Is there a more seductive and ghostly phrase than ''circus in winter''? Cathy Day, who grew up in Peru, Ind. -- once the off-season home of many American circus companies -- sets The Circus in Winter, her elegantly juggled debut collection of interconnected stories, in the fictional heartland town of Lima, Ind. And from stories she spins about the tatty magic of elephants and dwarfs, roustabouts and clowns, dreamers and hustlers living together as devoted and combustible as kin, she conjures a bigger picture of family -- and of America. Under Day's bright tent of story-telling, the proprietor who gets the Great Porter Circus & Menagerie rolling in the dusk of the 19th century is a somersault away from the great-granddaughter of an elephant handler who makes a trip to her ancestral home at the dawn of the 21st.