Stuart Stromin


When the Dwarf Queen first brought Pindick to the island, everyone thought he was an idiot.  No-one imagined a fool like that could be a mastermind.  He had a glassy stare, and spoke in monosyllabic mumbles, and he quickly became the object of ridicule, which was exactly what the Dwarf Queen intended.

The Dwarf Queen, it must be explained, was not the monarch of a pygmy tribe, but she was five feet tall on high heels and she did have dwarfish features, as a result of a premature birth which allowed her hands and feet to grow in the womb before the full development of her arms and legs and torso.  Her spine curved outwardly at the top and bottom (like parentheses), making her buttocks pert and round.  There was something provocative about her odd shape, and she was an insatiable flirt.  She had thick raven hair, and alabaster skin, and, if her charisma could not captivate every man on the island, there was no doubt that Pindick hung on her every word.

From the very beginning, they were rarely apart.   With a slight stoop, he always followed a few steps behind her on the promenade, where the island gypsies sold their trinkets; in a crowd, she held his hand.  They were both in good physical condition.  They made a handsome couple, even though there was about a ten-year age difference between them, and his hairline was receding.   She liked to play hot and cold with his emotions to keep him off-balance.  She seemed to read him like a fortune teller, but even the Dwarf Queen, who knew how the intricate cogs were turning in his head, could not have unraveled his scheme to take over the entire show, and, eventually the entire island.

The show was, to put it mildly, an adult themed circus.  There were exotic dancers, acrobatic contortionists who performed simulated sex numbers in the nude, and a bawdy Ringmaster, and there was a decidedly perverse edge to the program.  There were acts with cracking whips, and a girl who did rope tricks, but the stunts which the Dwarf Queen performed with Pindick would shock the audience, and keep them coming back for more.

The theater was attached to an exclusive couples-only resort on a white sand beach.  It had begun as something of a rundown striptease attraction, in a musty old burlesque house, but it became a glittering success when the Dwarf Queen put Pindick up on stage.  The Dwarf Queen loved the limelight, and, even, in the end when it was apparent that Pindick was the real star of the show, she accepted that fact just so that she could be the one to stand beside him.

Pindick was the circus clown, a sad-faced clown with a droopy mouth, a Bozo wig, and the ubiquitous red nose.  He always looked like he was about to break into tears.  He wore purple pantaloons with a ruffle, and flapped around in clown feet that gave him a bandy gait.  The premise of the act, which changed every night, and became more and more abusive, as the audience came back with a bloodlust that turned into a frenzy, was to improvise ways to torment and humiliate Pindick.

At first, it was just about throwing pies at him, while he stood helpless with that mournful look on his white painted face, but the Dwarf Queen knew no limits.  She slapped him around, beat him and whipped him, the lash cracking against any part of his body or his head.   She put a bit into his mouth, and gave him a donkey tail, and rode him around the stage, using a crop and spurs to make him trot.  Dressed in fishnet stockings, top hat and tails like Marlene Dietrich in the Blue Angel, which was her favorite picture, she drizzled honey and chicken feathers over Pindick, and invited onlookers to aim raw eggs at him until he was dripping with yolk and eggshells.  She handed out tomatoes to the first three rows, and, like a medieval mob, they hurled rotten fruit at him while he sang in a falsetto voice.  She forced his jaws open with a metallic dental device, and allowed members of the audience to pour surprise fluids into his yawning orifice.   It could have been a shot of Vodka or a glass of liquid soap, or sour milk, and, after a while, she would encourage them to shoot spitballs through a straw into the target, and then, there was a squirt gun apparently filled with urine.   

But, since this was an adult-themed show with plenty of nudity, on private property, where no-one was policing them, the highlight of the performance was to expose the clown’s genitals.  Some nights, the Dwarf Queen would de-pants him unexpectedly, creeping up behind him with a wicked smile to the spectators while he was trying to juggle, and jerk his pantaloons down with the elastic around his ankles; some nights, she would have him perform a clumsy striptease, while the men and women of the audience cawed and chanted.  As the drums rolled, there he stood shell-shocked under the probing spotlight, with his tiny shriveled penis on display for jeers and cackles, and, ultimately, brutal silence.

This was what they had all paid for tickets to witness.

The Dwarf Queen led him off triumphantly, as he pulled up his trousers and bunched the waistline in his fist.   She always had to be attentive to him afterwards, like a mother with a child, or, if the mood was right, she would keep him going as if they were still on the stage, handling him harshly and pushing his face into a backstage corner to wait for her while she went to get a drink.  She knew that after the performance, his head would be wobbling like a china plate on a bamboo pole, and she had to bring him down slowly.

By the time they were alone together in their room at the end of the long night, they spoke freely, discussed the reactions of the audience, and thought of ways they could improve the act, or new tricks to perform.  Pindick was always brimming with suggestions.  She always admired how clever he was, but no-one would have imagined it.  Even the Dwarf Queen did not realize the levels to his manipulation.

Of course, any man who called himself Pindick and who revealed his undersized member to the world had to have a sense of inner security that did not depend on factors about which other men were sensitive.  In fact, as the Dwarf Queen knew, because of how he had been raised, and because of his intellectual abilities, Pindick the clown was vain and arrogant.  He felt so superior to the spectators who paid money to snigger at him that their mockery meant nothing.  In a way, studying their responses, he was the one who was mocking them.

The customers did not see it that way though, and word of the outrageous act spread through the island, and around the globe.  People came from other hotels along the beachfront, and from towns on the opposite shore, and in the hills, and then from distant lands.  Guests returned annually to the resort, bringing new guests in tow, and business increased rapidly.  Tickets for the show were sold out months in advance.  There were masks, postcards, souvenirs and posters for sale, but the Dwarf Queen was adamant that Pindick could not be photographed on stage.   The act had to be experienced in person.  On rare occasions, before the evening performance, when Pindick was in full white-faced make-up, wig and costume, she led him along the boardwalk, and visitors flocked for photographs with their arms around him.  They always tried to pinch his nose, but she prevented them.  Little did anyone realize the sinister secret that the red spongy nose was concealing.

If anyone were paying attention, they would have noticed how alarmed the clown became when a giddy fan reached for his nose.  But the Dwarf Queen always made sure that his nose was safe.

Pindick became so popular that a second scene was added.  The clown usually appeared late in the program, just before the finale, because there really was no-one to follow him.  He was what they had all come to see, and it was the climax of the show.  The Dwarf Queen negotiated an additional fee for a sort of a warm-up teaser early in the presentation.  This kept the impatient spectators calm, and whet their appetites for what would come later.   The Dwarf Queen would not appear in the teaser, and it would be performed wholly between Pindick and the Ringmaster.

The Ringmaster was a big-bellied foreigner in a scarlet topcoat with a booming voice, and a collection of vulgar jokes and songs, which he would belt out into a microphone in different languages.  The ruse that they worked out was that he would ask for volunteers from the audience, and Pindick, making his entrance from the back of the hall, would be the one that he selected.

The Ringmaster was a natural to play the part of the bully, and he found new ways to abuse the clown each night.  He made him wear a dunce cap, used a whip to crack a playing card from between his teeth, and tricked him into sitting on a cream pie.  The clown always seemed terrified of the Ringmaster.   One night, when the crowd was insatiable for it, he hypnotized Pindick to copulate with a stuffed sheep.  He did not like to tell Pindick before the show what he was planning, but he always consulted with the Dwarf Queen in advance.

The Dwarf Queen did not care much for the Ringmaster, but she was envious of how much the spotlight shone on him, as the centerpiece of the show.  There were always allegiances and jealousies among the performers.  There were the strippers and chorus girls who idolized the Dwarf Queen like infatuated schoolchildren.  There was Jumba the circus strongman, with hairless, oily muscles, who felt deep sympathy for Pindick, and stood up for the clown long before he became so celebrated.   Jumba was always bewildered by the way that Pindick was maltreated.  There was Wanda the man-girl, who rivaled the Dwarf Queen, but they kept an easy fellowship between them.  She was called the man-girl, not because of any ambivalence about her sexuality, but because of her athletic build.  She was blonde and voluptuous, and dressed like a mythological goddess, and she did an act that was mostly about whip-cracking.  Once in a while, when her co-star had been too soused or marked up too badly from the previous night to appear in public, the Dwarf Queen let Wanda borrow Pindick, and bind him to the post.

The whip, Pindick scoffed in private, was not his specialty, but he had trained to take the lash.   What he displayed was more cerebral, the whip was mindless and barbaric.   Most of it was bluff and showmanship.  There were loud snappers which did not hurt, there were vipers with a silent bite.  The trick was that as long as the coils struck the body after the crack, the force had all been shaken out of it, and, as long as the reaction of the victim was believable, the audience would think he had been stung.  Of course, mistakes could happen, and, let’s face it, once in a while, it was deliberate.  

It was Wanda who would take Pindick to the stage on the night of his final performance.

By that time, Pindick had become such a celebrity on the island that he was not even referred to by name.  At first, people enjoyed the jape of calling out to him, because his name itself was such an insult.  But, after a while, they were uncomfortable about it, and he was called Mister Pindick, and then, it was just Mr P, and no-one dared to breathe the real name of the legendary artiste.   People pointed and nodded and whispered when he was seen.  His infamy overwhelmed the rabble.   His antics became less about his victimization than his daring.   Everyone had witnessed the show, and they all had a favorite feat which they remembered.  They always wondered what he would accomplish next.  

He never paid for a drink at any bar or a meal or a taxi anywhere on the island, and he was never kept waiting, and everything was complimentary.  The Dwarf Queen relished it, but Mr P accepted his fame with modesty, as if it was simply his due.  Offstage, he took to a stylish black pinstripe wardrobe.  He started to go around without her more and more, but they always yearned for one another when they were apart.  They could not stand to be apart from one another for too long.

This was especially true before and after the performance when they were both in their roles.  

They always used to have a few drinks to wind down after the show, but, on the night before what was to be his last appearance, Pindick could not find her, and he started to panic.  He had been in the communal dressing room backstage, removing his greasepaint and his costume, and she was not at the pool-deck bar where they usually met.  He waited until closing time but she did not come.  

He went down to the beach because, on a hot night, the Dwarf Queen liked to swim in the ocean under the moonlight, and he feared that, a little under the influence, and easy prey for the seductive tides, she might have been swept away by the backwash.  There was nothing but empty paddleboats and beach chairs with no cushions, and all the umbrellas were folded.  He heard the sound of the wind and the breakers.  The smell of salt was in the air.  He was the only one on the sand.  He stared into the black waves.

He checked their room on the ground floor.  Their bed had not been touched, everything was neat and sterile.  The soft pastel colors and the utilitarian fixtures of the hotel room made it feel like an infirmary, but for the vivid textiles of their theatrical costumes and property.   Her half-finished drink was still on the table among her make-up vials and powders, but the ice had melted.

He looked all through the resort.  No-one seemed to know where she was.  He was filled with a sense of foreboding.

It was almost four a.m. when, without even knowing why, he went up the steps and along the open corridor to the Ringmaster’s room.

The door was ajar, and he could tell that inside the lamp was glowing, and there were muffled sounds.

He tapped on the door.  “Its Pindick.”

“Come in, Pindick,” he heard the Dwarf Queen’s voice.  “I’m in here.”

He was relieved that he had found her, and he let the door swing open.

The Dwarf Queen was naked in the bed, her dwarfish body across the big buttery flesh of the Ringmaster.

“You can sit in the corner, and watch us,” she instructed.

“Yes, Pindick,” guffawed the Ringmaster, “Watch me do her.”

The clown stared transfixed, and collapsed like a marionette onto the floor in the corner, unable to take his eyes off the bed.  He could not understand why the Dwarf Queen would allow a bloated bully like the Ringmaster to use her so obscenely, and, as if to make matters more hurtful, the Ringmaster was naked in every way, except that he was wearing Pindick’s bright red nose.

“How many times has wormboy witnessed you with a real man?’ the Ringmaster asked the Dwarf Queen.

“Actually, you are the first,” she told him.

“Oh, what an honor,” he said sarcastically, as if they were all on stage doing the routine.

Pindick watched them at it, and tried to see himself from the outside, like he did when he was under the spotlight with his trousers around his feet.   The Ringmaster grunted out some taunts, but they became so absorbed in what they were doing together, that they did not seem to notice him in the corner any more.  The foreigner was too big to lie across her small child-like body, so she rode him astride, and then, he got behind her with the Dwarf Queen on all fours on top of the sheets.  She moaned with passion as he thrust into her.  The clown curled up into the corner, with his legs to his chest, and his eyes covered, but he could not stop himself from peeking through his fingers.

They finished – for the moment – and then, they half-turned their attention back to him.

He got to his feet, sliding up the wall.  “I’m going back to the room.”

“I said to watch us,” the Dwarf Queen repeated, because she never liked to be defied.

“I don’t want to watch.”  He stumbled to the doorway. “I said I’m going back to the room.”

“I will deal with you later.” she said sharply.

He went out, and, not quite realizing the strength of it, he slammed the door.

In their room, he could not sleep.  It was not the same without her in the bed.  They always slept topsy-turvy, like an endless circle, because, restless sleepers, they found they would disturb each other less through the night if they lay head to feet.   He rested on her side of the bed, his head on her soft pillow with a trace of her scent.  He knew that she had had too much to drink, but he was hollow and confused.

As day was breaking, the four walls of the room closed in like a painted cage, and he could not catch his breath, so, outside, he found a hammock between palm trees where the resort met the beach.   He could hear the sound of the waves lapping at the shore, and the hammock swayed gently.

He lay in the curve of the hammock like a fish in a net, and dozed off as the breeze rustled the palm fronds, but he kept waking to the same picture in his mind of the Dwarf Queen and the Ringmaster.   He memorized all the words that he would say to her when they saw each other.

After a few hours, he rolled off the hammock and went to look for her in their room again.  She was not there, although now, he knew where he could locate her.  He did not want to disturb her.  He guessed that she was probably trying to sleep it off.

He had no appetite, but he realized that, with little sleep, he should at least try to have some food.  She had drummed into him how to take good care of himself.

Lined up at the lunch buffet, where the performers were eating among the guests, he encountered the Ringmaster.   In baggy flannel pants, and a loose shirt to hide his paunch, and with a plate of sardines perched on his fingertips, the foreigner did not seem so intimidating.

“Mister Pindick,” the Ringmaster took him to one side, “I wanted to apologize to you…”

“No, no, no.  There is no apology necessary.  The Dwarf Queen can do whatever she wants to…”

“You know, Mister Pindick,” the Ringmaster said earnestly, “We all have such great respect for you.  We really like you.”

“I could give a damn what you think of me,” the clown said fiercely.

The Ringmaster did not flinch.  “I just wanted you to know that.”

“Look, just give me a wide berth today,” warned Pindick, “Just stay out of my way.”

“Of course.”  

“I’ll be ready for the show tonight, but keep out of my face until we get on stage.”  He caught a fishy whiff of the sardines, and suddenly felt queasy.

“I’m going to make you eat fire,” the Ringmaster said politely, “If that’s all right?”

Pindick nodded.

“There’s nothing to worry about,” the Ringmaster assured him, “There is no air in the human mouth, and it is full of moisture, so the flame will die instantly.”

“I know how to do the trick,” Pindick said, “You won’t hurt me.”

The Ringmaster set down his plate on a table, put out his broad palm, and beamed.  He held it out until Pindick shook his hand, and, the burly man wrapped his other arm around Pindick in a sweaty hug.

“Thank you, Mister Pindick,” he said, with a little bow.

“Thank you,” said Pindick, “You handled it just fine.”

At around five p.m., as he approached their room from the rear across the lawn, he saw her silhouette through the bathroom window.  She was in the shower, and the soapy water was so scalding that the steam fogged the glass.   Even though he had practiced their conversation in his head all day, he did not know what he would say to her.  He waited on the grassy walkway another thirty minutes before he went through the door.

For once, she did not seem to know what to say either, and they both mumbled hello, but they could not make eye contact.   This was the time of day when they would usually start to prepare for the evening performance.  He would fetch their drinks from the bar.  She would do her own make-up first, sitting on a stool in front of the mirror, while he waited mutely on the mat.  He would try to concentrate on his role, and lay out her wardrobe on the bed.  Then, she would get him into makeup, and his costume, and, lastly, she would apply the nose.  By the time they left for the theater, they would be in character.

But she showed no signs of beginning the preparations.

“Look,” he broke the silence at last, “I don’t think I can do the act tonight…”

She glared at him.  “You will do the act.”

“My head is not in the right space.  I am not going to be able…”

“Are we going to have a problem?”  she tried not to raise her voice.

“I don’t want to have a problem.  We have had enough problems.  I just don’t want to go on….”

“You will go on.  People are expecting you.”

“I have never missed a performance before,” he said sullenly, “They can go one night without me.”

“You will not miss a performance tonight either,” the Dwarf Queen said, her voice rising  now, “You are not sick.  You are not injured.  You don’t feel like going on, well, too bad.  How do we know you will feel like going on tomorrow?”

“I will get over myself in a few days…”

The Dwarf Queen would never let the clown prevail.  “You will get over yourself now.  You are not going to let everyone down.  You wanted to be the center of attention.  You are the number one attraction in the freakshow.  This is the price of being the star.  The show must go on.”

“I just don’t think that I can do the show with you,” he admitted, hoping to hurt her feelings.

“I am not stupid,” she declared complacently, because she had an ace up her sleeve.  “I have already thought of that.  I know you so well.“

Pindick realized she was ahead of him.  “Then, how?”

“You will do the act with Wanda.”

He liked the idea of doing the performance with the man-girl.  He did not appreciate how she always tried to compete with the Dwarf Queen, but he could not deny that there had been a spark of electricity between them whenever they had appeared together before.  It was not the same, but she had her own set of skills.   At first, it had been easy; it was getting harder and harder to do the act.  He was curious to see where Wanda might take the scene.

“I have already discussed it with her,” the Dwarf Queen continued, “And she has agreed.”

“What about the nose?”  the clown asked sheepishly.

“She knows about the nose.”

“What did you tell her?” 

“I didn’t tell her everything.  I told her that you need the nose to get into character.  She understands.”

He did not feel so isolated now. Over the years, everyone had weak moments.  Intoxicated, she had followed her impulses and now she was ashamed.  She had no reason to feel shame, he understood, she was a free spirit.  They could forgive each other for anything.  He had the feeling that despite what had happened she was still trying to watch over him.   She was always so protective towards him.  She had considered his feelings.  It would all be easy if he was wearing the nose.  

Pindick surrendered.  “All right.  I will do the act with Wanda.”

The sun was setting over the ocean, and they had not yet turned on the lamps in the room.  They gazed at one another in the half-light.

“I will prepare the nose for you beforehand.”  She softened her tone, and came closer to where he was standing.  “So, you will have nothing to worry about.”

But the Dwarf Queen would never see her partner again after that night.

Wanda the man-girl came to the room to get Pindick about half an hour before curtain.   She was wearing a tight spangled leotard, a short cape, elbow-length gloves and high shiny boots, and she had her signature whip coiled about her.  In white face paint and in costume, the clown was ready.  She took hold of him roughly.

“Let’s go, fool,” she laughed.

Pindick blinked at her vacantly, and muttered an inaudible response.

The Dwarf Queen smiled at Wanda.  “He’s all yours.  Have fun.”

“Enjoy your night off,” said Wanda.

They went out into the corridor, and the Dwarf Queen watched them leave.  Wanda strode a few steps ahead, with a swing in her hips, while Pindick waddled behind her in his clown feet with his head bowed.   

A warm breeze was stirring.  The night had fallen, and the half-moon rose over the sea.   

It was a short walk through the resort to the backstage entrance of the old burlesque house.  From a distance, illuminated, the creaky building loomed spookily against the dark horizon.  It gave him that same ominous feeling in the pit of his stomach.

Pindick took his place at the back of the theater as soon as the house lights went down.  He had never felt nervous before.  He always waited until his cue, when the Ringmaster asked for a volunteer, someone ridiculous.  Then the spotlight would sweep through the audience and discover him at the back of the hall.   At first, he pretended that he did not want to go up on the stage, and the Ringmaster would be insistent.  People started clapping and whistling, sometimes someone would give him a shove, as he gingerly went forward and up the small flight of steps at the apron.

But on that final night the Ringmaster thought better of it.  He went through the motions, and the spotlight raked the seats, and skimmed right by him.  The harsh beam of it settled instead on one of the hotel guests, a tall, thin, lantern-jawed man on holiday.  The Ringmaster called him up, and egged on by his group of friends, the volunteer did the fire-eating trick while Pindick watched from the back of the theater.

Half-relieved, half-jealous, he shuffled out through the side doors, and went backstage to wait for his turn with the man-girl.

Wanda strutted up to him as he waited in a corner of the wings, getting her face so close to his face that he could count the tiny beads of perspiration on her forehead.

“Nobody wanted to see you eat fire,” she teased, “Oh, poor little Pindick.”  Then she playfully squeezed his spongy nose.  “What on earth am I going to do to you tonight?”

A kaleidoscope of naked bodies, feathers, glitter, scenery, backdrops, trampolines and trapezes tumbled through his mind.  There was frantic circus music and laughter and applause and he imagined that he could hear the drumbeat of his own heart.   His head spun like a pinwheel.  His legs felt weak.  He saw the blurry features of the man-girl in front of him, her white teeth gleaming in a lascivious grin, but he could not focus his eyes.  He tried to catch his breath, sucking in the air through his lips.  He hardly recognized where he was.  Everything in the grand universe seemed pinpointed to the overwhelming image of the Ringmaster and the Dwarf Queen doing it.

Time sped up, and, before he knew it, he heard the Ringmaster wielding the microphone to announce the act which everyone had been waiting for, and then, Wanda was marching him out onto the stage, and he heard the crowd stamping their feet, and jeering in unison, “Pin-dick!  Pin-dick!  Pin-dick!”

The spotlight hit him, and a roar of delight came from the throng.

Wanda circled around him, in front of him, in his face, then behind him, invisible.  She prodded him, poked him, and, all of sudden, she jerked his trousers down around his ankles, and he stood exposed.

“We’re going to do the Penguin tonight,” she declared, crossing to the far side of the stage, “Let’s see you do the Penguin walk.”

Hands perpendicular to the sides, he took a few awkward steps towards her.  He saw the Ringmaster leering from the wings, his lips curved in a nasty smile.  Pindick looked around, lost without the Dwarf Queen to encourage him.  He took a deep inhalation, and, in his stupor, stumbled leadenly towards the bleary figure in the spangled cape.

It was not quick enough for Wanda.  She uncoiled her whip, and cracked it once against the hard wooden planks of the stage so that the yellow dust rose from the floorboards.

“I’m waiting for you,” she said, with a lilt in her voice, and he tried to get his legs to work faster.

Then, as he approached her, Wanda did the cruelest thing that Pindick could have imagined.

She tossed her whip aside, and before he knew it, she reached for his face, and, in a flash, she had plucked off his nose.

“No!” cried the clown.

The audience erupted with laughter.

“You want it,” teased Wanda, “Come and get it.”

He hobbled towards her, hampered by the oversized clown shoes and his trousers coiled around his feet.  She moved away as he got closer.  She tossed the phony nose from hand to hand.  She pretended that she was about to give it to him, and then snatched her hand away again as he reached for it.  She tucked both hands behind her back, hiding the nose in her fist.

“You don’t understand,” Pindick stammered, “The nose is very important….”

“It’s v-v-very important,” mimicked Wanda, “Then you had better go and get it, hadn’t you?”  She stepped to the edge of the stage, and, to the horror of the clown, flung the little red nose into the audience.

The spectators got into the game at once, throwing the nose like a ball from one hand to another.  Pindick pulled up his trousers, and clambered down the stairs at the apron into the dimly lit hall.   From the balcony, the spotlight was pointed at him.  He chased the nose, as the audience members transferred it from the front rows to the back of the house, and somehow or other, as the theater ushers got into the lark, it went out the back door, and Pindick followed his nose.

It was a spectacular exit, and the man-girl took a bow on the stage to thunderous applause.

His nose, as it turned out, would elude Pindick.

About an hour after the performance ended, the Dwarf Queen hammered on the door of Wanda’s room.

“I can’t find Pindy,” she said, when Wanda came to the door.  “He’s not at the bar, he wasn’t backstage, and he did not come back to our room.”

“I know,” Wanda replied, “He ran out of the back doors of the theater at the end of the scene, but then he was nowhere to be found.”

“How was the show?”

“Hilarious.  The audience loved it.  So did I.  He was a sensation.”

“What made Pindy run out of the back of the theater?  He has never done that before.”

“Oh, my darling, you should have seen it,” Wanda laughed, “He was chasing his nose.”

“He lost his nose?”

“I took it off him.”

The alabaster complexion of the Dwarf Queen seemed to turn a paler shade.  “That nose is what puts him into his trance.”

They heard the distant smash of glassware from the pool-deck bar.  Someone started shouting in another language.

  Wanda thought that the Dwarf Queen was about to faint.  “You’d better explain.”

“The sponge of the nose soaks up a special concoction which he inhales.”  She drew a sigh.  “He is completely addicted to it.”  She was embarrassed to say the truth, so she spoke it quickly.  “It’s amyl nitrate, a little alcohol and some powder.”

A gust of wind swept her black hair across her face.

There was a stamp of boots up the staircase.

Still in his circus wardrobe, the Ringmaster lumbered down the corridor.  “There might be a problem.”

“Do you know where Pindy is?”

“Jumba the giant said he saw Mr P running down to the beach.  The wind caught his nose, and he chased after it.”

They ran through the resort, with Wanda and the Dwarf Queen striding ahead, and the Ringmaster wheezing behind them, holding onto his top hat.

Jumba, the big muscle man, was standing on the sand barefoot and stripped to the waist, and his trousers were soaked.   He was shivering, even though the night was warm.  He had swum out into the treacherous backwash, but he had had no luck.

As the Dwarf Queen, the Ringmaster and the Man-girl approached, Jumba shook his head somberly.   There was no sign of the clown in the water or anywhere down the beach, not even a footprint on the sand.  There was no shadow under the moonlight.  The four performers with their outlandish physiques stood in a frozen tableau, gazing into the tides, not sure what to do or feel or believe.  Nobody moved, nobody dared to breathe a word.

But then, bobbing on the dark waves, they spotted the little red dot that was his nose.  Jumba and the Ringmaster had to hold the Dwarf Queen back or she would have plunged into the breakers.

“Pindy!  Pindy!  Pindy!” wailed the Dwarf Queen, but it was only the blind moan of the wind, which offered any response.

Years after, when the Dwarf Queen was no longer welcome at the resort, they said that at the half-moon, you could still hear her voice on the whispers of the wind, calling, “Pindy, Pindy, Pindy.”

Haunted by the black cloud of uncertainty, the circus lost its popularity without its star, and the resort fell on hard times, and the theater itself fell into disrepair after a bad winter storm damaged some of the wooden framework.

Every night, it was Pindick who closed the program; that was the grand finale.  On the island, after that night, there were many who thought that it was the sad-faced clown who had had the last laugh, but, many believed that he had disappeared into the salty waters as if he had drowned in a sea of his own sorrowful tears.

Whatever happened to the clown after that remained a mystery.  Eventually, the tales of his lively antics for a few short seasons faded from memory to legend, and, like all legends, nobody knew for certain if any of it ever even existed. Like the shrinking spotlight at the end of his act, it all just vanished into a tiny pinhole.

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