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Outside the Big Top

The clowns undressed in the smallest caravan, a rattled crate squat on the edge of the trampled field. The tall one removed his wig and kicked off his loafers. The short one unbuttoned her jumpsuit.

Does it hurt? she asked him.

A little, he said, his fingers through the white hair. —Pass me the muscle cream?

She slipped between the heaps of sweat-salted leotards, ducked under a rack of sequined scarves. The cherry-coloured wig which haloed her face made her body look shrunken, thin and almost transparent in the incandescent light.

They didn’t laugh, she said while she rubbed the cream into his shoulders. It smelled vaguely chemical, like mouthwash and cement.

People won’t always laugh, he replied.

Clouded sunshine oozed through clouded window; veiny fractures and layers of grime distorted the glass. She unzipped his jumpsuit, slid the fabric down his hips and massaged his lower back. It settled around his waist—an extra layer of old, rumpled flesh. Then her fingers began to dance; he could sense the tremors travel up her arms to a quiver in her chin, a slight shudder in her shoulders. He twisted around and grasped her wrists, narrow as the pipes which ran down the circus tents to clumsy, hand-dug gutters.

She said, We’re too old for this.

He said, No.

The paint on their faces came away in blots of white and purple. He plucked the wig from her head and gently untied a knot of mud-shaded hair, letting it slide in greasy layers over her neck. Outside, the organ grinder’s strains wheezed and sputtered among the crowds as fair-goers marvelled under pulsing circus lights.

Flash Fiction by S D Pitman
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Published in Spring 2017


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