Mandy dragged herself to her car and plopped herself in bed the minute she got home. She
had stopped at Burger Boy on the way home. As much as she hated working at the place, she
had become addicted to the Double Cheese Chicken Big Boy Meal. Luckily, she had not
inherited the propensity to put on weight. That was one good thing she had gotten from her
"All I did was sign papers all day," Mandy thought. "Why am I so exhausted? What on earth
could they possibly need all those silly papers for? And a clown costume? What a waste! You'll
never see me wearing a clown costume, that's for sure."
She pulled the latest classified ads out of the garbage on her way into the house. Based on
how her day had gone, she figured she needed a backup plan, or in the case that she didn't
answer all those questions to their liking. "Why are circus peanuts orange, anyway? And who in
their right minds even likes them?" As she lay in bed watching the news, Mandy rummaged
through the bag Tiffany had given her. The classifieds could wait.
"Let's see what kinds of goodies they gave me." First she pulled out the kazoo. It had "BIG
TOP" in red letters written on it. "I know what this is for." She gave it a good, hearty blow. Next
came a bag of balloons, a stapler, a baseball cap—all imprinted with Big Top's logo.
"Oh, and look, a notepad with my name and e-mail address on it. Surprise, surprise, it's
pink. And a recipe for cotton candy. Look, a packet of lemon-lime sno-cone flavoring. Sure
hope the dental insurance is good with all that sugar they're eating. A dictionary. What do I need
a dictionary for?" She threw it back in the bag and retrieved a CD. It was titled "Great American
Circus Tunes." "I can hardly wait to play this in the car on my way to work every morning.
That ought to get me fired up and ready to go." The rest was nonsensical junk, in Mandy's
mind. She pulled out the kazoo and then plopped the bag into the deepest corner of her closet.
As she tried to fall asleep, she couldn't help but go over all the day's events in her mind. She
never had such a bizarre day of work in her life. "I'm afraid this place is going to turn out to be
one clown short of a circus," Mandy thought. "On the other hand, it appears that it already is,
based on what they put in the welcome bag. Good thing my resume is still in good shape. I'll go
through the want ads in the morning," and she drifted off to sleep.
The next day on the job didn't start out much better than the first. Tiffany greeted her again
at the front door with the "Gimme an M" cheer, complete with pompoms. Then she escorted
Mandy to her new pink office on the third floor. And boy, was it pink! There would be no falling
asleep midday in here. She didn't even need to turn the light on, it was so bright.
"I don't even like pink. What possessed me to ever say I was a cotton candy kind of girl?"
She was concentrating on getting her office the way she wanted it when she heard a knock
on the door. "Hi, I'm Gary."
"Hi Gary. I'm Mandy Maloney. It's nice to meet you." Thank God, finally she met someone
without pompoms. "Would you like to go to the cafeteria for lunch?" "That sounds terrific. Let
me get some money."
"You don't need any money for the cafeteria. It's all free. Now, it's only circus food, mind
you, but it's free."
"What do you mean by circus food? "You'll see."
"OK, if you say so."
They chatted easily all the way to the cafeteria. Gary seemed like a nice guy with his head on
straight. Mandy was glad to find a new friend in this place full of strangers. The cafeteria looked
like the rest of the building. It was blue and green and yellow. Even the trays and flatware were
brightly colored. It was an overload for the senses once the smell of circus food was added to the
The menu for lunch in the Big Top cafeteria was as follows:
Popcorn Peanuts
Hot Dogs
Cotton Candy
Sno-cones All Flavors
"This is the menu for lunch? Hardly very healthy is it?" Mandy was surprised by the lack of
green vegetables and fresh fruit. "How can you have a hot dog every day for lunch?"
"You have to keep in mind that every day is the circus here. The smell of popcorn permeates
the place. Sickening, isn't it? Like you're shopping at the five and dime. Follow me. I know
someone in the kitchen who can make us a salad. And a damn good salad it is. Get to know him.
It'll be worth it."
She followed Gary back into a far corner of the room. "Billy!" he shouted. "Billy!" Suddenly
a man wearing a tall chef 's hat popped out of the back room carrying two carryout boxes.
"Here you go, Gary. Two chef 's salads, just like you ordered."
"Thank you so much," he said as he took the boxes from his hands. "This is Mandy. She's
new here and is getting the second salad. I think she'll be ordering them just like me, so be nice
to her, Billy." "It's nice to see some new faces around here. Welcome, Mandy.
It is a pleasure to meet you."
"Thank you. Popcorn isn't really my thing, so I appreciate the salad."
"I know. You like cotton candy better." He winked.
As they walked away to find a table, she asked, "Does everyone around here know about the
cotton candy?"
"You bet your life they do. Watching your office being painted pink was the highlight of a
lifetime. Not much turnover here. The pay is too good."
They sat in a far corner of the room. Gary instructed her to get a forkful and then close the
lid on her box. If too many people found out that Billy was making them something special, he'd
stop doing it for them. She was told to be very protective of her salad. And she was told that very
As they finished their lunch and headed back to work, Mandy wondered how much crazier
Big Top could get. She was about to find out
"Hey Gary, who is Mandy Maloney?" A man pushing a cart overflowing with boxes was
approaching them in the hall outside her pink office.
Mandy waved her hand at him. "Hi, I'm Mandy."
"That's right. They told me it was the pink office. Hello, I'm Albert. Welcome to Big Top.
I've got your electronics delivery."
"I already have a computer. What else do I need?"
"Aah, Gary didn't tell you yet?" Albert glanced over as Gary began to scoot away down the
hall. "You, pretty lady, are now on call 24/7."
Albert began to take the boxes from his cart and stack them on Mandy's desk. "Here's your
cell phone, BlackBerry, pager, and laptop. Oh, and this is an MP3 player, preloaded with circus
tunes. Here is your portable printer, just like they use when you return a rental car. And the
piece de resistance . . . where is it?" He rummaged through everything else that was still on the
heavily laden cart. "Here we go, your heavy-duty leather belt!"
Mandy stared in disgust at the thick men's belt that Albert was now holding in the air for all
to see. How was she going to coordinate this with her stylish business suits? "I have to carry a
laptop on my belt?"
"No. You carry the laptop in your hands. Everything else goes on your belt. Here's your
digital camera."