A Good Breeding Tale - Who knew life's really a circus?
Life’s a Circus
I hate sleeping on the couch. I considered going back downstairs to work. But I’d already worked two consecutive shifts in the casino. I closed my eyes, knowing Elena was furious over… well, nothing I could do anything about.
If that wasn’t bad enough, I glimpsed my oldest kids apparently having a late night party. I glared down the hall. Enough! Party's over!
Oh, S***, I thought you were blocking, Alex!
I thought you were!
The party is over! I mentally shouted at them, sitting up.
I heard doors and running feet – music to a Dad’s ears. I laid back down.
Once the thirteenth floor really settled down I fell into a fitful sleep. So having a weird dream seemed par for the course. The dwarf in a tu-tu had a great acrobatic routine. The knives were new. She wove between them, but they were turning into spears, trapping her. The crowd cheered, yet there was no sound.
She bowed, gestured to me and shouted, “Garret, come up here!”
So I leapt onto the stage and did my old routine. All the kids and their families laughed. Everyone loves a clown.
“Help me!” the silver-haired dwarf cried.
I woke gasping and found Estella watching me from the recliner, she yawned, “Nightmare?”
I sat up. “You’ve a nice bedroom upstairs.”
“Sleep eludes thee… Why was’t thou dreaming of being a clown?”
I shook my head. The woman with long lustrous blonde hair was the source of my awaking nightmare. “Can’t a man at least keep his dreams to himself?”
She shook her head. “Not thine from thee.”
I sighed, then said, “Please go upstairs, Elena’s angry enough at me as it is.”
“Thou coulds’t join me.”
She smiled. “Thy art the hero of thy tale. Hasn’t thou earnt some reward?”
I fought more than that smile with every fiber of my being. “I’m already being punished enough for, um, rescuing you.”
Wrapped only in her blanket, she turned with a sigh. “Faretheewell.”
I turned to a presence now hovering above me. “Enjoying yourself?”
The family ghost chuckled. You handled that well.
“I don’t comment on your love life. I’d appreciate it, if you wouldn’t revel in mine.”
Just watching over you. What you’ve done, while needful, is highly dangerous.
“Oh, really?” But Ghost had dissipated, likely checking on our resident medium turned professor down the hall. Now their relationship didn’t bear thinking about. Mine was bad enough.
I tried to go back to sleep, but gave up. I needed some research done. Dewitt, It's not like you'r sleeping.
I'm really going to have to work on my barriers.
That's what we're here for.
Dewitt has this affinity with computers. Basically, the machines will do things for him because, well, they want to make him happy. One of his not quite girlfriends made a beeline down the hall as I paid him a visit and asked him to find me a family circus which had a penchant for not advertising. I know that sounds like it would be bad for business, but this wasn’t your typical operation.
The circus eked out a living working the charity circuit, going from town to town from spring through fall. Most of the performers did double duty, selling tickets, peanuts, popcorn, snow cones and corn dogs between sets. They gave elephant and pony rides, ran a few carny rides.
Dewitt gestured at his computer screen, which displayed a notice about the show. He mentally shared. THIS THE ONE, DAD?
YEP. Oh how I wanted to leave my peculiar family at home on this one, but it was the circus.
Pop. My eleven year old daughter Denise appeared beside me, wide-eyed. “We’re going to the circus? A real circus?”
“To bed this instant!”
Denise glanced back. Dewitt, we going to the circus!
I kinda guessed that.
Another thought intruded. Doesn't look like much of a circus… Those rides look like antiques.
“Alex, go to bed… Denise, I mean it… Now or I’m leave you both behind.”
Pop. She teleported away and I felt my younger son cringe and hide under his sheets.
Good night, I sent, then winced as another mind voice cried out. Theresa, Daddy's coming. Great we’d woke my youngest.
And awoken her mother, who was even less than pleased. I quickly headed upstairs. It was going to be a long night…
The trip from Atlantic City was anything but uneventful. Elena wasn’t talking to me. Estella was leaning way to close as I drove what once might have been billed as an RV, which at least looked it on the outside, even painted jet black as it was. The kids, well… there was Dewitt at his computer station with his, um, twin research assistants monitoring our world and Denise kept borrowing money to pop away to buy snacks for the more interesting dives were passed.
Sleepy then ever hungry defined the younger kids. They couldn’t wait until we reached the circus and what we’d packed apparently wasn’t going to cut it.
“And what’s wrong with eating carrot sticks and fruit?” Elena grated.
Theresa looked at Alex and Denise, then crossed her arms in protest as well. I studiously tried not to laugh, thinking it didn’t take a fortune teller to see this one coming.
Denise glanced out the window, grabbed Elena’s purse then popped away. I hit the brakes, pulling onto the shoulder as cars swerved and honked.
I yelled, “Denise!”
I'll be right back! I'll catch up with you!
I bit back a rejoinder as Estella applauded. “Such skill dost display from a moving vehicle. Bravo.”
Elena glared and I put the RV in park, climbed out of the driver’s seat and stared back at the mini-mart off the interchange. DENISE!
Images brushed my thoughts along with mental shouts of: Grab those Oreos!
Chocolate milk and that candy!
No candy for Theresa!
Aw, Mommy, please!
Soon enough Denise was back and junk food blizzarded the vehicle. Estella smiled ever so slightly and offered me an Oreo as I pulled back onto the highway. “Dost thee not like the creamy filling?”
“Oh!” I heard my wife gasp as I ignored her offer, struggling not to dwell on that comment.
We pulled up into the makeshift parking lot, a grassy area on the hospital grounds. Dewitt and his twin girlfriends hurried out, then Alex, followed by Denise, who walked hand in hand with her three-year-old half-sister Theresa. My wife Elena took lithe blonde-haired Estella by the arm before she could follow me. “Oh, let’s get the tickets.”
Estella frowned unable to break Elena’s grip, which was reinforced by more than muscle alone. You have to love a determined Roma, well, you don’t… but believe me Elena’s something to behold when she goes all gypsy.
I headed to the back lot where the staff parked their trailers. There was shouting, never a good thing before the matinee. “Look, Little Lady, give us what we want and there won’t be any trouble.”
“Get out of here!” the tiny woman yelled. She wasn’t a very imposing figure; however, the lion tamer with the whip; the tattooed strongman, slowing twirling barbells, and the seven roustabouts with the tent pins made up for it.
The man backed away, “We’ll be back with friends.”
The whip cracked and the lion tamer shouted, “Beware of lions!”
A roustabout turned and blocked my way. “Sorry, Mister, but the show’s that way.”
I smiled. “I’m here to see Auntie May.”
The strongman glanced my way and frowned as the tiny woman said, “He’s all right.” I went up to her, bent down, and quickly gave her a hug. “Garret, you came!”
“How could I resist the little mother of dreams?”
When I was a teenager I escaped an institute for gifted children, where I was held prisoner for my talents. Once they began drugging me and I realized what they were making me do, I decided to have an unfortunate accident and, let’s just say, I died rather spectacularly.
Free at long last, I wandered, not knowing where to go, when I came across a flier lying on the ground. I chuckled seeing it. A circus of all things, well, I’d always thought my life was a circus. I decided it was about time to see the real thing.
I found them setting up on the grounds of a local hospital. It looked like they could use help, so I lent a hand. That’s when I met May. She came up behind me unnoticed, which was no mean trip in my case, and she said, “Looks like you could use a meal.”
I turned and stared. Not only was she the shortest adult I’d ever seen, but I couldn’t “feel” her standing there. Then a story the family ghost told me when I was a kid came to mind. “You’re a dwarf.”
“I prefer little person,” she replied blandly, but there was a keen look in her eyes. She’d recognized my stilted pronunciation.
She knew I knew and what that meant.
Then she smiled, “Looking for a job?”
I lived with them for three seasons as my soul healed from the abuse I’d suffered. A small circus isn’t quiet or peaceful, but the cheers of the crowd day after day have a power all its own. It also doesn’t hurt when the folks you fear might be searching for you will never suspect you’re a clown.
Somethings never change, I thought as I looked at her again so many years later. “What’s wrong?”
“You know we don’t call copper, Garret.”
“They want one of my girls.”
“They lost one?” She took my meaning. I wasn’t fond of the Institutes, sponsored by some nameless government entity that the government didn’t know existed, especially considering I’d been rescuing my children from their care of late.
“Better to say she’s an ‘artiste,’ with real talent. Makes for a great act – she’s a star attraction.”
“Those fellows look, um, organized.”
“One of their friends apparently brought his kids to the show a few days ago… Thinks she’s got potential for their line of work and now here they are.”
“She’s well hidden; I take it.”
“They’ve searched but won’t find her. Not if she doesn’t want them to.”
“So they’ll burn you down to flush her out.”
“That’s what we figure. Show ends this stand tonight… I’ve been having dreams about you – you and kids.”
“Who would ever have guessed? Me a family man.”
“I’ve dreamed of two women with you, one olive skinned and the other, well…”
“Yeah, Elena’s my wife and Estella’s, um…”
Auntie May frowned, “Is that what she calls herself? You should know better than to cavort with a demon.”
“She’s not that bad, well, anymore.”
“Garret, she’s dangerous.”
“That I know... Perhaps, you’d like to introduce me to your new star attraction.”
I accompanied Auntie May to the ticket stand, a powerfully built RV with more than one unobtrusive roustabout watching over it. The vehicle doubled as the home of the strongman, who followed Auntie May like a good bodyguard – or troll might, if you looked at him under the right slice of moonlight. “Ariel, meet my old friend Garret Dees.”
If she was sixteen, I’d be surprised. Her gaze was hooded as she came out of the back room. Her thoughts barred. That impressed me. “Where did you escape from?”
“What are you talking about?”
She stared at me.
I smiled and said, “I left Fairchild’s loving care when I was about your age.”
She lowered her head, “Gravely.” That was a new one on me. “It’s in Idaho.”
“How many, uh, guests?”
She shook her head. “I’m an Em. There were Gees, Kays, Esses, and Vees.”
“You’re an empath?”
“That’s what they said.”
I shook my head. “Really?”
She shrugged. “You?”
“I’m full range.”
“You’re a wizard?!”
Auntie May nodded.
Ariel sighed and admitted, “I’m actually a shifter with projective empathy, Class A.”
Nodding, I replied, “Short-range teleporter able to confound human perceptions. You really are an escape artist.”
“That why we can’t film your act?” Auntie May asked with a soft chuckle.
“I, uh, don’t like being filmed, which is why people feel like taking pictures of their feet or the person next to them during my act.”
“So, Miss Ariel Em, what’s your real name?”
“Emma Em… The docs really have a sense of humor.”
The young woman sighed. “So, you’re here to help me?”
“And the circus as well… What do you want to do because you know you can't stay here any longer?”
“I’ve nowhere to go.”
I grinned. “Ever consider going to school?”
She stared. “School?”
A RATHER UNUSUAL SCHOOL, I projected.
Her eyes went wide.
“Perhaps you’d like to meet some of the students?” I added aloud.
On the grounds walking amidst the many guests enjoying themselves to an extent that likely surprised even Auntie May, who gaped, my children were enjoying the attractions. Smiling, I pointed out my son Alex. The rides had been pretty beat up, so he, well, decided to sorta fixed them.
He rode the Ferris Wheel, which morphed ever so slightly as it took him up. He added a very unferris-like twist as it picked up speed. Kids were soon buying tickets like they were going out of style.
The haunted house was monitored by an old computer. My son Dewitt tweaked it as he glanced at the control panel as the twins leaned close, both screening him from view and allowing him with a casual touch of their arms to channel their reserves as once long ago wizards within their family once had.
When Alex finished his ride, he went over and did a quick renovation of the mechanicals, which made the trailer that housed the attraction shake. There were squeals of fright and delight. Soon the mechanical toys whizzing out of the dark began interacting with the guests in unexpected ways. One patted a young lady’s head, sending her jumping into her boyfriend’s arms. Another suddenly had a new message, “Can I come home with you? Please, please, please! Can I come home with you?”
Kids came out screaming and hurried to get back in line, which brought more kids over.
Denise was riding an elephant. Auntie May and Emma stared as she vanished. Pop. She was suddenly standing next to me. “Dad, this is great!”
“Denise, this is Emma.”
“Hi, Emma. You going to come to school with us?”
“It’s a great school. You’ll get used to the gypsies.”
“They like being called Roma.”
“No they don’t,” she replied.
“Elena says they do,” I chided.
“Gypsies?” Auntie May said with a chuckle.
Pop. Denise vanished as Emma shook her head, letting slip an envious thought about the degree the younger girl could teleport.
“Denise might be able to help you with that.”
Her eyes suddenly held a thoughtful gleam.
That’s when Estella came over with Elena running to catch up. Auntie May and Estella glared at each other. “Dwarf!” Estella said like a curse.
Emma frowned as Estella said, “Thee has brought us thus to help a bedamned dwarf?”
I shook my head. “Call me an equal opportunist.”
Emma stiffened, turning. “They’re coming.”
Elena caught her breath. “What have I missed?”
“Nothing yet… but apparently the show’s about to begin.” I stood stock still, then closed my eyes and sent: KIDS, WE’VE WORK TO DO.
As the last show concluded and the audience filed out, three wiseguys waited in the stands; while others were positioned outside the big tent. “There she is,” their boss said, pointing.
Two of his people went after their prize, Ariel the Escape Artist.
The man smiled. “You’re mine now, babe.”
Denise appeared behind him. Touched his arm. “Tag, you’re it!”
Pop. They were gone.
Emma turned a corner and “shifted.”
“Where’d she go?”
Then a beautiful blonde came around the big top and confronted them. “Perhaps you lads wouldst helpest me?”
She smiled at them and they saw her eyes sparkle.
They grinned stupidly, guns forgotten as their arms fell limp to their sides.
“Put him down!” I shouted.
The strongman was holding one of the wiseguys off the ground by his throat. The man’s gun lay on the ground. One of his friends was running toward us, when the Lion Tamer stepped out of the shadows. His whip lashed out at the goon, knocking his gun from his stinging fingers.
Outside the animal exhibits, several of the wise guys were staring at the snakes curling up their legs. They fell over screaming.
Auntie May smiled. “Oh, good snakey, snakeys, you make Momma proud!”
The haunted house’s flood lights went on and mechanical ghosts and ghoulies flew out and attacked the nearest baddies.
But I’d had enough with the games, I waved my hands and a hole in reality opened and sucked the men in need of a new line of work elsewhere.
Elena shouted from the RV, “Garret! Theresa needs to get some sleep.”
“Oh, all right!” Rifting isn’t the quietest activity. So, I gestured at the Ferris Wheel. The hole in reality moved toward it, then began spitting out the errant fellows.
Alex decided to lend a hand and the Ferris Wheel began to spin faster and faster. “Enjoy the ride, boys!”
“Did it go well, Denise?”
She smiled and “shared.”
Marco Ramio, boss of a crime family with an expanding network, blinked finding himself elsewhere and drew his pistol.
“Um,” he muttered, dropping it from suddenly fumbling fingers as he stared at all the men in uniform pointing pistols at him.
His pistol spun crazily on the floor as the computer printer behind the desk sergeant went into overdrive and a sheet of paper spat forth in front of the sergeant’s face.
He stared at the Wanted bulletin, then at the surrounded man. “Hmm, nice of you to drop by. Seems the Feds want you real bad.”
“Holy…” Marco muttered, knowing he’d lost his mind.
Denise stood behind the sergeant and stuck her tongue out at him, then blinked out of existence.
Elena pulled up the RV as little Theresa fell asleep. Auntie May shook her head as the last of the goons, many looking a bit green and their eyes glazed, apologized for having disturbed them as Estella looked on.
“Is there anything we can do, Ma’am?”
“Thou shall remember only enjoying the show.”
They nodded with silly grins. She gestured imperiously for them to leave her presence. They actually bowed and turned away as if sleepwalking.
May frowned as Elena gestured and said, “All aboard.”
Emma moved to board the RV with her meager possessions. She glanced back at the circus performers. “Auntie May, all of you –I’ll miss!”
“You too!” they chorused.
“Thank you!” the short woman said to me as I knelt and hugged her. “Don’t be such a stranger. You’ve a great act!”
She laughed and said, “Remember to keep clowning around! And thank you for giving my show new life!”
Alex grinned as Dewitt and his girlfriends went up the steps behind me. I sighed. Well, Auntie May would find out just how much more new life at her next stand.
Estella glared at May from the doorway, “Dwarf!”
“Garret, watch out for this one, she’ll use your dreams against you.”
“I know… Believe me, I know,” I replied, then gasped and saw stars. “Ow!”
“Oh, boy,” Elena muttered as Estella laughed.
Shaking my head, I climbed on board only to see Emma and Dewitt staring at each other. His girlfriends looked less than pleased.
“I’m – I’m…” Dewitt stammered.
Estella added helpful, “Thee thinkest the word thee seeks is ‘enchanted’?”
“Great, just great,” I muttered.
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Approximately 3,330 Words