Sitting at the kitchen table, Arthur put his head in his hands. The Magic Circle had stripped him of his title. No longer was he Arthur - Man of Mighty Magic. He was just plain Arthur. He was back to being an amateur magician. Not even a particularly good one. They had never gotten to the bottom of how it was he had been accepted as a member of the Magic Circle in the first place. It was generally agreed that he must have been confused with someone else. But no one could quite remember who.
Anyway, Arthur’s head was quivering in his hand for an entirely different reason. His heart was broken in two. His girlfriend, Juno, had run away with the circus. More precisely, she had run away in the arms of Seluvio, the Snake Juggler. On returning home from his dismissal that morning he had found a note on the kitchen table. Well, it wasn’t really a note. It was a crudely drawn picture of Juno riding a snake, underneath which was written ‘Both our names end with ‘o’’. Arthur tried to curse the ‘ur’ that ended his name, but he started it with an ‘Oh’, which just started him off sobbing.
The next morning, Arthur stood up from the kitchen table. His heart was still splintered, but he decided to replace his sorrow with resolve. Rather than deal with the issues surrounding the fact that Juno had left him, it would be much easier to ignore that and concentrate on devising an elaborate plan to get her back. Not wasting any time, Arthur went directly to his Magic Workshop of Wonder at the bottom of the garden. Juno preferred to refer to it as ‘the shed’. There he spent the morning scribbling furiously until he had conjured a plan that would surely win Juno back. All he would need to do after procuring a few necessary items and making a few phone calls was to catch up with the circus.
Two days later Arthur loaded his van with the items he had gathered - a man trap, a giant inflatable hippopotamus, 10 kg of aniseed balls and a puncture repair kit. He’d phoned ahead and organised to hire a crane to be ready and waiting for him in the city the circus would be in when he caught up.
The city where Arthur’s plan would come to fruition was well chosen. He had booked the crane far enough in advance for it to already be waiting at the site when the circus arrived, so it wouldn't look as suspicious as it would if it suddenly turned up. By a stroke of luck, it was adjacent to a building site and when the circus folk arrived, they didn’t even look at the crane twice.
After a long drive across country, Arthur got to the city mid afternoon, a good few hours before that night’s show. He trembled with excitement. There was no way Juno wouldn’t come running straight back into his arms when she saw the lengths he was prepared to go to win her back.
In the back of the van he started to get everything ready. He slit open the inflatable hippo just wide enough so he could slip in the man trap. The man trap was open and primed. He had rigged it with a timer which he set just before he taped it to the bottom of the hippo. Having done this he filled the inflatable with the aniseed balls & then repaired the slit with the puncture repair kit. Finally, he inflated it with a foot pump. He got back into the front of the van tried to have snooze, but he was too wired. Maybe the Magic Circle would hear of his feat and invite him back, even if it wasn’t really a magic trick as such.
A while later, after what seemed like an eternity to the anxious Arthur, the crowds started turning up and queuing up to enter the tent. Arthur rubbed his hands together and waited for the show to begin. Juno had made him take her to every one of the five nights the circus had performed in their home town. The show was rigorously timed. He knew it would be exactly an hour until Seluvio was juggling his snakes near the event’s climax, just after the acrobatic performance of Willy Wulf and his Hundred Hounds.
After the last of the spectators had entered the tent, Arthur opened the back of the van and dragged the hippo out, attaching it to the hook of the cable that hung from the crane. Taking his time he climbed up to the cabin at the top. Once he was in there he retracted the cable to lift the hippo up and moved it so it was hovering above the circus tent.
Arthur waited some more, checking his watch every couple of minutes. When the show was fifty minutes in, he could hear the yelps and barks of the Hundred Hounds as they ran along tight ropes and jumped through burning hoops and formed canine pyramids. A short while later there was rapturous applause. Arthur gave it a few minutes more until he was sure that Seluvio had started his act, which was pretty much confirmed by the large ‘ooooh’ from the crowd. Deciding it was time, he lowered the hippo slowly into the circus tent. You might find it odd that he could get the hippo through the roof of the tent, but this particular circus tent had a detachable top, which they often left off on humid evenings like this one (convenient, I know).
Arthur stopped lowering the hippo. It would be about halfway down into the tent. Having seen Seluvio’s act five times, Arthur knew the audience would be too enrapt in the movements of the snakes being flung through the air to have noticed.
But they did soon. At precisely 8pm the man trap clamped shut and burst the hippo, showering Seluvio in aniseed balls. As planned, shortly afterwards came the sound of the Hundred Hounds going mad for the aniseed. Surely it would be chaos. Seluvio would be made to look a fool, he’d drop all his snakes for sure. What an idiot.
Arthur rushed down the crane, eager to observe the aftermath of his devious plan, nearly missing the rungs on the ladder more than once. When he was finally at the bottom he rushed into the tent’s entrance, ready to laugh his face off and have Juno run up and jump into his arms.
What he actually saw was Seluvio not only still managing to juggle his snakes, but do so while skating and pirouetting across the sea of aniseed balls and leaping over the dogs that were madly running around him. It was beautiful. Who wouldn’t love such a graceful and dynamic snake juggler? The whole audience was standing and applauding like they were competing in a world clapping championship. His eyes searched the crowd for Juno, but he couldn’t find her. It didn’t look like she was there at all
He turned away from the tent and the endless cheering and got into his van. He started the engine and drove and drove until he run out of petrol. Which was only about ten minutes away. He sat there puzzled, unable to figure out where he had gone wrong.