Wanderlino Arruda
Djalma Souto


The Hunger of Adauto’s Lion

Wanderlino Arruda

Who has been responsible for the largest number of anecdotes and the butt of about as many jokes about poor circuses is Adauto Freire. My contribution has been the most generous possible, but I could never have had as much imagination as he, every moment flashing a new coloring, some new flair or detail, and a friendlier face to give more honesty to his creativity. The story is only fifteen days old now, and being constantly told and retold, mainly to Consuelo and Mariazinha, which gives it an authentic, involving and sympathetic halo of compassion. Raquel has enjoyed the progression of events, as much at work as at home, because Rafael and Rodrigues, her sons, are specialists in putting up play-circuses, only to make the lion groan with depression and apathy. Paulinha, Paulo Sidônio, Maninho and Elizena, more serious, ask themselves how far something like this can go on.

Really, though…it was just a very poor, lame and destitute circus, even though it had a great clown, a fire-eater, a blond trapeze artist, a candy man, and a lion tamer. The trapeze artist doubled as the ticket lady, that is, when someone courageous enough to buy one appeared. The lion trainer also doubled as the fire-eater, better known as The Fantastic Flame Licker, as well as the candy and chewing gum vendor. The clown also held the double responsibility being owner and general manager of the company. As you can imagine, few people could survive these meager conditions in times of normality. The truth, however, is heart rending. Bone poor, as Tadeu Leite would have commented, in the time that he was still a radio announcer, with his program “Scream it out”. So…Time goes on, and the circus’s first week went by enjoying normal attendance, and then plummeted until it became a nightmare, and then blossomed into a true school of sacrifices. Hunger came, unchained and furious, bludgeoning privation, attenuated by only two pink mango trees in fruit, located right in front of the ticket office. The clown, deathly pale from sub nutrition, no longer needed white or yellow face paint, which was good, I guess, because it made life cheaper for him. The red, black and blue face paint was sufficient for his make-up needs.

During the day, the clown was employed as a cowboy at a neighboring ranch, and in his spare time worked as a carryout boy at the town supermarket. The trapeze girl went to work as a maid at the office of the town doctor, taking advantage of her spare time, washing and ironing to fetch a few more pennies. The lion tamer became a medicine-man at the local farmer’s market, and that noble profession, he would practice at the time he would normally be feeding the lion, and this was because he couldn’t stand to hear the poor animal’s heart-rending cries for food. But dreadfully tragic was the situation of the their children, orphans of necessity with faces reflecting empty plates. Lying down close under the mango trees they would lie, belly up, incessantly searching the branches for a ripening fruit, and when they could find one, just barely beginning to turn purple-green, they would skitter up the trunk like spiders and, ever so gently, turn each mango around, so that they would catch more sun and ripen quicker, trying to hold off their hunger until they were ripe and sweet.

When the situation bore down to absolute poverty, precisely half of one of the two tents was sold as a semi-truck trailer covering and the planks of the big top audience benches were sold for next to nothing to construct a temporary fence around the building site of a new local school. The ironically funniest thing about the bankruptcy of the doomed company was what was done with the lion, and this, Adauto confirms as an eye witness: He was given a soapy bath with coco soap, a neat shave from tip of whiskers to tip of tail… and was sold as a dog to a Montes Claros hunter, the region’s biggest city…

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