Cast of Wonders 475: Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar

Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar

by T Kingfisher

By all accounts, Miss Tansybaum’s Circus of the Moderately Peculiar should not have continued to operate. They were a very small operation as circuses went, they had no rides and their menagerie consisted of a single geriatric lion and a handful of obscure species, such as the Sudanese Crooning Lizards, who were obscure for a reason. Sure, Brendan the Mono-juggler could keep a single ball in the air for hours, but you got tired of watching after the first few minutes.

Lord Maggothaunch’s Carnival of the Un-Ordinary should have crushed them out of existence in the first year–indeed, that was among the lord’s stated goals–and its failure to do so was a source of intense frustration for him. Did he not have scantily clad women and a genuine, if sullen tiger? Did he not have a genuine freakshow, with real live freaks, including a pair of dubious Siamese twins and a two-headed calf in a jar?

Miss Tansybaum did not have a freakshow (at least not in the conventional sense, although the less charitable would argue that the entire operation qualified.) Instead she had Sister Rosemary’s Curious Convent.

The six nuns of the Curious Convent belonged to the Traveling Order of St. Barnaby, patron of sideshows, and they took their work seriously. While Sister Rosemary had retired from performing, claiming that sword swallowing was work for younger women, the Curious Convent still included the World’s Smallest Nun, the Fire-Eating Nun, the Strongnun, the Bearded Nun, and occasionally the Tattooed Nun as well. (Sister Mary Odelia’s tramp stamp was considered rather too racy for some venues, even if it DID portray the martyrdom of St. Sebastian.)

This was all very entertaining in its way, even if Sister Clara hated being billed as “The TRIUMPH of FAITH over FIRE!” and insisted on ending her performance with a short speech about how faith was wonderful for triumphing over adversity and despair, but was less useful against careless handling of flammable oil, and one should never attempt fire-eating at home. Nevertheless, the Curious Convent had difficulty competing with a two-headed calf in a jar and lived in dread of the day that Lord Maggothaunch procured a real live Feejee Mermaid.

No, the success of Miss Tansybaum’s Circus lay in three things.

First of all, she knew her audience.

She knew, for example, that there was no real point to a petting zoo when you mostly toured rural communities with children who could pet a sheep any time they wanted and anyway knew too much about sheep to want to pet one in the first place, which cut down significantly on overhead.

And there were absolutely no clowns. The Circus of the Moderately Peculiar was a place you could go and be absolutely sure that you would not encounter a clown. They’d had a mime ventriloquist for awhile–at least, he said he was a ventriloquist, although since the dummy was a mime too, it was hard to tell–but he’d moved on to more avant-garde performance art and no one was sad to see him go. (Penelope and her Perilous Frog took his trailer.) Miss Tansybaum hated clowns and didn’t think someone should be subjected to a sudden clowning just because they wanted to come out to the circus for a day.

Lord Maggothaunch thought clowns were jolly and employed six, at least one of which was rumored to be a Bulgarian hit man attempting to flee from his past.

Secondly, Miss Tansybaum’s roasted peanuts were better.

Third, Miss Tansybaum’s fortune-teller, Mother Radish, could actually tell the future, and was wise enough to know when not to do so.


About the Author

T Kingfisher

T Kingfisher (more usually known as Ursula Vernon) is the author of many children’s books, the Hugo Award winning comic “Digger,” and the Nebula Award winning story “Jackalope Wives.” She writes books for adults under the name T. Kingfisher, including “The Seventh Bride,” “The Raven & The Reindeer” and the latest, “Paladin’s Grace.”  This year, she was nominated for the Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book, for the novel Minor Mage.

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About the Narrator

Amy Brennan

Amy is  a huge fan of all manner of fiction and non fiction writing, music, art, basically anything even mildly creative. A geologist by training, holding a masters in Geoscience from Keele Unversity she used to make mud pies for a living. It is a job that is both enjoyably challenging and at times mind-numbingly repetitive. She devoured audiobooks at a rate of knots to get her through the day – until she discovered podcasts and hasn’t looked back since.  She lives in Cambridgeshire with her partner, and three floofs of the cat and rabbit type. She has 1 professionally published credit: “Bunny’ and has recently started dipping her toes into narrating. She occasionally blogs, and you can follow her on Twitter.

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About the Artist

Alexis Goble

Alexis is a multiclass disaster-human living with her husband in Cincinnati. When she isn’t prepping art for Cast of Wonders, designing pins for, or yelling about TV into a mic for Bald Move, she dabbles in a revolving menu of hobbies and art projects. To list them all would be sheer madness. Like any good bisexual, she has a lot of jackets. You can find her on Twitter @alexisonpaper.

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