Chapter 6 Excerpt

Once outside the tent, Jesse and Sacha moved to the front of the congregation.  Four rousties and two strongmen led the procession—with the Geek and his flower-adorned platform carefully balanced on their shoulders—through the empty carnival.  (Obviously it had been closed to the public so that the Carnies could mourn in private.)  As they slowly strolled along the deserted boardwalk, Jesse relied heavily on Sacha to keep him from collapsing.  The Carnies recognized the fact that he was in a vulnerable state, and it was imperative to safeguard him from anyone who would take advantage of the situation.  Of course the same protection applied to Sacha—perhaps even slightly a bit more—because there were men sick enough to fuck with her in order to get to the King.  It became clear that the two of them would be making decisions together, and that she was to be given the same amount of respect Jesse would receive.  The procession continued down to the pier and he stumbled slightly, momentarily overwhelmed by emotion and the silent rage within courtesy of James.  One of the rousties allowed him to make use of his shoulder, though Jesse still refused to let go of Sacha’s hand.

With the sun now gone from the sky, the Geek was set down on the pier, vast dark ocean stretching out into the oblivion of the night sky.  Flowers were thrown in the water, their brightly colored petals floating in chaotic patterns.  The mourners gathered as close to the edge of the pier as possible while the Geek was slowly lowered over it, and more flowers came raining down.  Tear-stained faces could only watch as his body met the sea, mourners collectively standing in silence as they thought of nothing else to do.  Jesse sparked a silver lighter as he said a final prayer, watching the flame dance for a moment and pausing to enjoy its warmth on his face.  Then he handed it to the Prince of Pyrotechnics, who spouted fire high into the air before tossing his torch over the pier.  Unable to bear the somber mood a moment longer, Sacha began to recite an old Carny hymnal for the departed, and the mourners—including those men in their fancy suits—joined in.  The memory of standing on that same pier when her father was buried at sea gave her the chills.  There had been so many men that came to shake her hand before slipping an envelope—which she later discovered to be filled with money—into it as they told her how “sorry” they were for her loss.  Simple words were not going to bring him back, nor would money ease the pain that almost consumed her.  That same pain was quite evident in Jesse’s expression as he stared at the funeral pyre.  Those sunglasses protected his stoic outward appearance well, as his eyes constantly watered with the threat of tears, and he certainly did not want anyone—aside from his wife—to see him cry.  Eventually the mourners drifted away from the pier, with Sacha and Jesse lingering, their hands clutched tightly.  The Carnies slowly headed back to the carnival, which would be closed for the weekend in the Geek’s honor.

***

They embraced in front of the sideshow tent for a moment, then continued towards the private quarters—a small enclosed tent—that once belonged to the Geek, an eerie silence greeting them when they entered.  His bed was still neatly made, his performance suit laid undisturbed on top of it, and James took notice of a red wooden box that had been placed next to the outfit.  Carefully picking up the box for closer inspection, he discovered “Memories” had been carved into the top of it.  James took a seat at a table with the box in front of him, curious of the contents that lurked inside.  He pushed the lid open to find a few faded black and white photographs of his father, pitch cards for the tip to buy once they had seen his act.  The cards were slipped into his pocket as Sacha joined him at the table, and the two continued to survey the contents of the box.  A yellowed envelope was buried under several dollars in coins.  James spilled the money out along with the envelope, scattering the photos that had been inside across the table, and Sacha was quick to scoop them up for closer inspection.  The images were not in color, but she certainly recognized the subjects of them.  The Geek stood in front of a banner for the Illustrated Man, with her father positioned beside him.

“Take a look at this,” she said, handing James the photos.

“Is this your father?” he asked, a tiny smile tugging at his lips as he passed the photos back to her.  “What did he have tattooed on his face?”

“Stars and dots along his hairline with some tribal work.  Real traditional, you know?”  She paused and tucked them into her purse.  “Enough to draw a crowd, though the ink was for himself.”

“I think we are done here,” he said, rising from the table and taking her hand in his.  “We have to address our friends.”

Sacha followed him outside, a chill running up her spine from the silence that echoed through the carnival.  Usually, the midway would be full of people, the rides buzzing with life and the pitches from games crackling over loudspeakers.  Instead there was only the sound of the ocean off in the distance and groan of the Ferris wheel as the wind blew through it.  A dim light streamed out of the sideshow tent, and they could hear voices having a low discussion.  Pushing their way inside, they discovered that the Carnies were in the middle of a meeting.

“He has returned to us!” the Human Blockhead exclaimed, giving James a slight nod of respect.  “Please, give us instruction.”

“There is no doubt that we must seek justice,” he began, holding Sacha close.  “There is no tolerance for threats from outsiders.”

“Who is this Harold anyway?”

“Some hot shot who wants to run things his way, but we are not going to let that happen.”  He paused and listened to the murmurs of agreement.  “We have to show him that we are not afraid.”

“We are behind you all the way!” the Prince of Pyrotechnics shouted.

James smiled with satisfaction.  “I am pleased to hear that.  These gillies have succeeded in pissing us off.  Now it is time for some justice!”

A unanimous roar rose from the gathered crowd.

“Get some sleep,” he continued.  “We shall meet back here tomorrow before dark.  Then we show them what for.”

James thanked the Carnies individually as they exited the tent, with Sacha still close at his side where she had been the entire day, and he would not let her go too far any time soon.  After everyone was gone, he escorted his wife back home, body lacking energy and the coke certainly did not help the situation.  His mind was alive with a dozen different thoughts, but he seemed unable to focus on any single one long enough to start a conversation.  Then again, he enjoyed the fact that they really had no need to say anything, because she understood him like no other could.  She had the ability to read the slightest shift in his composure—not to mention the emotions in his eyes—and translate everything into what he was thinking.  He suspected there had been something about Sacha that was special, but he wondered what exactly gave her the unique gift.  James could not deny the fact that she had incredible patience for his condition—there was no cure he knew of, and there was a chance that it could get worse.

Suddenly snapping his attention away from those thoughts, confusion crossed his face.  Sacha sat to his right, lighting a joint as she babbled about something.  The occasional polite nod seemed enough to please her as he tried to figure out what was going on.  He managed to smile and take a long hit.  There were not enough moments he could just gaze at her and truly enjoy his wife’s company.  It was strange that he saw past what others openly gawked at, and appreciated everything about what made Sacha who she was.

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