The Crash Helmet

by Moreng Swinburne


When he was only thirteen, little Frank ran away from home and joined a very famous Circus. Life at home had become intolerable.

Franks Dad had joined an extreme, far right wing political party, and as his Mother was a staunch communist, the atmosphere at the dinner table was sometimes so animated, little Frank had to wear a crash helmet when he sat down to eat his dinner.

He started to become slightly disturbed, he was tired of hiding.

In the Circus, life around the ring was always joyful. His many jobs included washing down the elephants, and working with midget's hammering giant pegs in to the ground. These giant pegs served to attach the cables and ropes that held down the tent.

Sometimes, while washing down elephants, they would snatch him off the ground with their powerful trunks, and dip him in the animal trough. Little Frank soggy and dejected, would crawl out covered in gruel, roll around in the sawdust and dry himself. No amount of after-shave would ever cover the smell, but he ignored this, and always told himself......

'I'll never quit show business........never'.

As he got older, Frank became stunningly handsome, and sexually very attractive to the ladies, especially when washed. One day the Circus owner's daughter bumped into him and fell in love. They were soon married and he became the most important man in the Circus, after the owner and the boss.

Being married wasn't good for Frank, he became ever more unbalanced and difficult to live with. His wife eventually left him, and went to live with the lion tamer.

This was all too much for Frank, one day he found himself staggering around stone cold sober in a daze. He wondered what was happening to his life, then in a mad fury he cursed every-one - everything, and set the tent on fire.

The midgets and other workers in the crew were very angry at this, it might even put them out of a job. They got hold of Frank and beat him senseless with tent pegs and the occasional swipe from an iron bar. After this, he had to be rushed off to Hospital, and it was there he met mad Phil.

Mad Phil was a very tall thin gangling character. He would stroll along as if he had springs in his feet, lurching upwards with every step. Some thought he might have springs in his brain as well. Under stress he would often go into a jumping fit.

Mad Phil gained his name because occasionally, he liked to drive his car on the wrong side of the road. At the very last moment just before hitting an on-coming vehicle, he would snigger and swerve back onto the right side of the road with a great screech. One day he tried it in a dark tunnel and didn't quite make it. In fact the driver of the on-coming vehicle was trying to commit suicide anyway and coming out of the crash completely unscathed, he went home and hanged himself.

Mad Phil however, ended up in hospital with multiple fractures, a twisted pelvis, broken leg and possible bent spring in one of his feet. He later began wobbling the instant before a lurch, apart from one or two of these unusual outwardly indications, mad Phil's bizarre characteristics were totally invisible.

Mad Phil, who liked to drive on the wrong side of the road, and Frank, heir to half a Circus who's wife had left him, and gone to live with a lion tamer, became great friends.

In a hospital bed next to them lay a short stocky man who called himself Balrik. Balrik had fallen off a ladder onto his head and had lots of dry white paint and plaster stuck in his hair. During an intimate discussion with them one day, he told them he was a brain surgeon.

Balrik was also a compulsive liar and virtually illiterate.

Mad Phil and Frank saw that Balrik might not be the brightest light in the universe, but he was easy to get along with, amusing and willing. They asked him to go into business with them.

Mad Phil addressing Frank and Balrik one day said....

'We can all sit in big chairs with our feet up while the mob does all the work. I'll be the Chairman and you two my advisors, but we'll need lots of money to get started'.

They wracked their brains day and night for months. Finding a way of making lots of money without having to work for it was not easy. Apart from many a totally incomprehensible idea from mad Phil, no plan of any worthwhile significance was found.

One day Balrik piped up and said.......

'Let's start an abortion clinic there's lots of money in that'.

Frank immediately began to tremble. He found this most distasteful and unethical.

'I think abortions might be illegal in this country' he screeched,

'Just the right reason to start a clinic then', said mad Phil, and went on....

'We can say we are a drain cleaning service, no one will know about the clinic'.

The idea despite Frank's objections was finally accepted. They hired a derelict garage and bought an old ex-postal truck, painted it dark blue and thought they might use it for almost anything, even a fake Taxi during bus strikes. The drain cleaning and sometimes fake Taxi service just about floated, but to Franks great relief, they never landed a single client for the clinic.

'How' said Balric, 'are you supposed to run an abortion clinic if you don't advertise'?

'If we advertise the law will drop on us like a fly on a cat turd', retorted mad Phil. (cat turd's are very rare and so are abortion clinics)

'That's right, we should forget the idea of an abortion clinic and open a pet shop instead, I know a lot about animals especially Elephants', said Frank excitedly...

'How are you supposed to get rich being pet shop owners', said Balrik becoming very aggravated,

'We'll sell dangerous pets', gleamed mad Phil, 'really dangerous pets, and that will bring in lots of money'.

One day soon after, Balrik turned up at the empty garage that had recently been a clinic and drain cleaning service with a Monkey, and the Monkey was juggling hand-grenades.

'Now that's what I would call a dangerous pet'.

'Don't be absurd', said Frank, 'when Phil said dangerous pets he meant poisonous snakes and spiders, not a Monkey juggling Grenades'.

'yes but this Monkey's hiding a machine gun up its ass' snarled Balrik, fed up of being constantly trodden on by Frank.

'anyway, if you think we can get rich selling Snakes and Spiders then your even more of a screw-ball than Phil'.

At that point mad Phil came in with a great wobbly bounce and a stride,

'do I sense a splinter of unrest in our tiny band?' he said jauntily,

'and what's this monkey playing about with?'

'better be careful what you say', said Frank, 'got a machine-gun up its ass'.

'I'm fed up', said Balrik, 'we'll never get rich selling spiders and snakes',

'yes, you may be right, I've been thinking the same thing' said mad Phil, 'so, how about starting a language school instead'?

'but none of us are qualified to teach, how are you supposed to make a fortune running a bloody language school?' said Balrik now very angry.

'a bad language school, we'll start a bad language school. There are lots of people just aching to speak bad language correctly, and willing to spend money to learn', said mad Phil.

'Why don't we just rob a bank', said Balrik, 'if we get caught we'll be in the same mess were in now and if we don't we'll be rich enough to go into big business'.

Naturally, Balrik's idea was dismissed out of hand. They went ahead with the bad language school and it became an enormous success. The first few months got off to a slow start but the affair snow-balled when a very famous film star turned up.

Hollywood was making a feature film about a notorious Japanese gangster who had literally volatised in his prison cell. He was now feared head of a great oriental Mafia.

The film celebrity wanted to audition for the part but needed tuition in 'prison language' After this a local TV channel chose to do a documentary on the school but when finally broadcast after passing the censor there were so many beeps the whole thing sounded like a garbage truck rolling backwards. It did however, bring in lots of publicity and brought in a group of Taxi and Bus drivers. They needed educating correctly, to insult other drivers in traffic jams. Then came a baseball referee, a gas-station attendant a marriage guidance councillor a Rabbi and a TV talk show presenter but when an entire French football team turned up, including their coach and hairdresser, mad Phil Frank and Balrik had to abandon the old garage and find larger premises. The money came rolling in and at last mad Phil had hit on an idea that actually worked. What happened next was completely unforeseen, and in no way part of any plan.

Frank had lived in and about the Circus most of his life. He'd been secretly returning to get a sniff of the sawdust, and fallen in love with the strong arm man. The strong arm man for his part, had been much in favour of Franks fragile advances. With his 160 kilos and Franks meagre 60, they were known as David and Goliath. Some said........

'They even got a sling shot, and its hanging round Franks ankles',

Franks estranged-wife still blistering about the tent fire fiasco found out about this liaison and put in for a divorce. The divorce document included a special clause. Franks lawyer, who had seen the clause, informed him that if he accepted her terms, he would lose his right to half ownership of the Circus. The affair heated up when she went to the press and said that Frank had already been acting suspiciously on their Honeymoon. Later when she threatened to leave he became insanely angry and burned the Circus down in revenge which was a criminal act. This was not quite the way it had happened, but she promptly informed Frank's lawyer that if his client wished to avoid a scandal and long prison sentence, he must accept the divorce and the special clause renouncing right of ownership to half the circus.

Mad Phil and Balrik now living well on income from the language school, were oblivious to all this. They had sold the dark blue ex-postal van, bought a bright yellow and red second hand car, taken out a large loan on the strength of the Circus inheritance from a local drug cartel, and bought a sex shop.

All this was bad news for Frank. If it was found out that his Language School was really a bad language school, which had once been an abortion clinic. He, a pyromaniac immoral husband, currently involved in an ex-marital affair with a member of his own gender, who also owned shares in a sex shop that had been financed by a drug-cartel, it might look a bit sordid in the eyes of the Law. The Circus Inheritance was worth a great deal of money and a respectable image was the order of the day.

Then suddenly Frank disappeared.

Things were getting desperate now. Mad Phil found out all about it from Frank's lawyer, and it provoked another severe jumping fit. This however, provided him with an idea, he explained it to Balrik........' We must buy time by saying that Frank has been kidnapped, and is now being held hostage. The aggressors have been in touch, saying he is alive and well. His wife will never be able to divorce in his absence, so we can carry on with the sex-shop, pay off the loan, find Frank, and think up a way to keep our Circus inheritance'.

Balrik thought he saw logic in this but he wasn't quite sure, a feeble light had started to glimmer somewhere, very far away, between the ears. 'Even if we find him, what if he and the strong arm man refuse to separate?' he said.

'Well, we'll have to start a Bakery then', said mad Phil firmly,

'What!!!... how, would a blithering bakery make any difference' said Balrik . He was becoming really fed up to the back teeth, and hopelessly tired of mad Phil's mad ideas.

'All strong arm men are passionate cake bakers, we'll give him the top job' said mad Phil soothingly, while looking down at Balrik, as if he were a lost child.

'Everybody knows that it gives them muscular harmony and provides the great nutritional requirements required to develop their abnormal proportions. It's a plain as day scientific fact that if a strong arm man is unable to bake a cake, he may suddenly fall over and suffer a nervous breakdown ...bouts of melancholy follow along with severe depression. We can fix it so he burns his buns, he won't even be able to lift a finger let alone a Bar-Bell. He'll become intolerable and impossible to live with. Frank will again become part of our fold. This Bakery idea is a winner everything will get back to normal in no time, take it from me'!!!!

Mad Phil was visibly hopping with excitement and glistening with glee at this idea. Balrik wasn't so sure..

'Where do you manage to get all this incredible information'? he asked, confused.

'Cigarette packets bubble gum wrappers and under the influence of hallucinatory Mexican-Jumping-Beans mad Phil guffawed, hard on your lungs jaw-bone and bowel but believe me, its the only way to learn'.

The bakery idea never came to anything. The whole business had fast become pure chaos and in the end, there was only one thing everyone wanted to know. Where was Frank?

Finally a court order was put out for his arrest, but Frank had gone into hiding. He'd wandered back to where he'd once lived. Back to the place he'd grown up, when he was only slightly disturbed. He'd known for a long time his parents were alive. They were very much together and still living in the old house. He knocked on the door. But he had to knock an awful lot, then it slowly opened.

Frank saw a fragile, ageing couple standing in the hallway.

"Hello mother hello father, I've come back for the crash helmet' he said.

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