The Greatest Show on Earth

Flash Fiction by Pamela Eason
Photo Credit below story

Chill bumps spread down ten-year-old Gracie Anne’s arms partly because she’d never seen a circus and partly because of the height. From Row Z, people milling around below looked like action figures.

“I helped put those up,” her father said pointing to rows of lights in the coliseum’s domed ceiling.


“They hoisted me up on a swing.”

Gracie Anne looked up at the lights gleaming beyond safety nets, rope swings, and cords as she tipped her head, chin up, against the back of seat nineteen. She sat like that, imagining her father balancing on a swing, hands held high, wiring lights so far from the ground, till white lights clicked off and blue ones clicked on.

A spotlight and the swelling repetition of “Dut. Dad-dah dut-tah, dut-tah, dut-tah” pulled her attention downward. A pyramid of pink riders straddling two white horses burst beneath flashing letters that spelled, Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey. After that came stripe-suited men on stilts, juggling clowns, whirling dancers, a wriggling fire-breathing dragon, and waving walkers in slick orange jumpsuits on giant rolling balls followed by a zebra-drawn cage filled with seven stripped tigers and their whip-wielding trainer. Eleven bejeweled elephants, heads held high, lumbered in last. The parade formed a large moving ring. Gracie Anne’s eyes widened as graceful women spiraling down ribbons and spinning from braided ponytails floated around the spotlighted ringmaster who spread his arms wide and announced,

“Ladies and Gentlemen and Children of all ages, 
Welcome to the Greatest Show on Earth!”

Lights switched from blue to violet. Two more spotlights clicked on. Gracie Anne’s eyes moved to her father’s face and back to the circus floor.

Music morphed to a repetitive “Dut. Daaa da da” as the parade separated into three smaller rings. In one, a pink ballerina in high heels directed silver poodles in tutus to jump rope and hop through hoops. A circus man in a white apron balanced a carton of cotton candy and climbed the aisle’s steps towards Row Z shouting, “Get yours! Ten cents!” while nine Chinese men in the far left ring moved up and down two poles as if gravity did not exist. High above the center ring, five swinging Romanians clung to each other as they dangled from trapeze swings almost eye level with Gracie. 

Gracie tapped her father’s arm. “Was it like that?” she asked, pointing to the trapeze swings.

“Well,” he chuckled, “Not quite like that.”

Photo Credit by Atramos. Used under licenses 2.0 @ File available @

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