Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Funambulist (short story)




Mr. & Mrs. Oblong
            In the house of Oblong, every room is a different color. In the Blue Room, Mr. and Mrs. Oblong sleep in matching rainbow pajamas. Mrs. Oblong woke up every morning at the crack of dawn, put on her faux-rabbit fur robe, and headed down the spiral stairs to make breakfast for Mr. Oblong.
            In the Yellow Kitchen, Mrs. Oblong worked hard at preparing a breakfast fit for a king, complete with scrambled eggs, French toast, blueberry pancakes, bacon, sausage, toast with honey and chunks of pineapple. Every day was the same. Her meals were extravagantly large, but Mr. Oblong would eat every bite with quiet satisfaction.
            “Mr. Oblong!” She would call up the stairs, her voice chiming like a church bell. “Mr. Oblong! Your breakfast is ready!” After she heard the unmistakable grunt of Mr. Oblong getting out of bed, Mrs. Oblong would head back to the Yellow Kitchen and begin to clean the mess she had created.
            “Goedemorgen, Mrs. Oblong.” Mr. Oblong had a way of speaking in broken Dutch from time to time, which was one of the many things Mrs. Oblong enjoyed about him.
            “Good morning, Mr. Oblong. Did you dream marvelous dreams, filled with illuminating fun?” She smiled playfully and sat down at the wooden yellow table adorned with warm food and sweet breakfast scents. Mr. Oblong smiled at her and nodded his head slightly before taking a bite of his French toast.
            “I slept wonderfully and my dreams were desirably brilliant because they were filled of moments with you, my lovely wife.” He grinned at her and took another bite of his French toast.
            This was the daily routine in the Oblong home, filled with smiled and familiarity, always dripping with color and intrigue. Mr. and Mrs. Oblong ate the rest of their breakfast in silence, leaving nothing but a tiny crumb on each plate. “Something for the mice.” Mrs. Oblong said humorously before standing from the table. “We better get dressed. No reason to be late for a job so fantastic on a day as brilliant as this!” Mrs. Oblong sang her sentence and made a gesture with her arms that suggested she were dancing with a strong, handsome man before disappearing out of the room.

Xavier
            The day began as most days do, through the act of getting out of bed and starting a pot of coffee. Xavier leaned against the counter with a somewhat lackadaisical look on his face as he watched the drip-drop of each bead of coffee liquid plop down to the bottom of the pot. The scent of coffee filled the air, causing his own eyes to open slightly wider in preparation for the day.
            “Let’s see…” He said to himself as he tapped his fingers on the kitchen counter, “What to make, what to make…” His hand reached to the cabinet above him and opened it up. As he peered inside he came to the realization that breakfast was not his favorite meal of the day, so he turned on his heel and left the kitchen. Preparation is needed elsewhere, or he will undoubtedly be late for work. One thing was certain, you do not want to be late for a job like his.
            He took the stairs two at a time on his way out of the apartment later that morning. He was definitely on the precipice of being late and the penalty for being late was something less than ordinary.
            Bzzz… Bzzz… Bzzz Bzzz…
            His phone was vibrating in his pocket. No doubt it was Mrs. Oblong calling to find out where he was. Not even a minute past the time he was supposed to be at work and she was already calling him. His employer, Mr. Oblong, was a very interesting man. He didn’t know much about Mr. Oblong, other than he ran a pretty successful year-round circus. Rain or shine, the circus tent was up and running, seven days a week, eight hours a day. People came far and wide to see Mr. Oblong perform his tricks and to watch his wondrous show of mystery. The best act was the girl on the tightrope. She was the reason Xavier took the job in the first place. She was beautiful. More beautiful than any girl he had ever seen in his life. He yearned for her, but she never once spoke to him.
The first time he saw her was when he took his younger brother to see the show. Her act was last, and he was in the process of trying to get his little brother to leave when Mr. Oblong announced her:
“One last act, my friends, and one to really get your necks twisted! She is beautiful and mind-boggling! She floats endlessly in space and walks on air. Please turn your delusions high above your heads to the wondrous funambulist contortionist, PANDORA!”  The crowd went crazy and every single person turned their heads as one to the top of the tent. A girl dressed in a short white tutu and neon pink fishnet stockings stood hundreds of feet above the ground on a small platform at the top of a ladder. One hand gripped a rope while the other held high and proud in the air. Her long, curly brown hair was tied into two pigtails and her eyes were glittered with bright make-up. With a smile on her face, she twisted her body and stepped out onto the thin, sketchy wire.
Xavier asked Mr. Oblong for a job after the show was done. He had no talent to speak of and no training in anything relevant to the circus, but Mr. Oblong rarely turned down an enthusiast and offered him a job as a simple stage boy. It was not the most glorious job in the world, but it was the only way he would get to know Pandora.

Pandora
            My body is starting to ache more but I cannot give up doing the one thing I love: entertaining. I don’t know any other way to do it without becoming a stripper or a clown. I love my work, I love twisted myself into pretzels on a tightrope, one hundred feet above the ground. Who wouldn’t love that? Maybe someone who was really clumsy…
            Morning routine has become something of a hassle lately. I haven’t had the energy to shower after getting home from Oblong’s circus, so I have been showering before work instead. It’s not really a terrible hassle but it does give me a little less time to get to work in the morning. I hope I won’t be late…
            Pandora stretched her arms high above her head and yawned slightly. Her large brown eyes surveyed her closet for an outfit to where. Although, it really didn’t matter what she wore to work. Mrs. Oblong would make her a new costume every day, which was something that Pandora had grown to enjoy about going into work. Every day, the mystery of what costume would be waiting for her clouded her thoughts. Mrs. Oblongs designs were crazy and fun. How she found the time to make all of these costumes was beyond any logic. Pandora settled on a short green dress and threw it on. Before long she was ready and headed out to work.
            I wonder if he will be here today. Guess that is a stupid thought to have since he works there every day! What was his name…. Xavier. That was it. He seems to always give me that smile… such a glorious smile. I wonder if he knows that when he smiles like that his eyes twinkle in a way that would make any woman fall for him. He must know. Guys always know they are hot. Anyway, I don’t have time for a relationship, I have work to do.
            Pandora arrived to work, on time as usual. Before punching her time card, she quickly checked to see if Xavier had punched his time card in yet. He hadn’t. Hmm… I wonder where he is, she thought before punching her own time card and moving into the tent.
            “Goedemorgen, Pandora! Als goed? Hope you are ready for a big crowd today! Have you been practicing your routine? Het is belangrijk dat je leren!” Mr. Oblong has a fascination with the Dutch language. I always found it strange and wondered if he knew what he was saying half the time. Mrs. Oblong doesn’t seem to understand him either, yet she goes along with it as if he speaks English.
            “Don’t worry! I have perfected it, Mr. Oblong. Never once did I stop practicing until it was absolutely perfect!” She smiled innocently at him. The truth was, she rarely practiced this new routine. It was extremely difficult and she felt like it was an almost impossible task for her to pursue. At show time, she will have to be ready or she will end up ruining the entire show, and possibly injuring herself.
            “Good, can’t wait to see it! Mrs. Oblong has your outfit for today in the dressing room, I think you are absolutely going to love it! Tot ziens!” Mr. Oblong gave her a slight wave over his shoulder as he walked away. “Remember, remember, practice, practice, practice!” He said before disappearing behind a corner.

Xavier
            So fucking late! Jesus fucking Christ need to hurry the fuck up!  Xavier broke into a run, zooming past all who stood in his way. Gonna be late. Gonna get fired! The top of the circus tent could be seen over the tree line. Almost there, almost there!
            Made it! He looked at his watch as he walked into the tent. Only ten minutes late, not too bad, not too bad. Taking his time card he punched it then went further into the tent to find Mr. Oblong. His duties varied from day to day, just like the circus act. The only thing that seemed to be a constant in this place was the craziness that came from Mr. and Mrs. Oblong.
            “Goedemorgen, Xavier. You’re late.” Mr. Oblong stood in a multi-colored leotard with his arms crossed over his chest. His crazy grey hair seemed to look even crazier accompanied by the angry look on his face. Xavier was silent. He had never seen Mr. Oblong angry. Mr. Oblong was not a very scary person. What good would a scary person be in a circus? But, at this very moment, he looked like the scariest sonofabitch Xavier had ever seen.
            All of a sudden, Mr. Oblong broke into a glorious laugh. “Just kidding, just kidding!” He bellowed as he held his belly with laughter. “Just don’t be late again. Anyway, I have a lot for you to do today, most of which involves Pandora’s routine. I need you to help her practice and set up for it. Do you think you can do that? She can tell you what you need to do specifically, but make sure she doesn’t stop practicing until we open for the show, got that?” He smiled, “good, tot ziens!” He waved over his shoulder before disappearing out of sight.
            Pandora? I get to work with… Pandora…
            Xavier quickly went over to the practice tent in hopes that Pandora was already there. This would be the first time they speak to each other! He had to make it absolutely perfect. He would get her to see in him what he sees in her.
I hope she doesn’t think I am a total ass…


Mr. & Mrs. Oblong
            Mrs. Oblong sat idly in the practice tent, finishing up the last few stitches on the costume she had made especially for Pandora. This one was her pride and glory. This outfit she loved above all the other ones she had created. When Pandora came into the practice space, Mrs. Oblong smiled her biggest, brightest smile.
            “Hello and good morning, darling! Do I have a fantastic treat for you today!” Mrs. Oblong held up the outfit. It was a powder blue lace that seemed to be stitched together with the same colored lace flowers. It was beautiful and flowed like water. Pandora jumped up and down excitedly, her arms and legs flailing like a baby giraffe learning to walk for the first time.
            “Its magnificent, Mrs. Oblong! I love it! Superb! Superb!” Pandora clapped her hands eagerly before taking the garment from Mrs. Oblong. “I am going to go try it on right now!” With that, she ran out of the practice tent with new life. Mrs. Oblong simply watched her leave with a smile plastered on her face.
            “Silly girl.” She said softly to herself before closing her eyes and leaning back in her chair. Mrs. Oblong began to hum quietly to herself. Before long, she broke out into a song:
I listened to the drops of rain
Big wet, fat drops of clear rain
And I thought of how we used to dance
In the big, fat, wet rain
Soaked and dancing
In the fat, wet, clear rain
And now without you
I listen
To the big, clear, wet drops of fat rain.
She returned to humming the tune, gliding her fingers along to the small beat in the air. In the far corner of the tent, Mr. Oblong watched silently at his wife singing her melody. He loved when she sang. However, he had not heard her sing in years. One day she had become embarrassed by her voice and stopped singing for him. He thought it was some sort of punishment on him, but she never sang, not even in private. He wondered what brought Mrs. Oblong’s muse back. No matter the reason, he enjoyed to hear her harmonious voice once again.
            When Mr. Oblong took a step towards her, Mrs. Oblong opened her eyes and looked over at him. “Oh, hello Mr. Oblong. I didn’t hear you come in… How long have you been standing there?” She looked slightly embarrassed, but at the same time she looked slightly pleased that he had heard her sing.
            “Not too long. Enough time to hear the most beautiful voice come from the most beautiful woman, though. I am glad you are singing again, my love, it has been far too long.”
Mr. Oblong smiled at his wife before moving over to her and kissing her oh-so-delicately on her thin lips. “I love you, button.” He grinned, kissed her again, and led her out of the tent.
Pandora
            “This is by far the best costume Mrs. Oblong has ever made for me!” Pandora smiled excitedly as she looked at her form in the full length mirror. The lace felt fantastic on her bare skin and it flowed endlessly across her limbs. “Just like water” She said, taking one last look in the mirror before heading back to the practice tent to show Mrs. Oblong.
            To her surprise, Mrs. Oblong was not in the practice room. However, Xavier was. “Hi…” She said nervously as she entered the room, her curls bouncing on her shoulders as she walked towards him. “Where is Mrs. Oblong?” Xavier said nothing, he seemed to be transfixed on her, frozen. “Its Xavier, right?” She was starting to feel awkward, wanting to break the silence. “I was supposed to start practicing… Mrs. Oblong just made me this new costume and I wanted to show her how it looked on… but I will probably just start practicing…” She was babbling now. “Um… are you alright?”
            I wasn’t sure if he had heard anything I had just said. He seemed to be in his own world, and I kind of hoped he wasn’t listening to anything I said. I really sound like an idiot sometimes. Finally, he blinked and took a step back as if he were just slapped. “I’m sorry… I…” He looked around the room, as if trying to escape. Was I really that appalling to him? “Sorry, I was just looking for you actually… still tired, I guess… Anyway, Mr. Oblong told me to help you with your routine today. I am under strict orders to keep you practicing until the show starts.” He smiled that charming smile of his, and she felt like melting.
            “Oh… really? OK…” Pandora pushed a curl behind her ear and walked over to the tall latter that would lead her to the tiny platform on the top. “You are ok with doing this, right? I mean, you are going to have to come up the ladder with me…” She gestured to the ladder and Xavier made a face that looked as if he were going to be sick. “You aren’t afraid of heights are you?” She smiled slightly. The idea of him being afraid was humorous. He definitely wouldn’t be afraid of heights! If she wasn’t, he couldn’t be, right?
            “N-no! Of course not. After you.” Xavier gestured toward the ladder and watched as Pandora began the climb to the top. After several deep breaths, he followed her up the ladder.
            “Don’t worry, I will keep you safe.” Pandora said over her shoulder before they reached the top. Xavier smiled and let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Just don’t look down.”

Everyone
            Xavier was pretty sure he had never gone through so much effort just for a single moment with a girl. But, he really couldn’t ask for a better moment or a better girl. At the top of the ladder they stood a breath a part. It was somehow magical up here. Of course, he was scared to death of what could happen if he fell, but at the same time he couldn’t feel safer. He was with the girl he had so long yearned for, so long craved. And she was smiling at him. “Pandora…” He said softly, refusing to make eye contact with her. “I… I was wondering…”
            “Yeah?” She tilted her head to one side with curiosity. “No one can hear you up here, so if it’s a secret this is the best place to let it out.” She gave him a big smile.
            “I think I’m in l-… I think I am afraid of heights.” Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
            “I’m sorry to hear that, Xavier, but you are stuck up here with me. No way you are going back down until I nail this trick. Now I need you to hold my hips for a moment while I get my balance on the rope.” She turned her back to him and steadied one foot on the tightrope. He slipped his hands onto her waist and stared down at her curly hair. “Don’t let go, ok?” He nodded and held her slightly tighter.
            At first, I thought he was going to tell me he was in love with me. Silly idea right? He has never even spoken to me… But still… I feel like I know so much about him already.  I want to get to know him, know everything about him.
            Pandora twisted her weight and stepped fully out onto the tightrope. “You know Xavier, I’ve always hoped you would talk to me one day.” What is she saying?! Oh my god! Xavier shifted his eyes to his own feet. “I thought you were cute.” She giggled slighted to herself and Xavier felt his cheeks fill up with hot blush.
            “W-what?” He took a step back on the platform, forcing Pandora to come back on the platform as well. “Pandora… I… I’ve always enjoyed watching you… I mean watching you perform. I just, I wanted to tell you that I think…. I think I…” He took another step back, but he misjudged how long the platform was. By the time Pandora had turned around, Xavier was falling one hundred feet to the ground.
            “XAVIER!” Pandora screamed as a loud bang echoed the tent and Mr. and Mrs. Oblong came running in. Pandora was crying heavily, and Mrs. Oblong began to climb up the ladder to comfort her as Mr. Oblong looked over Xavier. That day, there was no show. Mr. Oblong’s Fantastic Circus was cancelled.

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