Dear readers, tonight rather than an interview we print a short scene describing the circumstances surrounding an interview. While it may sound a bit meta, let us assure you that the interviewees are Circus people from a post-apocalyptic Europe, whose performances usually involve gunfire, bloodshed and some kind of mayhem.”
“A mountain never meets a mountain, but a man may meet a man.”
The lead trailer had pulled to a dusty halt, and the elephants followed suit along with the rest of the circus caravan.
Perched on the now-stopped tractor, Sparrow looked up from her snack, a half-cooked potato, and rested a hand on her pistol. “Oi, Blanco. We might ‘ave trouble.”
Blanco was dozing on a pile of sacks and blankets atop the wagon behind her, Daisy the dog curled up beside him. Blanco lifted his bone-white dreadlocks off his pillowed jacket. “Bollocks.” He pulled himself forward to look, complaining. “Why can’t it be the opposite of trouble for once?”
“What is the opposite of trouble?” Sparrow mused. “Not-trouble? A surprisin’ situation what produces a feelin’ of joy rather than swearin’ and bullets flyin’ every feckin’ which way? Is there a word for that?”
Blanco hopped down onto the pale, rocky track. “I’ll be right back.”
“If it’s not trouble, ask if they got food!” Sparrow yelled, as Blanco’s lanky form ran up the line, past the trucks, horses, vans and elephants.
At the front of the caravan, Baba Yaga’s mountainous bulk, swathed in a dress composed of geological layers of hessian and long-discarded clothing, loomed over a small local gentleman, who wore a worn brown suit and hat, and clutched a pencil and notebook.
Blanco looked around. It was a good ambush point. Mountains rising to their left, the road falling away to dry ravines on their right. “What’s occurrin’, Baba?”
Baba Yaga shrugged. “We is ambush by little man.”
Blanco, still worried, glanced at the man, whose smile was strained, possibly due to the semi-auto Baba held like a toy in one meaty fist.
Blanco puzzled. In the middle of Tajikistan or Afghanistan or whatever other –stan they were in, men in suits, holding pencils poised over paper, were generally thin on the ground. Blanco noticed the man’s feet were bare, but his tie was knotted and neat.
“Can we help you, sir?” Blanco asked.
The man seemed relieved. “In fact, it is also a question of how I can help you. I would like to interview you, and provide you with great publicity!”
Blanco shook his head, bemused. “Mate, if I’m not wrong, we’re a long way from anywhere or anyone what might benefit knowin’ about our…um, circus.”
“Famous already you are, sir,” the man assured them. “I am in constant communication with influencers from Eastern Turkistan to the Indian Ocean, and I maintain the journalistic duties of this entire region. Your progress is great news.”
Baba Yaga snorted. “To who? I see only goats and some lizard in this place. Also one snake. I kill and eat. It doesn’t taste like chicken.”
Blanco sighed. “We didn’t say it tasted like chicken, we hoped it tasted like chicken.”
“It tasted like snake,” she sighed, still aggrieved.
Blanco turned back to the little man. “Sir, we would appreciate you being direct.”
“Yes, absolutely. I am Nasir Nazari, and I am wanting to interview you for my audience of many dozens of highly intelligent and discriminating people.”
“Interview us about what?”
“Who you all are, where you have been, the grand adventures you have had, what wonders await your audiences as you travel south…”
“Is government spy,” Baba grunted. “Why you not just say ‘I am government spy?’”
“No, no,” Nasir waved his hands, placatory. “Not spy, journalist. No government here. I am a writer. A poet. A novelist. Also, I herd the goats you see.”
Sparrow and Tog joined the group, curious and wary. Sparrow cocked her head. “Ullo, mate.”
Nasir bowed. “Greetings, fair lady.”
Tog was walking around the man, looking up at him carefully. “Nothin’ concealed what I can see. Out here and no weapons? Dead suss.” Tog looked around for the ambush, sawn-off shotgun at the ready.
Nasir stretched his smile wider. “I promise, no ambush, no bad things, only me.”
Blanco shrugged. “It’s time we stopped for lunch. How about joinin’ us, Nasir? You can ask them questions, and we can ask how the hell you intend lettin’ anyone outside this valley know the answers.”
A short while later, the camp kitchen was handing out rations of bread and spicy beans to riggers and performers, and animals were fed and watered, as Nasir began interviewing Blanco.
“You are come from long way, yes?”
“From England, mate. What’s left of it.”
“Across many mountains.”
“Indeed. If we in’t goin’ downhill, we is goin’ uphill.”
“You are world famous circus.”
“World famous might be the wrong way to put it. Wanted by the authorities in a dozen countries, yes.”
“People marvel at your show, yes?”
“People react, yes. Some, as you say, marvel, some leave and turn to God – generally there’s gunfire, bloodshed and some kind of mayhem.”
“Wonderful! How exciting,” Nasir enthused. “I would give much to see your circus. There is so little that happens here in this place.” He looked around, wistful. “It is beautiful but sad.”
Still chomping her beans, Baba Yaga nodded. “Whole world is beautiful but sad. Some places more sad than here even.”
Sparrow patted Nasir. “Be happy you live in a safe place, mate. You’ve got nature and fresh air, your goats. A handsome fella like you’s probably got a lovely wife and kids too, eh?”
“Yes, I am quite fertile, and only a few of the children are deformed from the radioactivity. Together we have cleared much land from the mines.”
“That’s wonderful, that is. Safe, food, wife, kids…” Sparrow wiped her eyes, suddenly emotional. “That’s all anyone wants.”
Nasir observed with interest as Blanco gave Sparrow a hug. “Is this the hormones again?”
Sparrow pulled away, punching his shoulder. “Don’t you ‘is it the bleedin’ hormones’ me, you pillock! I got every right to be sad whenever I feckin’ like.”
Baba Yaga chuckled. “I like when she hit you. Is funny.”
Blanco gave up, and turned back to Nasir. “More questions?”
Nasir asked about the performers and their acts, and Blanco did his best to be positive about a travelling militia who were more land pirates than ‘circus performers’. Nasir happily jotted notes in rapid Pashtun until he noticed the caravan readying to resume their long journey.
“One final question, please,” he said. “After so much difficulties and awfulness and tragedy and death and the drownings and bad things, can you impart to my audience some final words of wisdom you have learned in your journeys?”
Blanco looked around at the measured, effortless bustle of the performers, riggers and freaks, working alone or together, chatting or silent. “Yeah, I do. If there’s one thing I can say about all the shit what life is, it’s this. Diversity is strength.”
“That’s it? ‘Diversity is strength’?”
“Yeah, mate. It’s the secret.”
“Wonderful. I will beam this interview to all my audience by the short-wave radio tonight, and bring happiness to many.”
“Wonderful. Lovely to meet you, Nasir.”
“And you, sir.”
The two men shook hands in the dry dusty uplands, and Nasir paused. “You would not say to be kind is the secret of happiness?”
“I would,” Blanco nodded, appraising his interviewer more carefully.
“Kindness and diversity it is then,” smiled Nasir. “If you ever return to England, it can be on your coat of arms.”
Nasir nodded, then lightly trotted off the side of the road, down into the ravine, a goat among goats, happy.
Once again Blanco saw, with a pang, that those who stayed in one place often had a happier time of it.
He felt his hand licked. It was Daisy, who smelt of whatever carcass she’d just rolled in. “Fuck me, Daisy – you is honkin’.”
Happy with this, Daisy tugged at his sleeve, then ran back to where Sparrow was climbing aboard their tractor. “Happiness is a well-fed dog,” Blanco murmured before following.
B.P. Marshall is a television scriptwriter who thought it’d be fun to write a book. “After all, any idiot can write a book, amirite?” Marshall is that idiot. Despite this, The Last Circus on Earth won the Fantastica Prize, and a publishing deal with Brio Books, Sydney.
You can find Blanco on the pages of The Last Circus on Earth.
Join us next week to hear from two characters from a dystopian future, where baseball is treason. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.