After seeing a photograph of the Benzini Bros. Circus circa 1931 among the possessions of Charlie O'Brien III, the owner/operator of the Circus Vargas, elderly Jacob Jankowski recounts to him the time he spent with Benzini Bros. that year. Because of a sudden change to his family and financial circumstance, Jacob, then twenty-three, was forced to give up everything he knew, including his home, his almost completed Cornell education in veterinary science, and what he had mapped out as his future. Hitting the road with no idea where he would end up, he stumbled across Benzini Bros. by accident, it being owned and operated at that time by August Rosenbluth. August, who was also the head animal trainer, treated people the way he trained his animals, with fear, intimidation and when need be violence and sometimes even death. Jacob started out doing the lowest of the menial work, but graduated to become the circus' vet, based on August's assumption that Jacob graduated. Regardless, August was happy to have him in the position, as Benzini Bros.'s main rival, Ringling Bros., had no such position on staff. Through many extreme ups and even more and severely extreme downs, Jacob became a trusted part of August's circus family. August acquired an aged elephant named Rosie in order for the circus to have a star attraction, which he hoped would get him out of his then financial hole. Jacob would be Rosie's trainer, and Marlena Rosenbluth, the circus' headlining horse trick rider and August's young wife, would be the performer with Rosie. Both Jacob and Marlena formed a bond with Rosie, in large part because of August's ill treatment of her. Although Jacob was immediately attracted to Marlena on first sight, they fell in love through their work together on the act with Rosie, but also had growing disdain for August and his violent ways. Their romantic triangle would not only threaten Jacob and Marlena's lives, but also the livelihood of the circus.