Tightrope Walker 6, collage/acrylic, 5 x 5, 2010
Elizabeth W. Seaver
If you keep track of details such as these, you may be wondering where T. W. 5 is. She is, indeed, extant on a 6 x 6 x 3 shadow box, but the photograph of the painting did not turn out well. I'm going to have to retake it. Elmer Banks, eager for his presentation, wanted me to tell you his story.
* * * * *
Elmer Banks was one of the class of performer which made those in circus management, rapacious eyes trained on the bottom line, rub their hands with glee. Daring, handsome and graceful, he performed with an irrepressible joy, commanding the rapt attention of the circus-going crowd. With a nod to his popularity and box office draw, everyone under the big top just called him Banks.
Watching him from way below, one might think he had it all, assuming that the source of his buoyant spirit. But, as is often so when we make quick judgments from shallow observation, the opposite was true.
He had been a promising ballet student from a small boy. His parents loved him dearly and encouraged his dreams.
However, just three years before, his father had flown into an airplane engine on a cross country business trip. In a strange twist of fate, that same airplane, making an emergency water landing, also killed his mother who had taken a short cut, late to open her dental office for her early morning patients.
Banks had a hard time of it. He endured cruel whispers from other young fowl.
Two birds with one stone, they snickered slyly.
He had many doting aunts and uncles who cared for him in succession and made sure he finished school. His days as a dancer seemed so far in the past as almost to have happened to another bird.
At eighteen, Banks couldn't wait to get out on his own. When the traveling circus came to town, he threw himself into the audition and was hired on the spot. Training hard, he hoped one day to be chosen to walk the tight rope.
Banks worked from dawn until long after sunset. In his spare time, he followed behind the elephants, tigers and horses sweeping up poop. He shoveled great mounds of it into piles for the local farmers to haul away for fertilizer. His long wing span and stilt-like legs came in handy when it was time to move the circus from town to town. Within the year, management deemed him ready for his dream job, and Banks put down his poop sweeper for good.
Banks certainly loved dancing on the high wire. And it was true that the affection of his new circus family had begun to ease the lingering sadness caused by the death of his parents. Lately, however, close observers had noted that his performances were shimmering with an extra, unaccountable sparkle.
Her name was Darla.