"Wow!" Violet piped in. "How did you get so lucky? I have to plod around like a cow in
these clodhoppers."
Violet was dressed like a big pot of flowers. She had to wear a hoop, much to Mandy's
delight. The bottom was terra-cotta in color with a wide brown belt acting as the rim. The top
was made of lovely yellow chintz with tiny violets all about. There were several huge purple
flowers down the front. On her head was another pot with a lone purple flower sprouting from it,
on a stem that was long enough to dangle just above her forehead.
"Heads up, Mandy." One of the huge flowers spritzed her with water.
"See, I'm a self-watering flower pot."
Gary couldn't stop laughing—Gary the lion tamer, royal blue leotard and all. He wore a
gold cape, a whip over his arm, and a belt as big as that of the world heavyweight champion.
"My kids thought it was Halloween when they saw me getting dressed this morning. Let's
get some coffee before the big wigs start spewing from the mouth."
The tables were spread with every kind of pastry and candy imaginable. The cookies were
decorated with the words "Big Top" overlayed with three interlocking red rings. The same
design was attached to toothpicks stuck in all the cupcakes. "Big Top and Three Ring = #1" was
spelled out in chocolate-covered strawberries in the center of the table.
"They sure went all out. Do they really believe that all this can make up for a You suck
review?" Mandy was amazed by the elaborate and excessive display of food.
"Obviously somebody does," said Violet as she piled more strawberries onto her plate.
"Attention! Attention!" said a voice over a loudspeaker from the direction of the stage.
"Gather around!" The usual circus music began to play.
The crowd moved en masse from the food table toward the stage, cupcakes in hand.
"Hey, look at all of you!" It was Butane Bob. "He is one of a kind, that Jose the costume
maker," he said as he admired their getups.
Butane Bob was dressed in—what else—red. The form-fitting outfit, as always, showed off
his muscular body. Layers of yellow, orange, and red ruffles f ramed his face. He wore no
makeup or wig. Classic Butane Bob. Jose wasn't just a master tailor but knew exactly how to
weave the personality into the costume he was designing.
"Like my outfit? First time it has ever been out of the box. I was in a panic that it might not
be red."
"You look fabulous! It's perfect for you," Mandy complimented him.
As they made their way toward the stage, they could see ten chairs lined up behind the
podium. Dimple Vanderdoober was already seated. She was wearing her usual business suit.
"Where's her clown costume?"
"Jose probably didn't have enough time to finish it. But then again, after he met her, he
probably didn't want to make it for her. He's a kind and talented guy, Jose, but he's not someone
you'd want to piss off. See Paul Brown over there? I think he pissed Jose off." Butane Bob
spoke as if he knew Jose quite well.
Paul Brown was wearing a wig of chartreuse dreadlocks and Groucho Marx glasses, nose,
and moustache. His baggy brown jumpsuit, with oranges all over it and a huge pink bow tie,
appeared several sizes too large. He looked like a really emaciated scarecrow, or like he forgot
his hoop. It was hard to tell.
"Jose probably thought he was making fun of the way he talked. I think he might be a pretty
nice guy if I could just understand him. But according to Violet, you have to sleep with him in
order for that to happen."
"Why does he have oranges all over his costume? Oranges seem odd for a clown costume,
don't they?" asked Violet.
"Well, I know that story, after spending long hours with the translation dictionary," said
Mandy. "His middle name is Juice. He has sisters named Florida and Orange. There was
something about his mother and Anita Bryant I couldn't quite figure out."
"Wow, people tell you everything, and you're not even sleeping with them. You amaze me
sometimes, Mandy. Gary, anytime we need the dirt now, we know to ask Mandy. Everyone
spills their guts to her."
"Hello, Mandy. You look great!" Paul was waving to her from the crowd.
"Hello, Mandy," waved Gail.
"Wait"—said Mandy. "Violet, isn't that Larry Adams sitting on the stage?"
She squinted to get a better look.
"I think it is! And who is that woman next to him? Look, they're holding hands!"
Mandy was on tiptoe trying to get a better look, and also trying not to put a crease in the
patent leather shoes.
"I think that's Gertrude, but it's been a while since I've seen her."
"Gertrude?" asked Mandy.
"You know, the one that was fired but still comes back to decorate her cube for every
imaginable holiday in the world."
"Why is she holding hands with Larry Adams?"
"You got me on that one, Mandy.
"There's that slut, green Lisa Peeples, in the green suit sitting next to Dimple. I guess Jolly
Juggler wasn't having a party today. And that's probably why Paul Brown is speaking normal
English. He must have gotten some from her last night, since she was in town for a change."
Several more people, whom none of them recognized, took their seats until all the chairs
were filled. A man got up and stood at the podium.
"Who's that?"
Gary thought it might be Louis Everly, and then Butane Bob confirmed it for them. "That's
Everly, all right."
"Attention! Attention!"
The crowd quieted down as Louis Everly began his speech. "Good morning, and welcome
all you former Big Toppers to Three Ring!"
The crowd was unimpressed.
"We are embarking on a new era of excellence in the sale of circus supplies. I appreciate all
of you joining your new board of directors this morning. Isn't it a glorious morning?"
He was trying to get the employees fired up, without success. Dimple, Larry, and Lisa
Peeples were clapping with enthusiasm, but they were alone in doing so.
"I know that you are all thinking, ‘What's this going to mean to me?' Well, that's why we
are here today. The future is bright, and I'm going to tell you why."
Suddenly there was commotion coming from the hedge next to the stage. Mandy was
straining to see what was happening, still worried about putting that crease in her shoes. She
couldn't see, but based on all the screaming she heard, she believed a bear was in the bushes. In
an instant, Lulu emerged and was standing on the side- walk. There was no mistaking Lulu in
her red and white stripes.
"You are not going to explain anything. You're not the CEO, Louis Everly! You're fired!"
"No, Lulu, I fired you," he screamed back. "You're not going to ruin my party!"
The crowd let out one huge gasp.