Priest asks Jester to amuse him. In an elaborate ruse, Jester collects 300 roubles from Priest’s wife to buy 1200 pounds of fish. No fish. Priest doesn’t much like that trick. He can’t catch Jester, so he’s out the money.
Jester tricks Merchant by substituting a goat for himself. He tricks seven greedy jesters three times. The change ups are funny, as is staying one step ahead of a powerful adversary who’s not up to speed.
Abused by the jesters, Jester lures them into sacks to drown in the lake. An early grave to those who can’t outsmart a comedian.
From The Jester in Russian Fairy Tales by Aleksandr Afanas’ev
Z.Z. had a sixth sense. A magician, he bungled through many close curtain calls. On a rainy Seattle night, Interpol surrounded the stage where Z.Z. was performing. Once again, he disappeared.
The trickster took a cab to the train station. He caught an express to Canada. Amelia, fetching in black lace, bewitched him in the dining car. Upon arrival, they checked into a Vancouver motel.
Within days, she’d talked him out of his fingerprints, tax returns, and aliases. “Can’t be too careful with magicians,” she said running her finger along his spine. Ten minutes later, the Mounties got their man.
Maya had escaped death more than once. Fired from a cannon during her act with the circus, she had been mesmerized by shallow praise from the man who lit the fuse and held her cape. In the moments before ejection, her life flashed in front of her eyes.
More and more memories from her childhood emerged. It hadn’t been good. The slender thread of connection with the other performers broke. Seeking relief from her moody reverie, she fell in with a troop of acrobats who lived together in communal harmony and mindfulness. Cautiously, she explored her past. Joyfully, she recovered.
I join other runners crouching into line. The starting gun sounds. A tennis ball stuck at the bottom of my pocket bumps against my thigh, interfering with the rhythm of running.
Then something amazing happens. A Golden Retriever blocks the inside lane. Several people veer to the right, miraculously avoiding collisions. A few scream, one stops. I whistle.
Clutching the ball, I throw overhand into the grassy oval at the center of the track. Cheers go up as the dog bullets away. He’s caught using a doggie treat and we reassemble. The morning headline reads, “Quick thinking saves the race.”
A flash of snow arcs, flying straight to heaven. It floats at eye level, then drifts to ground. The curve of your butt segues left, then right. Love catches my throat.
“That’s how you do it, girl. Like taking a corner on a bike. It’s in the leaning.”
We reach the end of the course, your dark hair flying behind you. A bobbing pink pompom perches on the cap I knitted you last Christmas. Slowing in tandem, we find glasses, pop a cork, and toast an anniversary we never imagined would happen. The frosty air warms to our strong embrace.
Anastasia’s body joked in broad gestures while her face screamed wry. With a tilted head and a mincing clown step, she could amplify a joke into a stand-up routine. The final requirement to fulfill for matriculation was choosing a name.
When Anastasia asked her mother for suggestions, Clotilda was inscrutable. She frowned and shrugged. “Finding a name is a singular quest.”
Anastasia left the house in a huff. Children playing outside
imitated her strut, parading behind her. She walked backwards,
raising her arms like a majorette or a policeman directing traffic.
There’s less light in the morning, more days when you pile on sweaters, two maybe three in lieu of turning up the thermostat. A chill in the air. Literally and figuratively. Bread dough rises slower than in summer. Tempers flare. Violence on the border, in the embassies, in my kitchen where I shout, “Liar, liar, pants on fire,” at the suggestion that we must come together today.
Why today? Why not two years ago? For what? So Lucy can pull the football away again? All of us, Charlie Browns. Decent folk. Taken advantage of once too often. Now go vote.
The trees stay green for a short time after the apples come in. The orchard smells like fall and looks like Christmas. Orbs, ranging the rainbow almost to blue, taste like tart flowing saliva sparks in your mouth. Fruit hangs on gnarly boughs and sometimes ripens to the soft stage because the leaves hide it, the two elements conspiring to stay joined, maybe for dark purposes.
By November, it’s time to end things. Maybe they have an argument. The tree strips naked in the space of less than a month. Bruised yellow apples, good for applesauce, wait for Hanukkah harvest.
I hold my five year old’s hand and say, “Surprise me.” Eyes closed, remembering a stubbed toe, my bare feet inch forward expecting Matchbox cars left on the carpet.
Though I can’t see, I can feel the closeness of a hall. Maybe it leads to the playroom where the floor is littered with Legos, Brios, and baby dolls having tea next to stuffed bears. “You can open your eyes, Mama.” The space is neat, the blocks stacked in their chest, the animals lounging on shelves. Picnic’s black button nose glints white. Jaimie holds him tight and says, “We cleaned up.”