27 May 2006

Bob and the circus

Bob was tall for a person, which he wasn't. He was short for a tree, which is what he happened to be. He wasn't extraordinarily short, but a sort of middling short that he tried to compensate for by being extra bushy. It was said of Bob, back when other trees spoke to and of him, that he had boughs in places that most trees didn't have squirrels.
Squirrels are ubiquitous on trees, like sand on a beach or patchouli oil on a hippie. A tree without squirrels wasn't a tree, but a tall shrubbery or bush, or maybe a tall hedge with anorexia. Bob did what he could to keep himself covered in squirrels, even the annoying ones who did nothing but complain. Only rarely, at his patience's end, would he grab one by it's tail and fling it.
The squirrels didn't like to be on Bob when he was moving. He could cover tremendous distances in a short while, taking any passengers far from their home territory. The squirrels cared almost as little for the long run home as they did for the very concept of a moving tree. Trees weren't supposed to move, their immutable locations were of fundamental importance to woodland life. Bob moved and this made him the most unwelcome of trees in the forest, so he moved alone, except for squirrels too irritating to be welcome elsewhere.
Bob, also unwelcome elsewhere, tried to do most of his resting in large clearings. He preferred ones with a pond or stream in which he could soak his roots and drink his fill. He tried to do this toward the middle of the clearing, so as to be as far away from the other trees as possible.
Bob was resting in a large clearing, a pleasant meadow surrounded on three sides by unwelcoming woods. In a portion of the clearing, and along the unforested edge, the ground was covered by the rough black rock used by some animals as pathways when they are scurrying about. Bob was almost dozing in the middle of the clearing one morning, as close to sleep as a tree can actually get, when a great many noisy boxes came and stopped on the black rock.
People got out of the boxes, and milled around briefly. Most of them then began moving other smaller boxes out of the ones they came in, while a few began to wander through the field. They were carrying papers and bags. Some had loose papers, some in notebooks, and some with clipboards. Every here and there, after consulting amongst themselves, consulting with their papers, and kicking stones that Bob couldn't see, they would pull a stick, about half as long as they were tall and with a brightly colored flag at the end out of their bags and pound it into the ground.
There were soon flags waving across the whole meadow, and small carts rolling around that mowed down the plants in their path. Bob, in the middle of a large rounded area marked with blue and red flags, was likewise in the middle of a circle of the men with papers. They seemed to be taking turns, talking with one another, looking at their papers, and looking at Bob.
Bob was looking at them as well, or as well as a tree can look. Trees, like all plants except for the potato, don't have eyes. This should not be taken to mean that trees are sightless, for they are not. Trees can see just fine, though the means are unknown to all except for ferns, who are too self-obsessed to tell anyone else.
“It wasn't here last year,” said one of the men.
“It's too big to have just grown,” said another.
“Must be some sort of a practical joke,” said a third.
“It's too big to be a practical joke,” said a fifth, speaking out of turn.
“It's very bushy,” said the fourth, trying to catch up.
“It doesn't matter if it's bushy or a practical joke,” said the second. “We can't put the big tent up with a tree just off of the center of the second ring.”
“We could lay the tent out so that the tree is just off center of the third ring,” said the first. “Nobody ever watches the third ring.”
“That's because nothing interesting happens in the third ring,” said the third person. “Besides, moving the tent isn't possible without moving everything else.”
“We could cut it down,” offered the first, mistaking for a strong breeze the tell-tale rattling of a tree preparing to pound someone flat. Bob thought better of it, and moved out of the men's way. The men quickly stopped being in a circle around Bob, with a mild bewilderment, not about a moving tree, but about how they could work it into a show.
There are many problems with creating a circus act involving a moving tree. The first is that a tree won't fit inside the average, generic, multi-purpose three-ring circus tent. The second is that a tree won't do anything that it isn't inclined to do. The third is that squirrels are filthy vermin capable of spreading a great many pestilences. It's impossible to vaccinate them all because they flit about elusively, like stripes across a television or an Emily Dickinson reading. Catch one and twenty more run through the branches in it's stead.
The people discussed this as they filled in the hole Bob left just off of the center of where the second ring would be. It was agreed, after some bickering in the fashion of roustabouts, to let management deal with the tree. It was management's job to assign trainers and deal with both talent and performing animals. Bob wasn't an animal, but no circus had performing plants, so there was going to be a bit of adaptation.
The rest of that day, Bob watched as the people setup tents and facades, and began laying sawdust on the designated paths marked with flags of a neon brown color. The next day, the remaining tents were raised, the remaining obstructive plants were razed, more facades were put up, and the animals began arriving in their cages. On the third day, the circus was completed. It was also on the third day that the people who told management about Bob were given as clean of results on the management-ordered drug tests as could be expected for circus-folk.
The circus management wasn't interested in Bob. When Bob started juggling squirrels to amuse children bored by the formulaic antics of clowns, it was dismissed as hyperactive squirrels having gotten into caffeinated beverages. When he returned escaping balloons to their owners, it was called a fluke of the wind. When Bob stole bundles of yarn from the women employed as palm-readers, it was an ill omen and the circus left quicker than it came.
Bob was alone again, with some dizzy squirrels, a few rogue balloons, and a lot of yarn at the edge of a trampled clearing. Bob went back to the middle of the field, just off of where the second ring had been. He wasn't nostalgic for the spot, it just placed him the furthest away from the other trees as he could get. He sat there, unsuccessfully trying to ignore the formulaic antics of the squirrels, and started learning how to knit balloons.

Goe, was weeding in the rain.

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