Seppi Mörgens woke up that day in the middle of a circus ring. He was in his pajamas, just as he had gone to bed the night before, but now he was in the center of a circle scented with horse manure and sprinkled with sawdust. High stands of spectators surrounded him and all was covered by a massive tent held up by poles and ropes.
„How can this possibly be?”, Seppi Mörgens wondered, examining his pajamas. He suddenly thought he was still dreaming, but he had an excellent way to check. He had once read that if you ever doubt reality, look at your hands. If your fingers are irregular, or if there are more than five, you can safely flirt with girls because you are dreaming. But he had five fingers and all looked normal.
He got up, bewildered, now certain this was some kind of mistake or a harsh prank. Perhaps his friends had mixed dream powder into his drink the night before and dragged him to the circus under the cover of darkness to have a good laugh. But instead of them, a stranger emerged from behind the red velvet curtain and approached him.
„I am the director,” he said, then added that they had eagerly waited for Seppi’s arrival because what he could do was a top-tier act. The audience would be let in soon due to the overwhelming interest and they might even break the box office. With that, he signaled to someone and the high, cauldron-like stands filled with spectators. These showed up excited mothers with their children, flushed-faced couples in love, even entire families with grandparents, distant relatives, and sneaky, deceitful neighbors who just tagged along. Their chattering not only filled but also puffed up the tent’s Gothic towering dome.
„Are you performing in that outfit?”, the director asked, pointing at Seppi Mörgens’s striped pajamas. He quickly added that he had no objections to it; after all, art is art. Then he left Seppi, who was still hoping this was all just an ugly joke.
The ringmaster, dressed in a red tailcoat, then came to attach a safety rope around him but Seppi Mörgens refused, saying he doesn’t make a move in the morning until he has had coffee. For him it was a ritual and he wasn’t about to give it up, great performance or not. The ringmaster shrugged, raised his stick, signaling to a boy who then brought coffee from the buffet. It was bitter, machine-made coffee, perhaps because circuses are not great in that department but coffee is coffee, even if it resembles tar more than a drink.
Meanwhile, the stands filled to the last seat and all eyes were on him. The band took their place above the arena and the conductor craned his neck, waiting for Seppi Mörgens’s signal. The director, the ringmaster and about a dozen animal trainers, jugglers, sword swallowers, and strongmen peeked out from behind the curtain, anticipating the start of the act. The noise died down; even popcorn bags ceased to rustle. In the dim background only a child cried, probably confused about all the fuss.
Seppi Mörgens stood there alone in the blinding light, fidgeting with his pajamas. He had no idea what they expected, as all he normally was capable of so early in the morning was reading yesterday’s newspaper while sitting on the toilet after his coffee then quickly showering, getting dressed, grabbing his suitcase and heading to work.
He checked his hand again, hoping he had miscounted his fingers but all five were there. „Well, let us give it a try,” he murmured then went to the toilet, read the paper, took off his pajamas and had a quick shower, pretended to hold his bag under his arm and headed for work.
He had just passed the red velvet curtain, behind which horses, trained seals, and oiled-up acrobats awaited when he heard the roaring applause from the audience. The ringmaster, a graceful tightrope walker, an old magician and others enthusiastically celebrated him, while the director whispered in his ear not to be naive and go back to relish the success.
Admittedly, Seppi Mörgens did enjoy that. He encored three times with his toilet act.