Dust bowl circus | Episode 5 more alive
Billy never felt more alive than when he was sat on the bike, in fact it was the only time he felt alive.
He was a good looking kid there was no doubting that, he had the look of a rebel but the truth lurked behind the eyes, it was always the big giveaway, and this boy was dead.
He died 5 years ago this fall, 14 years of age he stood on the edge of the creek and looked at the valley below, he heard the crowd cheer, the bike roar into action, the white jumpsuit with the red sash the rider always sported, the nervous gasps as the bike took off over the gully. He didn’t see anything as his eyes were firmly shut, His eyes did however register the bright orange flash, he heard his mother scream just before a deathly quiet descended, he remembered the quiet most of all.
It wasn’t just his father that passed away that day part of Billy died too, mum followed dad less then twelve months later, pulled down to the bottom of a liquor bottle and drowned in the despair within, the circus looked after him, they tend to with their own and before his sixteenth birthday he had repaired the one of the old mans rusting bikes, the moment he sat on the saddle something transformed in him, I noticed it in his eyes, a flame a fiery intensity.
It wasn’t long before Billy was pushing the envelope, first wheelies and parlour tricks, donuts and dares but the rush it gave him was insatiable. Billy was studious in his obsession, so bloody single minded, there were of course set backs on the way but broken bones heal and doctors kept stitching him back up, a few scars on his face couldn’t mask the radiance and allure this boy had yet for all the advances of the young ladies both in and out of the circus Billy was aloof, removed almost dead to them.
Gamelli quickly picked up on the attraction, the good looks and the daring stunts were a winning mix, always dressed in black leather he simply rode on did the stunts and rode out the ring again. Gamelli begged him to add some pizazz to the proceedings, of course the advise for colourful costumes and theatrics always fell on deaf years, Billy would simply smile that same smile, it was functional, polite even but the eyes gave it way, there was no joy, no sparkle, no life. No contact even.
What did catch his eye was some of the magazines and news fro the big cities, what some of the stunt guys were doing blow Billy’s mind, all of a sudden a new intensity came over him, a new project a new passion, he hid himself away in his mobile junkyard a mad scientist composing his next overture.
Sparks flew out of his pop up compound day and night, dodgy deals with metal merchants and railwaymen I see everything from the shadows I occupy, I am not always in the gaze of the ring.
Something began to take shape, a globe like contraption, wire mesh and metal, this was is opus, and soon it was ready, in the back lot he practiced and practiced, a fall here a set back here there.
I remember him begging old man Gamelli for a top of the bill slot, pleading even, of course Billy was a big draw so the boy got what the boy wanted. Bums on seats were always the bottom line for Gamelli the old man loved his money.
The clowns had amused, the high wire walkers had amazed, the trapeze had thrilled and the Elephants and Tigers enthralled. Now it was time for the finale, the spellbinding climax of the night and the contraption was pulled onto the middle of the floor my several roustabouts.
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, Gemelli’s world famous big top circus is proud to present a deed so audacious and thrilling you will not believe your eyes, we present for your delectation, daredevil extraordinaire, Mr William “Chuck” Clarke and the globe of death.
The cover was pulled away and the brass looking mesh globe dominated the centre of the clock ring. If the crowd wasn’t excited enough the roar of the motorcycle raised the levels to beyond exhilarating, the curtain at the side of the ring parted and Billy kicked up the dust as he rode in dressed in a white jumpsuit with a red sash. A couple of laps around the ring and Billy triumphantly entered the cage, the mesh door was locked behind him.
As billy built up sped and climbed the walls of the dome the cheering clapping faces in the tent became a delightful blur. The cheers reverberated around his mind, as the bike continued to defy gravity, looping the loop Billy smiled, not the smile he had cultivated for the likes of Gemelli and the troop, but the type of smile he remembered before that day at the creek, when life was sweet and simple. Billy squeezed on the throttle, delirious, lost in wonder. He closed his eyes and he was back in the creek, he saw for the first time his father take off over the gully, Billy’s smile never left his face as he took his hands of the bars, he had never felt so alive.