an extract from TEXT NUMBER ONE
When Amanda Palmer ran away from the circus she knew that that would not be the end of it. Indeed it was the wrong circus to run away from. But then again, it was the wrong circus to be brought up by, though that hadn’t really been her choice. She had been stolen from her family when she was only four, and could remember nothing of her previous life except her name. Nor would they tell her anything, not even which town she had been taken from. What she didn’t know was that she had been the youngest of twelve children, to a very poor family, and when her parents had eventually noticed she was missing they saw it as something of a relief. No, she was a circus girl, and that was the end of it. And so it might have been had she not grown up. For though they had bullied and beaten her almost every day of her life, she had become used to that, even found it oddly comforting. It wasn’t until her budding womanhood began to show through her shirt that the real problems began.
Silas Monger’s Travelling Circus was a family troupe that had toured the northern states for seven generations. Indeed they had utilised the careful management of “in-breeding” very much to their advantage over the centuries. Not that they were freaks, well not really. But they were the weirdest looking circus you were ever likely to come across. The clowns, who were all dwarfs, and cousins come to that, were of generally normal proportions for such diminutive folk, but had the most enormous ears and noses, giving them something of the look of baby elephants, particularly when crawling on all fours; the strong man, who was, as might be imagined, immensely strong, had such elongated arms that he could almost pick up his weights without bending; and the stilt-walkers were exceptionally tall, a good foot taller than any among the crowds even without their stilts. But despite this dedication towards the blood purity of the circus line, as they called it, the past two generations had seen a steady decline in their prosperity, and for the last twenty years they had been reduced to playing highway services and the occasional small town.
It was for this reason that Silas Monger VIII had declared that they must break with tradition and bring in some new blood, and hence they had stolen Amanda. However, little thought had been given, or at least little discussion been had, as to who else’s blood might be going into the mix. Silas assumed that it would be his, but many among the troupe had other ideas, all of them male, fertile, without wives, and, truth to be told, in most cases diseased as a result of various sordid liaisons with the less salubrious professionals that shared the same passing trade. Naturally Amanda was oblivious to all this for many years. She was more concerned with keeping her head down and ensuring her chores were done to avoid a thorough beating. But then, as she approached her thirteenth year, the rising self-consciousness of impending adulthood began to turn her thoughts, and almost overnight she started noticing the way that they looked at her. Though she didn’t understand quite why, it made her flesh creep, of that much she was sure. And then there were the cold and savage glances sent her way by the women of the troupe, particularly Evelyn and Evelyn, the singing conjoined twins (their father had given them the same name so as to avoid confusion) and so she kept her head down, and did her chores with even greater vigour so as not to provide the opportunity for any unwanted attentions.
The only comfort and companionship she ever experienced was in her relationship with the animals. These were two donkeys, and an old panther, whose teeth were falling out. When she was first taken she had been made to sleep in the animal tent, which was little more than a makeshift tarpaulin awning on the side of the donkey trailer to cover the panther’s rusting cage. Not having seen a panther before she assumed it was just a big pussycat and before long she was sleeping in his cage, cuddling up to him for warmth. She named him Fluffy, afterall she was only four. It always caused her great inward amusement to see how Fluffy would spit and hiss at the rest of the troupe, and how scared they were of him, though she never let them see it, for that would just have led to another beating. But to her he was quite literally a pussycat.
In the months running up to her fifteenth birthday she could tell something was brewing, something that wasn’t good. Her nights were increasingly disturbed by shouts, arguments, and even fistfights amongst the troupe, and the looks she was getting had become ever more accusatory. Then, two nights before her birthday she was rudely awoken from a particularly pleasant dream involving a large pink feathered hat, by an argument heading her way. She was too groggy to understand what was being shouted, but it seemed to quickly turn into a fight, and then silence. Suddenly the door to Fluffy’s cage was flung open and a hand grabbed her ankle and was dragging her out. It was Hector, the strong man. She tried to kick and scream with all her might, but to no avail. His hands were just too big and too strong. Before she knew it she was over his shoulder, being carried off. But Hector had forgotten to close Fluffy’s cage. There was an almighty hissing screaming sound as Fluffy leapt up at Hector’s face, clamping his toothless jaws around the unsuspecting man’s nose. In no time Hector was on the ground, wrestling the fearsome beast that Fluffy seemed to have become, and Amanda saw her chance. She ran, just ran and ran straight across the fields into the darkness, and kept on running until her lungs ached and her heart seemed to be bursting forth from her chest. Finally she felt safe enough to stop, and simply lay on the ground among the corn stems, waiting for daylight, wondering what she should do now. ...
- Read the Improtant Preface to the Second Edition
- Read an extract from On the Aesthetic Decline of the Mock Funeral
- Read an extract from On the Unsung Death of Amanda Palmer
- Read an extract from Appendix V