The ringmaster

On the walls of the darkened classroom, animals danced.

It was the summer holidays; the children were laughing elsewhere now. Someone had left a window ajar, and the paper circus rolled up, rolled up with the breeze. The elephants blew a fluttering fanfare; the trainer growled; the lion prowled.

Matthew sat at his desk, pencils sharpened, still as air over a forgotten pond. He was ready, already present. He was keeping count. Every creature that slipped and tumbled into the shadows, into the cracks, Matthew noted. Every drumbeat, every ripple of applause. He was the auditor, and the ringmaster, too.