How to read between the lions

by Max Saucedo

As a hard-hitting journalist, sometimes I feel the need to insert myself into the field for some good old investigative reporting.  So I cinched up my belt, put on my brown fedora, adjusted by brown trench coat and strolled into the office ready for my VIP access badge to gain uh, access, to all those awesome stories.

After being kindly told three times to exit the building, I was escorted out of the office by a kind security guard named Marcus who pointed me to where I could put my supposed VIP badge.  It was then that I realized I don’t work for The Union Tribune, but actually the Daily Aztec.  Heading to our super secret lair I found my assignment.

My editor, very busy, and therefore unable to remember my name and position, nonetheless understood my need to find all the news that’s fit to print.  I came up with that phrase and the NY Times stole it.  Still haven’t seen a dime from them.

In her hurry, when I asked for my assignment, she said: “I don’t know, go talk to a lion! I’m busy on a teleconference!  Get out of my office!”

Assignment thus GAINED, I set out in earnest to find a lion to interview.  Believe it or not, there aren’t a whole lot of retired circus lions left out there.  Nobody seemed to have any info on where they might be.  Barnum and Bailey stopped answering my calls after the third call and the Ringling Brothers seemed confused by my request.  However, after an exhaustive search, I was able to find a retired lion willing to tell me the story of how the life of a circus lion works.  He was an old one, probably from the 80’s, and explained the entire process to me.  The following is my extensive, 5-week investigative report that took countless hours, numerous trips to a Port-a-Potty outside the office, and lots of snicker doodles.


The life of a lion in the circus is strictly defined. Swilling a glass of ’34 cognac, that was a little before my time.

He offered me a drink, to which I kindly refused.  One thing my grandmother had always told me as a child had stuck with me all these years: “Never drink with a lion, especially if he’s drinking cognac.  He’s testing you.  If you drink it, he’ll think you’re being rude and tear your head off with a mighty swing of his paw.  Then he’ll use your head and recite Shakespeare.  Your uncle Bernard, poor thing.”  Here she crossed herself and went off to mourn poor Uncle Bernard.

“Moving on to the job, how would you best describe it?”

“Hm?”  Hanley seemed to be distracted by something on my head.  He went on to describe the life to me and I wrote it down as best I could.  It was very hard to understand him at times because he would randomly dive off into low growls.

“At a very young age you are introduced to the most ridiculous looking man in your life.  He wears high-heeled boots, a red coat with long tails, and usually some other garish outfit complimented with a top hat.  At first you wonder aloud if this is the man you will be working with because if that’s so, maybe HE should be in the cages because the man is certifiably crazy.  He is called a ‘wring leader’ supposedly because by the end of the show, all the lions want to wring his scrawny little neck.  Most lions, having very good resumes, are used to working with professionals, but this poor sod, he just didn’t get it.

He is a very loud man, and he swings a whip meant to scare us into submission.  But I’ll be honest with you, no real lion is scared of the silly thing.  I mean honestly, I’ve fought hyenas, other lions, or even my many wives!  Do you think for one second I’m afraid of a whip with a sharp point at the end?  I’ve had claws the size of sausage links dig into my skin.  Most lions, especially the younger ones, feel more obliged to be obedient and listen to the damn man and his silly whip.  Here the crowd becomes more rabid, wanting the man to defeat the great beast.  Good lions know their part, and sometimes when the Wring Leader takes a quick break from shoving a chair in our faces while firing off some cap gun as if to show off his bravery and skill, these babbling crazed fiends in makeup and bright outfits run around the ring, jabbering in languages unknown.  This can be quite disconcerting.  It gets worse.  The grand finale comes when while sitting in your chair waiting for something to happen, the Wring Leader very callously, opens your mouth and puts his sweaty, balding, and unkempt head into your mouth!  Let me tell, that was the final straw.  I left the circus because if they wouldn’t let me bite down on his infernal head, then what’s the bloody point?”


I finished my report and sent it in to my editor several times, receiving several MAILER-DAEMON notices before finally deciding to just take in a hard copy to her myself.  I think she liked it, because I heard her screaming with joy as I left.  She must have been very excited to finally get my story.