Flash Fiction Friday: delving into the past to fill out the rest of the year

Come one Come All

Life as a clown ages you in ways regular life don’t. Grease paint removes your identity, humor replaces your personality, and the big shoes are just plain heavy. All towns blend together till I’m not sure where I am anymore. I just sleep in my rollicking cot as they drive us to the next little burg.

Oh, but when I’m in full costume, under those lights spotlighting me—Me! The forty-five minutes I’m entertaining hundreds of children, those laughing faces are pure gold, a far better payment than the mere pittance they call my wage.

Afterward, I’m reminded of my reason for being here, makeup covering the scars that changed my life, the fact that no woman would want a man who frightens children and could never give her any. The circus is my only opportunity to observe those beautiful treasures. I people watched to my heart’s content—townies and cirkys.

Jenina, the horse trainer’s assistant and wife, cried nightly as a routine. As I said, it’s a hard life, brings the worst out of some. Franco prided his horses. She came to me one night in an unusual state, meaning she was naked as a jaybird, holding a toga in her hand. She’d been duped. Franco had bragged all day of his prowess as a lover, that he would sure be galloping tonight. We all could clearly see that it was young Lorraine, the Acrobat, who was in heat. But poor, sweet Jenina was blinded by love.

I led her into my carriage and put the toga around her. We drank some hot tea together quietly. I ignored that fact that she let the toga fall. Her eyes were blank. When she finished the tea, she dropped her cup, leaned over and started rubbing makeup off my face. Now no-one has ever seen my face in all its scarred ugliness since I joined this traveling caravan. So I jumped up and backed away.

Just as startling, she spoke, “Let me see. I have shown you my real face.”

I sat down, legs twitching, fingers jumping. She used her toga and the rest of the tea to reveal me. I felt nakeder than her, as though she had peeled my skin back and was even now counting my thoughts. She ran a finger down the daddy scar, over my nose and across my left cheek.

When life happens to circus folk, we don’t fix it, we don’t talk about it. We deal with bumps in the road and keep moving on. So when she came to me two weeks later in her usual lovely birthday suit, toga in one hand and two eyeballs the same grey-blue as Lorraine, the Acrobat’s, in the other, I told her to put her little things in a jar I opened for her. I then said we might go swimming in that pond nearby to get that red grease paint off her. I asked if she was done painting and everything was put away safe. She nodded.

She came to me looking like a snake had bit her. She left me with the relief that I had sucked the poison out. No one blinked. Circus folk run away all the time. Acrobats come and go. We had no fear of punishment from regular society. One less circus performer was nothing to them.

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