Chicken Paddy

Presents

Maxely's Marvelous Circus

Chapter 1: The Madame

A cool breeze blew through the treetops of little, suburban Weridville. It was spring! The trees were budding, the birds were singing, and it had stayed above 50 degrees the entire week. Yup, thought Jimmy Lakin as he sat down on the porch steps of his house, spring had sprung!

Jimmy waved to Mr. Tennant, one of his neighbors. Mr. Tennant was usually seen helping out around town, mowing grass, cleaning gutters, that sort of thing. Today, Mr. Tennant was stapling flyers to the Lamp posts. Jimmy walked up to see what it was about, but already had a feeling he knew what it was.

MAXLEY'S MARVELOUS CIRCUS! the poster proclaimed. FULL OF FUN, FRIENDS, and FANTASY! BE SURE NOT TO MISS MADAME MAXLEY'S PREDICTIONS OF THE FUTURE!

With spring came the annual circus. Every year it was different. Jimmy had wonderful memories from past circuses. He and his friends atop an elephant, discovering the school bully had a mortal terror of clowns, and Jimmy had once even been a magician's assistant.

Mr. Tennant chuckled as Jimmy read the sign. "They say they've been all over the world. The owner and ringleader, Mr. Maxley, is from Britain and his wife, Madame Maxley, is from some country in Eastern Europe. I think Latvia…but I'm not sure." Mr. Tennant smiled once more and strolled off to put up more flyers.

It was the weekend of the Circus. School usually let off early on Friday to let the kids enjoy themselves. Jimmy was with his friends Gabe and Jack as they entered though the archway: MAXLEY'S MARVELOUS CIRCUS! And indeed it looked so.

It had just about everything the boys could imagine: men on stilts, colorful clowns, and even dancing monkeys. Jimmy had to admit, this was the best circus he had ever seen.

Gabe held up the tickets. "Okay," he said. "The show doesn't start for another hour or so. What do you guys want to do until then?"

The boys thought for a moment. Then Jack spoke up. "Ooh! How about that bouncy house thing?"

"Nah," said Gabe. "That's for little kids. We're teenagers now." The boys had turned 13 years old last fall. They all had birthdays in October.

"The hoop toss?" said Jack.

"Those games are fixed," said Gabe.

"Umm….dunk tank?" asked Jack.

"Psh! Spend a dollar to throw a ball and make someone you don't even know wet? I don't think so."

"How about," spoke up Jimmy for the first time, "we go to Madame Maxley's tent?"

Gabe and Jack looked over to the dark tent Jimmy was pointing to. It had a large sign in front advertising "The Great Madame Maxley and her Incredible Powers of Clairvoyance."

Jack nodded his head. "Ooh! That sounds cool. Why don't-"

Gabe interrupted Jack's sentence and sneered at Jimmy. "You don't actually believe all that stuffing, do you? They just do it to get your money! My dad always says that you've got to rationalize everything before you do it." Gabe pulled out an events list for the night. "Now if we hurry, we can get to the Lazer Tag event in time for the next round. Only for ages 13 and up." Gabe looked directly at Jimmy. "Unless you're too much of a baby," he sneered.

Sometimes Jimmy wondered why he even hung around Gabe. "Alright, fine. We'll go there."

Gabe, Jack, and Jimmy all headed in the direction of the blow-up Lazer Tag game. On the way Jimmy stopped and turned to look at Madame Maxley's tent. He had been looking forward to it all week. He liked stories that had to do with magic and fantasy, and this was his chance to actually experience it, besides his experience as a magician's volunteer some years ago.

Jimmy turned to look back at Gabe and Jack, but they had gone on ahead without him, on their way to the Lazer Tag game. Jimmy turned back around to see a woman dressed in layers of colorful clothing and wearing large hoop earrings with heavy makeup step out of the tent. Jimmy knew it had to be Madame Maxley. He then saw the small white sign in her hands. It said "Closed."

Jimmy quickly glanced back at Gabe and Jack. They were already receiving their Lazer gear and heading into the blow-up tent. Jimmy looked back at Madame Maxley. She was placing the "Closed" sign on her large billboard. Well, thought Jimmy, it's now or never.

"Excuse me!" yelled Jimmy, as he ran toward the fortune teller's tent. "Excuse me, Madame! I would like my fortune read!" He ran to her tent as fast as he could. The fortune teller stood and waited for him to arrive, with a surprised smile on her face.

Jimmy arrived at her tent and doubled over, panting. "I…would like…my…"

"You vould like your fortune read?" asked the fortune teller, Madame Maxley, with her thick accent.

"Yes!" gasped Jimmy, still catching his breath.

"Very vell. Ztep inside, please."

Jimmy and the Madame both walked into the dark tent. It was mostly bare, except for a small, round table with a starry tablecloth. On top the table, was a crystal ball. It was a fortune teller cliché, Jimmy knew, but still, it looked so magical.

"I vaz clozing up early," said the Madame. "Buzinezz haz been horrible here. Zo far, you have been my only cuztomer." She smiled, pleased. "I'm zo glad you caught me. I vaz going to go help get ready for ze show, but I vould much razzer give fortunes. Please, take a zeat."

Jimmy sat in the smaller, less extravagant seat across from the Madame. She looked at the crystal ball on the table. No, Jimmy realized, she looked into the crystal ball. She seemed almost mesmerized by it.

When she spoke, it startled him. "Vhat vould you like me to zee?"

"I beg your pardon?" asked Jimmy.

"You do?" said the Madame, and she chuckled to herself. "Very vell, you have it. Now, vhat part of your life do you vant me to look into? I can see into your past, zo short yet; your future, long in coming, or zo one vould zink; or maybe I could give you advice, tell you how to better live your life?"

"Umm…I'm not sure. You decide," said Jimmy. It was a little more than he had expected.

The Madame smiled. "Very vell." She gazed once more into her crystal ball and held out her hand. "Your hand, please." Jimmy placed her hand in hers. Had he imagined it, or did he feel a sudden small shock at that moment? Maybe it was just static electricity. Maybe…

"I vill do an overall look of your life. Let us zee vhat ve can find here. Close your eyes, please."

Just before Jimmy did so, he could swear that the crystal ball had taken on a swirly, cloudy look.

"Ah," said the Madame fortune teller. "I can zee into your past. You are very little, perhaps five yearz of age. You are crying over a mound of dirt. No! A grave. You are holding a band. A collar off a dog. You have lost your dog that you loved very much."

Jimmy could visualize the picture as she described it. His favorite dog, Scruffles the mutt, had died. He could almost feel the pain as if it was yesterday.

"Ah," said the Madame, interrupting Jimmy's thoughts. "Ze picture is changing. You are now with many children. Zere is a larger child demanding something from you."

"That's the school bully," said Jimmy. "He was always taking lunch money from-"

"Please!" the fortune teller said suddenly. "I need silence to concentrate. Now, zis bully iz pushing you around. Wait! Another child haz come forth. Ah, I zee a name. Gabe."

Jimmy remembered that day. The bully had been about to play "Punch the Wussy's Face" when Gabe showed up and stopped him. He and Jimmy had been friends since then, even if Gabe could be bossy sometimes.

"Ah," said the fortune teller once again. "I am getting anozer zene. Zis one iz from your future."

Jimmy couldn't help but fidget in anticipation. He wondered what the Madame would say about what he would become.

"Here is comes," she said. "It iz developing. I zee a handsome man…"

Jimmy couldn't help but smile.

"He iz trying to do zomezing important. Ze future iz always more difficult to zee. He…iz-"

Just then the curtain to the tent flew open and Gabe and Jack burst in. Well, Gabe did the bursting, Jack just followed.

The Madame let go of Jimmy's grasp. "Ack! Vhat are you…doing?" Her voice faded off as she slumped in her chair and gripped her forehead.

"There you are!" bellowed Gabe. "We've been looking all over for you! Where have you been?"

"I told you," said Jimmy, "I wanted to see the fortune teller.

Gabe rolled his eyes. "You really must be a turkey to believe such stuffing. Jack and I are going to the show. It's about to start. You can come if you want, or you can stay here and enjoy your stuffing!"

And with that, Gabe turned heel and marched out of the tent. Jack followed him while throwing an apologetic look back at Jimmy and the fortune teller.

Jimmy glared at Gabe before turning back to Madame Maxely. "Are you alright?" he asked.

"Oh," she murmured, "I zall be fine. It iz dangerous to interrupt a fortune teller vhen zhe iz vorking." She rubbed her temples a bit. "I am zo zorry, but I am in no zhape to peer through ze mists of time for a vhile."

"That's all right," said Jimmy, as he helped her sit up. He was a little disappointed, but it had already been a fantastic experience.

"Wait," said Jimmy. "Did Gabe just say the show was about to start? But that wasn't for another hour when I got here."

"How do you zay it?" said the Madame, "Time flies vhen you are having fun." She smiled up at Jimmy. "I'll tell you vhat, I'll make it up to you."

She stood up and took out a carpet bag embroidered with moons and stars. "I vill grant you a blezzing."

"A blessing?" asked Jimmy. "Like at church?"

"No," smiled the fortune teller. "Iz a bit different vhen I do it. Conzider it the opposite of a curze."

She pulled out a small vial and poured some sparkly powder from it into her hand. She then closed her eyes and held the handful to her chest. Then she held her palm open and blew the sparkles into Jimmy's face.

"Zhere, you have been blezzed by a fortune teller."

Jimmy felt a sudden buzz of energy, as if he had drank several soda pops.

"Thanks," said Jimmy. He pulled out his wallet. "How much do I owe you?"

"You vere a very good audience. And very kind. No payment is needed."

Jimmy pulled out a ten dollar bill. "No, really. How much?"

The Madame put up here hand to stop him. "No. Conzider it my treat for tonight. Now go. Have zome fun. I must get ready for ze big show."

Jimmy put the ten back into his wallet. "Well, can I at least come again tomorrow?"

Madame Maxely smiled at Jimmy. "Of course, Jimmy. You may come by anytime az long az I am ztill here."

Jimmy left the tent feeling refreshed and invigorated. The fresh night air smelled sweet. He decided he would go to the big show after all. It was on his way into the big top when he realized that he had never told Madame Maxely his name.

The show was very entertaining. Jimmy sat by Gabe and Jack during the show. They enjoyed most of the events. There was a horse and pony show. Then they had the elephants with the horses and ponies. Then there were acrobats, clowns, and even a magician. Then, Madame Maxely came onstage. To Jimmy, it seemed as if she immediately saw him in the crowd. Her husband, the ringleader, brought on her table, tablecloth, and crystal ball.

"For zis," she said to the crowd, "I need one volunteer!"

A few hands shot up in the crowd, but not many.

"I need an azzizztant who can help me peer into ze realm of zpiritz!"

A few more hands shot up, but it was a petty handful.

"What a load of turkey stuffing," Gabe murmured under his breath.

The Madame immediately pointed one of her long, red nails to Gabe. "You! Zere! You look like juzt ze person who can velp me!" She waved for him to come down.

"Yeah, you need help alright," Gabe murmured again. A few people nearby chuckled.

Gabe reached the center ring and stood by Madame Maxely. He looked like he really wanted to go home at that moment.

"Good evening," said the Madame. "Vould you please tell me your name?"

"You're the psychic," retorted Gabe, "you tell me."

The whole audience laughed. Madame Maxely merely smiled. "Charming."

"Vell, I vant you to take a zeat at my table."

Gabe walked over to the Madame's table, and was about to take the smaller seat, when he smiled and took Madame Maxely's bigger and more extravagant seat.

A few people in the crowd gasped, but the Madame merely smiled once again.

"Alright," said the Madame, "ve vill now call upon ze zpirits. Place one of your hands upon the crystal ball." Gabe did so. "Now, I shall summon up ze zpirits."

She closed her eyes and all the lights in the big top dimmed. "Zpirits! Zpeak to uz!"

A sudden gush of wind blew through the big top. People began screaming. Some stood up to try and run out the door.

Then, just as suddenly as it started, it all stopped. Jimmy could immediately see why. Gabe had dove out of the Madame's chair, and was under the table. The Madame was in her correct chair.

The whole way home Jimmy teased Gabe about how scared he had gotten and had to dive out of his seat. Gabe merely mumbled something about turkeys and stuffing as a response. Jack was quiet as always, smiling as he thought about the good time he had at the circus.

The boys split off one by one as they each went to their own homes, Gabe leaving first, then Jack, and Jimmy walked the rest of the way home by himself. As he crawled into bed, he couldn't help but think about Madame Maxley again. Tomorrow was a Saturday, so he would try and visit her again.

In the few seconds before he dozed off, he thought about the "blessing" that the Madame had given him, and warmth spread from his head to his toes, and he drifted off to sleep.