Wing-Feather Fables: The Mood Circus

Circus, bells, Wing Feather Fables

Old Man Finney left his birch cane at home when the Mood Circus came to town. It was a fine cane, honey-colored, peppered with whorls, and not obnoxiously straight. He had made it himself, in Lake George, just before his children imagined themselves as grownups, gone. After that, the scent of cut birch made Finney cry, so he fashioned the handle from a knot of oak and polished the whole with a strong veneer.

He never left the cane at home, unless the Circus was in town.

By now, he knew the harbingers — the melancholy dreams, sparked with essence of hysteria (he wasn’t fond of those), food that tasted of emotion — hamburger laced with fear, lettuce salted with resentment. Finally, he’d hear the bells, and follow.

He’d find them near an ocher-colored building, warm bricks lit with sundown. Those bells cast liquid shadows, dangling from their cords. Beneath their inky thumbprints, stood the ringmaster in his emerald top hat and his cryptic, mesmeric smile.

The Circus cost a quarter, a fee waived for little children, tramps, and soldiers.

Finney always found himself in the same room at the start, in the washed-out blue of Solitude, the scent of persimmon and salt, and a woman in azure who blew a single bubble that floated, always out of reach.

From there, it was a crap shoot. Sometimes, he ended up in Anger, with its equatorial temperatures, its smell of cordite and mold, its podiums where spectacled monkeys delivered sermons mixed with diatribes.

There was always Grief, a grey room of mist where he stubbed his toes on uneven slates and tasted sour kidney beans and liver. Or Jealousy, with its crooked mirrors. Pride was a room full of rubble that he felt compelled to climb. Once, he’d been lost for a week in the Corridors of Shame with their sticky-note reminders of all his little failures. The Circus kept you, as it liked.

In Happiness, a dwarf in a pink tutu handed out lollipops flavored with euphoria. People got lost in that room. The bouncers had to haul them out, with detours through Swamps of Bitterness, the Briar Patch of Cynicism. Once, they deposited a troupe of old professors in the Tar Pits of Uncertainty. They were never seen again.

Finney liked Surprise with its raucous scent of onions, its trumpet-blasted eggs or cream puffs or meringues. He disliked the cluttered mess of Boredom, and was overwhelmed by the emptiness of Goofy. With Awe and Curiosity, he could never remember what he’d seen, or learned, or left behind.

He had a favorite room, of course. It always smelled of sunlight in October, a crisping, generous tang. Water trickled in a rivulet, as cold and clear as birth. Compassion — here, he didn’t need his cane. And when he left this final room, the Circus fading off behind him, he took along its gift of faith and the ringing clarity of shadow bells on ocher.

~ Photo by Brenda Gottsabend; Story by Lisa Ahn

Learn more about Wing-Feather Fables here

11 thoughts on “Wing-Feather Fables: The Mood Circus

  1. Pingback: Wing-Feather Fable: The Mood Circus | How to Feather an Empty Nest

  2. Lisa….I really enjoy this. It all strikes home except for boredom which I do not associate with clutter. Of course that might be because I really like to look at other people’s clutter so perhaps that is more a function of my dis-function. Thanks for sharing this. Fantastic

  3. Pure magic! I have simply stopped asking myself “How does she DO that?” and just given in to the beauty of it all. Thank you for bringing my photograph to life.

  4. Wow! Another fabulous fable! The descriptions are amazing and the ending — in the compassion room — so moving! Brava Lisa, Brava Brenda!

  5. Pure joy (what would that room look like?)!! Reminiscent of Ionesco. I’m duly impressed!

  6. Pingback: Jumping into the Deep End: My First Writer’s Conference | Lisa Ahn

  7. Thanks everyone. “Mood Circus” was my favorite to write so far. It was so much fun imagining the rooms, and Finney was a character who just came alive for me at the start.

    I’m not sure where I’d end up in the Mood Circus. I hope it would be a room with chocolate. And coffee. Books too. And a pen, to take notes.

  8. Simply amazing! To be able to match such vivid descriptions with complex moods in the context of a circus is pure genius! Love it!

  9. Lisa, again you have outdone yourself! I was so taken away by this my words just can not explain how I feel right now! Thank you so much for sharing.

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