The new carnie

The next morning I walked around to the side of the house where Fuco had parked his circus truck.  The flatbed truck was loaded high with an assortment of circus tackle.  Long wooden poles jutted out the back and a multicolored canopy bound with ropes held the load snug.  As I came round the corner of the house I saw a horse trailer in tow.  The trailer had once been white but now was scarred with mud and scratches and chipping paint and rust.  I assumed the trailer was home to Fuco’s beloved creatures.

‘Quite a rig,’ she said from behind me.  I turned.  Meg wore another gypsy outfit, this one a flowing burgundy that revealed even more flesh than the previous night’s ensemble. 

‘You sleep in there?’  I pointed to the trailer.

‘He’s built a loft above the cages.  Sometimes when we fuck the ape will get upset and start screaming.’  I nodded my head in what I hoped would pass for acceptance.  Meg always took some getting used to.

‘You’re scared of me, aren’t you Jackson?’

I shook my head.  ‘What are you talking about?’  Meg halved the distance between us, so she was just an arm-length away.  She looked up at me with blue eyes full of suggestion. 

‘You remember how it was with us.’   

‘It was fun while it lasted.’

It’s too early in the morning for this shit.

‘It can still be fun.’  Meg took another step toward me so she was in close.  She reached out her hand and touched my chest, just below my right shoulder.  ‘Everyone’s asleep right now, Jackson.  Fuco got so drunk on absinthe last night that he won’t be moving till midday.  C’mon, we can be quick.  We can just step back into the woods.  I promise to keep it down.’  Her hand wandered down my chest and slid down my side, pausing at my hip. ‘C’mon, Jackson.  I’ll show you the komodo if you give me a kiss…’

‘How ‘bout you show me the komodo anyway.’  Meg put on her best pout.

‘Poor me.  Have I fallen that far, Jackson?  You prefer a lizard?’

‘Just show me the damn thing.’

‘Fine, fine.  Follow me.’  She began to move toward the rear of the trailer.  At one point she glanced over her shoulder and recognized the trajectory of my eyes, which were focused on her ass moving underneath the gypsy lace.

‘Not totally impervious now are we.  You may still have some life left in you.’  I tried not to blush which made the color in my cheeks that much redder.

‘Just show me the animals,’ I said. 

Meg pulled open the back of the trailer and light flooded the dank interior.  Tristan the Lion stood impatient in his cage, no more than four feet away, now looking at me with the faintest remembrance. 

‘It’s a step up,’ Meg said.  ‘Do help a lady up.’  She held out a hand like a gentile debutant (although no debutant ever dressed like her, let me tell you) and using the bumper stepped up into the trailer.  I followed right behind her.  There wasn’t much room on account of the three cages.

‘Hello Tristan.’  She reached inside to scratch the lion behind the ear.  He closed his eyes and tilted his head like an oversized mancoon cat.  ‘Tristan loves to be scratched behind the ears,’ she said.  ‘Go ahead and try it.’

‘Maybe later.’ 

‘Fine,’ she said. ‘You used to be a lot more fun.’

‘I’ll take boring if it means I get to keep my hand.’ 

We had to squeeze between the cage and the wall of the trailer to get through to the next cage.  Brünnhilde sat on her haunches looking out through the bars with veiled hostility.

‘She’s always ornery before breakfast,’ Meg said.  ‘We shouldn’t even bother.’

‘Why don’t you feed them?’

‘That’s Fuco’s job.’  On cue, I heard a rustling above us.  Looking up I saw the loft Meg had mentioned, at the front end of the trailer. I couldn’t see Fuco under the covers, but I could make out the slightest mumbling.

‘How do you guys sleep in here,’ I said.  ‘It smells like cat piss.’

‘We manage,’ Meg said.  ‘When it’s nice out we sleep in a tent.’

‘You never struck me as the tent type.’

‘I didn’t think I was either.  But then I doubt I seemed like a circus girl either.’

‘A carnie, maybe, but not the circus.’

‘That’s cute,’ she said.  Then in a hushed voice: ‘He’s quite the man, you know.’

‘Ok I’ll take your word for it.’

‘It’s enough to keep a girl from wandering off.’  Even in the dim light there was no way to miss her wink.

‘And what’s the komodo’s name again?’ I turned back to the cages.

‘Siegfried,’ she said.  ‘The little shit.  He tried to bite me last week.’

‘Don’t komodos eat entire cows by themselves?’

‘Oh I don’t know.  We give him rotten tenderloins and he seems to enjoy those.’ 

‘My friend!’  The lion tamer was awake.  “You join us to see my family!  And I fear I am still drunk.’  Fuco’s bushy head appeared at the edge of the loft.

Don’t let me bother you,’ I said.  ‘Meg was just reacquainting me with the animals.’

‘They remember you—I see it in the way they watch you.’

‘Well, I’m flattered,’ I said.  ‘And I should be going.  Breakfast, you know.’

‘Ah yes,’ Fuco said.  ‘We will have our own here soon enough—the babies, they have been moving about their cages.  They are hungry.’

‘Yeah, well I’ll have to see them eat sometime. And by the way, I’m heading over to the capital for a few days. This afternoon. You guys can probably stay for a few days if you need to.’

‘The circus needs a home,’ Fuco said. ‘It is not here. We need room for pavilions and flags and fireworks. We will find another home in Poscataw.’

‘Right, well, good luck with that.’  I started for the door.

‘I’ll show you out,’ Meg said from behind me.

I jumped from the trailer onto the gravel strip.  Meg once again extended her hand and once again I played along at helping her down.

‘At least you’re a gentleman,’ she said.  ‘That’s one redeeming quality.’ Before I could go she ran her hand through my hair and pulled my head to hers and kissed me. It was a simple kiss, without implication.

‘I feel good about running into you like this, Jackson.’

I nodded and went on my way.

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