Sideshow (Part IV)

It was easier than she ever imagined for Rosemary to run away with the circus.  She simply lingered on the porch after supper until Aunt Fanny finally went to bed, grumbling about night chills and willful, headstrong girls and what was the world coming to when children didn’t do as bid by their elders. 

Earlier, Rosemary had written a note for Aunt Fanny, carefully guiding the pen with the edge of her hand so the lines would not trail off the paper and be lost.  She slipped it under the front door and sat down on the steps to wait.

Jack came at last, in a truck driven by a sad-faced clown.  They eased down the street and idled to a stop across from the yellow house.  A tiny Chihuahua stood at nervous attention in the clown’s polka-dot lap and he kept one white-gloved hand wrapped around the dog’s ankle to keep it from leaping out the open window as Jack leaned across and whistled, low, to catch Rosemary’s attention.

It took almost no time to drive back to the carnival, and the clown dropped them off at a trailer full of people, all shrieking in a language Rosemary couldn’t understand.  Hands pulled her here and there, but they were gentle.  At some point, Jack and all the other male hands that belonged with the deeper voices were ushered outside and they began to laugh and sing in their strange language.  The women set-to in earnest, handling Rosemary as if she were a child or a doll.

“Bellisima,” one of them sighed, snatching at Rosemary’s hair with a comb. 

“That Signori Jack certainly works fast,” another giggled, peeling Rosemary out of her dress as neatly as a grape.

At last the women were done and they led Rosemary out of the trailer, leaving her alone against the side of a rough canvas tent.  She clutched at it, hoping that Jack would find her soon.

“Miss Day,” a deep voice said, startling Rosemary.  “If you will be so good as to take my arm, I will direct Norah, our most charming and talented Fat Lady, to begin, no?”

“No,” Rosemary squeaked.  “I mean, yes.  Oh, yes.”

The ringmaster—Marko the Magnificent—laughed out loud.  “No, yes—yes, no—simply different sides of the same thing, my dear.  Come, then.  Our Jack is waiting.”  He drew her carefully past the anchor stakes and inside the shelter of the tent.  


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