What the Circus Taught Me

      by Natasha Weber / Fantasy

What the Circus Taught Me
What the Circus Taught Me

I sat in silence in the back of the horse cart.
I was apart of a travelling group of circus freaks. In the Land of Dru, people with physical defects often belonged nowhere, and had nowhere to go. Our circus was for any freaks willing to join. Including freaks with missing limbs, freaks who were considered eccentric and irrational, and even blind freaks like myself. I spent many a day sitting in the back of a moving horse-drawn cart. My wife, Mirj, attended to most of my needs. She gave me food and water and a place to stay.
“We’re arriving at the Burning Hall later in the day. Are you ready to dance?” My wife asked.
I said nothing. Truth be told, I was still incredibly angry at her and I could barely convince myself not to hate her.
She sighed. “How long are you going to be angry…?”
Mirj was known for being cruel and having a flat affect. I wish I had known that about her when I first met her. I felt the cart dip and heard it creak as she climbed into the cart next to me and the horse slowed to a halt. I felt her touch my arm and I flinched a little. I never could see her face, much less anyone else’s, but I heard she was actually a very ugly woman. At the moment, I liked to believe that was true. “Just leave me alone.”
There was silence, and I imagined that she bristled and made a face. “Might I remind you who saved you from the side of the road? Nobody else would’ve hired you. A blind Elf is worthless; even for doing menial jobs."
I said nothing. I couldn't believe how cruel she was being, but that was just the way she was when she was under verbal attack.
Mirj was a human, and lived a rich human’s life. She could see the future with perfect clarity and made a fortune off not only the ridiculous amounts she charged for her accurate fortune-telling, but also off of her vision’s special ability to foresee where she would meet future freaks to add to her circus. I always thought it was surprising that people would pay extra to see curiosities do the same things in a circus that normal, healthy individuals could do better.
“Are you ready or not? If not, I can dance with someone else.” She threatened flatly.
I was silent again. And then I asked, “like who?”
“Peter.” She replied.
I didn’t want her dancing with someone else, however much I may dislike her at the moment. “I’ll dance.” I sighed with a huff.
Her voice sounded smug as she said, “good.”
I felt her stand up. She grabbed one of my hands and helped me to my feet. She helped me out of the wobbling cart. On solid ground, I reached out blindly for her arm. She obliged, linking my arm in hers.
“Do you think you’ve practiced enough? Should we practice more?” Mirj asked me.
“I’ve practiced enough. You can come get me when it’s time.”  I replied.
“You know, you don’t have to be such a grump. We have to get along if you want to stay married.” Mirj said flatly.
“What if I don’t want to?” I retorted.
There was silence as she grabbed my shoulders and motioned for me to sit. My bare feet told me it was grass I was sitting on.
Mirj replied harshly, “we can if you want, but I don’t know what you’d do without me.”
I heard her footsteps fade away. I crossed my arms defensively.  After a moment, I realized she was correct. I would be dead by now if it weren’t for her. And, there was a time when I really did love her. I thought about it intently. We were just at odds at the moment. As I sat alone, I brooded over how things were when we’d first met…
***
I had been starving. I’d lost my previous job of five years--an easy job I could do as a blind man; washing dishes.
The boss couldn’t keep the restaurant open anymore and had to close down. Everyone who worked there lost a job. I tried, but I just couldn’t seem to find work in the small town on the outskirts of Umohaw.
Eventually, I couldn't afford to feed or house myself.
It was raining heavily, and I decided to just start walking. Eventually I got so tired and hungry that I fell down by the side of the road.
A woman’s voice asked me, “Are you okay?”
I shook my head. “Food, water, anything…”
“I have both. Come with me.” She grabbed my hand and helped me up.
She laughed a little and said, “Look at you! You’re a mess… There’s hair covering your eyes.”
She smoothed my hair back and got a good look at my eyes. “I see. You’re blind… We have a place for you among us if you want it.”
“What kind of place? With who?” I replied as she let me lean on her shoulder.
“Among the circus freaks as a travelling troupe.” She replied.
“Freaks…?” I said defensively.
Rain drops came down all the harder, and I heard and felt the woman shield my head with the cloak she was wearing. “It’s not meant to be demeaning. It’s meant to be cute.”
I shivered, feeling absolutely sick. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Mirj. What’s yours?”
“Sumner.” I replied.
“I’ll look after you from now on. You don’t have a thing to worry about.” She promised cheerily enough.
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