KJ Hannah Greenberg, Concatenation
Publisher: Bards & Sages Publishing
Date: January 9, 2018
ISBN: 0999544233; 978-0999544235
Concatenation is special collection of flash fiction and short stories featuring highlights from KJ Hannah Greenberg’s Short Story Series, volumes I through V.
One of Many Acts
Sampson P. Colossus, aka Ralph Petersmith, hulked over the table where Skinny Stanley, aka Leslie Manikus, and Bulbous Betty, aka Jane Dunthers, were playing cards. Ralph thought Leslie should fold, but disclosed nothing about Jane’s hand. It was not so much that she cheated as that since she had a good head for figures, she counted cards.
For almost two decades, that threesome had traveled from large cities to small towns, draped in requisite costumes and behaviors just to retain the right to be irresponsible. Where there had been heart throb and ache, wars with management and losses among their fellowship, elephant turds and forgotten bare back riders’ tights, the three had also shared empathy.
It was not so much that Jane had a slow metabolism as it was that she layered her memories with chocolate cake and ice cream, by the boxful, to forget a childhood in which she was the centerpiece of a druggie father’s extremely misplaced affections. Despite her roles of adipose tissue, Ralph and Leslie woke often because of her unabated nightmares. Even from their end trailer, they would hear Jane’s nocturnal screams.
Similarly, it was not so much that Leslie had an especially high metabolism as it was that he had a chronic gastric ulcer, a souvenir of mastocyosis. When young, he was misdiagnosed as suffering from allergies, from neurosis, or both. His well-meaning parents even sold their home in order to pay for the needles, the pills and the maze of new-fangled forms of analysis to which they subjected their only child. Nonetheless, Leslie’s skin persisted in forming itchy hives and blotchy lumps. The teen who ran away to the circus suffered from diarrhea and stomach pain.
As for Ralph, his parents had showed just the right degree of concern when he hitched across state to see if he might find some work cleaning up after the lions, tigers and bears. His ten brothers and four sisters bid him well, each gifting him with their own nature of encouragement. He made $23.75 out of the deal, plus a lucky rabbit’s foot, a chipmunk’s tail, two small pieces of ribbon and a partially chewed baseball card.
It had not been Ralph’s intent to exhibit himself as a human specimen of strength, power and wondrous agility. He just wanted to buy some time away from Dahlia Winterberry’s father; that guy was kind of mad when he discovered that his precious had been impregnated.
Ralph had known nothing about atlas stones, fridge carries, truck pulls or keg tosses. Given a cheap broom and pan, he had been assigned to help with the horses and ponies. A rescue involving a dray and a female clown, though, became his destiny. In fact, on a quiet ticket day, the ring master had pushed that karma and had ordered Ralph to try a squat involving both the unfortunate horse and a half-blind but still largely underfed tiger. Thereafter, Ralph’s likeness appeared on all of the company’s posters alongside the images of Queen Bella, the tightrope walker, and Henry Flame, the sword swallower.
Ralph never used the steroids management supplied, but he did spend his small revenues of vacation time attending body building competitions. There were folks in the wider world who were extremely sophisticated about fostering muscle.
Consequently, as the years spun, Ralph grew physically. He added dead lifts, Hercules holds and duck walks to his repertoire.
Women went crazy over him. Men sneered; one even asked for a sample of his semen. No broody stallion, Ralph redirected the girls to Leslie, the gifts to Jane and the semen seeker to the local police. Accordingly, the three friends lived in camaraderie for many years.
Thus it was that Ralph found himself eyeing the bottle of beer that Leslie was sipping while attempting to befuddle Jane at cards. During his holidays, Ralph also attended A.A. meetings. Otherwise, he relied on email, on telephone calls, and on the occasional panicked text messages. He had been clean for over a decade.
Jane sighed. She rested her cheek on her fist and inhaled deeply. Her face pooled around her pudgy hand until her appendage almost disappeared.
Leslie rolled his eyes. If he continued his course, he would either have to fork over five more bucks or take Jane out for ice cream. He didn’t have much spare change and he had even fewer spare hours; Leslie was working on an installation of acrylic on used trapeze wire, commissioned by a small gallery located in New York City’s East Village. He had already made and gambled away a small fortune on similar installations in Chicago and Denver.
As for Jane, she was bored. She was striding in her correspondence coursework in physics, yet her latest findings on statistical mechanics, i.e. her latest invitation for other interesting minds to grapple with hers, would not be published for another month. In the interim, whether she measured in Planck time, in yoctoseconds, or even in zettaseconds, she was fed up with well- meaning companions and dopy audiences.
Ralph reached for Leslie’s beer. Leslie, mistaking the gesture, softly and effectively tickled Ralph. Jane, analyzing the situation as fun, too, tickled Ralph. Ralph fell onto his rump.
Glowering, he grabbed both pals and tossed them into the air. To Ralph, Jane was as much a lightweight as was Leslie. Unlike the cows that Ralph “juggled,” however, his friends were mismatched in mass. Jane seemingly floated back to her seat. Leslie crashed on the ground.
Saliva and blood oozed out of Leslie’s mouth as his eyes widened at Ralph. He wagged a skinny finger at his buddy, smiled, laughed, coughed and died.
Ralph sprinkled the remnants of the brew over Leslie and kicked a little sawdust on him, too, for good measure. Jane stuffed a handful of cookies into her maw. She suspected that they would each be docked a half day of pay.
Previously published in MENSA’s Calliope Oct. 2010. 23-24 and The Immediacy of Emotional Kerfuffles. Bards and Sages Publishing. 1st ed. Nov. 2013; 2nd ed. Mar. 2015.
Copyright © 2017 by Channie Greenberg