The circus rolled into town one night. Forty-eight hours later, it left carrying
me with it. Sitting on a velvet sofa. Sewing sequins on Queen Paulina’s gown.
Laughing at Tootsie’s joke about a talking dog.
None of this was planned, but Harry died the day before and changed everything.
I buried him under the porch with the other bodies. He’d gotten so thin that
his sagging skin didn’t fill the shoebox. A pity that a noble feline could
While I stared at death in a box, fear oozed through my Dr. Scholls, rolled over
my potbelly and punched my heart already weakened by an embarrassing CPR episode
at Jiffy Lube and heartbreak when a man I loved died on a family vacation that never
included me. Doc said my troubles came from excess fat and sugar. If so, why does
life feel so rawboned?
Mr. Stinnette saw my forlorn face and fresh dirt on my britches and leaned across
the fence. “That Harry you done buried? Ain’t he number six under there?”
I nodded. Grief is a crippler.
That night I shuffled from room to room studying yellowed photographs like they
held the secret to the destiny I’d disappointed and, for comfort, I fingered
the silver thimble in my apron pocket. Thirty-nine years I sewed pink tulle and
pearls for Miss Floyd’s baby ballerinas. Then she died and that was that.
I was pacing like a caged soul when a lone train whistle called me to the stoop
where I watched it clack by and heard an elephant trumpet. I forgot the circus was
coming to town! I always wanted to see a circus arrive and plant magic while people
slept. Through the trees I saw spotlights on soaring poles as two- and four-legged
creatures spilled out like aliens landing on my planet. Banners were staked. Sawdust
spread on the ground. Tattooed arms raised a painted tent that covered the universe.
“Ma’am, watch that rope.” The burly man’s tee-shirt barely
covered his belly but his voice was kind.
“Where you hail from, young man?” I moved back and to the left.
“Everywhere and anywhere in between.” His grin revealed a missing tooth.
“Last stop was Lynchburg and before that Harrisonburg. I guess my hometown
is a rolling train.”
“Well I’m from here, but you would’a guessed that.” I sidestepped
again to make way for a man with a monkey on his shoulder. The monkey winked and
I added as an afterthought, “But I’m pretty tired of here.”
Then a striking Amazon with heaving breasts stormed out of her railcar with “Princess
Paulina” in purple sparkles arched on its side. On her heels followed a penitent
giant of a man. As she gulped space with her strides, she shook a sequined gown
to the heavens.
“What were you thinking, you blundering Neanderthal? You squeezed your fat
ass into my dress and ruined it!” She threw the gown down and blew past. No
one paid attention to her hysterics except me and the giant.
I bent and picked up her dress, and that was that.
—Previously published in Every Day Fiction
(February 2012); reprinted here by author’s permission
Began her writing career as a contributing writer for a local magazine. She writes
short stories and memoirs, and has completed a novel whose opening chapter won first
prize in a national contest.
Her work has been published in Deep South Magazine, Blue Lake Review, and
Every Day Fiction, and is forthcoming in The Simple Life magazine.
She won the December 2011 Writers Journal “Write to Win” contest.