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The Circus Freak

and the boy who was afraid of clowns

 Leonardo Barros




To the "Doutores da Alegria", who, through

the therapy of laughter, have achieved  a goal I

would never have been able to reach;

  To my mother who is a loyal reader;

 To Draco (in memoriam), the best

friend a man could have.


To author and mentor Nei Leandro de Castro

for his valuable suggestions throughout

the process of editing this book.

“IN THAT DAY, THE LORD WILL PUNISH, with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword, Leviathan the gliding serpent, (...) he will slay the monster of the sea. In that day sing about a fruitful vineyard. I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it.” 

                                   ISAIAH 27: 1 3



PENÉLOPE WAS ONLY FIFTEEN. THE YOUNG LADY HAD A SLIM BODY, AND WAS NOT QUITE FIVE feet tall. Her womanly attributes had not yet completely developed. She was cabocla – a Brazilian of mixed Native Indian and White. Her golden skin made her straight hair look even more beautiful than it already was. Her big and expressive eyes carried a sea of hope. 

The girl did the same things every day: she woke up very early, made her dad's coffee, helped her little brother get ready for school, prepared his morning snack, waited while he finished having breakfast with their dad, – and had just enough time to shower and wash her hair with coconut soap.

She went to school on foot, a short two-mile walk, approximately. Pedrinho's preschool was pretty close to the house: less than five hundred fifty yards away.

 On this day, Penélope was very late. That's why she asked her father to leave the little one at the preschool. She grabbed her books in a hurry.

And left the house eating a ripe banana.

 Her thin, rigid legs brushed against each other, as she hurried along. She made the first two thirds of her trip very quickly, and reached the place on her path where there was a virgin forest. At this point there was an entrance to the bushes – a short cut to another street – one that ended almost in front of her school. She thought it might be a valuable short cut, since she was running late. She looked both ways, for she feared the presence of a stranger that could put her life at risk. There was no one there, however, not a single soul in sight. She skillfully climbed through two barbed wires. She completed the first obstacle without a scratch, unharmed. Suddenly, deep anguish overcame her heart. She decided to run through the dry bushes, and ended up scratching herself more than once.

Something was wrong – she knew it – she could smell it in the air.

 The wind started blowing strongly, dust started rising up from the ground, and she suddenly felt she had something in one of her hazel eyes. But there was no time to waste. The sensation of danger was growing inside of her.

“Run, Penélope!” She thought, longing for the exit to the street at the end of the path. She strained to see the path in front of her. With one eye closed, aching and watering, the other eye tried to focus on the sand path. She felt exhilarated, as she saw it was close. She ran faster, hallucinating, mad, faster still, almost there, just a little further. Suddenly she fell down, even surprising herself. She rolled on the ground, and felt an intense pain when her chin hit the dirt. Her notebook and books were thrown almost two yards away from her. Someone had set it up, right there, a thick nylon wire that hurt her skin, two inches below her knees. The pain became negligible when compared to how scared she was. She stood up and wiped her thighs. She examined her wounds: all superficial injuries and scratches.

 Once again her heart started to beat fast. She felt the presence of a stranger. The wind blew stronger. The warm wind turned the girl's golden face red. Penélope didn't know for sure why she could not move. It was as if she could foresee an inevitable end, her own destiny. Like a convict waiting for punishment, she closed her eyes.

She shivered. The large hand grabbed her long hair, throwing the girl down to the ground. An elbow hit her on the back and almost made her faint. Everything went dark. But she would not give up, she had to fight. Afraid of losing her life, she didn't want to die. She knelt down again on her bleeding knees, weak, and then surrendered, falling over.

“Look at me” demanded the huge creature that now pulled Penélope from the ground, with only one of his hands. With the other hand, he held his shirt, exposing his naked torso. She stared at her executioner, not believing what she saw. The huge man had his face painted with white and red, a horrifying clown that smelled badly of cheap paint. He wanted to be contemplated. He wanted to see the strange look on the girl's face, the panic in her eyes.  The shoulders were large; the make-up, horrifying and colorful. The red plastic nose contrasted with the blackness of his hair. He had a thick smile, like a sinister devil.

A diabolical clown.

The girl tried to run loose and was punched in the stomach. She almost threw up the banana, the poor girl.

“Turn around!” He shouted, preparing himself to throw another punch with the back of his hand.

Terrified, the girl started to cry.

“Turn around, fast, come on!” He punched her again, and waited no longer. With the simple gesture of one of his powerful hands, he turned her on her back. He made a noose around her neck with a T–shirt, and used it as a harness.

 The face of the little one was now lying in the sand. She had sand in her mouth, mixing with her tears. Penélope knew what the man wanted, it was the only precious thing she had: her purity. Up until then, she had been untouched.

 The huge hand ripped through her old loose panties. Penélope was crying hysterically. She gasped for air, and inhaled the strong smell of cigarette smoke. She felt the warm breath of a damned man upon her skin.

Another strike of an elbow on her back. Her sight blackened...


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