Boris, King of the Unicycle!


When the spotlight struck the entrance gate and Khachaturian's frantic Sabre Dance burst loose from the speaker system, he would pedal out, a red fez resting between his pointed brown ears and busy himself with quick circles around the outer perimeter of the circus ring.  The ringmaster, beside himself with pleasure at this feat, would stand in the centre, a microphone in his hand and yell, "Ladies and Gentlemen:  I give you Boris, King of the Unicycle!"
      How they would marvel at his ability to ride the unicycle, this audience of lowest common denominators who saw nothing more than a stupid and subdued animal, trained to amuse them.  He heard it all while he did his laps, the laughter, the jeering, the young children stating the obvious—"that bear is riding a unicycle, Daddy!"  He came to expect it in the same way he expected hunger or sleep, but it never failed to cause him to bare his teeth beneath the cover of the black leather muzzle.  It never failed to kick start a fantasy he regarded as simple, involving little more than patience and timing.  It would only take one moment, one careless moment where the ringmaster stepped a little too close toward him in his over zealous announcements.  It would be quick.  He would swing a paw directly across that fat, bloated face, sending it down into the sawdust, limp.  He would be off the unicycle and rushing toward the exit long before the blood could even coalesce with the sawdust into dusty blond globules.  They did not know what he was capable of, the stupid ignorant beasts.  He; the great brown bear of the Kamchatka Peninsula.
      Out into the parking in search of transport.  A car, manual or automatic transmission.  It made no difference.  Driving clear of the city's lights, relegating them to cheap neon smudges on the receding horizon until they disappeared completely.  Then nothing more than the night, quiet and smooth, the stars above like scratches of sparks in the sky.  He would drive like this until the car ran out of gas, then pull over onto the soft earth of the shoulder, using his claws to slash the car's upholstery and tyres before trudging away.  There would be tree branches and pine needles underfoot, the smell of fresh water streams and soil.  When he had first arrived at the circus, he had spent his evenings falling asleep to the memory of these smells, but now they eluded him.  Now all he could smell when he closed his eyes was popcorn and that filthy odour of stale sweat and urine he associated with humans.  But on this night, he would be home.  All of it would come rushing back.  He would wander until he came upon an elk or even a snake, make love to it as it had never been loved before, then leave it, cold and alone, exhausted and spiritually crushed by the realization that never again would it experience such depths of passion.  Unable to cope with this truth, the elk or snake would not eat or sleep and as a result would soon die, falling victim to scavenging birds that picked and tore at its defeated flesh with their inelegant beaks.
      He would effortlessly pluck fish from the cold, clear river, quote them Dostoyevsky or Platonov and watch as their mouths pleaded for air, eyes bulging and gills heaving, dangling from his single claw.  They would be eaten, but they would not die ignorant.  For even these simple fish with their bulbous, roving black eyes honoured his presence with more recognition than all the obese, drooling imbeciles who packed inside the circus tent, cheering as he passed by on his unicycle ever could.
      Yes, it was always this same fantasy.  Sometimes, long after his performance was finished and he sat in his cage waiting to fall asleep, he would continue to plot—even going as far as deciding on a specific date and time.  He found that he could fall asleep easier this way, knowing that all of this—the circus, the crowds, the unicycle—were only temporary.  Those were the good nights.  On most nights though, the cold steel of the cage floor beneath him and the smell of humans in the air served only to remind him that he had no idea where he was.  No idea as to which city, no idea which country.  On most nights when his eyes closed and he felt the warm paralysis of sleep over take him, he realized that he didn't even know if there was a forest nearby.  
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