Tinsel adored the circus. She loved the warm smell of sawdust and the bright, flashing lights. She loved the prancing horses and strong, gray elephants. She loved the acrobats as they flew through the air and the salty smell of popcorn, but most of all she loved the clowns.
“Mum.” She complained for the third time that week. “Can’t I be a clown instead of a dancer? They have so much more fun than I do.”
Mum was very patient with Tinsel.
“You know our family has danced in the circus for over forty years, Tinsel. We’re good at dancing. This is what we’re supposed to do.”
Tinsel made her mouth turn down into a sulk.
“But I don’t want to dance anymore. All the practicing is such hard work. My legs get sore and sometimes the shoes pinch my toes. The clowns just have fun all day.” Mum shook her head firmly.
At the performance that night, Tinsel stood behind the curtain waiting for her turn to join the dancers. The ladies wore silver tights and sparkly tutus that flashed and gleamed. The men wore tight, silver pants and shiny shirts that caught the wind as they twirled and leaped into the air. Tinsel pulled her wings straight and as the music changed, skipped out into the ring. She was dressed as a butterfly and her costume was rainbow coloured in purple, green and yellow. Gracefully she danced between the adults, her wings moving gently as though they were real. At the end, the audience stood and clapped and shouted and whistled. Tinsel curtseyed before skipping out of the ring. She loved performing but wished she didn’t have to practice.
The next morning she spoke to her father.
“Daddy, please can I join the clowns? I’m tired of practice, practice, practice. To her surprise, he nodded.
“Mum talked to me and we’ve decided to let you be a clown. Your little sister knows your dances and she can take your place.”
Tinsel stood still. Poppy do her dances? Poppy to dress up in her beautiful, colourful outfits? Then she thought of the practices.
“Okay.” She said. “When can I start?”
“Let’s go and speak to Charlie.” Dad said.
Charlie was a short little man with a mat of thick, black hair. He bowed to Tinsel and her dad and then fell over his feet into a somersault. Dad spoke to him quietly and Charlie nodded, calling to the other clowns.
“Tinsel wants to join us. Let’s find her a costume.”
The clown suit was baggy and patched in bright colours. A large yellow ruff was attached around her neck.
“Goodness.” She thought. “This suit feels hot and clumsy.”
By the time the show began that night, Tinsel didn’t recognize herself. Her lovely long hair was twisted up under a curly, green clown-wig. Her face was painted red and white and she had a large nose stuck on top of her own. She stared in the mirror, a little sad. She was used to having velvet ribbons and silver dust in her hair and always felt comfortable in her butterfly dresses and pointy ballet shoes. She looked across to the dancers. Poppy was wearing the pink butterfly dress and her hair was laced with pink ribbons. Tinsel looked down at the big, clumsy clown shoes on her feet.
The performance in the ring was horrible. They hadn’t practiced and Tinsel didn’t know what to do. Charlie had just said to act funny. She tried to do a somersault and fell over the shoes knocking her elbow hard on the ground. The people laughed and pointed at her. Tinsel felt like crying but at last the show was over. Tinsel washed the clown makeup off her face. Then she went to find Daddy.
“Daddy,” She began, “I’ve made a mistake. I want to be a dancer again. I’m a good dancer but not a good clown.” Daddy smiled.
“Let’s take these things back to Charlie.”
The next day Tinsel practiced extra hard and even helped Poppy learn some new steps. That night she dressed in her rainbow butterfly-dress, coloured in purple, green and yellow. Mum sprinkled silver dust across her hair and tied it up with velvet ribbons. When the time came, she skipped into the ring and danced with all her heart. The crowd stood and clapped and whistled as she curtseyed.
“I love the circus.” She whispered to herself. “But even more I love being a dancer.”
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