Three Ring Intersection

I didn’t make the cut for Creative Loafing‘s top ten. So here it is for you to read:

THREE RING INTERSECTION

If, in this world of statistics and quantifiable data, there were an index list for the intersection with the highest heat index year round the intersection of Curtiss Highway and Garfield Boulevard would be a top contender. Situated about three miles from the city center this particular thoroughfare, though quite popular for daily commute, does not reveal a glamorous side of the city. Coated in oil leaked from fuel inefficient cars and detritus collected in gutters along the sidewalk due to the many summer showers the intersection at Curtiss and Garfield serves more as an obligatory hurtle one must jump on their way to work than the scenic route. A Floridian summer usually consists of temperatures that make you think the sky is on fire, the ground has swapped places with burning coals, and almost constant film of sweat layers your whole body. With humidity so thick, you swear that if you had a cup you could fill it just from the moisture in the air, heat is a part of the commuter’s everyday life; one that makes those with working air conditioning in their cars exceedingly grateful.

During a soupy day in the summer a myriad grouping of cars clustered around the lights at the intersection, idling impatiently, anticipating the change of the lights. Traffic was held at an unusual standstill that morning. These sorts of hiccups are quite common at 8 am, even in the summertime, but what made this traffic unusual was the fact that whether you were heading north, south, east, or west you weren’t going anywhere. The lights in four directions were stuck on red and didn’t seem in a hurry to change.

If you were interested in socio-economic breakdowns of the citizens of Suntown this vehicular standstill would allow quite an interesting study. SUVs from varying price points, makes and models lined each direction. There seemed to be a certain proclivity to the high-end sedans and the sorts of off-road vehicles that never see a speck of mud. Despite the time two souped up neon fiberglass hot rods rumbled next to each other filling the air with rhythmic undulations and garbled lyrics. Though school let out nearly two months before one large yellow school bus lumbered behind a row of smaller cars. Passengers in the back row of seats pulled the windows of the school bus down and plotted mischievous acts.

In the northern side of the intersection the drivers all exhibited some level of bored distraction. A businessman, sitting in the front row poked in frustration at his Blackberry barely sparing a glance at the spectacle in the crossroads. Behind the businessman’s Beemer a woman in a silk suit, riding in a Lexus LS was the first to notice the strange entertainment. Shaking her head as if to convince herself that it was only a daydream she looked up and refocused her attention. Thinking that the heat might really be getting to her she looked anywhere but straight ahead at the vision of a dancing bear in a goofy sailor type hat, hoping to make eye contact with some other witness of this strange event.

Her eyes locked on a boy, almost five years old in the back seat of a bright yellow Hummer SUV, very annoyed at still having to ride in a carseat. He also stared out the window and noticed his favorite elephant, oversized ears and all, standing in real life in front of the car. Despite his attempts to get his mother’s attention she was taking advantage of the stopped traffic to touch up her makeup and asked her son to just enjoy the cartoon on the monitor in front of him and please not bother mommy. Sighing deeper than any child should he unbuckled himself and shifted over to get a better view of Dumbo and the black crows circling around the impressive elephant.

Rumbling louder than the driver would have liked, a cherry red Jeep Cherokee, a relic of 1996, sat next to the shiny BMW. The driver, a recent graduate from high school, on her way to work at a city pool, sat gaping overhead at a tightrope walker traipsing precariously on the power lines.

Thanks to the negligent tolerance of camp counselors a ruckus of elementary aged children on the school bus sprung up when they spotted dancing acrobats following steps in a complicated choreography with clowns and several small Jack Russell terriers. The group wholeheartedly agreed (with the exception of maybe the cantankerous bus driver) that this was far better entertainment than the field trip they were headed to, some dusty museum in another part of town, and decided that staying in this intersection, hot as it might be in the old bus, was a much better choice.

The woman in silk, no longer concerned with sweat ruining her outfit, or propriety for propriety’s sake decided to take the first step forward. However, as soon as she opened the door and felt the idling cars around her and the heat of the summer day she could’ve sworn she’d been hit by one of those giant cartoon hammers. Her nylons were soaked through before she’d even taken a few steps and experienced only brief regret that her silk suit would be ruined after this little adventure. But it had been ages since she’d seen a circus.

Slowly, down the line of traffic car doors began to open. The lifeguard and more than a few children made their way to the front of traffic. They joined a man with a little girl on his shoulders, a whimsical old man whose beard was long past the socially acceptable point, and several other pedestrians and drivers. The crowd was not large, but this circus never expected a large audience. Their drive to perform was not motivated by filling seats or selling tickets, it was something much more magical. Congregating in the crosswalk they watched with awe as the performers danced and flipped and juggled and flew.

A moment from the silk clad woman’s childhood sprung forth in her mind: a beautiful woman stepping into an elephant’s trunk and gracefully gliding up to its head to ride around Queen of the Big Top. This memory morphed into a siren call, compelling her forward into the melee. Her steps were tentative but gained assurance as she noticed she was not alone. The lifeguard, the little boy, and the bearded man all made their way into the extravaganza. She expected the heat-induced daydream to subside the closer she drew to the dancing bear, the acrobats, and the elephant. Instead she was met with an even stronger sense of their realness. Finally, she was mere feet from the elephant.

It seemed to some of the less courageous spectators that the elephant winked at the woman, most confirmed it definitely bowed. They admitted that she looked quite regal in her champagne colored silk suit and not at all out of place in the midst of the show. As she stepped forward there was a collective gasp, the elephant lowered its trunk, swung the woman over its head and placed her gently for her ride. He took a few steps, picked up speed, and suddenly soared over the crowd, the traffic, and the city. Like iced treats on a summer day the other performers melted into the shimmery air along with a little boy, almost five years old, the lifeguard, and a man whose beard might have caused Santa to be jealous.

The police were quite perplexed by the chain of events. The stories they heard sounded something like mass hysteria, a heat induced mirage. But how to explain the empty cars left standing in the intersections? A major, local news station located two blocks from the Intersection Circus didn’t run a story until later that evening. A very serious man, with a trustworthy face looked into the camera and announced, “Police express concern this evening after several local citizens, including a small boy, allegedly ran away with the circus.”

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