Birnham Wood was a midget wrestler.
Birnham Wood was a poet.
Birnham Wood was half-Jewish.
Birnham Wood, the half-Jewish, poetic midget wrestler, had found himself newly employed by Dunsinane Circus. He’d spent many a year in the employ of The Moloch Brothers’ circus, but had recently found himself jobless due to the increasing financial woes of the circus after the tragic events at Bella Vista. It’s not that he was an economic liability; far from it. If Birnham wasn’t the Moloch Brothers’ star attraction, he was close to it; but therein was the problem. The expense of paying him (and insuring him) had simply grown too high.
After the tragedy at Bella Vista, the United States Government had cracked down on what they perceived to be animal cruelty. The reasons for this were twofold. The first reason being the discovery that at least some animals were far more sapient than previously thought; hamsters, for example. The next reason being that the majority of humans somewhat feared to invoke the animals’ ire. Jon Hammster had stolen a nuclear weapon, and while that devil-hamster’s motives remained unclear, it was certainly possible that he wished to avenge animals everywhere. Certainly no one wished to take the risk, as Hammster had the power to wipe out thousands of humans, anywhere, on his slightest whim.
The varied human populations and organizations reacted differently to this news; Dunsinane Circus got rid of all of its animal acts and fired its trainers; but the Moloch Brothers took the opposite route and fired many of its humans, spending the money they saved on improving the conditions for the animals. Their hope was that Jon Hammster would appreciate their compassion and not nuke them; yet what he would do, and whether other creatures in the phylum Chordata shared his cognizance remained a mystery. Therefore all the preemptive action taken was based entirely upon pure speculation.
Now, here’s why all of that mattered to Birnham; though he was very popular among the circus-goers, the brothers Moloch had always looked upon “midget wrestling” with some derision. They found the “tone” of it to be “base” and thought it cheapened the whole circus. That never quite sat right with Birnham; since who goes to a circus looking for class? And if they do, why is Lion-taming somehow classier than midget wrestling? They’re both exploitative, for better or for worse, or so Birnham thought.
Regardless of his own opinion on the matter, however, Birnham had to endure the decidedly unpleasant experience of being laid off mere days after Bella Vista shifted the whole planet’s paradigm. There were two Moloch Brothers, Simon and Cain, not twins but certainly similar, and while Simon hated to be the bearer of bad news, Cain seemed to relish it. Therefore it was Cain Moloch, short and dark and stocky, who handed Birnham his severance check for $2,000 and told him to kindly roll up his sleeping bag and get the hell out of his circus.
A lesser midget would have been gutted. Birnham was a great midget, though, and he stayed tall and proud – and tall he was, for at four foot nine he was billed as the largest midget on Earth – and when he left the Moloch Brothers’ Circus for the last time, his former co-workers poignantly waving him good-bye, he even managed to muster a farewell smile for them. How he’d loved them; from Oberon the Knife-Thrower to Viola the Snake Charmer, they’d been his family for the better part of a decade. When he was far enough away that they could not see him, Birnham Wood cried.
Birnham was not one to dwell upon failure, though, nor to wallow in a bad situation. Within twenty-four hours, he decided to seek a new job. The first – and ultimately only – place that he applied was at Dunsinane’s Circus, for he’d heard they were looking to expand their midget wrestling business. Within another day, he received a phone call from no less a personage than Charles Dunsinane himself, asking him to come in for an audition. Birnham complied.
When Birnham arrived, wearing a midget-sized trench coat over his Biblically-themed wrestling costume, he was met by a kindly and bearded receptionist named Tiffany. Tiffany had led Birnham into the largest of the myriad tents erected for this particular iteration of Dunsinane’s Circus. Upon entering the tent, he was met with the familiar scent of elephant excrement and straw; a mat had been laid down and another midget was warming up and stretching. This midget was dressed as Merlin, if Merlin were a turtle, indicating he was probably David Benedict, aka “Magic Koopa.” Birnham was quickly accosted by an elderly and effusive man with twinkling blue eyes and a mischievous smirk. The old man bent down to grab the wrestler’s small but beefy hand, which he then vigorously shook.
“I’m Charles Dunsinane,” the old man said, “And you must be Golyat. We’ve heard amazing things. My, but you’re a big ‘un!”
“Billed as the biggest midget in the world,” Birnham said with a grin, “Four foot nine, three hundred pounds.”
“You’re a beefy fella, but you don’t look like you weigh that much,” said Mr. Dunsinane.
“That’s the weight I’m billed at,” said Birnham, shrugging.
“All right then, before we begin, let me make a few introductions,” said Mr. Dunsinane. Oddly holding Birnham’s hand like a child, he walked the little wrestler over to meet the others. The turtle-Merlin was the first to greet him, and he looked a bit starstruck.
“Ex-excuse me, Mr. Wood, I’m, I’m-”
“David Benedict, or do you prefer Magic Koopa?” asked Birnham, reaching downward with his free hand to shake with the smaller midget, who was thrilled that the legendary Golyat knew who he was.
“I am a huge fan of your work,” said David, “I can’t wait to audition with you.”
Birnham smiled. “Likewise,” he said cheerfully.
The next person Birnham saw was a young girl, sitting on an American-flag themed lawn chair. She was divine. Her curls were golden, and her dimples were positively glorious. Birnham was stricken immediately by her, and it was apparently obvious, because Charles looked down at him and said, “You like Lorena, huh? Let’s meet her.”
Mr. Dunsinane began to lead Birnham over to the young lady, but the wrestler was too excited to go at the old man’s pace. Freeing his hand, he dashed over to the girl and offered her a big, bright grin.
“I’m Birnham,” he said. She extended her hand.
“Lorena. I sing here.”
“I’m here to audition,” Birnham said, “I wasn’t certain I’d get the job, but now I know I must, because if all the girls at this circus are as beautiful as you, I can find no better place to work.”
Lorena giggled coyly, “You’re cute.”
“Do you have a night off any time soon,” asked Birnham, “I should like someone to show me around the area; and perhaps, to have dinner with me.”
“Monday is dark here,” she said, “You can pick me up at seven.”
Birnham grinned, “Seven it is.”
“Time for your audition, Golyat!” Mr. Dunsinane called, sounding slightly miffed by the midget’s distraction. Though he shuffled over to demonstrate his wrestling technique with Magic Koopa, Birnham couldn’t take his eyes off Lorena. The rest of the evening was a blur for this reason. He vaguely remembered powerslamming the smaller wrestler to thunderous applause, but none of that mattered. He was in a daze, even the next morning when he received a phone call from Mr. Dunsinane telling him he’d gotten the job, and that his first day of practice would be Friday.
On Friday, he drove up to the circus in his custom-modified Smart Car and got out, carrying a briefcase with his costume. Before Birnham could walk all the way across the lot, his path was blocked by another, shorter man, clad in all the fine vestments of a mighty Caesar.
“Golyat!” the little man yelled, “I am Brutus the Brutal. Lorena Tavington is mine! I challenge you to a street midget wrestling match for her hand. And I shall destroy you!”
Birnham was a little surprised, and wondered if this might be some secret test of some kind. He supposed it didn’t matter, because Lorena was his.
“Bring it,” said Birnham Wood.
NEXT WEEK: MIDGET STREET FIGHT!