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.
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.