While I was getting ready for his party, William was in his study—tall, thin, balding and serious—preparing for the business meeting that night.
He wasn't the kind of man to leave anything to chance.
He had made sure that morning that the dark wood bookcases had been thoroughly polished, that the enormous picture window that looked out to sea had been washed inside and out, that the carpet had been cleaned—not just vacuumed, but cleaned—and that there were fresh flowers in the vases.
Now he turned his attention to the meeting itself.
He set up an easel on the large oak library table he normally used for a desk, and placed an artist's sketch of the proposed pipeline—running past a broken down seaside restaurant, across the beach, and into the sea.
William was not happy about the restaurant. That's the way he was. He didn't like anything shabby associated with one of his projects, not even in the background.
The artist had not only included the restaurant in the picture, she had made it look just as bad as it actually was. William would have had her do the sketch over, and leave the restaurant out, but there wasn't time.
He had no choice, and that irritated him even more.
He sighed and picked up the contract. It was all there, in order, ready to be duplicated. He had gone over every line, of course, word by word, days ago.
Now he just checked to make sure the pages were all there, and went looking for his house boy, to have him make copies for all the partners.
He was halfway to the door when the posters caught his eye.
There were two of them, circus posters, hanging on the wall, side by side in identical frames.
One was an actual, printed poster from the "Hogan and Ross Circus", covered with pictures of clowns, acrobats, horses, elephants, tigers and trapeze artists-all in bright colors, leaping, falling, roaring, twisting in mid-air.
The other was just as elaborate, and even more full of promise, but it was hand made. It was the painstaking work of a child, lovingly drawn and lettered and colored, and was now a little the worse for wear.
The edges were tattered, the colors faded, the paper yellowed.
It proudly declared that "William and Sam's Circus" would be open "Saturday" in the "field behind William's house, by the old tree."
It was the second poster, the tattered one, which stopped my friend in his tracks that day, even though he had seen it practically every day in the three years since he had hung it there.
* * * * *
Don't ask how I know all this, just follow my story.
* * * * *
Looking at that poster, William remembered a hand-lettered sign announcing "The Great Willini", sitting on a makeshift stage. He remembered the smell of the grass in the field, and the cool morning breeze.