(How do I write a story that contains at least half a dozen words that I had to look up, without it reading like a word a day calendar? I hope I met the challenge. Remember to comment on this post with a word for next week's edition.)
"Call me Chuck." he said, extending a dirty hand. I hesitated just long enough for him to withdraw, and wipe it self-consciously on his even dirtier pants. "Welcome to the Taradiddle Circus." With a grand sweep of his arm, he ushered me into the barn. "Now this here's where you'll be starting. It's our animal holding area. You've got your tigers and your armadillos on this side, then over there, you have the big fellas - the elephants."
There were two of them, male and female, standing side by side in the pen. They were slowly masticating great mouthfuls of feed from a ginormous tub.Their trunks, heavy and pendulous, flopped about their mouths as they chewed.
"This is Fruity Pebbles," said Chuck, "And big guy here is Charlie Sheen. He's a bit of a contumacious pachyderm. But still winning!" He chuckled, a low, wet sound deep in his chest.
I started to move into their pen, making my way through a morass of spongy detritus. "What is this? Elephant poop?"
"Naw," he replied. "That's vespertilian guano." I raised an eyebrow. "Bat shit." he clarified.
They must be enormous bats, I thought, as I made my way into the elephant pen. It was like the city sewage tank the day after Thanksgiving. Getting closer, I saw that Fruity Pebbles had what appeared to be an extraneous nipple, it's areola as leathery as the old man's shoe. "It appears she has an extra nipple."
"Oh, a perspicacious fellow! I suppose elephant nipples are your life's praxis! Maybe you're some sort of elephant whisperer! Well, why don't you take a look at old Charlie Sheen, there. It appears he has a chancroid."
"A chancroid!" he repeated. "Ain't you ever had a chancer on your wanker? A pimple on your wimple? A crusty on your Rusty?"
I shook my head.
"No matter. Look, Charlie and Fruity Pebbles like to get it on. Pebbles has done gone through The Change, and due to her lack of fecundity, we let them go at it like a couple of feral cats. She's not breeding, so it obviates any need for birth control. And let me tell you - it's a good thing. Getting a condom on an elephant is no easy task. Charlie Sheen needs a trough of goulash and some Barry White to get in the mood, and then you damned near have to got to have three people to...."
"I get the picture!" I interrupted. Chuck was a wealth of information, but somewhat prolix. "They have quite the apolaustic life, what with the constant goulash and sex."
"I could only hope to get the kind of action old Charlie Sheen does. Kumquat?" I wasn't sure if he was makes a sexual reference, and then I saw the fruit in his hand.
"No, thanks. I guess I'll get to work - what should I do first?"
"Ah! We've procrastinated long enough, to work!" He clapped his hands together. "First, stack these hay bales on the flatcar in the corner, lay them perpendicular..."
"CHUCK!" a voice boomed, "A WORD!"
In the doorway stood a large man, his oiled mustache extending far beyond the limits of his face, defying the laws of gravity and honky hair.
"Shhh! The old pettifogger!" Chuck whispered and hurried over to the man. I couldn't make out their conversation, but it was clear from the tone and gesticulations that it was an argument of apoplectic proportions. I glanced over at Fruity Pebbles and Charlie Sheen, who were now huddled together. I couldn't be sure, but it seemed as if Charlie Sheen were glaring at the man.
A few moments later, Chuck was back at my side. "The Ringmaster, name's Boyle. My daddy always said never trust a man with a diphthong in his name. He was a big record exec who got caught up in a payola scam. He managed a boy band, he left them in a wake of broken promises and bad haircuts. A shame."
"What did he want?"
"Oh, we have thirteen Longhorns in the "Salute to Texas" number, he wants one of them put down. He's a triskaidekaphobic."
"My God! That's horrible."
Chuck shrugged, "That's steak."
He started to walk away and turned back. "Oh, one other thing. He has a lady friend, a soubrette in the operetta number. Charlie Sheen over there has taken a shine to her, and can't stand Boyle. Keep an eye on him, I don't want him breaking bad."
"Ha! Like in Water For Elephants." I said.
"Kind of, except Sara Gruen's dialog is wooden, the characters lacked chemistry, and the villain was too likable!"
"It sold millions of copies. They made a movie out of it."
"With Robert Pattinson, that pasty Limey! TEAM JACOB!" he pumped his fist in the air, turned abruptly, and walked away. He was an odd man.
I worked steadily for the next several hours, the elephants keeping quiet watch while I moved and stacked the seemingly endless bales of hay. I'd sacrificed my summer to work in the circus, saving my money to start clown college in the fall. I could only hope I'd have enough. Clowning was serious business, something you couldn't learn by osmosis. For anyone wanting to get on with a good circus, college was a must. And maybe by working the summer with Taradiddle, I'd be ahead of my clownmates.
"Hey, YOU!" Boyle's thunderous call echoed through the barn. Fruity Pebbles and Charlie Sheen began to shuffle in their pen.
"Yes, SIR! Yes, SIR! Is that word in your lexicon, fella?" He was in my face now, eyes bulging, one lone, frighteningly large vein pulsing in his forehead.
"Yes, sir? Can I help you?"
"My WOMAN! Where is she?"
"I don't know who you're talking about. I just started here."
Behind Boyle, I could see Charlie Sheen come closer to the door of the pen. There was no mistaking the look in his eye, it was murderous.
"Easy, Big Boy!" I yelled at the animal. Boyle assumed I was directing the hypocorism at him, and flew at me. His hands were around my neck one minute, and the next he was somehow, impossibly, floating above me.
Charlie Sheen had grabbed the man around the waist with his trunk and was shaking him like a rag doll.
"Charlie Sheen! NO!" I screamed, but it was too late. The enraged elephant performed an acrobatic defenestration of Boyle, through the open window of the barn. I rushed outside and found him lying still on the ground.
"BOYLE!" I yelled, "Boyle! Answer me! Where does it hurt?"
"Prostate." he groaned.
"Yes, yes, I know you're prostrate. Just lie there and I'll get help."
"ProsTATE." he repeated, clearer this time.
"Oh, God. Okay, I'll call a urologist. This is amazing. It really is just like Water for Elephants. Except you're alive! Sure, maybe you'll never again pee standing up, but you'll be okay!"
He beckoned me close. I knew he must have a message, something to pass on, just in case. I put my ear close to his mouth, so close that I could feel his stale breath on my neck. And just before he lost consciousness, he whispered something that made me believe that maybe he and Chuck weren't so different after all, that maybe they could change, mend their fences, and find common ground. "I..." he stammered, "I...hated that book."
2 weeks ago