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When the Circus Almost Came to Town
About the Author: John H. Dromey was born in northeast Missouri. He enjoys reading—mysteries especially—and writing in a variety of genres. He’s had short fiction published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Crimson Streets, Gumshoe Review, Mystery Weekly Magazine, Thriller Magazine, Woman’s World, and elsewhere.


The man with a star-shaped badge pinned to his denim shirt didn’t budge an inch from his swivel chair when a hyper man in a three-piece suit barged into the tiny office that was dominated by a metal army surplus desk and a glass fronted gun case filled to capacity. The room’s single exterior window overlooked a compact parking lot, which fact undoubtedly accounted for the occupant’s calm response to his agitated visitor. He’d seen him coming.

“What can I do for you? Mr. Baxter, is it?”

“That’s right, Sheriff. I don’t believe we’ve met. I’m surprised you know who I am.”

“I make it my business to keep track of people.”

“Do you know why I’m here?”

“No, sir. That was the purpose of my earlier enquiry.”

“Your …? Oh, you did pose a question, didn’t you?”

“That I did. Please state your business.”

“I want you to run those clowns out of town. They’re a public nuisance.”

“May I deduce you mean that literally? You’re referring to the advance retinue of comic entertainers in full costume who are here to promote the circus that’s coming to town?”

Baxter nodded his head.

“I can’t just kick them out for no reason at all,” the sheriff said.

“I realize that, and I also know it isn’t my place to tell you how to do your job, but let me remind you that with the recent oil boom there’s been an influx of new hires into your little burg here in the middle of nowhere. Whether a workover rig operator or a roustabout, those workers have to stay somewhere. That’s increased the demand for rental properties exponentially. Right now, I’m living out of a suitcase in a boarding house where I pay an arm and a leg for the use of a cot that I have to share with a nightshift worker. I know for a fact there’s no available housing for miles around.”

“I’m aware of that. What’s your point?”

“Can’t you charge those jokers with vagrancy?”

The sheriff shook his head.

“No, I can’t. The circus folk brought their own lodging. They’re living in a camper on the fairgrounds.”

“Squatting there? Isn’t that trespassing?”

“Not at all. The circus owner has leased the fairgrounds at a fair price, paid in full in advance, and he also obtained an entertainment permit.”

“What about their behavior? They’re interfering with the day-to-day activities of the bank.”

“You’re a banker?”

“Yes, I was sent here from corporate headquarters to take over the branch facility.”

“Why?”

“The oilfield workers are well-compensated for their endeavors and we plan to offer them a place to cash their payroll checks.”

“A fee for service operation?”

“There’ll be some profit involved for the bank.”

“What possible effect could the presence of clowns have to do with that?”

“Nothing directly. It’s just that they’ve been coming into the bank on a regular basis asking for hundred-dollar bills to be changed into tens, fives, and ones. Since they all wear gloves it takes them forever to count even a small stack of currency. Yesterday, a mime wasted nearly an hour of a busy cashier’s time before she finally figured out he wanted a roll of quarters.”

“Why don’t you refuse them service because they don’t have an account with your bank?”

“Since at the present time we don’t plan to make a similar requirement for oilfield workers, technically, that might be considered unlawful discrimination.”

“You have a dilemma. Under ordinary circumstances I’d suggest you fill out a citizen’s complaint, Mr. Baxter, but you’re not actually a long-term resident, are you? Technically speaking, that is.”

Before the banker could comment, he gave a nervous jump as the sheriff’s phone rang.

The lawman listened carefully for a few heartbeats, and then hung up the phone. He stood up and reached for his hat.

“That was my deputy. I have to go now. There’s been an incident at the fairgrounds.”

“You can’t just walk out on me, Sheriff. There’s something really important I need to discuss with you.”



This story appears in our JAN 2020 Issue
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Reader Discussion

12
Jan
Clever, interesting, funny. I wanted more clown hijinx.
By chuck

12
Jan
I enjoyed your story, thanks for sharing it!
By Jay Hammond

12
Jan
Got some news for you, John. The data on CDs are not affected by magnets. The data are read by light, i.e., a laser.
By Rick Watkins

12
Jan
Thanks, Rick, for pointing out a factual error in my story. There are a couple of possible explanations. Perhaps, when I wasn’t paying close attention, the third-person omniscient point of view was temporarily hijacked by an unreliable narrator. With what I know now, however, I prefer to think the seasoned sheriff either thought a magnet could do some real damage or he found it convenient to lie about the technology involved and got away with it. The old-school banker didn’t know any better.
By John H. Dromey

12
Jan
Awesome short story. I am eager to read more of your writings. Well done.
By Rene Strand

13
Jan
I'll never trust what a clown says again. They are liars and tricky. Fun story. I think the sheriff was double/triple? bluffing.
By Susan R

14
Jan
Cleverly written story. I truly enjoyed the read.
By Tina J

17
Jan
Hate banks, love clowns... and stories like this one!!
By George Garnet


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