A man in his element

Fuco snapped his fingers and Tristan launched into a domesticated trot.  The lion led the way down a long hallway that accessed a row of conference rooms.  The hall dead-ended in an auditorium with a grand stage and seating for two-hundred.  The ape Brünnhilde sat on stage, patiently waiting on a stool, black hairy arms hanging down her sides. 

‘Such a good girl,’ Fuco said, leaping up on stage.  He began to scratch the top of her head.  ‘So good.  So GOOD.’  Fuco embraced the ape and she hugged back with powerful arms that might tear human limbs from their sockets.  I noticed a six-foot-long reptile off to one side of the stage.  It eyed me with a vicious flick of a forked tongue. 

‘Who’s the lizard?’ I said. 

‘That is Siegfried.  He is a Komodo.’ 

‘Aren’t they kind of dangerous?’

‘Yes.  Stay away.  He will have your calf for lunch.  If Brünnhilde does not reach you first.  She loves him, you see.’

‘Your ape loves your lizard.’

‘Do not laugh.  They are star-crossed lovers, cursed never to consummate.’

‘What’s with the names?  You like opera or something?’

‘It is all we listen to.  Brünnhilde loves the German language.’

‘I see.  And is that where you’re from?’

‘No no, my friend.  There is a saying in my business.  “The circus, it travels with the wind, which comes from everywhere, which comes from nowhere.”’   Fuco gazed up at the arched rafters of the auditorium, drawing from some heavenly font of carnival wisdom.

‘Have you always been in the circus business?’

Fuco chuckled under his top hat, shaking his head at my stupidity.

‘There is another saying, my friend: “The circus is not a profession; it is a way of life.”’

I liked this guy.  Anyone this weird was worth having around.  The sudden shift from near-death-experience to carnival tour had left me feeling disoriented.

‘How long you been working in this casino?’ I said.

‘Four months.’  Fuco nodded gravely.  ‘We seek a new home.  We never stay long at any show.  The place for the circus is on the road.  Somewhere further north.  Closer to the money.’ 

Fuco was probably in the wrong line of work if he was in it for the money.

‘Where did you get these animals?’ I said, pointing to Brünnhilde, mammoth and terrifying on her stool. 

‘My family.’  Fuco placed his hands over his heart and breathed deep.  ‘They are my loves.’ 

Tristan was wandering away again.  Fuco saw me looking. 

‘Do not worry about him,’ Fuco said.  ‘He will not hurt a fly.’

I wondered what Brad the Bartender would have to say about that. 

‘Have any of these animals ever injured anyone?’ I said. 

Fuco cringed, his mouth agape, his bearded chin quivering.  The gall of such a notion! 

‘Why…what are you suggesting?…these creatures were bred of love.’ 

I saw the komodo foaming from the mouth.

‘Well they’re dangerous in the wild, aren’t they?’

‘Perhaps if you were a fool and you were to taunt them.  But then Fuco is dangerous in such a state as well.’

‘I suppose you’re right.’ 

Tristan was now out of sight.

‘Think of Tristan as a very large pussycat with a purr like thunder,’ Fuco said.  I heard a scream from down the hall. 

Let’s go get him,’ I said, and started for the door.

‘Yes, we should.’

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