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 look inconsequential.
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.
Leah Weiss began her writing career as a contributing writer for a local magazine. She writes short stories, memoires and novels. Her work has been accepted in The Simple Life, Deep South Magazine and Blue Lake Review. She has written a book of short stories and completed a novel. The opening chapter won first prize in a national contest.