Young Jack had enjoyed himself. With the rest of the crowd he slowly filed out of the Big Top, passing as he did a craggy greased painted face, oily black tears stained one cheek.
‘Thank you, please’ it muttered, handing Jack a small silver envelope. The boy slid it into his pocket for safe keeping.
It was days later, Jack was alone playing outside when felt the forgotten gift in his pocket. The torn envelope fell to the floor and he held up an uniflated blue balloon and a silver ribbon which flashed in the sunlight. Jack smiled.
Not so faraway a magpie landed on a branch, its hard eye glinted with envy.
He placed the balloon to his lips and blew. With considerable effort he forced a small bulge of air into the balloon. Pinching the end to pause, he rubbed his face. His cheeks ached with the exertion, but after two more painful blasts it was inflated.
‘Lunch’ his mother called.
A small knot was fumbled into the rubber and using the ribbon fastened the balloon to his bike, he trudged indoors.
As the door closed the magpie moved fast, gliding from branch to handlebars, it pecked, pulled and loosened the knot. The freed balloon lifted up, pulled by an invisible hand it drifted past the trees and continued over the house.
When Jack returned the balloon was just a speck in the distance. It was gone as was Jack’s smile.
The waiting magpie flapped its oily black wings and flew off.
The Circus was packing up, the sad faced clown stood outside an old tatty caravan watching the sky expectedly. A silver ribbon drifted past his face, reaching up and caught it. A smiled cracked.
Jack aged, youth past, overtaken by a tragic craggy expression. In his company children always hid or cried at the sight of his perpetual sad face.