Losing a former fling to a freak show

We pressed into the lobby, now three-strong.  Those who had gathered there parted to let us by.  As we started across the white floor a balding munchkin of a man with a mustache intercepted us, impeding all forward progress.  He wore a sport jacket with a lapel pin denoting him as some sort of manager. 

‘This is unacceptable.’  He aimed his mustache at Fuco. 

‘This is the circus,’ Fuco said, using his forearm to push the manager aside. 

‘Has anyone seen the lion,’ Meg said with a coy smile.

‘You mean he’s not yet contained!’  The manager said it loud, so that others could hear, and the lobby emptied as though someone had taken out the drain.  The manager shuffled his feet, remaining long enough to give us our assignment. 

‘Find it.’  He spit from under his mustache.  ‘Find it and get it out of here.  There will be no more circus!’  He turned and bolted for the concierge desk.

‘Let us try the North Wing,’ Fuco said.  ‘I believe that is where Tristan would find the most satisfaction.’   Fuco led us across the deserted lobby to another hallway lined with conference rooms.   

‘Around here somewhere,’ Fuco said, raising a finger to his long nose.  ‘I can smell Tristan’s mischief.’ 

Now that he mentioned it, so could I.  Cat piss.  The carpet underneath us reeked of a large feline emptying its tank.

We reached a spacious room at the end of the hall with the door ajar.  Fuco swung open the door as a roar erupted from within.    

‘It is Tristan,’ Fuco said, in case this was somehow in doubt.  ‘Tristan!’  Fuco lowered his shoulders and rushed into the lion’s den, maddened with authority.  Meg and I followed at a safe distance.  The lion tamer ambled toward Tristan, who stood large in one corner, growling.  Fuco’s arms were spread to their widest wingspan.  The lion pawed at the air, as if to inflict harm, but Fuco remained out of range.  If Tristan were interested in hurting someone—and if so, God help us—he could have pounced on Fuco.  This Mexican Standoff had been rehearsed. 

‘You are being naughty again,’ Fuco said.  At the sound of the word naughty Tristan sat down and slunk his head.  Fuco reached out to scratch Tristan behind his years.  Tristan perked up, seeing he wasn’t beyond forgiveness.   

‘My lady,’ Fuco said as Meg neared the docile creature.  ‘Tristan the Lion.  At your service.’  Tristan allowed Meg to touch the top of his golden head.  ‘He will treat you well or he will answer to me.  Let us return.’

We passed down the hallway and across the lobby without encountering any other hotel guests.  When we reached the auditorium I saw that Brünnhilde and Siegfried had not moved from where we left them. 

 ‘They just sat here?’ I said.

‘They stay when told,’ Fuco said.  ‘Unlike some in this family.’  He scowled at Tristan.  Gripping the lion by the mane he ushered the large cat onto the stage and behind a curtain.  Meg and I followed the odd pair to the back of the auditorium, where a row of three cages waited.  Tristan scuttled into the largest cage without any prompting from his master.  Fuco slammed the gate closed. 

‘Now you will behave,’ he said.  ‘You will stay put.’  Fuco shot Tristan a final glare and scuttled off to attend to his other animals, leaving me alone with Meg for the first time.

‘You were talking about your father,’ Meg said without much enthusiasm.

‘Like I said it’s complicated.’

‘Most boys I know have figured this sort of thing out by now.’

‘You were always unusually compassionate,’ I said.

‘Oh Jackson—still so sensitive.’

‘Yeah something like that.’  We watched as Fuco led Brünnhilde the ape and then Siegfriend the komodo to their respective cages. 

‘Look…’  Meg patted me on the shoulder.  ‘I’m only in this crappy casino for one night, unless I find some reason to stay.  But I think I’m going to shack up with the lion tamer.’  

‘I figured.  Anyway I’ve got a girlfriend back home.’

‘Who you conveniently left behind.  Look if things get slow tonight maybe I’ll give you a call.  If your girlfriend will let you.’

I’ve got plans tomorrow. Not a good night for a sex party.’

‘You wish.’

Fuco cut us off with his return.  He smacked his palms together three times.

‘Quite an act,’ I said, pleased with the distraction from a going-nowhere conversation with my former lover.

‘Alas, my friend.  If only I might plan such an event.  These creatures—such mischief—it is all their doing.

Speaking of mischief, Meg had seized Fuco’s arm and wasn’t about to let go.  Fuco looked to me for some sort of approval and I shrugged. 

‘I’m going to go get a drink,’ I said.  ‘Care to join me?’

The new couple was too preoccupied to notice as I left the auditorium.


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