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A Day at the Circus

by E. J. Pace

Olga kicked the door of the Volkswagen closed and, staggering under the weight of the grocery sack, she walked up the steps of the mobile home. Opening the door with one hand, she nearly dropped the bulging paper bag. The interior of the trailer was cool and dark and, as she headed toward the tiny kitchenette, she suddenly became aware of someone breathing heavily in the semi-darkness.

Bewildered, she stared at Danny, standing in the middle of the living room floor, in his underwear. Then she saw the knife in his hand, and then Fred’s body, still writhing, and the blood, the oozing puddles of blood.

The sack of groceries slid from her grasp, cans and bottles and jars and bananas and oranges and shrink-wrapped lettuce erupting in all directions, muffled, quiet, as if in slow-motion.

“Danny! You killed Fred! You stupid ass!”

“Look, Olga. Wait, I couldn’t help it. He crawled over me while I was asleep on the couch and I—”

“Shut your mouth! You know as well as I do what that boa constrictor was worth! And where in the hell am I going to get another one before tonight’s show? Answer me that, Mr. Strong Man!”

“Aw, c’mon, Olga. He was just a snake, a goddamn snake! And you knew from the beginning I can’t stand the slithery thing. You can be the Tattooed Lady again or something.”

“Like hell. Me ’n Fred were the stars of the sideshow, and you damn well knew it. You were jealous, that’s what. I wish I’d never let you move in here with me. As a matter of fact, why don’t you just get the hell out? Now!” Tears streamed down her cheeks as she knelt by Fred’s thick body, now still.

“Olga, you gotta unnerstan’. That damn snake slid up around my legs and I couldn’t get away! I dragged him behind me into the kitchen, then he got up around my chest, and I couldn’t breathe, and I grabbed the knife, and I started slashing at him like I was crazy... I couldn’t help it. Olga, you gotta believe me!”

“Get out! Just get the hell out! I never, never, never want to see you in my place again or anywhere near me. Forever.” Olga stood up, glaring through bleary eyes at Danny. His perfect build, the gorgeous body that had seemed so attractive before, was suddenly seen in another perspective.

She saw his vanity, his total preoccupation with himself, and her head swam with the weeks she had wasted trying to please him, buying things for him, never quite able to evoke that longed-for glance of appreciation. He had never given her even a smidgen of recognition as if she were someone worth something, too. And now he had butchered Fred, her source of income, her independence.

“Honey, listen. You can get another boa someday. But I told ya how I felt about them damned things. Lovin’ snakes like they was puppies or somp’m.”

Olga stormed into the bedroom and began throwing Danny’s clothes into the middle of the floor. “I said get out, and I meant it. We’re through.”

Leaning against the door jamb, Danny watched her through half-closed eyelids. He shrugged, pulled on a pair of rumpled jeans, jammed his feet into his tennis shoes and jerked his Navy duffle bag out of the pile of garments. He stuffed his things inside fast, not caring how they ended up. He pulled the drawstring tight and tossed the bag over his shoulder.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right, Babe. I don’t need no snake-lover for a roommate. See ya at the circus.”

Long after Danny had left, Olga was still sitting beside the dead snake, staring at the spilled groceries, wondering why she had waited so long that it had cost her Fred, too. As well as three months of increased rent he had never paid and meals he had gorged for zip and the worst? Time. It didn’t take long for him to “wear out his welcome” as her Aunt Viva used to say, before Olga left their combined-family trailer back in Arkansas.

And, she reminded her soft-touch self, her mother’s sister and her grown still-unmarried daughter had both warned her in sepulchral tones. But, she was honest enough to remember, she had tasted being independent of older women relatives, and the result was like having quaffed a bottle of wine. The kind with a cork, not a metal cap like an ordinary soft drink.

Olga sighed and brushed a stray tear from her cheek and tried not to think about Fred’s flickering tongue tapping her cheeks before they went to sleep. Now Danny was gone, too, and she had things to do. She reached for the mop as she wondered how much gas was in her old Chevy out front.

Copyright © 2018 by E. J. Pace

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