared. Only the lips and one eye were done. A fag dangled from his lower lip. He stretched unhooked then dropped his dungarees, squatted, and began to shit. All this occurred about fifteen feet away from the tree that contained us, two gawky leaving cert students sitting awkwardly in full sight. I don't know what went through my friend's mind but I felt a slowly churning and sour mixture of clown-terror and mortification rise through me. I also saw the clown raise his head, so inevitably, before it actually happened. A hot coil of poop had barely hit the ground when he clocked us. "YOU FACKING [SOMETHING, SOMETHING] FACK OFF [SOMETHING] PAY FOR THE SHOW [SOMETHING] YOU CAAAHNTS".
We were already leppin' through the elder like hot snots before he had his dungarees back in order. I remember laughing like a drain but it was hollow. Inside I felt bad for the clown. We had violated one of the most private moments of all, the unguarded human shitting. Later that night it was myself I felt bad for, because every shadow beyond my bedroom curtains took on a wriggling clown shape across a mowed lawn in the landscape of my imagination.
MP3: The Beatles-Being For The Benefit of Mr Kite