|Circus of the Grand Design|
|Robert Freeman Wexler|
|excerpt courtesy of Prime Books|
No sunlight, no waning crescent moon. And the wind? The chill, battering wind lay in wait, malevolent, hidden for the moment but ready to strike. Ice crumbled in its path; its onslaught leveled mountains. Not safe here, in this flimsy house-box with its No-heat No-light.
Nothing looked the same. Are No's moose head? Where where where? Fire had gone out, but he felt warm enough. Indecision tore at him—remain ensconced beneath Are No's down comforter, despite the lack of fire, or venture out in the wind's dominion. The narrow bed confused him—he rolled onto the floor, banging his elbow. Then he remembered...Martha had left. She had moved out after their argument. He knew she would eventually. Nothing could prevent it. Now, he was too sad to get up. He would stay on the floor all day. But this wasn't the floor of Martha's apartment. No. He was the one who had left.
He lay his head on the carpet and closed his eyes. There had been a woman, but not Martha. She had been gentle. Her presence soothed him. The desert turned green with the Spring rains.
"He's such a dreamy boy," Lewis's mother had said many times, and not with tenderness.
Tenderness didn't get a person through medical school. He had learned that early. And neither of Lewis's sisters ever had to suffer that epithet. Dreamy. Lewis especially loved the irregular border where daydream interweaves with the intense, true dreams that mark the descent into sleep.
This floor though, its unfamiliar landscape hindered his dreaming. Carpet under his outstretched hand, not Are No's Plexiglas wonder, or Martha's hardwoods. But on the wall, Are No's etching, the sad faces of the sphinx welcomed him. He was glad to have brought the etching along on his journey.
"Here we are. Here we are," he said, and sat up, staring at the windows opposite him. A milky haze covered them. What lay beyond? He hoped they weren't always clouded. He wanted to view the landscape, see the night sky and the wonders it held.
The soft light made him think it was dusk, but it had to be morning. Not likely he had slept through the entire day.
In the corridor outside Lewis's door, last night's orange glow had changed to a sunny yellow. He slung his satchel over his shoulder and set off toward where Jenkins had said the dining car was. He wasn't hungry though. He had a queasy feeling, like seasickness. Maybe from that weird roller coaster sensation last night. But the dining car would be a good place to meet people. He would sit, maybe drink some coffee, write in his journal. At some point, he supposed he would have to get busy with his new duties. Things should be pretty easy-going here. It was a circus, not an engineering company. Anyway, the most crucial part of public relations is knowing the people involved.
The new world,
The cook came by to refill his coffee cup, and Lewis asked if he knew the time. Although Dillon hadn't said anything about meeting in the morning, Lewis thought it would be a good idea, and he didn't want it to get too late.
"I wake up and there's onions to chop. Today I made roti. Then I served you."
Lewis wondered how to convert that answer into time. He returned to writing in his journal, but before he could complete the next word, the cook, without a sound to announce his arrival, appeared beside his seat.
"I made these just before you came," the cook said, presenting a plate of powdered sugar-covered doughnuts. To demonstrate, the cook took one and bit into it, dusting his lips with sugar.
"Thanks, they look good," Lewis said. "But I don't have much of an appetite now. Maybe later?"
"Fruit then? I have a nice durian." The cook pointed to a basket filled with spiky, football-sized fruit.
"No thanks, I really don't feel like I can eat. But can you sit down? I'd like to ask you a few questions about the routine around here."
"Too busy." The cook carried the doughnuts back to the counter, then left through a door next to the refrigerator. Lewis heard the click of a bolt.
First a moody porter, now a cook who was only nice when offering food. Lewis stared at the window and imagined the world flowing by on the other side. Quaint villages and stinking factory towns, apple orchards, cornfields, rivers. Without sunlight, how would he be able to judge the passing of day?
He wrote in his journal about his experiences at Are No's and his meeting with Dillon. The Are No part—he didn't want anyone to see that. Not that he ever showed anyone his journal, but now it felt different. What he wrote incriminated him, proved he was responsible. Not likely Dillon would have taken Lewis if he had known about the arson.
The cook returned to his post carrying something that looked like a giant turkey.
"You cook slow or they're tough, especially these small ones from the highlands."
The juggler entered, bouncing two small white balls. He nodded at Lewis. His red terry-cloth robe dragged on the floor behind him.
Never heard a name like that, Lewis thought. He turned his head so he could see them.
"I've been chopping onions and carrots," the cook said. "Not to mention wrestling with this bird. It's good I plucked it right after I caught it."
The juggler bounced the balls on the counter twice, then flung one of them behind him. It hit the floor a few feet from the far wall, caromed into the wall, up to the ceiling, down to the floor, to the ceiling, and back into his hand. He pushed the balls into a pocket.
"How about a couch," the juggler said. "Haven't had one since...last night."
From behind Lewis came the sounds of an ice machine, then the juggler sank into the seat across from him holding a plastic cup of iced coffee. "I'm Garson Gold. I juggle."
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