• 05 May 2010
    A heart-warming tale of a Christmas at the Cirque Du Freak ...


    The Little Person with the limp slung his sack over his shoulder and headed back for the Cirque Du Freak. The sack was loaded with dead animals he’d caught — a fox, a squirrel, a couple of rabbits, a dog. Normally two boys – Darren Shan and Evra Von – hunted for the Little People’s food, but they’d left the Cirque Du Freak with the vampire, Mr Crepsley, a month earlier, and the Little Person with the limp had been elected by the others to do the hunting in their absence.

    The Little Person had been thinking about the boys a lot during his time alone, especially the one called Darren Shan. The boys hadn’t liked him very much – they didn’t like any of the Little People – but he missed them regardless. They’d given him a nickname – "Lefty", because of his limp – which he quite enjoyed.

    As Lefty limped back with his haul, he thought again of the boys and wondered where they were and what they were doing. He was worried about them, in particular Darren — Mr Tiny (his master) had warned him to keep an eye on Darren. Lefty knew Darren was important, but he didn’t know why. If anything happened to him, Mr Tiny wouldn’t like it, and might take his anger out on Lefty. The Little Person wasn’t scared of much, but an angry Mr Tiny would have struck fear in anyone.

    Back at the campsite, Lefty dropped off the dead animals and left the other Little People to eat them — he wasn’t hungry. Wandering around the camp, he saw a group of the circus performers and their human assistants standing around a large open fire, wearing funny pointed hats and singing songs. Curious, he sneaked up on them and observed from the shadows of a van. At first he didn’t know what was going on, but after a while his cloudy memories cleared a little and he realized what they were up to — celebrating Christmas.

    Many of the people associated with the Cirque Du Freak didn’t bother with Christmas – they had other festivals which they celebrated – but some did. Lefty watched, fascinated, as those gathered around the fire made jokes, pulled crackers, played games and stuffed themselves with turkey, ham and wine. He would have liked to join in the fun, but he knew what people thought of the Little People – that they were ugly, unfeeling monsters – and he decided not to bother them, in case he spoiled the party.

    Lefty watched for almost an hour, not feeling the bite of the wintry December day (his grey skin was almost impervious to the cold). Eventually he withdrew, taking with him a party hat which had fallen close to the van where he was sheltering.

    Back in his tent, Lefty lowered the hood of his blue robes, revealing his scarred, grey, noseless, earless, stitched-together face. Attracting the attention of his fellow Little People, he pulled down the mask around his mouth and put on the party hat. Smiling foolishly, he spread his arms and awaited their approval — he was hoping they’d laugh like the people around the fire.

    The Little People stared at Lefty in silence, mildly astonished, then turned their backs on him and carried on eating, not the least bit interested in Christmas or fun. Lefty stood where he was for a long time, then took off the hat, raised his mask and hood, and retreated from the tent, feeling hollow and miserable inside.

    Lefty walked to the edge of the campsite, where he balled up the party hat and tossed it away. He felt sad, and after thinking about it for a while, he realized why — he was lonely. He didn’t feel as though he fitted in anywhere, not with the humans, not with the performers, not even with his own mysterious blue-robed people. Darren and Evra hadn’t been any friendlier to him than the others, but at least they accepted him and had a sense of humour — he was sure the boys would have laughed if they’d seen him wearing the party hat.

    As Lefty stood brooding, he spotted a struggling shape in the snow — a small bird which had collapsed to the ground, weak, hungry and cold. Lefty stomped over to the bird and picked it up, meaning to take it to the other Little People to eat. But, as he gazed at the bird, his mood changed, and instead of squashing it in his large grey hands, he found the hat he’d thrown away, opened it out and laid the tired bird inside.

    There was a stream near where the circus had camped. With the hat and bird tucked under his robes, Lefty hurried to the stream and dug in the soft earth of the bank for worms and insects. When he’d stocked up, he carefully loosened his robes around the bird’s head and proceeded to feed it. The bird didn’t eat from his big grey fingers immediately – it was wary of him – but in the end it pecked at the worm he was dangling in front of it, then tore into it with a vengeance.

    Lefty stayed with the bird, feeding and nursing it, until it began flapping its wings under his robes and squawking. When he saw that it wanted to leave, and was able to, he gently pulled out the party hat and held it up to the sky. The bird hopped onto the edge of the hat, paused there a moment, then took off, chirping with delight. Lefty watched it fly off over the trees next to the campsite, his round green eyes glued to it until it soared out of sight. For a long time he remained where he was, smiling warmly under his mask, half-hoping the bird would return, but not really expecting it to.

    Just as he was about to return to camp, there was a screech overhead and the bird reappeared. It had something in its beak, which it dropped when it flew over Lefty. He snatched the object from the air and examined it — a live beetle. Lefty’s grin broadened and he removed his mask. Looking up, he waved to the bird with the beetle, then popped it into his mouth and ate it, to show the bird he was appreciative.

    The bird chirruped once more when it saw the grey Little Person eat the beetle, then swung wide and departed. Lefty sensed it wouldn’t return this time, so after a short pause, he headed back to camp, a bounce in his limping step, to wait for news of Darren and Evra — and hope that they too would find comfort in the lonely snows that Christmas.
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