When I was a child, our house was a shack made of wood, tin and cardboard. We were eight male siblings huddled together in one bedroom where there was barely room for four mattresses resting on the dirt floor, a table and a closet, while our parents had a bed for them in the other room, which also functioned as a kitchen. The latrine was outside and we had to take turns relieving ourselves.
We never had television and radio was a subject of conflict. The only thing we could agree on was to listen to half an hour of melodic songs from yesteryear after the only daily meal, which was at night, which generally consisted of a soup of seafood biscuit, carrot slices and a chunk of boiled hen.
Dad drank cheap red wine and the rest of us drank water, which had to be brought in jars every morning. The best thing was always the dessert: Mrs Singerman left us a package with delicacies from her pastry shop twice a week, which my mother wisely rationed.
After dinner, our parents went to their bed and closed the door. Some nights my mother screamed with excitement and other nights she screamed in pain, although sometimes we didn't know if she was having a good or bad time. The next morning we would notice from the marks on her face, usually bluish bruises. It was something we were used to and she begged us not to interfere, because “Daddy loves me very much, although sometimes he gets angry, and I love him very much too, as I love you all.”
When we were alone in our room, our private party started. My brother Jack was the master of ceremonies.
“Welcome to the Great Brown Brothers Circus!” he said, using a brush as a microphone, sporting a worn green livery that we had found in the alley behind the Grand Hotel.
My brother Robert clapped using saucepan lids as cymbals, the always-rowdy Jeremy played a trumpet blowing through his cupped hands and crazy Jonah played the clown. A triumphal orchestra resounded throughout the circus tent, with a marvellous and vibrant fanfare.
Next, Jack introduced the main attractions: the dancing elephant played by big Michael, the lion tamer played by Sean, and the lion played by Roger.
After these numbers, Jack moved to the centre of the room, stepping on the mattresses.
“Now, the long-awaited grand finale: the great magician Willy Brown!” he proclaimed.
At that moment, I would stand in the centre of the circus ring, with my magic wand and my old magician's hat, from which I extracted imaginary rabbits, toads, bats and pigeons, while everyone else applauded enthusiastically. Next, I would bring out countless brightly coloured handkerchiefs knotted together, clouds of glittering stars, ping-pong balls, and finally piles of gold coins, which I scattered in grand gestures all over the room, much to the amusement of my brothers.
To finish, I waved my wand and all creations hurried back to the hat, including the bats, the rabbits, and the brightly coloured handkerchiefs. Also magically disappeared the lion tamer and the lion, the musicians and even the dancing elephant. The last ever to leave was the announcer in his worn green livery, bowing farewell.
Then, I would contemplate my brothers, scattered among the mattresses that covered the floor, asleep for a long time after enjoying the delicacies of Mrs Singerman, and I would look for a space to snuggle in, usually near my big brother Michael, while the circus fanfare kept ringing in my mind.
Marcelo Medone is a fiction writer, poet, essayist and screenwriter from Buenos Aires, Argentina. His works have received numerous awards and have been published in magazines and books, individually or in anthologies, in multiple languages in more than 40 countries all over the world.
He has been nominated for the 2021 Pushcart Prize.