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Mr. Barnum's Circus for Peculiar Children

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"You want to go to New York? " Mr. Carlyle was thumbing through the newspaper without looking up. "Why? "

"I think I should, " said Phillip, weighing his words. "Miss Lind also suggested I go. "

Mr. Carlyle put down the paper.

"So, it was because of that. " now he looked at Phillip, "I shouldn't let you see the doctor. She talked nonsense. "

"But didn't you agree with her in the consulting room? "

"I just wanted to save my time. Those conversations are pointless. "

"How can you say that doesn't make sense? " Phillip raised his voice. "If there is something in New York that I don't know about, and the monster—"

"There is NO such thing in New York. " Mr. Carlyle clenched his teeth. He adjusted his mood quickly, and his tone was reserved and distant again, "We all know there aren't any circuses around the Madison Square Garden, and there's no such thing like a ghost or a monster neither. Now, Phil, do what you have to do. It is a silly talk after all. "

"It's not a silly talk, " said Phillip, tired and felt let down.

"Father, why don't you care? Why don't you believe me? Everything I told you was true. Think of grandfather's stories and the photos in his drawer—"

"Phillip. " Mr. Carlyle was almost staring at Phillip, "It's more than six months since your grandfather passed away.  You have to move on. I hate to say this, but your grandfather was a disgrace to the family. You're my only son, and I can't let that happen to you. "

Phillip's voice trembled: "But he is your father. How dare you say that. "

"I think it's my right to instruct my son. "

Phillip clutched the letter in his pocket as if it gave him courage.

"Father, I love grandfather. I didn't treat him well while he was alive, and now I at least want to find out what does his last words mean, even if it's just another crazy story. Please. "

Mr. Carlyle was silent for a moment, and he picked up the newspaper again.

"Go then. You'll see the truth. " he didn't bother to look at Phillip again. "I hope it is the last time you fail me. "

That word left a wound in Phillip's heart. But he got at least a permit to go to New York. Phillip was still holding on to the letter. In the end, he sighed, "Certainly."

 


 

They all said Phillip's grandfather was insane.

Phillip used to worship his grandfather like any other child, maybe more. Phillip loved the bedtime stories his grandfather told. In grandfather's stories, there are mysterious islands, merciless deserts, the galaxy within reach, and, oh, and one of the best parts—the circus.

Phillip's grandfather was brought to the circus at the age of twelve. The circus was in New York, and what a marvelous place it was. Phillip was told that the circus was no ordinary. It' was a place for peculiar children. Usually, grandfather would take out the photos of him hidden in a tin box and introduce them to Phillip:

"This is the ringmaster, Mr. Barnum. He likes to wear a red jacket, that's his signature. And he is always holding a walking stick just because he thinks it looks good. No one pays more attention to his appearance than Mr. Barnum does. ”

"He can turn into a bird! "

"Yes, Phillip, he looks after us all. "

In the next photo, two people were floating in the air, as they could fly.

"They are flying actually. These are the Wheeler brothers. They have no wings, but they can fly freely. If they're too far apart, they can know where the other is, and they can always find each other. How wonderful. "

"Oh, look at this, " said the grandfather, taking another picture of a man covered in tattoos, "this is Constantine. his tattoos are alive! He can just lie down on the bed, and let the tattoo get what he wants. More often, of course, he uses tattoos to play a trick. "

Phillip pointed to the next photo and exclaimed, "This is Tom! He's a general! "

"You have a good memory. Yes, this is Tom, but his real name is Charles. He can direct the objects around him, like stools, drapery, torches and so on. He is a real general. "

Phillip worships his grandfather that way. He believed in all of his stories, all his photographs, and he was looking forward to the day when he would be able to see Anne fly or to go on an expedition with Charles and a pack of furniture. But soon Phillip began to doubt his grandfather's stories. He told the stories to his classmates and ended up isolated, and the teacher informed his father that he had lied to get attention. His father insulted him. And to persuade Phillip to think no more of the stories, his father took him to a real circus. Looking at the Trapeze, clowns, and acrobats on stage, Phillip had come to his sense.

"I'll never believe your stories again! " Phillip Announced.

"All right, " he remembered his grandfather's lonely but calm face which etched into his memory.

Since then, Phillip has alienated his grandfather.  Until that day, his grandfather implored Phillip to see him. When Phillip arrived, all he could see was the body of his grandfather and the back of the monster from the bedtime stories.

 


 

Phillip frowned as he read the letter. It's a letter from Mr. Barnum to his grandfather. Mr. Barnum asked his grandfather if everything was all right, and attached a photograph. In the photo, he was wearing a richly embroidered jacket—though it was black-white, Phillip thought the coat should be red—and a top hat, and holding a cane, of course. His profile is neat and beautiful. From the moment he saw the letter, a strong desire grew in his heart. He's got to go to the circus. He must find Mr. Barnum to find out what his grandfather was talking about. The announcement on the train interrupted Phillip. He picked up his suitcase and walked off the train, followed the sign to the ground, oh, here it is—Madison Square Garden.

Phillip had already walked around the stadium for three laps, holding the letter, several times through the crowd of fans who had come to the concert. During his circling motion, a bird rushed down to rest on his shoulders, it brushed against his face, for god's sake.

Phillip suddenly felt like a fool. There was evidently no tent, no circus, no—Sorry, pardon me—just didn't exist! He began to wonder why he came to New York because of such a letter. Phillip mourned. Suddenly he felt that someone was staring at him in the midst of the crowd. He caught the figure, and that was—Anne Wheeler?

Anne smiled at him and turned away. Phillip followed without hesitation. Phillip walked briskly, his heart in a whirl. Anne looked precisely the same as in the photo. How would that be possible? It had been several decades! Phillip just kept on following Anne, not noticing that there were fewer and fewer people around until they finally stopped. Phillip found them in front of a bar with a "closed" board hanging from the door.

"You must be Phillip. " Anne gave him a friendly smile. "I'm Anne Wheeler. "

"Well, yes, I know you. I'm Phillip Carlyle. It's an honor to meet you. " Phillip stumbled.

"Why did you—well, I mean, did you come to pick me up? You know I was coming? "

"P.T. saw you. I mean Mr. Barnum. So he sent me. You should have seen him. "

Phillip was still in a fog, and Anne raised her eyebrow.

"You should have encountered a weird bird, that is him. "

A bird? Oh, god.

Philip awkwardly looked down, not dare to look at Anne's quizzical expression.

"Anyway, come with me. You'll understand when you come. " Anne reached out to push the door.

"Isn't the shop not open yet? "

"Oh, Phillip, " Anne grinned. "This is the entrance to our Loop. "

Anne pushed the door open and went in, and Phillip had to follow. They made a few turns in the bar, and then there was the counter. Anne stopped.

"Here he is. "

Phillip looked up and saw a pair of hazel eyes.

 


 

So, his eyes were brown.

The notion came into Phillip's mind. The man in front of him was dressed in a blue coat, not the red one. His baritone was splendid:

"Phineas Taylor Barnum. you can call me Phineas, Phillip. "

"Delighted to meet you, Mr.—Phineas. " Phillip held Barnum's hand, warm and firm, with slender fingers.

"I, I just met a bird in the street. "

"Ah yes, that's me. "Barnum stared at Phillip's face flushed with interest. "Anne, I assume you spoke ill of me to Phillip. "

"I didn't. I always tell the truth. "

Anne reached for the top glass, and she was flying.

She went back to the ground and poured a glass of whiskey for Phillip.

"We're sorry for your loss. "

"You know, then? "

"I know if your grandpa were alive, " Barnum answered, "He would have told me you were coming. "

Phillip choked back a sob. He met Anne and Phineas. Grandfather's bedtime stories were real. All the adventures and miracles grandfather told him were not fake.

"Phillip, " Anne chirped, and Phillip was grateful for that.

"Let's cheers for the adventure. " she blinked.

"You stole my line, " Barnum grumbled, still gazing at Phillip.

"What adventure? " Phillip asked half-expectantly.

Instead of answering, Barnum stood up from his chair and took Phillip by the hand.

"Let me show you the other side."

Philip heard his heart beat out of control.

 


 

They walked out of the bar, and Phillip saw—a carriage?

"Welcome to the 19th century, Phil. " Barnum still didn't let go of Phillip's hand, and Phillip went with him.

"Phineas, what is a Loop? "

"You see, I'm an ymbryne. We can manipulate time. So we pick a safe place, a safe day, and create a Loop preserves the last 24 hours. Reset the Loop, and the day is yours to live again. Reset it daily, and you can stay there forever. "

"I've met Anne. So can I meet other people too? W.D., Charles, Constantine? "

"Of course, sweetheart. "

Phillip pretended he hadn't panicked for a moment.

"Everything your grandfather told you is true; I will introduce you to everyone—Ah, Mr. Bennett! Come to collect material for criticism? A little bit too early I guess. " Barnum said hello to the gentleman. Well, maybe that was not a regular hello. Phillip was a little disappointed to find Barnum loosened his grip. Hey, Phillip, get real.

"This is my new friend Phillip. Phillip, this is Mr. Bennett. A hard-core art critic. Well, Mr. Bennett, I must acquaint Phillip with my circus now. See you in the evening. Hope you can come up with some new words."

Barnum didn't wait for Bennett to respond. They walked right past him. Barnum strode ahead, and Phillip murmured to Anne:

"Has he always been this...overweening? "

Anne rolled her eyes a little bit.

"We usually don't use such a polite word for him. "

"I can hear you, " Barnum's voice sounds reluctant. "Can't believe you've done this to me, both of you. "

He stopped walking.

"Phil, here we are. "

In front of Phillip was a gorgeous tent, with a sign at the entrance that read "P. T. Barnum's Circus."

Barnum led him directly to the backstage, and Anne floated behind them. Another man was coming toward them. Phillip recognized that he was W.D.

"W.D., this is Phillip, Phillip, W.D., " Barnum introduced them to each other. W.D. gave Phillip a warm handshake, and he flew off somewhere else with Anne.

"It's enviable, " Barnum beamed at them. "I can fly, but only in the form of a bird, " he gave Phillip a sideways glance.

"I can't take you flying neither. "

Phillip didn't know how the topic got back to him again. He decided to pretend he didn't hear it. Fortunately, Barnum began to say to himself once again.

"Life in the Loop is good, but it became a little boring after a long time. So we came up with the idea of the circus. Of course, it was mostly my idea. "

He introduced Phillip to Constantine. Phillip could see the tattoos swimming about.

"Everyone was happy, " Barnum's smile widened. "You know, we have to reset the Loop again and again. But people who come to the show every day have real smiles on their faces. Even we reset the day; the smiles remain in our memory. They are precious to us. "

Phillip was fascinated. He could feel Barnum's joy, and he was even happy for him. Then an extraordinary song came to his ears.

"That is... Lettie? "

"That's her. She'll be glad to see you. Be careful that she listens to you in turn. "

Phillip was reminded of Lettie's ability. She had a beautiful voice, but her ability was to listen to people's heart, like telepathy. Phillip became conscious of that there was nothing he could do to hide what was in his heart from her.

He was so embarrassed that he rushed to find another topic.

"Will you perform a show today? "

He noticed that they were in a room like a prop room.

"Of course we will, my boy, " Barnum grinned. He took off his coat and put on the red jacket, the characteristic one. It was more flamboyant than Phillip had ever imagined, like a surge of passion, or solidified fire. Barnum looked straight at Phillip; his eyes were full of light.

“So tell me do you wanna go?”