The magician’s table was covered by a sheet of plywood, four feet square, completely wrapped up in aluminum foil. Sugar magic was messy magic, and the foil made for easier cleanup. Scattered across the aluminum were misshapen chunks of candy, the seeds from which the carnival would grow. And grow it did.
The Carnival Was Eaten, All Except the Clown
by Caroline M. Yoachim
The magician’s table was covered by a sheet of plywood, four feet
square, completely wrapped up in aluminum foil. Sugar magic was messy
magic, and the foil made for easier cleanup. Scattered across the
aluminum were misshapen chunks of candy, the seeds from which the
carnival would grow. And grow it did.
Overnight, as the magician slept, sugar melted into candy sheets that
billowed up into brightly colored tents. Caramel stretched itself
into tightropes and nets, and green gumdrop bushes popped up to line
the paths between the tents.
The carnival glittered with sugar-glass lights. The Ferris wheel was
made of chocolate with graham cracker seats and a motor that ran on
corn syrup. Out near the edge of the table, a milk chocolate monkey
rode bareback on a white chocolate zebra with dark chocolate stripes.
The monkey did handstands and backflips while the zebra pranced in a
At the center of it all was the clown. She was three inches tall and
made entirely of sugar. Her face and hands were coated with white
powdered sugar, a sharp contrast to the bright red of her blown-sugar
lips and the green and purple of her pulled-sugar dress. She was the
seed from which each new carnival was grown, and she was beautiful.
As each of the sugar creations woke, the clown was there to welcome
them to the world and tell them of their destiny. “You will be adored
by children,” she told the cotton candy sheep, stroking the wisps of
their baby blue wool. “You will delight them with your tumbling,” she
told the flexible bubblegum acrobats. And, “You will amaze them with
your daring stunts,” she told the gingerbread daredevil. She smiled
at everyone, but she smiled her prettiest smile for the daredevil,
because she was a little bit in love with him.
As she woke the carnival, and told them tales of children with bright
smiling faces, she always added, “in the end you will be eaten, for
that is your destiny.”
When she told them that, her smile sometimes faltered. She had seen a
child only once, several cycles ago, the six-year-old niece of the
magician who had laughed in delight to see the clown’s dancing
routine. That had been a beautiful moment, the defining moment of her
existence, the moment that made her the seed. After seeing the joy on
the girl’s face, the clown had dissolved blissfully into the warm
water in the magician’s cauldron, her sugar becoming the seed crystals
from which an entire carnival was grown.
As the seed, she was the only one who woke up knowing the joy of a
child’s laughter. The others would have to wait until the magician
took them to whatever party was on the schedule. So she told the
others what awaited them, how wonderful children are, and what an
honor it was to perform for them. And she told them that they would
be eaten, whatever that meant, because when she asked the magician why
he grew a new carnival for every party, he told her that the carnival
always gets eaten in the end.
She was a happy clown, and this was the only thing that made her sad,
the knowledge that she couldn’t go to the parties. As the seed, she
was never eaten, always plucked away by the magician and thrown into
the cauldron to grow the next carnival.
The clown stood at the edge of the carnival, waiting, and when the
magician woke up he came to greet her. She asked, as she often did,
if she could go to the party with the others. He replied, as he
always did, that she was the seed, and could not be spared.
He picked her up gently and dropped her in his cauldron.
Over time, the clown changed. She became a sad clown, with streaks of
burnt-black sugar running down her face like smeared mascara. Her
once vibrant dress of green and purple was still beautiful, but the
colors faded, and her sugar lost its glossy shine.
One morning, the clown peered out from a green-and-yellow candy tent
and saw the magician running about frantically, searching for his
keys. He looked tired and distracted, and he was late in collecting
the carnival. The clown made a decision. Instead of standing at the
edge of the carnival, as she usually did, she would hide in the tent
and go to the party. She would hear the sound of children’s laughter
again, and she would finally be eaten like the others.
She stayed inside the green-and-yellow candy tent as the magician
loaded the carnival into his van, and unloaded it at the party. No
one noticed she was there, and soon she heard children’s excited
voices all around her. She would finally be eaten!
One of the children pulled off the roof of the striped-candy tent and
broke it into pieces for her guests. The first performer was the
gingerbread daredevil. He jumped twelve sugar cookie cars on a
motorcycle with licorice wheels and a candy corn seat. The children
clapped politely for his act before they ate him. The birthday girl
bit off his head, then ripped his arms off to share with one of her
guests. Was that what it meant to be eaten? Her beloved daredevil
had met his end bravely, without a trace of fear, but being eaten
looked far less pleasant than dissolving in warm water, and — a new
thought occurred to her — if she didn’t go into the cauldron, would
she continue to exist? The others always came back, each time the
carnival grew, but they never remembered what had happened at the last
carnival, no matter how she begged them to tell her.
No, being eaten was not the same as dissolving, she decided. Being
eaten was an ending. Being eaten was death without rebirth. The
clown couldn’t stand to watch any more. She went and visited some of
the animals. She patted the backs of the cotton candy sheep and
scratched the dark chocolate dancing bear behind his ears.
“Don’t be so sad,” said the juggler, “we are meant to be eaten.”
She had told the juggler that very thing this morning, that it was
their destiny to be eaten. She had believed it. Because of her,
everyone else in the carnival — the daredevil and the zebra, the
acrobats and the cotton candy sheep — all of them were content to
meet their fate, week in and week out, a never-ending carnival of
No, the clown decided, she wouldn’t do this any more.
While the children were busy stuffing sheep into their mouths and
watching the juggler toss flaming balls of sugar, the clown snuck to
the edge of the carnival, intending to run away — but instead the
magician spotted her. He snatched her up and stuffed her into his
pocket, and kept her there until evening.
“I don’t want to do this any more,” she told him.
“I’m sorry, I truly am. But we have a party tomorrow, and I don’t
have time to make another seed.” He dropped her into his cauldron and
she melted away.
The clown woke angry. It was one thing to destroy her when she was
willing, but the magician had thrown her in the cauldron even after
she protested. Her gown reflected her mood — sugar burnt black with
a dusting of granulated sugar sequins. Sour gummy animals replaced the
fluffy cotton candy sheep, and dark chocolate elephants balanced on
jawbreaker balls. The tents of the carnival were a shiny red, like
wet blood, and the gingerbread daredevil wore a biker jacket of black
This time she would not tell the others of the joys of children’s
laughter. She would warn them of the horror of being eaten, and
instead of meeting their so-called destiny, they would work together
The clown was busy formulating her plans, and she did not notice that
the magician was still awake until he came up behind her and snatched
her away. He dropped her into a glass jar on the counter and sealed
the lid. She watched from her prison as he poured out a batch of
melted sugar and worked it into shape as it cooled. Before long, he
had made a figure, a little over three inches tall.
It was her replacement, a handsome candy clown with pants of candied
orange peel and sugar-rainbow suspenders. His face was molded into a
dopey grin, and the clown knew that she would have loved him more than
the gingerbread daredevil, if they had met when she had first been
made. Now, though, all she felt when she looked at him was pity.
Over on the table, the carnival was waking, but she was not there to
greet them. Instead, the magician spoke to them, telling them of the
wonders that awaited them and reminding them that it was their destiny
to be eaten. Then the magician loaded them up — the carnival and the
angry clown — and took them to the party. He did not let the clown
out of her jar until after the party had started.
She tried to warn the others. The animals were hopeless of course,
for they understood so little of what was happening. The juggler and
the bearded lady did not believe her — and why should they? The
magician had been there when they woke, and she was just a clown who
joined them at the party. She came too late to save them.
Her last hope was the gingerbread daredevil, who, she had to admit,
looked quite striking in his biker jacket. He listened to her
carefully, and even claimed to believe her. But he wasn’t willing to
stop the show and run away with her. Her plans of rebellion and
escape were crushed. The others didn’t change their minds even as the
children ripped the tops off the red-sugar tents. “It is our
destiny,” they told her, and “What would we do if we left the
Even without the others, the clown was determined to leave. She
gathered up the saltwater-taffy cords from the bungee jumping ride and
used them to climb down to the floor. She was sugar, and fragile, so
she knew she wouldn’t live long, but at least — for the first time —
her life was truly hers.
She wove around the children’s legs. The magician stood in the open
doorway demanding to be paid despite delivering a dark and dismal
failure of a carnival. His arguments escalated into shouts, and the
clown slipped out the door just before it slammed shut in the
magician’s face. He stormed off to his van without ever looking down,
and finally the clown was free. With sunshine glinting off her
shiny-sugar hair, she walked out into the chest-high grass of the
birthday girl’s lawn and never looked back.
On the side of a dried up drainage ditch, on the edge of an otherwise
ordinary suburban neighborhood, there is an odd sort of carnival.
Instead of tents there are marshmallow mushrooms in assorted shapes
and colors, and instead of performing animals there are caramel deer
and birds made up of chocolate-covered pretzels. The animals are not
trained, and wander through the carnival as they please. There are no
daredevils or jugglers or bearded ladies.
But there is a clown. She is a peaceful clown, with white-sugar hair
and a minty green dress. She knows that somewhere in the city the
magician still makes carnivals to be eaten, and she wonders if someday
that too-happy clown will come to his senses and make his escape. She
knows her carnival is temporary, and it will melt next time it rains.
But she also knows that she is a seed, and that she will not be eaten,
and every time the sun dries out the puddles, her carnival will grow