God’s friend, Silvia, changed her last name to Chance. God never asked her why. He was sure she had her reasons but he preferred to imagine his own. Things happen, and we don’t always need to know why. Silvia knew the importance of names. Her mother named her Short Face for seven years until she chose to grow a foot and a half in a single night. After that she was called Long Face.
One night a sheet from the Daily Mirror Sport Supplement containing pages three, four, sixty-eight and sixty-nine blew through an open bathroom window and hit Silvia Chance in her sex as she left the shower. Silvia looked down and was struck by two words that remained dry amongst the running ink. Abysmal Defending. She vowed to name her first son Abysmal Defending. Nine short long months later she did, for the words from the page, she said, and for the way he was conceived.
The father arrived in the maternity late, and insisted on a proper name for his son. Silvia was exhausted and belaboured and gave in to the man’s demands and they named the boy Jonathon Jones, but whenever Silvia and Jonathon were alone she called him Abysmal, or Bysmal for short, and sung him old Sicilian lullabies to help him to dream in Italian.
Silvia and the father loved Jonathon Jones and raised him well with magic and discipline. They were not married, until one night the announcements page of the Islington Gazette landed on the father’s open snoring mouth and almost suffocated him. The father woke up with a cough and a splutter and Kathryn Butkiss’s marriage to Evelyn Spitpot pasted to his brow, and he decided some time after the cough but long before the sputter that it was time to make an honest woman of Miss Silvia Chance. They married before the month was out, though Silvia kept her name, and Jonathon Jones, unbeknownst to Mister Jones, kept his.
“Do you think,” asked Mister Jones, “that God will let a pair like us be happy?”
“Who knows?” said Silvia. “God likes to take a chance every once in a while.”
The young child became a young man, and his spirit roamed further than his soul, and he began to wonder what he should do with his life. One sunny day, when he was hanging by a single long-sleeved arm from a yew in the neighbour’s garden, a page from the Mumbai Telegraph wrapped itself around his dangling legs. The page had travelled many miles and was eaten by dust and weather and Jonathon Jones couldn’t understand the unfamiliar language anyway, but he understood the picture of one small performing elephant upon the back of a larger performing elephant and resolved, like the performing pachyderms, to join the circus.
A circus came to town and it gave host to seven nights of World Famous shows, and then it left and Bysmal the brand new Clown left with it. Bysmal practised pratfalls till his oversized pants were bare at the behind, then he stitched them back together with a long needle and thread and a measured eye and practised some more. He became known far and wide as the greatest clown the world had ever laughed at, and he thought he had everything a young big-top showman could ever want.
There was a night that the lion died, and the elephant died, and the horses that belonged to the Incredible Bareback Beauties died, and they feared the circus would have to close down under the pile of dead animals. A fire-eater pointed a soap scented finger at our hero and said “It’s because of him. I saw his name – he is Jonah Jonah. He brought down our ship.”
Jonathon Jones argued that his name was Jonathon Jones, not Jonah Jonah, but the circus folk could see no other explanation for the falling of their beasts, and Bysmal the clown was asked to leave. He donned his odd clown shoes and his peculiar clown hat and climbed to the platform from where the acrobats leapt and cried the tears of a cloud. He blew his red nose on a piece of paper that came to hand, and when he looked at what had come from his nose he found the paper was the lonely hearts column from the Roman Sun. Bysmal recognised words here and there from the lullabies Chance had sung him so long ago, and he wished he had an amore eterno to kiss and to hold.
He climbed down and found the Ringmaster. He hung up his water-squirting flower and his revolving bow-tie and said he was hitting the road and he wouldn’t stop until he had found his soul mate. The Ringmaster was a romantic man when surrounded by dying horses and zebras and wished Bysmal well. The strongman and the lionless lion tamer asked him where he would go and Bysmal watched page after page of Le Metro fall from the sky and he said he would go to Paris. With the little money he had saved over the five years he’d been with the circus he bought himself a little yellow car that the previous owner said was fine as long as you parked it on a hill facing down, and he set off in the direction of France.
On the inside lane of the M6 a single page from the Yorkshire Post spread across the windscreen and obscured the view. PRINCESS KILLED IN CAR CRASH IN PARIS filled one half of the page. Things happen sometimes, and we don’t always need to know why. Jonathon Abysmal Chance Defending Jones plowed the car into the back of a radio news truck, and God stopped flinging newspaper pages.