major malfunction

Ungulen’s long, crazy fingers bid the machinery forward. “Easy does it,” he said to no one and everyone at the same time. There were three lever boys up in the big top’s catwalk awaiting instructions. Another was down on the ground with a long rod, helping to support and balance a large object that all of them were working with. Ossip jostled a wheelbarrow which supported a homespun crane that he and Ungulen had designed together. Ossip unhooked the crane’s primary latch. Immediately, the filament reel began unspooling. Ossip’s sinewy arms strained against the pull of the metal threading as it zipped off the line.

At the terminus of this discombobulated machine was a giant light fixture. It was a spotlight that ran on electricity. Cool light instead of the hot oil and mirror combination that the circus had been working with for decades. The spotlight swang malevolently at the end of the line. Ungulen dipped back to give the thing its berth.

“Alright,” he continued to nobody and everybody. “Up as gently as you please, lads.” Ungulen lifted his fingers in feathery waves as Ossip steered the thing skyward. The boy with the pole kept the fixture pointed keenly so it was easier for those in the rafters to receive it.

“I was thinking,” piped up Ossip, “of taking me personal day tomorrow?”

“What?” said Ungulen, gesturing for the fixture to be heightened into the catwalk.

“You said,” Ossip reminded him, “I’s could take a little holiday for meself. On account of the doctor.”

Ungulen paused. His hands dropped. “The doctor?”

But the die had already been cast. All those present misinterpreted Ungulen’s lowering hands as a command regarding the spotlight. Even more unfortunately, each had his own separate bad interpretation of the gesture. The lever boys in the catwalk smacked into each other. The pole holder countermanded his pole into an opposite orientation, knocking over several buckets of sand. But, crucially, it was Ossip who misunderstood most egregiously. He released the crane’s line. The crank spun hotly out of control. The spotlight compacted itself through gravity and surged directly into the ground where it broke into several large, irreparable pieces.

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