Vanessa Brantley-Newton – Gabi Both: Real Magic

Beyond the Seas, International Fairytale Project in Hungary
El Proyecto Internacional de Cuentos Allende Los Mares, Hungría

Translated by Luca Szabó

One summer day, right after the morning performance, a certain Gawkini, the director of Suitcase Circus, vanished into thin air. Just like that. Poof! Gone. They couldn’t find him anywhere, not in the big top, not in his caravan, not even in his suitcase, even though the latter had always been his favourite spot. That’s where Piro the magician tried to look for him, but this time he wasn’t hiding in there.
When it turned out that he had just vanished without a trace, Piro took out her magic wand with a star on one end, hit three times, drew two circles, and cast the following spell:
“Circle, turtle, star and spoon,
I need a great big balloon.”

The next moment there was a colourful, cheerful, ribbonful hot air balloon. It was flying about over their heads. They called it Baloo. With another spell, Piro lifted the members of the circus into the air. They all had space in Baloo – Tangle the clown, Bandette the tightrope walker and their son Cinabar, who was already a deft juggler.

Baloo flew high with them, and they were looking for the disappeared director from above. Children were mad about him. In fact, not him, but his flea circus. The adults could never understand why the small kids laughed at the performance of fleas. That’s all right – they couldn’t see them. Actually the children DIDN’T SEE them, either, but they could at least IMAGINE them hopping about, so they found Gawkini the flea rider really funny. He used to shake his head, roll his eyes, make grimaces, and now he was nowhere to be seen.

Illustration made by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, American artist

Illustration made by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, American artist

The time for the afternoon performance was looming, and the children were getting excited about the famous flea circus.

Meanwhile, Piro, Tangle and Cinabar were sweeping the landscape beneath Baloo with their gaze. Bandette was leaning out so much that suddenly he toppled over, and began to fall, fall, just fall. But a tightrope walker is always a tightrope walker, even when she isn’t at work, so the safety cord held her. Tangle was fumble-fisted, but that was just the way he was.
“I’ll pull you up, Bandette, just wait a minute till I untangle this knot on the rope.”
“You mustn’t untangle it while I’m still on it,” Bandette said angrily. She was not afraid of heights, but this pulling about was a bit too much for her.
“I don’t understand why this knot is still here,” Tangle frowned, and he kept pulling Bandette, who was holding tight on the end of the rope.
At long last, Piro and Cinabar took the rope out of his hand, and pulled Bandette up. The clown was pouting on the bottom of the balloon.
“That’s some gratitude for my help! You pushed me over so violently that I almost fell out.”
“You are a hero, Daddy,” Cinabar comforted him.
“Am I?” he brightened up.
“You are!” shouted Piro. “You are… I can see Gawkini down in that meadow. Baloo dear, would you please alight?”
“Hang on, this’ll be much better,” Tangle jumped to his feet. He hurled one of the sandbags out of the balloon, and hit Gawkini on the head with it. They could hear the thump he gave up in the air. Moreover, Baloo increased its height. When Piro finally got Baloo on the ground somehow, he could hardly bring the poor director around.
“Where am I?” he asked in a dying voice.
“That’s what we wanted to know, where you were, but we never got the answer,” Tangle scolded him.
“I ran away,” the flea rider sat up scratching his head.
“Why would you do that?” asked Bandette dusting off the man’s clothes.
“I’m too old to be the director of the circus. I’d love to abandon the circus altogether, but I’d be sorry to leave my flea circus. It’s so sad that nobody can see the feats of my fleas. But I don’t want to do that anymore, either.”
And he waved his hand.
“I’ve always wanted to be the director of a circus,” Tangle said excitedly. “So the moment has finally come when you can give me the key of the circus,” and he straightened his back.
“Pray tell me, my dear Tangle, since when big tops have had keys,” Piro asked sarcastically. “You are quite a good clown, but you would be a terrible director.”
Tangle was laughing and crying at the same time. He was really happy with the praise, but he was just as sad because he couldn’t be a director.
“Why did you run away like a coward?” Piro asked Gawkini.
“I don’t know,” he answered simply. “I really don’t,” and he hung his head.
“We’d love to help you,” Bandette and Piro promised.
“Can I be the new director?” Cinabar asked suddenly.
“You’re too young for that,” Bandette scolded.
Everyone was looking at the magician.
Her face was glowing red.
“You’re not serious, are you?” she shook her head. “Wouldn’t a female director look strange?”
“She’d look just like you,” Gawkini answered.
“Just like me?” Piro looked herself up and down. “How would I look in that fancy top hat?”
“Here, try on mine,” Tangle offered.
“We don’t have too much time. The afternoon performance is almost here,” Cinabar warned the others.
They all got into Baloo, who was getting restless. Gawkini’s belly took up much space, so the journey home was a bit uncomfortable. They got back just in time; the audience was already there, waiting for them. Piro didn’t even have time to think about the new job. She rushed into the arena, and announced the most popular feature of Suitcase Circus, Gawkini’s flea circus.
All the children were cheering. The adults looked bewildered. They were baffled when they saw Gawkini, who was quite alive this afternoon. His imaginary fleas were jumping around him so wildly that he could hardly follow them with his eyes.
Piro decided to charm the audience now that she was the director. She whispered something to Cinabar, whose face lit up. He went into the arena with small, colourful matchboxes, and started juggling them. Gawkini was surprised and a bit angry, too, because he was afraid that the little boy would ruin the praise the flea circus had got. But unexpectedly, loud cheering and applause filled the big top. You see, a whole flea circus jumped out of the matchboxes. They were wearing glittering clothes, so it was impossible not to see them. They were dancing and running about, and all eyes were riveted on them.
Gawkini could hardly see them through his tears.
“So I was right in believing in them my whole life,” he whispered. He was deeply moved.
“Of course you were,” Piro answered in a low voice. Secretly, she scratched a fresh flea bite on the tip of her wand finger.
Tangle looked at the cheering crowd for a long time, and then muttered:
“This is real magic.”

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