Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Bigtop - part 3

Leaving, grieving, grinding, lost...
     They'd barely noticed what was happening.
     Months passed and the circuit  went from warm to hot to cool and the whole show nearly dried up and died in a Carolina swamp and Angel and slim barely noticed. It wasn't until they passed through Spokane again that they came too, saw the mess the troupe was in and decided to make their own way. 
     "Oh say goodby, Thelma! Don't be that way!" Reesa the Serpent Lady ground her knuckles into her hip. Stomped her foot. 
     Thelma refused. 
     Angel winced as she watched Thelma's bulk pressing against the canvas from the inside, saw it jibbering as she heard the bearded woman quietly sobbing from within. 
     "We love you all, but it's time for us to make our own way, own show," said Angel.
    "...and our own family," said Slim with a smile as he lay a hand gently on Angel's tummy.
     A quiet flutter rolled through he troupe. Mixed  emotions, blushing surprise and the rattling of uncertainty drew an ankle-high cloud of red dust across the small midway. The lion tamer looked at his one good hand and then wept openly.

     Slim had the good sense to take calculated risks. Angel had the good sense to rely on her practical attention to purpose, and sought security in familiar ideas in unfamiliar situations. They laughed over the perfect center the balance of those  viewpoints put them.
    He'd say, squinting, "Live, baby alligators... what? Not such a good idea?"
     Or She'd burst out, "It just can't work like that! How'd you get it to work like that?!" 
    They tumbled forward in this manner, without the flash and noise of the circus to deflect the more subtle sounds of life that they had forgotten about - sounds from the outside, sounds from within. 
     They made their way south, toward the heat, agreeing that it might do he baby's soul some good. It was a long ride in a small car and they were short on resources and long on the strength that comes with new horizons. 
     In Missoula, they invented and discussed the fantastic success their child would have in school, each suddenly recalling their own efforts, original dreams, and the shadows of their own misfortunes.
     In Billings,  the left front tire popped. Angel got a look at the robust shape of Slim's temper when the mechanic they'd caught closing up shop at the edge of town thought he'd found something soft to squeeze in the orange glare of a sparkling Montana sunset.
     In Laramie,  Angel realized shed made a wrong turn in Cheyenne at that light after her breakfast dumped on the map. Slim smiled and said nothing.
     In Wichita they had their first real fight. Why not, Slim had been irritated since Laramie, and the not mentioning it felt like a sliver under his tongue. Besides, after Angel noted that seeking a shortcut from Denver to Oklahoma City in the dead of night was a sure-fire waste of time, Slim had two good slivers beneath his tongue.  Wichita was as good a place as any for their first real slugfest, and better than most considering the areas history of wild-west shoot-outs, saloon fights, and plain old back-stabbings that passed for thank you very much.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Bigtop part 2

     "Thelma's unhappy."
     "She loves you, Slim."
     Angel and slim were married in June. They'd borrowed the camp pick-up outside Spokane, and found a preacher with papers. Few attended, none they knew. A stranger with half a beard and possibly fleas, gave Angel away. The town hall featured lime-green wainscoting that had been roughly trundled across a coffee-stained brown wall with the chuckling pattern of coffee cup stains mysteriously imprinted upon its surface. The motto on the far wall was painted by hand in a similar brown: "near nature, near perfect" all in lower case. This made Angel smile, but she didn't know why.
     It didn't take long after that.
     A broken hearted bearded lady: Three-hundred and sixty five pounds of coarse-haired blubbering blubber. It doesn't sell.  Bad draw spreads from tent to tent. Drindle The Vampire Boy gets stuck in his coffin.  Soon the barker is too pointy, threatening. The mid-way chief is picking pockets, and the lion tamer has secretly sacrifices  his left hand to Jangles, the ferocious Bengal tiger, on a two a.m. binge over the loss of his secret love (Slim again).
      Meanwhile, angel flew high and far and caught the stars in her hair at midnight while Slim grew stronger and more daring by the day. His sixteen-sword act defied plausibility; all that sharp steel swirling, a vortex of razor-sharp defiance swallowing the laws of physics inches from Slim's keen grin - five times a night!
    "Newton's third law,"
    Slim was saying to Angel across the old picnic table behind the commissary, drunk on dry vermouth, sweet love and dusty-shelled peanuts.
    "Pertaining to motion; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And of course, what is all life and all of existence really, but a complex series of motions on this stage," he wriggled about which made. Angel snort loudly, "this time-space ballet! This..," he searched for the word, found it, smiled slyly, "Circus!"
   Angel laughed so hard she fell off the picnic table.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Bigtop part 1

     He juggled chainsaws, she walked the tightrope.
     She was impressed that he still had fingers after practicing in the dark. He watched longingly each time she gave up her weight above hushed air.
     Like every Gus - or Carnie, as many like to say, Slim and Angel were both fugitives of time. They'd joined the troupe, each using their own unique deceptions, both owing their lives to them, both satisfied with the breaks that circus life had offered.
     Slim and Angel honed their skills. They towed perfection in tight spirals by taunting singularities, courting attraction at a distance, seducing gravity and the chameleons of desire. They distilled fine shadows of themselves.
     A real Gus finds the dark in the bright-hot spotlight. That's how you sparkle. Thats how you put what needs to be seen in front of the effort. That's what effortless is. The darkness hides the work, the real magic. As the shadows get tighter the magic gets better. This was never spoken; bad mojo to let your magic loose. Every Gus knows it.
    Angel tentatively touched Slim's cheek with a slip of straw as they lay under the bigtop. "I love how you smile when you do the shave routine," she said shyly.
    Slim grinned. "It lifts the mustache on the sides, better target," he offered.  Angel snuggled into the secret.
    He'd stood in the shadows while she practiced. She'd see him down there, watching. Then she'd pat a leg or touch a shoulder, show him the target spot so he knew where she was pushing her weight, making a tumble look like flying, or a drop like a pause in time.
    The sharing was pride. That's what they'd each figured: Pride in each other.  Pride in overcoming their pasts, finding love, cultivating peace, moving forward, cheating the darkness. Oh dear! Pride that they didn't have to worry about bad mojo.
    Actually, it wasn't pride. No.
    "I know what it means to be hurt," she said, drawing finger along a ragged scar along Slim's chin. "I know what it means to tumble and be laughed at."
     She did.
    Angel had buried her fear of crumbling into dust beneath a mastery of the very physics she couldn't implicitly understand. She couldn't trust herself to trust in her own weight, her own footsteps, one after the next, here to there, because it just didn't make sense. As a child, gripping uncertainty challenged Angel until she yielded, lost her physical being to clumsiness. A short young life with no safety nets, no harness, no bright lights. She tripped and fell and lost and lost and lost until there was little left to lose or worry about breaking. As the world around her shattered, so did she.
    It wasn't pride. It was the art of keeping fear at bay that she shared. Shared with Slim. But it was brute force and death defying tenacity that kept her aloft and that was what she didn't dare share, not even with herself.
    And Slim. A guy doesn't wake up one day and decide to juggle chainsaws. Thats easy. He needs some prodding. This too has nothing to do with pride.
     The battle flares and flashes, roils and spins; chains  and fire and all the wide eyed fear it takes to keep a Bigtop startled stuck with absolute silence behind the whir of the saws: That's what it might take a man who feels little to feel at all. Wield that and you might forget to ask just why it became difficult to feel nearly anything at all... except anger, fear, and loathing.
     Bertram Halberd was a kid who felt the earth growing and slowing between spoonfuls of cold cereal on warm Kentucky mornings. He felt the universe expanding, accelerating, rushing to cease while his teacher groaned on about Iowa, and corn, and math, and these folks, and that stuff and other things he'd never remember behind the joy he felt in sorrow, or the sorrow he felt in joy (the combined sum of both never amounting to anything near a wash as you might imagine). And so a fine specimen of boy wasted away before the enormity of his senses. In no time he was  barely there. Just as quickly they began calling him slim