Old 07-30-2014, 10:38 PM   #1
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The Tipton Traveling Show





The Tipton Traveling Performers have begun setting up for their debut performance! The Tipton Troupe, The Tipton Dazzlers - all are aligned as amazing and astonishing acts! Circus, carnival, mystery, and hilarity combine to give eager spectators the show of their lives. Clancy Tipton is proud to present - for a nominal fee, of course - the Tipton Extravaganza!



Expect to experience terrific sights, death-defying stunts, jaw-dropping magnificence, and chest-heaving laughter. From the midway to the three rings, all is offered and yet nothing revealed. Delight in the fantastic, the whimsical, and... the terrifying! The Tipton Travelers have something for everyone!

All mysteries require a modicum of patience. The hammering and sawing and animal roaring will have to satisfy any curiosity until opening night. Until then... dream of what lies in store for you!




Casting is currently: CLOSED. PM FOR MORE INFORMATION.

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Old 07-30-2014, 10:40 PM   #2
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Thread Rules And Badges.

THE RULES (READ THESE BEFORE POSTING):

1.) Tipton's Traveling Show is an IC thread that is open to everyone. However, any person wishing to play a role as part of the troupe or a performer should message thestruggle with a brief description of their ideas. No thoughts will be stinted or discouraged. If anyone has a desire to participate but no inspiration, there are many different roles that can be offered. Please check both the status of the casting call at the bottom of the first post and the character roster in the third post. This rule ONLY applies to performers. Visitors to the circus and surrounding events may post as they wish, as long as they do not interfere with ongoing scenes or production.

2.) Circuses and carnivals throughout history have maligned people with disabilities or physically atypical features. Tipton's Traveling Show does NOT participate in disability fetishes or similar. No “freakshow” events will occur. If someone wishes to respectfully portray a person with any of the aforementioned features, they may do so.

3.) As a usual thing, please be respectful to all participants. Don't interrupt individual scenes or performances. An obvious exception to this rule would be observers of a performance – reactions are welcome! Unless they interfere in the act, as there are several performers who act as bouncers and will eject any troublemakers.

4.) Please remain IN CHARACTER for this thread. Whether someone wants to treat this thread as a lounge area or a wholly individual character experience is up to them, and both are encouraged.

A FEW TEMPORARY PROVISIONS:

- Until the performance schedule is finalized, acts will not occur. REHEARSAL, HOWEVER, IS DUE TO BEGIN SOON. Posting is welcome at any time, but there will be no formalized acts occurring.

- This thread is under construction. The reserved posts at the thread's start will be updated as needed, so it is important to keep checking back here for developments and news.

Thank you for taking the time to read the rules!

TIPTON BADGES ARE HERE!

Made by Britwitch expressly for cast members and fans of the Tipton Traveling Show! Show off your badge in your signature, posted in a personal thread, or advertised where you wish. Each badge has its designation to the side: cast members are free to use the cast badge, and fans can show off their Tipton enthusiasm with the fan badge.


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Old 07-30-2014, 10:40 PM   #3
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Troupe Members.

The Tipton Travelers:



Played by thestruggle.

Name: Clancy Tipton
Act: Ringleader & Owner of the Troupe

Sly, quick, and a master con-man: Clancy makes it his business to entertain and keep every secret under his hat. When a man wears many hats, he has to wear them all well.



Played by IvoryTigress.

Name: Jack Reed, The King of Blades
Act: Knife throwing/Stunts and back up performer for whip cracking for whenever the main talent for whips cannot perform.



Played by thestruggle.

Name: Dahlia "Dolly" Benson
Act: Balloon Seller

While not technically an act, Dolly still works the tent and the midway with her assorted balloons. The act's newest member, she started out naïve but she's made up her mind to learn the ropes. How she'll succeed - and if - is anyone's guess.



Played by Scuttle Buttin'.

Name: Ajax
Act: The Strongman

Ajax performs feats of strength - including bending metal bars and lifting people over his head with ease - to the delight and amazement of all. He also acts as Clancy's enforcer, when something a little more solid than words is needed to clear up a situation.



Played by prettyserpentine.

Name: Dorian Dexter
Act: The Illusionist

As quick with her fingers as she is with her wit, Dorian is well known for her trickster ways. Able to read the audience like open books, she's a cunning mistress of manipulation. One thing's for sure: she's got more up her sleeve than just cards.



Played by Britwitch.

Name: Serena the Siren
Act: Aquatic Performer

Graceful and lithe with a voice sweet enough to lure men to the rocks without doubt, Serena charms the outside world from within her little glass tank.



Played by TinyDuchess.

Name: Isabelle "Birdie" Black
Act: Le Joli Oiseau / The Pretty Bird (Aerial Artiste)

Undisputed queen of the center ring, she can be found night after night soaring through the air, flying high as she defies gravity. Be it trapeze, hoop or tight rope, she doesn't care - once it's in the air she'll be there. But there's more than meets the eye with this bayou belle, so Lord help any man who falls under her spell.



Played by TechnoGeek.

Name: Graham Devereux
Act: Daredevil

Exceptionally gifted with all things mechanical, and blessed with a penchant for danger, he brings safety to the attractions of the Tipton Traveling Show, while in the evening performing stunts with his motorcycle act.



Played by StarryEyed665.

Name: Riley Devine
Act: The Contortionist

Young, petite and bendy beyond belief, Riley's natural timidity belies her dazzling presence onstage. Performing on poles, furniture, even outside in the rain, her body communicates what her words cannot.

Patience - the show will start soon!

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Old 07-30-2014, 10:41 PM   #4
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Updates and News.

- The cast is complete! Questions are encouraged and will be answered as succinctly as possible. If any cast members need further communication, I will try to provide additional resources for getting in contact with me.
- POSTING IS STILL OPEN. Until the order of performances is finalized, the crew/approved cast may set up and interact with anyone else who chooses to pop their heads in. Length doesn't matter and will be left to each person's discretion. Obviously, be respectful of the overall story and individual characters. Have fun!
- TIPTON BADGES ARE HERE! Made by the lovely and talented Britwitch: get yours today! Please refer to the rules post for more details.
- Tipton Phase 2 will begin soon! Rehearsals will start shortly, and then Phase 3 (Performances). Thanks for everyone's patience - we'll get the show on the road again soon!

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Old 07-30-2014, 10:41 PM   #5
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Performance Announcements and Schedule.

Reserved.

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Old 08-01-2014, 12:22 PM   #6
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Clancy.

Clancy wakes up in the trailer, wearing his jeans from the night before. The blankets are off, the blinds are closed, but the day's started up. He can hear equipment clanking outside the window. Too fucking hot in here. Scrubs his eyes with the heels of his hands; wipes the hangover bleariness out, drums his fingers on his chest. With a jolt he sits up and yanks the cord of the shades. The window screeches up and he leans his upper body out.

“Hey, TOMMY! Check to see if we need to unhitch our booth and then move those pallets by the canvas trailer.”

“Yo, boss!”

He falls back onto his bed with an exaggerated groan and then snags a beater, shrugs himself into it. The tattoos tracing his chest and back are no longer visible. Shoving his feet into unlaced steel-toes, he slams open the trailer door and pushes on his Ray-Bans. Is his pocket watch still working? It's a quarter after eight. The headache nudges at his head and he wants some water. The kitchen set-up should be going. Time to get it moving.

A hand with a few silver rings on it reaches out as he walks past men pulling out ropes, endless ropes. He shoulders a coil. It probably weighs about fifty pounds – small as ropes go.

“Don't fucking leave these on the ground while you're marking out, guys. Alright? Unless you wanna add a few hours of chipping mud out of 'em, you remember what I'm sayin', RJ?”

They go ahead, carefully now, and he watches for a minute. First smoke of the day – get that heavy-headed shit over with, and Clancy exhales through his nose with a quick look at the sky. No cloud cover. That's fucking something. He runs his Zippo over his fingertips – in and out, in and out, over and roll. It's easier with a coin.

“Nice, y'all keep it up. I'll be back to block.”

There are no mutterings when he walks away. He works hard to keep the crewmen happy. At least the ground is dry. He couldn't say if it would last, it usually never does. Mud churns up and gets in your boots, dries all over a shine job. The ringleader drops his butt and stamps it under a boot mid-stride; no fire anywhere. The kitchen tent is just ahead, and a blonde girl with long curls and a face like thunder is coming straight at him. Clancy immediately stops and opens his arms wide, a full and white smile – aw, shucks – shining out like a sunbeam.

“Dolly, gorge-”

The slap rings out and her nails get him, but it's not bad. She's a tiny little thing, anyway, and he's tall with enough wire to string a pole. He flips off the shades and his eyes are soulful pools of green.

“Oh, babe, don't be like-”

“You piece of SHIT. You told Maggie she could work the north side! You took away HALF of my fucking sections. I'm so -” Enraged, Dolly begins to stalk off towards the crew trailers. Clancy tilts his head to one side and follows the curve of her ass through the faux silk robe she's wearing.

“I want my cut, Clancy. Don't you dare short me.” This last is thrown over her shoulder, before she disappears into an alley formed by two carts.

Squinting without the shades, the Ringleader taps them against his knuckles and chews on his lip. He waits until he's pretty sure Dolly's out of earshot, and then he goes into the kitchen tent, laughing. There's no change in his relaxed pace, his cocksure strut. He walks like hangovers have never made him grimace, like his confidence can't be shaken, like he has all the answers and all the time in the world to consider them.

“Lovers' quarrel, boss?”

“Ah, shit, Tay. She just wanted some advice on how to blow those... balloons. You got coffee back there?”

Clancy leans against a tent pole as the kitchen crew's laughter rings out around him, drinking black sludge hot enough to scald his tongue. He smiles, and listens to the set-up continuing. The day's coming together. It's all coming together.
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Old 08-01-2014, 06:41 PM   #7
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His eyes opened, a deep grey that made his eyes appear as if they were stolen from an old black and white movie, and he found himself staring at his wrist watch tipped on it's side. Blinking slowly, letting the sleep drip off of him like the droplets of water from a shower he'd just finished, he stared with an early morning blankness. The hands on the watch were, for the moment, indecipherable, and so he laid there, staring until the sleep was blinked from his eyes enough to make a semi-accurate guess of the time indicated.

Whatever it said, really, was immaterial. The sounds of setup were alive around him, men shouting instructions and requests across the grounds, hammers living our their blunt and forceful purpose, performance tents and booths being erected in preparation for their stay in the area. Which meant he really should be getting up. He wasn't part of the setup crew, not technically, but when you were stronger than any of the men that were, they tended to appreciate the help.

And when your strength was what you relied on, and what kept you fed and gave you the roof over your head, a vigorous workout was always a necessity. What better way to get one, he reasoned.

Rising out of bed at last, he stretched, his long arms reaching up so his palms pressed against the roof of his little trailer. Little. Well. Maybe not for little Dahlia it wasn't, but they weren't exactly the same size now, were they? Still, he made it work. Even a small trailer was better than the terrible winter he spent sleeping in a rusted out VW Bug with four other people. Sometimes you had to choose between being able to stretch your legs, and having to brush the snow from your head when you woke up. Besides, they all helped keep each other warm, their little group huddled in a powder blue car frame, with rust accents and long-broken head and tail lights.

He never wondered what became of them, or where they were now. He never wondered if they thought after him, sometimes.

There was only one face he thought of, really, when he thought of the place he called home. Blue eyes, bloodshot from who knows what, and a blank stare. A dead stare. Those marks.

A giant of a man! A monster of a man! No, not even a man. Just a monster.

Pulling a white t-shirt over his head - maybe the one he wore yesterday, maybe a clean one, who could tell anymore? - he stepped into a pair of tan canvas trousers, but left the suspenders hanging, framing his hips. More care was taken with the tobacco he pushed into the bowl of his pipe, careful not to spill even a piece of the dried leaves. Striking a match, he lit the pipe and pulled the smoke into his lungs a few times, sighing happily as it drifted from the corner of his mouth. The foil bag of tobacco leaves was rolled up tight then, the rubber band replaced around it to keep it closed, and he slid it into what had once been a cookie jar in the shape of a bear, the animal's head serving as the lid. He'd found it at a thrift shop one day, and couldn't stop laughing the entire rest of the time he carried it around the store, the jar looking so small and fragile in his hands.

The bear's head was replaced, and he gave him a gentle pat between his ceramic ears, bidding him a good morning as he always did. With little tendrils of smoke curling from the bowl of the pipe, he held the other end between his teeth and pushed the door of his trailer open, ducking his head when he passed through the doorway. His boots found the dirt at the bottom of the small steps, and he pushed the door closed behind him.

Time to start the day.
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Old 08-01-2014, 11:27 PM   #8
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Jack was up long before the hammers began to strike posts into the ground, long before the sun drifted over the horizon. He had a routine that he never strayed from. His body was small. He had to fight to keep it hard so that, when he walked, the sun would catch his skin and cast cutting shadows in all the right places. His trailer was small and cramped but he kept his belongings to a minimum. It was amazing what could be done with a small space if one was desperate enough.

Jack had bigger problems than small space. Things were more complicated for him. Life was nothing but a puzzle with one arm. How to modify exercises until he had finally grown strong enough to do them one handed. Brushing his teeth. Tying his shoes. Bathing. No matter how much he practiced, no matter how far ahead he planned, everything took longer. Everything took twice or three times the effort.


His shower was still fast and he set down the electric razor he used daily to keep the hair along the sides and back of his head cropped short and neat. He shook his head and ran his hand along the back of his neck to brush away the small, itchy hairs. His dark gaze soon found the mirror to inspect his work but, once again, he found himself staring at a body he hated. There wasn't one thing about it he liked. He would never be like Ajax or Clancy or any of the other guys who did the grunt work.

Every morning he started at his chest and wished that the machine that had taken his arm had taken his breasts instead. They were small and easily hidden, but they were soft, curved, and simply present. He turned his eyes away form the mirror to keep them from going any lower. The disgust was already burning the back of his throat like bile. If he kept to his routine, it would only be another hour before he could escape to a world that saw only what he should be, not what he really was. It was the best part of every day.

He set his toothbrush on the almost non-existent counter and squeezed toothpaste on the brush. Getting the cap back on the tube was always tricky, but he had lots of practice. The rest was smooth sailing. With his teeth and body clean, he slipped into the very simple harness that held the fake cock he wore daily. He had saved for it for months and it was one of his most prized possessions. It was one that had a real weight to it and it hung down so he could "adjust" it at opportune moments. The second he secured it, Jack felt better. Stronger. His confidence returned and he felt...almost whole. But never completely.

He smiled to himself and pulled on a pair of boxer briefs and tattered blue jeans. There was work and practice to be done and he didn't have much time left. He slipped on his old leather belt and fought with the buckle for a brief moment. The knives he kept in his pants were next. A spring-assisted blade found every pocket. A combination of throwing knives in their own sheathes and a series of heavy duty work and utility blades all lined up across his lower back. His last addition was a curled bullwhip that hung from his belt across his hip.

He sighed. The hardest part of the morning had come. Jack was certain no one had any idea how difficult it was to bind breasts with one hand. It was true, he had a stump a little below his shoulder and it was useful, but it would never replace a hand.

His wrap was small and white. A tiny chest meant he didn't need a large wrap. If he had to be grateful, he would be grateful for that. He hooked the two small metal rings at the end of the wrap to the hooks in wall of his bedroom. He let the wrap fall to the floor to unroll it before taking the end and walking it down the tight hallway of his trailer. He stretched it out completely in a line.

He raised his stump and held the end of the wrap just below his arm pit so the wrap brushed against his back. Slowly, he began to spin his body in slow circles, moving inch by inch back toward his bedroom. The wrap crept down his chest. Several times, he had to stop and unwind to adjust how tight the wrap had become. But eventually, he made it all the way back to the wall and secured the wrap so it wouldn't pop loose.

A white tank top came next and he tucked it into his jeans. Though the tank top hid the wrap, he pulled on a plain white tee-shirt anyway. There was no such thing as too careful. For hot days, he had a hoodie to help keep the sun out of his eyes. He had cut the sleeves off and installed a harness for more knives. He slipped it over his shoulders and filled each spot with the appropriate knife. He left the zipper open.

His feet found his untied, stained work boots. He sat down on his bed and, in a feat of flexibility, Jack brought his leg up and set it on the bed. Tying his boots required both his teeth and his one hand. Practice made the process shorter than it could be, but it still was not the simple flick of fingers that it was for most. When he finally finished, the sounds of set-up had begun to filter into his trailer.

He took his pack of Camel Lights off his bedside table and slipped the lighter in his pocket. His last look in the mirror made him smile. That's who he really was. Jack, King of Blades; the man who could do things with one hand that most men couldn't do with two. He was proud of it. No one knew any different and he liked it that way. His smile changed into a cocky smirk.

He slipped his hood up and pulled a cigarette between his lips, pushing through the door to the morning sun. Breakfast was calling, and then he needed to find the beautiful wench that let him throw dangerously sharp things at her, as well as her two side kicks. There was work to be done.
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Old 08-02-2014, 12:34 PM   #9
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Dorian was happy with the little tidy sum of money she had made as she stuffed the notes into the inside of her waistcoat. She pushed her seat back, away from the table and stood up, stretching. The three men sitting around the table watched her as she kept the wry smile away from her lips. It wasn't fair to gloat. But then again it wasn't fair to con three old men out of three thousand dollars each. She pulled down the waistcoat, yanking the wrinkles out of it.

"How the hell does a little girl like y'all learn how to play poker like that?" The man in the cowboy hat with the handlebar moustache smoked a large cigar, and as he spoke, puffs of thick smoke lingered in the air. His eyes lingered over the opening in her waistcoat where it was obvious the wad of cash was stored. The man to his left was shaking his head, running his hands over his face, while the man to his right sat back in his chair and downed his tumbler of brandy.

Dorian shrugged with one shoulder and fluttered her eyelashes coquettishly. "Just luck, I guess." She brushed off a few crumbs from her black slacks and grabbed the black velvet jacket that hung over the back of her chair. "Gentlemen," she said. "It was my pleasure." She bowed slightly as she put the final button in her jacket without taking her eyes off the men. She turned on her heel and strode out of the room, the silver heels of her black boots clicking on the floor. As the suite door closed behind her, she bent down quickly, removing her boots and taking off quickly to the elevators. She pushed the call button, and waited for the doors to pop open so she could lean inside and push a button for another floor, leaving her red herring. She knew their men wouldn't be happy with her, but as she made her way to the service stairs she barely cast it a second thought. It was all above board, the only thing that pissed her off was having to give Clancy his cut. She rolled her eyes as she grabbed a maid's apron and went down the stairs, putting her boots back on when she reached the bottom.

As she walked through the breakfast-bustling kitchens of the casino-hotel, her thoughts flitted back to the previous night. She had left a few flyers for the show on the odd building, strewn a few of their coasters on the bar. She couldn't resist sweeping in on the old Texan and charming him into inviting her to the poker game. She could almost smell money, and all it took was unbuttoning her shirt down to the top of her waistcoat to snag her invite. Dorian removed the maid's apron as she slid silently into the ladies room and out the window.

That was the moment she let the wry smile out, and loosed the band of the long plait that hung down her back, releasing the opulent mass of black curls around her shoulders. She slid her hand into the waistcoat and pulled out one of the men's money clips, tucking it down her shirt and inside her bra. He should be happy with three grand, she thought as she shoved the thicker wad of money down her boot.

She pulled a small wristwatch out of her waistcoat pocket. It was old, with a worn leather strap but looked like a man's watch. The face was cracked. She glanced at it, hissing through her teeth.

"Jesus. Almost eight." Dorian never broke stride as she walked along the street. Everyone would be getting up and she hadn't even slept. She stretched her neck, glancing out as a cab pulled up nearby. She got into it, handing the driver a fifty and giving him the name of the road she was bound for.

As they pulled up, Dorian looked out at the collection of vans, carts, trailers and assorted tents and such that made up her home of the last four years.

"Joining the circus?" The cab driver laughed.

She giggled girlishly. "That's funny," she said, turning and giving him her best smile. "Thanks for the ride." She spied a pack of cigarettes tucked into the driver's door. She gestured to it. "Mind if I...?" Seeing him nod, she reached across his lap, her eyes never leaving his as she removed a cigarette, and after licking her lips, placed it between them. She saw him swallow, and gave him a wink, opening her door. "Thanks again, sugar."

As she walked toward the camp, smelling the mulch that passed as coffee wafting on the air, she laughed aloud when she heard the cab pull away and speed off. From between her fingers, she slipped out the fifty she had pinched when she had got the cigarette.

"Dorian!"

Her eyes drifted to her left, lingering on the man who had called her. "RJ!" She waved a greeting. Folks were milling about, getting set up. He was carrying ropes.

"Long night?"

She laughed, the unlit cigarette hanging from the corner of her full lips. "Not for me." Still not breaking stride, she walked through the trailers, noticing a pretty pissed off Dolly storming one direction, her sunny curls bouncing. Dorian nodded at her, wondering what had caused her to be so sore before breakfast. Like she had to wonder. She deftly dodged Ajax as he exited his trailer.

"Whoa there, big guy," she said, looking up at him. He was almost a whole head taller than her, even in her high heeled boots. She moved around him, flashing him a lopsided smile around her cigarette. She made her way to the breakfast tent, noticing Jack a few steps ahead of her and hearing the guffawing laughter of the kitchen crew. She always liked coming to a new place.

When she stepped inside, there was Clancy, a cup of coffee raised to his lips.

"You came back then?" One of the cooks nodded at her, holding out his lighter and flicking the flame up.

Dorian adjusted her lips, taking a pull of the smoke and closing her eyes.

"Now that's a victory smoke if ever I saw one," he laughed. It made her smile and the smoke curled around her lips as she opened her pale grey eyes.

She walked up to Clancy, standing almost in front of him. "Mornin'." Her accent was thick, Southern. She looked right into his green eyes and slipped her fingers inside her bra... real slow. As she slid out the money clip, she let him have a good look at the wad of notes before pushing it into the pocket of his jeans and turning away in one fluid motion, walking out of the tent. Laughter echoed behind her again as she walked back to the crew trailers, pulling a key from her back pocket and letting herself into the battered old motorhome that was hers. She locked the door behind her, and got undressed. She stashed the rest of the money in the lockbox she kept in the cistern of her toilet.

Tossing her clothes into the corner of the tiny wet room, she made a mental note to do laundry later. She turned on the water. It wasn't so hot as she'd like, but it was better than the cold of being on the road. She relished the water, scrubbing herself down with the nice soap she'd treated herself to, and washing her long hair, conditioning it so the curls sat just right. When she was done, she wrapped herself in a towel that barely met, and painted her nails black. She pulled on a pair of black panties and a matching bra, a low riding pair of ripped skinny black jeans, her chucks, and a white spaghetti strap top. Her eyeliner was applied, thick mascara and the grey eyeshadow that made her irises shine. She bundled her hair up in a messy bun, revealing a scar that went from just under her ear, down her neck and over her shoulder before dipping down the back of her shirt. It was faded pink against her otherwise pale skin.

"Better get this show on the road," she said, making sure to tuck the old leather wristwatch into her jeans as she stepped out of her trailer. She locked the door behind her, slipping the key into her back pocket and putting her hands on her hips as she swayed off, squinting into the morning sun in search for someone she could bum a smoke off.
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Old 08-02-2014, 01:28 PM   #10
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The water was cool and inviting and as the caravan of trucks and trailers had trailed along the road the night before she had seen it through the trees and its depths had called to her throughout the darkness. As the first hints of sunlight began to illuminate the sky, she had crept out of her trailer and snuck out towards the road, her bag bouncing on her hip every step of the way. It was a little further than she remembered but it was worth it, the lake she'd spied from the road was gorgeous.

As the sun rose Serena slipped out of her clothes and into the water with a loud sigh. Feeling her mind and body almost immediately at peace. It was the way it had always been. She had always loved the water, her father had joked she could swim like a fish long before she could walk. Her pretty features frowned. It had been years now but...it still hurt to think of him.

Taking a breath she slipped under and dove down until the water grew too murky to see through and using all too familiar motions with her hands, she kept herself there. In the cool shadows, watching the increasing sunlight dance through the water above, trying to banish the thoughts and memories that rushed through her mind.

Sometimes, when she was under like this, she wondered if it was worth going back up to the surface. This wasn't the life she'd wanted, not really.
True, she got to do the thing she loved every day, the thing she was best at. But the life wasn't anything like the one she'd sometimes daydreamed she'd have. A home, a husband, maybe some kids...

Finally the burning in her lungs grew too much and with three powerful kicks of her legs she shot up through the water, taking in a huge breath as she broke the surface. Treading water, Serena let her eyes look around. So quiet. So still. She'd come back tomorrow, maybe even in the evening.
It didn't matter wherever they went, she always managed to find a place to swim, away from the crowd. She needed it. Some had their cigarettes, others booze and just like some always found a place to do a little gambling, she always found a place to swim.

Sighing, her deep green eyes looked towards the horizon. The sun was up now, she should be getting back. There'd be work to do. Or at least, everyone would be working, so she should at least be around in case there was something she could do.

Swimming reluctantly back to the shore, she pulled the towel from her bag and chaffed the droplets from her skin. Glancing around she quickly shimmied out of her costume and wrapped it in the towel. A pair of panties and a pale pink sundress were pulled on, the fabric sticking slightly to damp skin, highlighting the curves of her small frame.

Flipping her waist length hair over a shoulder, she twisted it around and around trying to wring out as much water as she could. Once she was sure she had gotten out as much as she could, she twisted it again and again until it formed a chignon behind her. A single clip held the loose ends in place and with drips of water already working their way down the back of her neck and steadily soaking the back of her dress before she was more than ten steps down the road, she jogged back towards the park.

It seemed most people were already awake when she got there. Calls and shouts mingling with the sound of metal striking against metal. Head down and eyes fixed on the ground, she picked her way back to her trailer as quickly as she could. Once inside, she hung up her towel and costume before grabbing her sewing basket and her tail. A loose thread had caught on the edge of her tank the night before and a row of sequins had come loose as a result. Passers-by probably wouldn't notice but she would, keen eyes would.

And so sitting silently on the steps of her trailer with her tail draped over her knees, sparkling in the rising sun, she began to sew. Nimble fingers attaching shimmering sequins with aqua tones, one after another. She'd grab breakfast later.
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Old 08-03-2014, 12:37 AM   #11
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Dolly.

Dolly waits until she's out of sight, away from the kitchen tent, and then she waves the hand she used to slap that fucker up and down to cool it. She's learned enough by now to know that physical force isn't exactly her strong point, but her hand still burns like fire. Goddammit. Even though it's a bitch to keep upright in her candy pink heels, she marches back to her trailer. The bottom of her flower-patterned robe flaps around her thighs and she's conscious of that fact. She can make ripples if she wants to, even if she is five feet tall with the barest half of an inch. Better for her, anyhow. Teach that fucker to hand over half of her revenue to a popcorn seller that has about two good months left in her before she's hauled out for seed.

“Hey, Doll, you gonna open up that robe for us? Little sneak peek?” RJ and the set men are snickering, with a few random and sharp whistles tossed in for effect. The only response is her even, high-speed pace and the extended middle finger of her right hand. They laugh again and go back to unloading.

She doesn't care about the cat-calls – she's used to them. She's become aware of the effect of a confident stride and carefully curled hair, her just-right clothes. But they can keep dreaming. She used to think that there would be her one and only. Now she mostly thinks of the set-list and how she can get on it. She passes Dorian but barely takes in her state of dress, or the nod in greeting. Ordinarily she's a real sweetheart, or at least tries to be. But she doesn't want to talk to anyone right now, even about an all-nighter in a new town. Maybe she'll make it up to her later. Dolly tightens her robe around her as she comes to the trailer that she shares with Maggie, and reaches up to yank the door open. And there, on the slender ring finger of her right hand, is a cracked nail – a jagged line down the perfect double coat of pink and glossy polish. Immediately she stops and her hand is held out, experimentally, and she can feel her mouth draw down at the imperfection. She spent two fucking hours on that manicure, with the trailer rocking back and forth down the road as RJ smoked a blunt in the driver's seat. She inhales sharply through her nose and throws open the door to her trailer.

“Out, bitch,” Dolly snaps at Maggie, who's trying to artistically smudge her eyeliner with a fingertip. Idiot. Maggie doesn't even know how to pick the right shade of lipstick.

She knows better than to argue, though, and snatches up her purse to finish primping over coffee. She's left her side of the trailer a wreck, as usual. The door slams shut behind her, and Dolly leans against the wall to consider the damage. That nasty blue and gold uniform that Clancy makes them wear. A scattered mess of products and a nickel bag of weed. Shake, it looks like, and a practically miniature bong right next to it. Her irritation surges all over again and she stalks across the room, dodging underwear and discarded outfits in disgust. She picks up the bong and prepares to toss it. How does she fucking leave it out like that? The cops have pounced on them on set-up day in the past; why would it change now? The tube is grimy on the outside.

“Fucking gross,” Dolly mutters. When she looks down to see if there's room, she spies it. A condom wrapper, Trojan-Enz. Of fucking course. She hurtles the bong into the trash, dumps out the weed and shakes it around, and then totes the whole thing outside of the trailer. She locks the door this time, and almost violently rips off her heels. Not tossed aside, though. Set down neatly. She's never careless with her clothes.

She wonders if Maggie's bed smells like him, too. Hers still does.

Carefully, slowly, she settles herself down at her vanity. Her things are organized, neat. Her bed is made and her clothes are categorized by color. She straightens her curls. She studies her pink lips, and steadily reapplies a new coat of lipstick. She flicks aside an eyelash and turns her head from side to side, studying the effect. Dolly doesn't cry. It's too much of a mess. She flashes that brilliant smile, with the white and straight teeth. She doesn't want her eyes to look empty; they should be happy, open sapphires.

She starts her recitation. Already her diction is much better.

“Dahlia. Dahlia Benson. Benson. My name is Dahlia Benson.”

Smile. Repeat.

“Dahlia. Dahlia Benson...”
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Old 08-07-2014, 04:33 PM   #12
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Graham had been up since dawn, preparing the men and coordinating the setup of the few mechanical attractions they had. The biggest headache was always the Ferris wheel, so it was what he focused on first. The other attractions were merely a small roller coaster for the little kids, a carousel complete with prancing ponies, and a spinning ride that was in essence just a centrifuge with extra arms. Nothing too terribly complex, but still enough so that the show required a mechanic to ensure their operation was not hindered. He passed by the breakfast tent and in doing so, Dorian and Dolly, traveling to where the rest of the rides were being assembled on the far back side. He saw Ajax and gave him a playful fake punch to his gut, nodding his head to the area he was traveling.

“If no one has a use for you in a bit, you could help with the lifting over here Biggun’…”

He made the remark in jest and passing as he turned his head back and saw the way some of the crew was laying out the parts for the Wheel. He really would have expected them to have gotten it right. This was not the first time they were setting up.

“Hey guys! how about for a change, we read the markings on these things?”

There was a scattered response of meek acknowledgements and Graham went about setting them right. Once they began assembling the correctly laid out sections of the Ferris wheel, he started double checking everything. All the torques of the bolts, the integrity of the joints, all of it had to be just right, or they would not run the ride. And an unusable ride meant Clancy was an unhappy person.

He was responsible for making sure the rides were safe, and for his late night stunt show once they were getting ready to wrap up for the night. He and Clancy had come to the decision to run his last, so just in the off case he was injured, it would not ruin the night by having to kick people out so the paramedics could come, and the police could make out their incident reports. Knock on the wood of Ajax’s pipe, it had not happened yet.

He was a quiet man who enjoyed his privacy. That’s probably why he enjoyed the job so much. He was off the grid, under the radar, and most importantly, masked when he performed for the public at night. He got paid by Clancy and did not have to worry about a big paper trail. He could not hardly remember the last time he had seen someone he knew outside the show.

He turned and noticed a few men gathered around the spinning attraction that more often than not made the passengers unceremoniously submit their purchased snacks and drinks to the ground. As he crossed closer to the ride he heard the men talking about the motor.

“What seems to be the problem, guys?” he asked as the men conferred and pointed, explaining the issue with the transfer clutch.

“Okay. Just give me an hour or so. Give the guys a hand with the Ferris wheel and I’ll go talk to Clancy.”

He set off for the tent and caught a glimpse of the aquatic performer sneaking back from a dip in the lake. He thought he had seen a prowler earlier in the morning, but after noticing the way the figure slunk to the water, he realized it was just her and did not raise any alarm.

He strode to the tent and found the flap open, and the smell was delicious as he nodded to the crew and slipped beside Clancy, waiting for a pause. When the ringleader noticed him and the pause came, he launched into talking to Clancy.

“The Hurler could use a new transfer clutch soon. I can rig it to work for the time being without any risk, but if we try and drag it out too long it’ll either seize and not run, or take a dog’s age to slow the spin down. We should look for a replacement now. “

The stubby cook pushed a hot black cup of coffee in his direction. He took it and gave the man a fake smile, pretending to bring the cup to his lips to drink the horrible liquid just until the cook’s back turned, at which point Graham dumped the coffee out and saw some stifled laughter from the crew who witnessed it.
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Old 08-12-2014, 05:08 PM   #13
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Clancy.

It wasn't a bad thing, to have to keep it moving. It's not like he minded sitting still or taking his time. It was just that the pace was better when it was fast, in motion, no inertia. He observed the people of his troupe come and go, shout and unload. Good. It was all good. Tay cracked four eggs, two in each hand, and the pan hissed as the wet of the whites hit its surface. Clancy drank more coffee and lit another smoke before shoving his lighter back in his pocket.

“You happy with that new range, T?” By then he had moved to the counter, curving his body like a question mark over the top and resting his elbows on the worn formica surface.

“It's a'ight. That exhaust fan's spittin' back, though. Burn your eyes and shit.” The egg yolks broke over the edge of a metal spatula as Tay scraped it around. Scrambled, salt and pepper, flip. The few card tables set up saw a crowd of people fluctuating through, to breakfast and then set up and listless rehearsal. A new town was like shrugging on an unworn sweater – it itched at the collar unless you stretched it out.

Clancy exhaled a long, tidy stream of smoke. He glimpsed Dorian coming toward him, accompanied by a little conversational back and forth. Ajax was in front of his trailer and the smell of that pipe tobacco interwove with the rest of the morning air. Good.

“It's that time of year, Tay. It goes to shit on summer circuit and always has.”

He shifted, taking a drink of his coffee and angling himself so his side was pressed to the countertop. Dorian copped a light from someone, not like she had to ask, and she still had her workin' clothes on. Well, well. She pulled out a money clip, flashed its girth, and tucked it into his pocket. One of his eyes went into his customary squint as he dodged the smoke curling from his mouth. Beyond that, his face was the same as usual. A little worn, a little amused, a little expectant. Clancy always waited for the draw. He studied the bounce of Dorian's curls on her back as she flounced away, ashing his cigarette into an empty coffee cup and twisting a finger in one of his belt loops.

“Thanks, little bit,” he murmured. Tay shoved a plate of eggs and toast over to him and the smoke was extinguished. He ate without fuss or pretense, with concentration, but stayed involved in the conversations. The griddle kept up a steady language of cooking noises, smells, with the barking laughter of working men who have to say things loud or else wind up tired. Clancy saw Jack walking towards the trailer with his hood up, purposeful and one lean blade of a figure in the morning light. He hooked his fork underneath the eggs on his plate and bolted the mouthful. It was time to think about percentages and how he should consider the cut. It depended on the hustle, the job, the time, the individual, the placement, the wisdom, and the pay-off. If it was a good show, he'd settle for ten. If shit went all pear-shaped, he'd hike it to twenty. Filthy lucre. Thirty at the highest, but no more. He sighed and stabbed the fork into an expanse of toast, and watched as the crumbs flew up.

“Better eat that toast, boss. Put some meat on them lanky bones.” The animal trainers at a nearby table snickered and one of them coughed around a slurp of coffee.

“Y'all just jealous of my physique. It's alright. Probably can't remember the last time you got your dicks wet, neither.” Clancy crunched his teeth into bread as the laughter swelled around him, his own cheeks hardly holding from the size of his grin. Graham came in then, and the other guys kept tossing around comments as he swallowed his food. Harsh on his throat, too. Fucking cigarettes. He kept his eyes on his breakfast as he listened to what the man had to say, absorbing it all but revealing little. The napkin in his hand was crumpled and tossed next to his plate, before he rubbed a hand over his stubble and grimaced. He looked up at the end of the recounting, his gaze direct and calm.

“It's always somethin'. If it's gotta be replaced, then that's all. The transfer's gotta be efficient and we don't got time for it to disengage, fuck it all up. So, ol' Devereux,” Clancy pushed away from the counter and reached for his pack of smokes again, rolling the last syllable of the mechanic's name off his tongue. “Now, I know you already checked that trailer full of parts, so who do you need to make the run with you? RJ's got those boys hopping but mechanics is paused anyhow, so let's make it happen. I don't got the time to special order. Neither do you. Google that shit up on someone's phone. Maybe we got something within a five hour distance and I don't have to pull the ride.”

The spark of his smoke flared out as he walked towards the tent entrance, tossing his paper breakfast materials into the trash bin.

“But if we gotta pull it, it's pulled. Ain't worth it. When you find out how much we're talkin', I'll pull the cash up for you. Now, y'all boys hurry it up and get out there. Sun's settin' in good.”

Clancy and his cigarette walked that slow strut back into the daylight, and he placed his shades over his eyes. He felt better now, alive and moving, all of his parts fluid and relaxed. Before he went on to his next chore, he looked to where Jack was getting his breakfast. Just a pause. The curve of the hood around the side of his face hid his expression but Clancy knew something was simmering in there. He never quit. He'd talk to him about that center but not now. Now, he had some amends to make. He jerked his chin up at Ajax in a nod when he came by him. Clancy was tall, six foot and some change, but he had nothing on that fucker.

“Graham says he's gotta go on a parts run. If he takes two dudes, you gonna stay? Anything you need to do?” He was backing away, hands in his pockets. All one stride, waiting for the response, and then a twist as he headed off. “You find me later. I don't want this set-up jacked to shit because of one lousy ass part. I can't send everyone out.”

He caught sight of Serena and a flash of brilliant sequins; she sewed as she perched on the steps outside of her place. The act was a town. It was a neighborhood filled with too many people with too many cooked meals and too many rounds of alcohol. Too many people with the wrong things in common. Pretty water baby. She never did mingle. Clancy killed his cigarette, disposed the butt, and swung in between trailers as he headed for his destination.

What to do? Act guilty? He knocked in a rhythm, shave-and-a-hair-cut, on the door. It opened before he could hit the “two bits.” The gleam of blonde curls and blue eyes that spat hate were almost lost as the doorframe creaked. She was gonna slam it shut. He kicked his boot into the narrowing margin and then heaved his body against the door. Clancy was big, and Dolly was tiny, and being mad as hell didn't even up the divide. He had just shut the door when she flew at him, and the slap that came this time was one he was ready for. Her wrist felt like a bird in his fist.

“That how it's gonna be? Huh?” His breathing escalated and his voice worked unevenly. He let her go, let her beat on him.

“Fuck you, you son of a bitch,” Dolly screeched, pulling back a fist to sock him in the gut.

He laughed, then: a surprised jolt of laughter that startled them both. It didn't wind him. It barely glanced off of his skin. He pulled his tank top over his head and reached for the sash of her robe. He was close to her now, and her slaps were slowing down.

“You're trash,” She snapped, as his palms pressed against the smoothness of her hips.

“I know,” He said, and flicked her shoulders free of material.

“You'll be sorry, you will be,” Dolly's voice was breaking, and she hated it, and hated him. But she backed up to the bed, the sunlight cascading in all over her golden hair and long lashes and quavering mouth.

“I already am,” Clancy promised, and his teeth skimmed over the most supple skin of her inner thigh. Dolly tipped her head back. As his mouth inched closer to the black lace of her panties, he looked up and studied the strain of her chest as she anticipated him. It was a bubble; he had her in a box here. He'd lock it down.

He moved the material aside and when Dolly felt the heat from his lips, she shuddered.

“I already am. I wanna make it up to you. Let me. I wanna hear you say it.”

~

Later, he pulled on his jeans and his shirt. He was hunting around for his sunglasses, and she was sitting up in bed. Already she had fished out a compact from her purse, fixing smudges and straightening her curls. He settled his shades in his unruly hair and then leaned over, kissed her bare shoulder. He pulled the wad of cash from Dorian out of his pocket, and counted off a few bills. Three hundred or so. Clancy tapped them against his palm deliberately.

“North sections, huh?”

Dolly glared at her reflection, clearly too pissed to look at him.

“Alright, don't be sore. Here. Buy yourself something pretty and take your north side.” The money was slipped into her readjusting hand, and she looked down at it with something a bit more cheerful on her face.

“Anything I want?”

“Anything you want.”

Dolly beamed, and threw her arms around his neck. “Clancy! Thank you, thank you! Oh, I know exactly what...”

The chattering kept on and he surreptitiously checked his watch. She wanted shoes or some shit. Something about matte lipstick and cremesheen glass. Whatever the fuck that was. He kissed her again and then made his way out, feeling his feet sink back into his boots.

“Whatever you want. I gotta go. Fix your hair, darlin'.”

He shut the door and was back in the sun. It had been easier than he thought it would be, this time. Dolly wasn't hard to control, but she was getting better at reading between the lines. With this one, he'd stayed three steps ahead. He knew it was only a matter of days before she started harping for an act again, but this way he had threatened her position and made her come running to him. Maggie was just a stairstep. She wouldn't last, anyway. It was the perfect combination: use a lousy worker to ensure the loyalty of another. Dolly thought the whole thing was Maggie's fault. He saw RJ gesturing at him from the tent-site. His throat felt raw. Maybe a Coke?

Clancy whistled as he made his way through the caravan. All in a morning's work.
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Old 08-12-2014, 09:38 PM   #14
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Riley

She feels the ethereal warmth seep in tentatively through the cracks of her blinds, and almost instinctively, as if the surge of light has birthed a newfound vitality in her wiry body, her feet stretch out further, followed by an elevation in her hips, disturbing the faint, sweat-stained creases of her pale sheets. Arching backwards over the end of the bed, her elbows lower onto the ground, and her face peers into the blackness underneath.

Dark eyes affix themselves fiercely onto a dark box, accompanied by a curdled sneer.

Its mahogany surface has experienced many a touch; from broad, caressing thumbs that would worry and twiddle and stroke – suffered many a beating from anguished hands, tormented pounds, and agonised punches, polished by a deluge of tears.

The colour leaves her thinking of rust, of sunsets, and the poisonous juice of bloodroot. She swallows thickly.

Her elbows drag along the floor, further underneath the bed as her back curves fluidly over the edge, until her fingers are within reach. Seconds away from memories spanning over a decade.


Seconds later, a tinkling, twinkling tune erupts from the worn box. Its archaic exterior belies the saccharine song. Clipped fingernails tap involuntarily against the lacquered floor as the melody rages on, its addictive, cloying clutches ensnaring her fragile mind. Her eyes flutter close. She inhales. The permeating perfume of her mother provides a sickly-sweet supplement – a liberating, lavender scent, homely, and not particularly unusual or unique - yet now perseverant, the pungent, floral muskiness clinging stubbornly to her nostrils. She feels lightheaded. She isn’t sure if she can attribute that entirely to her body’s current arrangement. What would her mother have said about this? Nothing. A bland look of apathy, with a hint of veiled disapproval and disbelief, would speak volumes.

Darling, that’s not very appropriate, is it?


The box had been passed down – the inception of an heirloom – from her grandmother, who had brought it second-hand. Practically for free, upon a demure flaunt of her auburn ringlets, and a lascivious flutter of lashes. She eventually married the seller. Riley smiles, summoning image after image from the little niche in her memory that is reserved for the lady. Amiable features, an equable demeanour. Crumpled, papery skin like plastic bags. Tough as old shoe leather. An unmatched loyalty to her family.

Family's most important, child. Remember that.

All too abruptly, the notes end with a nauseating finality, and in the wake of stony silence, she is ruthlessly thrown upwards, forwards from the safe depths of monochrome nostalgia, crashing into her current, grayscale-bleak reality. A foggy fugue in the shape of a pulsing migraine seizes her. Her legs tumble backwards, following the trajectory of her arched body, until she is reduced to a heap of shaky limbs on the floor.

“F-fuck . . .” she whimpers breathlessly, less at the bruising pain on her legs, but at the more permanent stain of reminiscences. Shame manifests upon her face, her features effortlessly contorting – that is her talent, after all – into a doleful expression, above trembling lips which she ruefully bites. She makes no attempt to get up straight away. Stays sprawled against the floor, outstretched like roots and offshoots. Stewing in tenacious penance. Berating herself for thinking. Thinking is painful, dangerous. Generally inadvisable.

Finally, with a last flail of lanky limbs, she scrambles hastily onto her feet, upright for the first time that day. It feels wrong. Blearily, with the groggy groan of someone facing oblivion, she trudges to her shower, robotically divesting herself of her clammy sleepwear. Soon, water lashes out of the showerhead, the persistent drops hammering heavily onto the ground.

She pretends her tears don’t do the same.

Dimly, she is aware of the pandemonium outside. The tinny, telltale clangs and clinks of preparation. The cadence of pounding hammers reverberates soundly, setting a steady rhythm for the melodious thrash of water. Everyone is working, hard. She knows she’ll have to venture out soon before Mr Tipton – Clancy, she amends with a small frown – worries. She doesn’t want that to happen. She thinks for a moment – thinking about this is fine, these aren’t painful thoughts. Thinks on her new family. She likes them, for the most part. She doesn’t know too much about them (she’s hardly said a word to any of them), but she watches with a sort of curious impassivity, a touch bemused. Part of her yearns to discover more. Why are they here? The pretty aquatic performer, the adept mechanic, the strongman who technically wasn’t a mechanic. Clancy. She owes him a lot, really.

Afterwards, she dresses; combs her short, obsidian curls in fast, haphazard strokes; and strides towards the door, swift with purpose. Pauses. Suckles briefly at her teeth, lips pursed, tongue set firmly against her cheek. Nods resolutely to herself. Hesitates.

Riley steps outside.
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Old 08-16-2014, 07:15 PM   #15
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His time in the hotbed had been too little. It was always too little, the work hard, exhausting, draining a person of their very marrow it seemed. The money, though, was almost more than he could comprehend, and most of it sat in his Wells Fargo account, collecting interest, mingling together and making little money babies in ways he didn't understand. Or, really, care about. Money was never much of a thing for him, except as a means to live. He'd been born poor, he'd grown up poor. He didn't much care if he died poor.

He didn't shower before he dressed, the spray of hot water a luxury they only managed every third day or so. He had another day to go, at least. Maybe two, he couldn't remember. Didn't much care, really. Everyone smelled the same. The coveralls he wore, a dull blue like the other drillers, were just on the wrong side of ill-fitting, his height always a problem when it came to finding clothes. As he tucked the zipper under his chin, he recalled the frustration of one of the women in a foster house. The exasperated sigh and shake of her head as he stepped into pants that had fit only a month ago, and his ankles stood exposed above his bare feet. He didn't think about the way she hit him when he tore a hole in the new, longer pants she bought him just a week after he'd received them. He didn't think about the dull, sack-of-potatoes sound she made when he hit her on the jaw, and separated her from her consciousness.

He tried not to think about most of the things in his life.

The Dakotas were cold this time of year, the whole world turned to a refrigerator in the early mornings. His breath puffed out before him, tiny ice crystals hung in the air as his boots crunched in the dirt below. Santiago, the man he shared the hotbed with, was headed his way, ready to take his turn and try to sleep off the night's work.

"Hope you're ready for some fishin'," the man said to Ajax with a big, if weary, grin, "Looks like you're workin' with Ecks today."

"Fuck me, I guess," the big man said with a resigned shrug, the two men touching their gloved fists together as they passed.

Ecks was a ginzer that had no business being out in the oil fields, and seemed determined to do his best to prove it. No official records were kept - at least, none that the bosses would ever tell them about - but it was agreed among all that he was responsible for the most delays so they could retrieve the fish he dropped. Everyone was new at some point, and everyone's introduction to being a roughneck was a harsh, trying time. Most, though, showed initiative and improvement. Ecks, somehow, seemed to be getting worse. It was going to be a long day.

Long, but, it was payday. The men would be flush with cash, and the women, in their torn fishnets and bad makeup, would be ready to trade access to their bodies for some of that cash. Ajax took his share when the urge struck him, though some of the women refused anything more than their hands or mouths on account of his size. The few that still happily gave more of themselves to him saw fit to charge him a little extra for the effort. An
accommodation fee they called it, as if he didn't understand the terms or why they used it with him. With the steadily growing number of digits displayed on his bank statements, he didn't much care. And, there were still the few that saw him as a challenge, a mountain to be climbed, a monster to be conquered. They seemed to take a perverse pride in their ability to fuck him, wore it like some working girl's badge of honor. He didn't much care about that, either.

Though he'd be lying if he said he wasn't happy Angel was among them...


Clancy appeared, swiveling to walk backwards as he tossed questions at Ajax. Graham. Parts run. He frowned, considering how much tobacco was left when he filled the pipe this morning, judging how long it would last. Find him later. Ajax gave a silent nod, and went back to his work.

Some time later, with the setup well under way and his bare arms covered in a thin sheen of sweat, Ajax spied Clancy through the grounds, a whistle on his lips.

"Back in a minute," he said to the man working next to him, the hammer in his hand slipped into his pocket. Stepping around the other man, he pushed the straps of his overalls off his shoulders and down his arms, his long legs catching him up with the striding ringleader in a few quick steps.

"Hey, boss," he said, falling in beside Clancy, "Nothing I need, if one of 'em 'll pick up some tobacc'a for me. Don't wanna run out, eh?"

His eyes flicked quickly at the grounds around them, and then his gaze slid to the side, pitched downward to look at the shorter man.

"Setup's comin' along well, I think. Anything you need of me while I take a break?"
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Old 08-19-2014, 04:49 PM   #16
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She put it off as long as she could but eventually the growl of her stomach couldn't be ignored any longer. With a heavy sigh she took her tail back inside to hang up. It was heavier than it looked but that was part of it's design, deliberately heavy to help her stay at the bottom of her tank - unless she wanted otherwise - the beading and sequins that caught the light as it diffused and danced through the water only added to it's weight. The fin was totally different. Looking like it was made of gossamer threads, it floated and danced smoothly through the water, drifting in unseen currents and making her movements seem all the more fluid. All the more believable.

Idly she paused and glanced at the top half of her costume, the bikini style top with it's intricate pattern to match her tail. The breakfast run would continue for a while yet. She could probably added one or two more beads near the centre of her cleavage...

Serena felt an unexpected and unwanted wave of nausea as hunger reared it's head a little more forcefully. Putting down her sewing box, but keeping the band about her wrist that held a small pin cushion with several pins and threaded needles jabbed into it, she headed outside and closed the door behind her. She didn't bother to lock it. Unclipping her hair as she walked, she let it's lengths drift behind her in the breeze. It was still damp in places, drying in rolling waves thanks to the coil she had wound it into, but it felt good to let it loose. With her eyes on the grass and dirt between the trailers, her feet led her instinctively towards the food tent. The set up was always slightly different and yet somehow the same.

"Hey! Hey, 'Rena!" A familiar voice called out behind her and she slowed her pace slightly. Smiling weakly as a taller frame jogged up alongside her own.

"Morning." Her hand pushed a swathe of dark hair back behind her ear.

"You settled in ok?" Jake was one of the many multi-talented members of the troupe. Another pair of strong arms and a broad back during the set up, a musician in the evening.

"Just about." She risked a glance up towards his face. She thought he was about the same age as her, maybe a little older. They talked quite a lot but they never really shared much about each other. Not for want of trying on his part. She hated that she almost always blushed when their eyes met but she just couldn't help herself. One of the other girls had told her two towns back that he liked her. Serena had literally no idea what to do with that information, it was the last thing she expected. The last thing she wanted.

"Good." The pair paused as they reached the end of the trailers. His hands seeking the pockets of his jeans. Hers fighting the urge to play nervously with the fabric of her dress.

"I should probably go and eat. I know one of the girls needs a dress taking in before we open. Another needs hers letting out."

He laughed at that. She hoped her long hair hid her blush.

"And I should eat before it's time to get into the water too."

"Well, let me know if you need help setting up. I saw your tanks out of the truck myself, no breaks or cracks and the seals look good."

"You didn't have to do that." Serena's voice got a little quieter.

"I know."

She knew he wanted her to smile at him, she could feel it. Silently urging her to look up at him properly. She knew she couldn't but she knew he wouldn't go until she did.

Turning her face up towards his, her green eyes met his hopeful brown ones and his smile widened.
"It means a lot that you did. You must have a million things to do without worrying about my tanks. Thanks, Jake, really."

"It's a pleasure." He looked a little shy now, the rich colour of her eyes suddenly too much to look into and he looked down at the scuffed toes of his work boots.

Serena was about to walk away when he drew in a breath, signalling there was more he wanted to say. The combination of her hunger and nerves at what might be coming making her feel a little faint.
"Maybe, if you're not too tired later...and I'm not being kept too busy...maybe, we could grab a coke or a coffee..."

"Yeah, maybe." She forced a smile and his widened further. It hurt her a little inside to see it.

"Cool." He nodded, a hand leaving his pocket to run back through his unruly chestnut waves. "Cool, well, I'll let you go eat. And later, yeah?"

"Later." She nodded back as he backed away, still smiling, eventually turning to walk away.

Frowning a little, Serena lowered her eyes to the ground once more and continued into the food tent. It was a little quieter and with very little fuss, soon she was sat with an orange juice and some toast. She sat at the table in the corner, away from everyone. Sipping and crunching her way through the relatively simple meal. Trying not to think about Jake and his hopeful smile.

Attention wasn't something Serena had ever handled well. Some girls needed it, fed off it. Particularly around here. The majority were performers after all, they loved the rush of playing to the crowd. The 'oohs' and 'aahs' and applause as vital to them as the air they breathed. She just hid from it behind her glass, it was there but...it wasn't. She swam because she wanted to, that an audience was watching was almost coincidence.

Even before joining the show, long before, she'd never known quite what to do with herself when she was the focus of someone else's attention.
Attention like Jake's, as sweet as it was, just made her feel uncomfortable.
Attention like that just made her remember.

Attention like that, it didn't end well.

Draining the last of her juice a female voice called her name, one of the girls was going on about a loose shoulder strap and some missing buttons. Seemed her skill with a needle was needed after all. Glancing at the small collection of slender steel shards at her wrist and the lengths of cotton attached to some of them, she knew she'd need her sewing kit after all.

"I'll meet you at your trailer," Serena replied as she took her plate and mug back to the cook with a grateful smile before ducking out of the food tent and heading back to her trailer. Whether she was grateful for the food or for an excuse to get away from the small crowd she wasn't entirely sure.

Last edited by Britwitch : 08-20-2014 at 03:35 PM.
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Old 08-20-2014, 03:28 PM   #17
prettyserpentine
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The sun was warm on her bare shoulders, but she made sure to stay in the shade. She preferred her skin pale, she hated looking down at tan fingers working the cards and plucking dimes and nickels from behind the ears of the younger kids that came to watch her. The constructs were beginning to take shape, some of them at least. Dorian wiped the back of her hand over her forehead as she squinted in the rising sun and looked around. She could see Clancy talking to Ajax and a few other ones. She frowned a little, turning and pulling a length of rope taut in her hands, tightening it and winding it around the metal bar sticking up in the earth between her feet. She crouched, winding it before feeling it tighten even harder.

Dorian wasn't strong, by any means. Quick, hell yes. Sneaky. But brute force wasn't her forte. The rope tightened around the palm of her hand, caught between one length and the ball she had wound around the metal bar. She looked up, irritated and keeping the panic out of her voice as her eyes found RJ's, his overly-enthusiastic grin widening down at her.

"Warm work, Curly Sue. We're stoppin' for a drink." His strong hand was putting pressure on the taut rope, and he winked at her before releasing it enough so she could slip her hand out.

Dorian scowled and rose to her feet, her stormy grey eyes a dangerous signal of her over tired mood. "What the fuck, RJ?!" she snapped, massaging her right hand, the rope marks on her skin red and raised. She knew they wouldn't linger, but being a woman in a place like this was hard work, and a girl had to let the guys know she was perfectly capable of wearing pants. And perfectly capable of keeping their balls in her purse. "Some of us actually use our hands for things other than playing with our junk, y'know," she sneered, her eyes narrowing as she raised an eyebrow and nonchalantly gestured at his crotch. She glanced to her side as a shadow cast across the ground. Clancy again. She continued to massage her hand, looking up at him, wrinkling her nose. He smelled vaguely of women's deodorant and she rolled her eyes.

RJ raised his eyebrows questioningly at her. "Poor little girl," he crooned, smirking.

"Nothing poor or little about me, sugar," Dorian said, wrinkling her nose and directing her gaze at Clancy. "Next time, you should get a shower before you walk out here smelling like... whichever one of them it was this time. I can't keep up with it." She waved her hand dismissively, her shrewd gaze keeping an eye on her periphery.

"She's just jealous, boss," laughed RJ.

Dorian didn't react, but felt something bubble up inside her. She glanced down at her hands just before placing them on her hips and looking at Clancy square in the face. Her gaze was chilly but familiar.

"I've had better," she quipped, replying to RJ, but still looking at Clancy. He was wearing that crooked smile that she used to think was so innocent back when they first met, but boy had she found out fast that he was no wet-behind-the-ears hustler. 'Can't con a con man, baby...' No shit, Sherlock...

The little girl from the very south of Louisiana had grown up fast, adopting a name that only took her two days to begin answering to. It had taken her longer to outrun the posters with her face on them, staring out from her Sunday dress, holding the Holy Bible full of lies. She had hitchhiked, stowed away, walked her soles off, slept in train carriages until she was so far away from home no one had ever heard of her parish.

And she had realised all the little stories her mommy and daddy had told her were full of shit. The world was a grim, dark place, full of bad people and she had to become one in order to make it. She'd started out shoplifting. Stealing food and clothes, learning from other street kids. She learned to hide her accent almost as well as she learned to fight when they called her a hick or a redneck. She got hard. And cold. Much like the winters in the cities she now inhabited. She pick pocketed enough that she could get by, living in a shitty rat-infested bedsit, going out at night and hanging around bars, learning how to play cards and do tricks but never turn tricks no, she couldn't do that... daddy would never forgive her for doing
that... not like her.

It was about seven years after she left home, barely the age to drink and still getting asked for ID even though she held her scotch better than most men. She had a crooked smile all of her own. It had been a hell of a poker game, the best she had ever played, and the man sitting across the table after everyone else had folded, staring at her with those green eyes that reminded her of spring grass after rain, his crooked grin mirroring hers. The stakes were impossibly high, and Dorian's date (and provider of chips for... later favors) was getting impatient by this across-the-table dance she was indulging in.

It had been exhilarating. He was smart, he played dirty, and he knew how to cheat as well as she did. She wondered if he could read people like she could. Her adrenaline pumped when the other three players folded and left. Her gaze as steady as her hand, her tongue touching her front teeth gently as she watched him.

She wasn't sure if he had let her win, but still, it was exhilarating.

"Hell of a game," he had said as they rode the elevator up, before stepping out, noticing how she had her winnings stuffed into her tight silk shirt, her eyes focused on his, the lopsided smile lingering as the doors swished shut between them. "You play a mean hand." And that was the last she saw of him before it happened.

Dorian hadn't expected to see him again. Certainly not in the haphazard fashion both of them ended up in the elevator again at 5:20am. He smelled like sex and so did she. There had been forced small talk, her enshrouded in her confident, blasé attitude, her eyes hidden behind sunglasses that were too dark for her face, whiter than ever. She held her overnight bag in a vice-like grip as she brushed her hair back over her shoulder.

She had seen those green eyes linger for a moment on the red, red smear on her wrist, just below her hand and she knew he had seen... He had this tenacity in his eyes, like a tiger's when it sniffs out it's next meal.

She knew she would have to run again, and she hardened herself against the thought. That was when he had made his offer, when they stepped out onto the sidewalk in the cold light of an early November morning. She knew she would have to be on her guard with him, but they could be good, working together.

Little did she know just how good things would work out. How comfortable she would get, like a fat cat on a sun drenched porch. One thing he knew how to do was make people comfortable before he pulled the rug out from under them, and even after all the late nights, dirty deals, she was still a part of the Tipton Troupe, six years in. Like she'd sold her soul for a shitty trailer, and he was the devil.


It was RJ's laughter that roused her from her little daydream. She wasn't sure what he and Clancy had been talking about but she was aware that there were others milling about. She turned, noticing Ajax and Graham in the vicinity. The latter was getting ready to head on a parts run. She noticed a cigarette, unlit, behind his ear and with a deft sweep of two fingers it was between her pursed lips a moment later, right there in the middle of her smirk.

They were like one big family, and she guessed that was something that kept her here. Even though people came and went, there were connections if you couldn't get away. At this thought, her eyes snapped from one to the other, and around the people standing, walking, milling about. All people wandering from pillar to post, running like she did. Carrying jars of sand inside them, full of secrets that could never escape.

But she was shrewd. She was quick and she knew that one of these days she would find a way out that was good for her. Until then, this was good enough. Someone flicked a light for her, not the click of a lighter, but the low scratch of a match. She sucked, her eyes travelling up the huge arm before plucking the smoke from her lips, exhaling smoke out of the corner of her mouth. Ajax rarely smiled, and Dorian often wondered why. Her eyes scanned his expressionless face and gave him a smile she only reserved for the few folks around here she cared about. And she'd been here a long time, longer than she liked to think about.

"Thanks, honey," she said, smoking and blowing the nest exhale straight up as she tipped her head back a little and turning. "Hey, Daredevil," she said with a wolfish grin. "Could you be a sweetheart and bring me back a coupl'a packs of smokes? Maybe a bottle of scotch?"

"Jesus, David Copperfield, why don't you give him your whole shopping list?" said one of the guys going along with him.

Dorian limboed under Ajax's tremendous arm, her fingers tracing the crook of his elbow slightly before dropping to her side. "Can I? You'd look a sight, going up to buy tampons, asshole." She cast him a scathing glance before pulling a bill out of the inside of her bra and slipping it into Graham's pocket, casually blowing smoke away as she held the cigarette away from her face, like a 1920's femme. "Besides, there's only so many of these I can steal from you," she said, smiling before turning back to the rest of the group, folding her arms and leaning against a pole.

Her eyes scanned the area and she felt a little antsy. Unsettled. She shifted her stance a few times before turning, frowning and grumbling to herself. She finished her cigarette and stubbed it out under her foot, fiddling with her hands as everyone went back to work and dispersed. Instead of staying to help, Dorian wandered out into the sunshine again, wandering down and stopping every once in a while to say hi to someone, or to do a little people watching. It was so interesting to people watch here, so many people trying to be someone they're not, trying to hide their secrets behind their acts. She smiled widely as she noticed a few of the others going about their day.

There was Serena, a pretty pleasant sort of woman. Her act intrigued Dorian, and she respected the pride she took in her work, obviously on her way to help someone with a wardrobe malfunction. Then there was one of the newer girls, the little flexible one, who had just stepped out of her trailer like she was on a mission to stand there in the dust and look around nervously.

"Mornin', Twist," Dorian called, shading her eyes and scanning the girl who seems to be a jumble of anxious limbs. "Coffee's that-a-way." She offered her a friendly smile and wondered how long she was planning on staying here, before she began thinking about something else and headed for the shade of one of the bigger tents, sitting down on the ground, her back against a tinder block. She pulled out the hair tie and let her curls fall down her back as she leaned, arching a leg and resting her arm on it as she watched. She leaned her head back and dozed a little, peeking under her dark eyelashes every so often.

Dorian slipped a pack of cards out of her pocket and began to shuffle them, faster than the usual eye could watch them. Her fingers were fast, hiding cards and revealing them, but not as fast as she would have liked. She was tired, and held the Queen of Clubs between her teeth as she arranged the cards before her, getting distracted every once in a while by the other troupe members, regarding some of them with disinterest, and some with fondness.

For the first time today, Dorian was beginning to regret her sleepless night.
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Old 08-26-2014, 10:48 PM   #18
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As Jack weaved his way through the trailers and the morning work, he pulled his cigarettes form his pocket and flicked the top open. He raised the box to his lips and pulled one free before flipping the top back and sliding it back into his pocket. He took the cigarette from his lips and slid it behind his ear. He knew he'd want it after he ate. The subtle itch in the back of his mind was already there.

Jack had picked up the habit the day he realized smoking gave a rough, gritty tone to a person's voice. Addiction came later, but even now, nicotine didn't drive Jack's need. The raspy quality helped cover the natural lightness to his voice. It was always the little things people noticed. Jack always tried to pay attention to details.

The moment the smell of bacon and eggs hit his nose, Jack's stomach churned furiously. He enjoyed his metabolism. Being able to plow through several plates helped him blend in. But he feared the day he grew older and that metabolism slowed down. The last thing he needed was more hips or tits. So, as much as he wanted to indulge his appetite, he rarely did. The food out of Tay's trailer wasn't exactly the healthiest, so most days, he stuck to just one plate.

He caught sight of Clancy as he approached the food line. He was all jokes, casual authority, and surrounded by people. It wasn't unusual. Clancy was both busy and lazy at the same time. Whether it was his intention or not, he was always someone's center of focus. Jack rarely felt the need to interrupt. It wasn't that Clancy made him nervous, but there was an underlying tension that gave Jack no motivation to seek him out. He would always do what he did best and keep his nose down.

He poured black coffee that had the consistency of molten tar into a cheap, Styrofoam cup. He was relatively certain it had scorched his taste buds long ago, since the taste no longer bothered him. He stepped into the food line, and when it was his turn, he gave Tay a charming smile.

"Got any bacon left?"

"I always save some for you, your highness. Take some eggs, too. You're too damned skinny."

"A king isn't too much of anything, Tay," he replied with a cocky smirk.

"Shut the hell up and get outta my line, boy," Tay replied.

Jack laughed and did just that. "Don't burn yourself on that grill, now."

Handling both the plate and the cup was a challenge. He was forced to balance the plate on the cup as he weaved through the crowd. But having to do it every morning had made him good at it, and most people gave him a little extra room when they could. He had let go of his pride a while ago and accepted that most people wanted to help out of kindness, not pity. He picked the first open place to squeeze in and sat.

The food wasn't awful. Tay always managed to make something palatable, despite limited resources. It didn't make much of a difference, though. Jack inhaled his meal. When the clock was ticking, food was only fuel. The sun was already high in the morning sky. He washed down his breakfast with what remained of his coffee and slipped out without much notice.

As he made his way to the trailer that housed his equipment, he pulled the cigarette from his ear and brought it to his lips. He fished around in his pocket for a lighter and sparked the tip. The first drag was always the best. The smoke curled around his hood and he smiled to himself.

As he walked, he watched some of the crew pull up one of the performance tents. His eyes widened as one of the poles snapped and the pulley system used by one of the workers began to yank dangerously on the supporting rope. Shouts and swears soon filled the air. The worker tried to let the rope go, but it twisted around his wrist and took his arm with it. His pained cry had Jack running. There was a knife in his hand without so much as a thought.

He skidded to a stop beside the man and sliced clean through the rope. The tent fully collapsed and everyone took a step back. There was a lot more cursing and ensuring the crew was okay. Jack slipped his knife back in the sheath and slowly began to pull himself out of the crowd. That line of work was not his expertise and he was only in the way.

He started back on his way before he heard his name. He looked back at the man whose arm he'd saved. Jack was pretty sure his name was Dennis, but he was pretty bad with names.

"Hey, Jack. Thanks, man. That was close."

"It's no problem. I just hope you're okay an' we got a replacement for that post."

"Yeah, we got spares. Still a giant pain in the ass and a delay, though. If you need anything today, I'm your man."

"I appreciate it," Jack replied with a nod.

They went their separate ways and Jack took a drag from his cigarette. The trailer with his equipment was already unloaded. he didn't have much. Several decoratively painted target boards and props sat in well-used, wooden crates. But the Saint Catherine's wheel was his pride and joy. He had no idea how or where Clancy had found it, but he was grateful. The wood was dark and stained. Steel spikes lined the outer edge of the wheel. Decorative steel plates had been fastened to the wood in strategic places, giving the device an ominous appearance. It looked very much like the torture device it may have once been used for.

Jack loved it. He loved the way it fit perfectly into his act. He loved the way the crowd gasped when he unveiled it. There were bunches of slits in groupings from where his blades had sank in. Those panels could be replaced once they had taken one too many hits. He walked around it slowly, running his hand across the wood as he searched for signs of damage from transport.

Everything appeared to be in order but a few loose bolts on the drive shaft that powered the wheel's movement from a small electrical motor. He went to the trailer and took out the toolbox and brought it back to the wheel. He fond the wrench sized for the bolts and went to tighten them down. But every time he tried, the wheel turned and negated the progress he was trying to make.

If he had two hands, all he would have to do was hold the wheel with one and tighten with the other. But nothing was ever so simple. He fought back frustration and leaned his shoulder against the back of the wheel, pushing his body weight against it. At the same time, he pushed the wrench down. When he began to add more force, the wheel slid just a bit against his skin, causing the wrench to slip. His hand flung forward the the momentum he had been building up and slammed into the motor.

"Fuck," he muttered as he yanked his hand back, spotting blood along his knuckles.

"Be careful, sugar. That hand of yours is valuable. Can't go breakin' it until after you've had me on that wheel."

Jack raised his gaze to find Roxy walking to him. He was fairly certain Roxy wasn't her real name, but he never asked. Tipton was where you came if you had things to forget. Jack wasn't going to be the one to remind her.

He nodded toward the wheel. "A few bolts loosened during travel. Was tryin' to latch them down."

She stepped close to him. She had a way of invading personal space but making it seem entirely natural. He had almost gotten used to it, but there was an underlying fear of glancing touches in the wrong places that kept him on edge.

"So I see. Let me look at that hand, love."

She gently took the wrench from him and slipped it in his front pocket. She brought his hand up between them, quiet eyes looking over his bloodied knuckles. Her touch was soft, her skin smooth. She was pretty, in that way that could make anyone's heart jump. She was kind and quiet, but had an air of authority that hinted at underlying strength. Luckily for Jack, she was also a trusting adrenaline junkie.

Jack told himself not long after they met that she was off limits. She was too close to home. He had no idea how to explain himself to someone who wasn't a one night stand. Roxy wanted a man, and though Jack was one, his body was not. He knew Roxy didn't gossip, but if he went down that path with her, she'd know. Then, others would know. It was the way carnival life worked.

"Just some scratches. Maybe a bruise," he said quietly. Just because she was off limits didn't mean he didn't feel the effects of her closeness.

"You're right. You be careful, now, Jack. I'll hold the wheel while you fix those bolts," she replied, glancing up at him with knowing emerald eyes.

He nodded and smiled sheepishly. "That's probably a better plan, yeah."

Roxy moved to the size of the wheel and wrapped her hands around two of the steel spikes, keeping the wheel steady. Jack pulled the wrench from his pocket and made quick work of the bolts. After slipping the wrench into his back pocket, he raised his gaze to Roxy's.

"Thanks."

"Any time, sugar," she said with a smile, "Besides, this wheel is half mine. The work should be split between us."

"I have no doubt you've enough work on your hands, Miss. Roxy."

"Jack!!" two smaller voices called from behind him.

Jack smiled and turned to see the set of twins running full speed through the trailers. They were both lanky and lean, no more than twelve, and had their mother's raven, curly locks.

"Speakin' a work," Roxy said, but the love in her voice was unmistakable.

"Yeah. You shoulda named 'em Trouble an' Chaos," Jack replied with a grin.

Two sets of wiry arms wrapped around his waist and he hugged them both back. Though Trouble and Chaos would have aptly named them, they were sweet kids and had stolen a spot in his heart.

"Hey there, Kristen, Kyle. How are you guys?"

"Great!" Kyle said.

"Do we get to throw real knives today? The training ones are boring," Kristen asked, hope in her vibrant eyes.

"Yeah. The real ones are way cooler."

"Neither of you will get to throw anything unless you get off your butts and help us with inventory and set up for the rehearsal," Roxy said.

Jack could already see the pouts. "You heard your mother. If you do a good job, we'll warm up with real ones instead of the training blades."

"Yessssss!"

"Woo!"

The two scampered away to the box of props before some loud teasing caught Jack's ears. He glanced up to catch Dorian, Ajax, and several other men down a few trailers. Dorian was another beauty, but as sneaky as a viper. A man never felt her venom until his pockets were dry and his heart was broken. She was a sweet girl, but Jack's attention to detail meant he didn't miss the subtleties about her. She was an illusionist, after all. Jack was wise enough to treat her like a lady when they needed to chat.

It seemed someone was going to town. He pulled out his box of cigarettes to see how many he had left. There was enough to last him until he had spare time to go himself. He didn't like sending people on errands for him, anyway. He slipped the box back into his pocket and turned back to Roxy, who was helping her children sort through the props. Dorian was a big girl and could handle herself, and Jack was no one's white knight. With a quirky smile on his lips, he walked over to the trio and lost himself in his work.
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Old 09-10-2014, 07:54 PM   #19
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You think you can do it better. You just know it all.

It ain't gonna serve you to be old and bitter. Your time's come, that's it. Don't make it out to be more than anything but a punched out ticket.

Yeah? What about your fuckin' ticket? I knew you was a cocky sumbitch and now you just provin' it. You'll check out too, one of these days.

I never said I wasn't gonna. No such thing as never. Just when.


~~~~~

Clancy wasn't of a mind to slow his pace once the day really started. If he kept the plates spinning, then there wasn't a reason to stop the motion. The parts run had been unexpected but he usually figured on a few of those missteps per every wheel that turned smoothly. He couldn't say if there had ever been a time where he expected things to relax, take it easy. He wasn't scared of work and he didn't mind messes. If it came down to it, he didn't want to make them. But he could sure as hell clean them up.

His whistling trailed off as Ajax matched his pace, brisk and jaunty. It was just as well that the strongman didn't need to go out. The operation wasn't limping along, by any means, but it helped to know that things would stay padded. He wanted to get the set-up done for the next morning's rehearsal. The time sheets needed to be reorganized. Clancy exhaled, emphatically.

“Well, alright, then. Just let the man know. Why you smoke that fucking thing's beyond me. Ain't it a pain in the ass to keep loadin' it?” The better question was, why did he keep asking about his smoking habit? They all smoked, they were all held together with minimal glue at the seams. Enough. “Busy work, I guess.”

They came up to where some of the boys were staking – or at least had been. The process was almost done and it would be time to shack the canvas soon. To some people it probably seemed surprising, the ease with which they worked. But what else were they supposed to do? A crew that spins rope better spin the fucking rope, and hang the excess. Any time not spent working was time spent drunk. Clancy scratched at his jaw inattentively as he stopped, a few feet away from the dingy water cooler that they dragged around in one of the trailers. Someone had iced it, though, and the day hadn't stopped heating up.

“It could be better. Could've done without the business with the clutch. Could've done without the trailer almost coming unhitched last night, too,” he said, mildly, without any real complaint. Something bigger seemed to be on his mind.

A few moments ticked by, and then, “Jax, what would you say is the biggest roust we've had? Couple years ago, in Alabama? That deputy jackass had 'em seize some joints from another crew that ran through a few months before us.”

Clancy chewed his lip meditatively, watching Dorian twist a rope.

“They didn't but fine us, couple thousand. Only for the permits. I wonder. I bet that stuff's just sittin' in a yard somewhere.” The grin he tossed off then edged out, like a snicker slapped on his mouth. “What you think? That deputy was crooked as hell. They probably ain't usin' any of it.”

He laughed then, and the guys around them joined in. Never nasty mean, never too much. Their laughter was still rolling on when Dorian threw in her jibe, and after that the chuckling swelled to a wheezing pitch. Clancy lifted the side of his tank top, ostentatiously, and gave a dramatic sniff.

“Yeah, RJ? You don't think I smell pretty? And here I put it on just for you, Dori,” he said, sorrowfully, clutching at his heart with one hand. “Wounded, baby. Got me deep.”

He didn't take off his shades, but he kept his eyes on her. “Nah, man. Little Bit knows she don't gotta be jealous. She just crooks that finger and I'll come runnin', the little finger of that mean hand. Mhm.”

“You played Curls in cards? You got a death wish, boss?” RJ scoffed, with one of the men piping in a, “crazy motherfucker,” from the cooler.

“What, you haven't? I thought you took chances. Ain't no reward without some risk,” Clancy retorted, rubbing at the bite marks on his neck. “Am I right?”

“Crazy motherfucker,” RJ agreed, and with a clap of Clancy's hands, they got back to work. Dorian limboed by, a tiny line of dark flame underneath Ajax's arm and then into the next piece of her day. The ringleader guessed that it was time for him to do the same – metaphorically speaking. He tapped his pack of smokes against the palm of his hand and directed a few of the men to where the ropes were running down into the machine. The runners would go up and then the tent. Everything else, the risers and all, were in place and ready to be finished up. The atmosphere was loud, now: a cacophony, a bubble of activity and dust and jangling chords of portable radios in a faceless Southern county.

Clancy turned to Ajax and slapped his hand on the strongman's back, leading him with as he ambled to the parts trailer. He always did best when he had a few dice in his pocket, and this one was ready to roll.

“So. How much do you know about impound security?”

~~~~~

Somewhere, “A Boy Named Sue” echoed down the trailer line. Jack's knives thumped against their targets. Serena's needle darted in and out of fabric too bright for daylight. Riley twisted and turned throughout her day. Dolly leaned on the kitchen joint counter and flirted mercilessly with the cook crew. Graham set up to leave, spinning off in dust. Dorian counted her cards. Ajax stood with his jackass of a boss and Clancy plotted. He waited. But most of all, he anticipated.

I got nothing to do but fill that ticket. I got nothing but time. The difference between you and me?

The gunshot rips through the night, rips through flesh and bone and sinew. Rips through Clancy's life.

I ain't countin'.


Rehearsal was on its way.
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Old 09-10-2014, 10:57 PM   #20
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Graham’s first task had been one of relative ease, just making a stop by the setup crew trailer down the hill. He found one of the kids who helped with concessions and the midway, a real whiz with technology to see if he could help in tracking down the part he needed. It also helped to know what stores were where, and it didn’t seem to matter where they were, this kid could find a way to get out to the internet. The two of them found a couple of leads, all just a bit of a drive to the north. One place didn’t have a working number, but he decided to check it out since it was the closest. He found a cheap tobacco store for those who had requested items. The moment word got out about his trip, the requests poured in.

“Sure as shit will draw flies…”

The echo of his father’s voice made him cringe inwardly, and he quickly put the bastard out of his mind. That saying and other colloquialisms his father would spout always made him glad he was out with the show. He shook the hand of the fine young man and his lips curled in a sly grin. “I’ll be sure to look for something special for you…”

The kid laughed and nodded as they parted ways, and he headed for the motor pool and went for the big dual wheel Dodge pickup they kept for hauling a big trailer. Just as he was getting over to the mass of vehicles that it took to haul the show, he heard the loud crack and saw the commotion going on with the tent, which made him glad he was getting out of there before Clancy turned up hotter than a…

He really, really, had to stop that.

Graham climbed into the seat and checked off the lists and the cash, and he fired up the truck and let the big diesel motor idle while he looked at a map and got his bearings. After running a hand up through his hair, and a glance back at the rearview, he pulled down the dirt drive to the fence they had set up as a makeshift perimeter. He parked the rig and hopped out, undoing the combo lock and dragging the gates open to drive through. He gave one last look back at the camp and could see it springing more to life by the hour.

After closing up and getting on the road, he spent the next couple hours in relative comfort, listening to what he could find that was worth a damn on the radio, and the whine of the Cummings turbo-diesel as he sped down the track of dusty highway. It was nice to get out and just be alone, as sometimes the group could be a bit stressful.

He thought about the illusionist and her little quip to him before she had dumped her request on him. Daredevil, she had called him, like it was a pet name for him. It surprised him she needed him to pick them up, as she was quite good at getting what she wanted. Granted he was getting her cigarettes, she was still damn good at manipulation and it just proved the point. The distraction almost made him miss his turn, which meant he only had a short ways to go before he got to the first stop.

There was a good reason the phone didn’t work, the shop had a fire by the looks and the business had picked up and moved, or gone belly up. Either way, total bust. Graham hopped back into the truck and remounted the search, heading out the way he came until he hit the junction for the highway. Once back on the road, he realized he had skipped breakfast and wondered if he shouldn’t have had the Kid look up a fancy restaurant to grab a bite at. The food wasn’t horrible at the show, but damn was nice to get a bite somewhere else now and again. He thought about a steakhouse, but realized the odds were slim and it was a pipe dream.

He chugged onto the next town and then the county change sign came up, and he settled in for the next half hour until he hit his target. The gruff guy on the phone wouldn’t tell him if they had the motor or not, only that “We got a lot of stuff and I’m busy”. So naturally, Graham wanted to give him the Shithead of the Day award. He hoped the motor would be there; and worth it. A motor that’s already shit to start with won’t do them any good.

When he saw the sign on the road he merged with some traffic and made his way out to the place to find that the man on the phone was right. This was one of the largest salvage and scrap yard he had seen outside of a big city. The must get a lot of work from the state and counties around them to have this much junk. He parked in an area and went to the building, talking to a helpful man who pointed him to the back lot.

Out there was a lot of good gems, but sadly the budget was low and the space was limited, so he kept going back until he found another item they needed, but not the one he had come for. Since it was in his interest to make it worth his trip, he talked the man into giving him a discounted price on the Generator unit they had been hoping for. With it installed in the trailer, they could have more power available for performers and crew; they wouldn’t have to run lots of small generators all the time; and Clancy’s sign would even light up again if they put it on the top of the rig.

After paying for it and getting back to his truck where the forklift operator loaded it on the trailer, he secured it and ratcheted it down for the ride. Last stop was a supplier, who would have it. But they wouldn’t be getting a great price. When he set out on the road, he wondered what had landed some of the other people there in Clancy’s merry band of thrills.

The last leg of the drive was the worst and he had to suffer traffic going through a city he hadn’t bothered to pay attention to, so he just let the music play and keep his eyes peeled for the last bastion of hope for the Ferris wheel. When he showed up, he had the highlight of his day when the perky young brunette greeted him at the air conditioned check in shack. She got flashed the legendary roguish smile of his as she typed up what he needed, and then told him where to go.

He was sitting in the truck wishing he had asked for the number of the young co-ed from the shack when he saw the forklift wheeling down to him with a big box wrapped in shrink wrap. After that was secured, he was at last ready to get on the road, all until he noticed the highway he had been on was divided. There wasn’t a turn to go back south, so he chugged out north and kept his eyes peeled.

If he had been going faster and getting over to the left, he might have locked up the brakes and had an accident, because there to his right and ready for him to pull into, was a blessed steakhouse. He scoffed as he turned in and the parking lot accommodated his rig at the back, walking with a million dollar strut to get himself a damn fine meal.

He opened the door and stepped into heaven; reason being that the sign that only read “Cindy’s Steakhouse” was in fact a topless steakhouse. As another perky young woman asked him if he was dinning alone, he commented with as snappy a comeback as he could while his eyes admired her… shoes.

“Only if I can’t talk you into joining me…”
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Old 09-21-2014, 01:56 AM   #21
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The sound of yet another metallic groan from outside was enough to set Birdie’s teeth on edge; and cause her hand to cease its soft deliberate stroking of the gilded hairbrush through the ends of her high ponytail. She supposed she had luxuriated long enough in any case, although she would hardly call her morning routine an occasion in luxury alone. It took a tremendous amount of time, effort and dedication to both achieve and maintain her look, not to mention a fair bit of discipline.

Her mornings always began long before the first rays of dawn could be seen in the sky. Early to bed and early to rise – as her grandmother would often say – a habit born of necessity in her youth and perfected in adulthood. Of course, now she didn’t wake early to set about completing chores or for the sake hustling to some menial part time job. Those days were long behind her. Now, her mornings consisted of a beauty regimen that would put Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Crawford both to shame.

Stretches came first - once her eyes had opened and adjusted to the dark – a full hours’ worth, in a bid to revive muscles and reflexes made dull by sleep. A warm – never hot – shower to increase blood circulation came next; the temperature always just right lest she allow her skin to be marred by bright red splotches. The exception of course were the three days of the week when she bathed herself from head to toe in warm milk - poured from brass ewers – to enhance her glowing complexion. Once her body had been patted – not rubbed – dry and wrapped in the softest of cotton, her attention turned to her face. A spritz of warm water to open the pores, followed by a series of cleansers, moisturizers and oils, all lovingly massaged onto her skin before ending with a splash of ice water to seal it all in and ensure a firm finish. After that there was body lotion to be applied, freshly cut lemons to be rubbed over elbows and knees, and the strategic placement of several droplets of perfume. Then and only then, would she shed her robe and don her dressing gown, before sitting down to her vanity for hair and makeup.

Which was where she sat now, brushing her golden hair to a brilliant glossy shine, every strand neatly in place. That, of course, was until the ceaseless sounds of the setup outside had crept in and disrupted her solitude. Sitting upright on the tufted velvet upholstered chair beneath her, Birdie cast an appraising stare upon her reflection; before lifting her slender legs from their perch atop the far corner of the mirrored vanity, uncrossing them at the ankles and lowering them to the plush carpeted floor. She took great care as she set the hair brush back in its’ allotted space among the neatly organized array of trinkets and vials that graced the vanity top. Each item important in its own way, having been selected with great consideration to its’ individual charm and how best it would complement the champagne and gold tones of her small, yet tastefully appointed accommodations. A trailer it may be, but Birdie was of the opinion that things need not always look like what they are, and so she had made the modest space into what she considered a home.

Rising from her seat and crossing the short distance to the door and reaching for the handle, Birdie paused to take a deep breath her shoulders set with an air of determination as she prepared to leave her little haven. Once outside, she was sure to open her rice paper and bamboo parasol to shield her delicate skin from the mid-morning’s sun. Her stride was purposeful, the sheer pale blue chiffon of her peignoir billowing behind her as she made her along the outer edge of the midway. Offering the occasional smile to those cast and crew members who happened to catch her gaze, she made her way past the myriad of trailers and tents; including the large tent that served as their dining area. It wasn’t that she made it a habit to avoid socializing with the rest of the troupe, more so that she was unwilling to subject her body to the dubious concoctions Tay was so fond of ‘rustling up’ on a morning. In any case, hot water and lemon, a bowl of fresh fruit and a cup of yogurt were her idea of breakfast fare.

Instead her steps led her and came to an end in the midst of the makeshift menagerie situated on the outskirts of the campgrounds. Tucking the handle of her parasol in the crook of her neck she reached out to lift the canvas covering of the item in front of her, revealing the custom aviary that housed twelve pure white doves, each in their own compartment. There was the sound of footsteps behind her, though she didn’t turn to face their owner.

“Good Morning, Sam.” she said, before flashing a bright smile over her shoulder at the older man who served as a caretaker of sorts for the show’s animals. “Have you been taking good care of my beauties?”

“Y’know I always do.” came his easy reply, causing the corners of Birdie’s mouth to curl upward. Sam was a sweet soul, and not one to mock Birdie’s affection for her feathered darlings. She liked him for that. He seemed to understand that to her they were more than just a part of her act. In a way they were a comfort to her, if she cared to admit it at all she might even say that they reminded her of home. She always made extra time in her day to tend to them in some way or another, be it feeding, stroking or even humming to them.

It was some time later when Birdie, having bid both Sam and her doves’ farewell, caught sight of Clancy and Ajax walking nearby as she was returning to her trailer. What it was that made her change the direction of her steps so that their paths would intersect, she could not say. But even as she did so, she could feel her blood start to boil, the annoyance over the mornings' interruption coming back to her

“Your crew seems more intent on making noise than being at all efficient, today.” She called out to him when they were a bit closer to each other.

Closing the distance between them, she fixed her eyes and their fierce cat-like green gaze upon him. “Has Graham managed to get my hoop and the rest of my equipment set up, already?” she asked directly, always to the quick of the matter – safest way to be when dealing with Clancy.

When his answer was slow to come, she lay into him, cutting him off before the first word had even left his lips.

“Let me make something clear, alright. I will not perform, not even for a minute … unless Graham does my rigging. Lord knows he’s the only one around here that takes any interest in getting the job done right.”

Her gaze flicked over to where Ajax stood, towering above her and she found she couldn’t help the smile that came to her lips. “Well, maybe not the only one.” she said, winking in his direction.

Looking back at Clancy, all trace of pleasantry absent once again. “I meant what I said.”

With that she turned and sauntered away, her hips swaying as she half sang - half hummed...

“When a man’s an empty kettle, he should be on his mettle, and yet …”
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Last edited by TinyDuchess : 09-22-2014 at 08:45 PM.
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Old 09-27-2014, 08:14 AM   #22
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“I’ll see what I can do,” Serena smiled, her voice soft, as she stepped away from the trailer where she’d been working for the last hour. A broken dress strap had turned into adjusting a skirt and taking up the hem of a dress. The girl inside it had asked about helping her dye another dress so that it would match some shoes she’d recently bought. Serena wasn’t entirely sure she knew much more about dying clothes than the next person, but she did have a wealth of buttons and bits and pieces squirreled away that would help finish the transformation of a yellow dress into a pink one. A wave and a half smile and she began to walk away. She should probably check her tanks. Time to rehearse was in relatively short supply. Every day that they were set up and not open was a day they weren’t making money. It helped that everyone had their own routines and generally fitted around each other quite well. She tended to be one of the earlier ones to practice. Mainly because there would be less people likely to stick around and watch, people had their own preparations to attend to.

She saw the stunning figure of Birdie up ahead and felt herself smile wider. There was something classic in her beauty, something that drew the eye without effort, like the screen goddesses she’d idolised in her youth. Seeing her reminded her of happier times, of her life before the show, although as much as she admired her, Serena would never have spoken to the gorgeous aerial performer had it not been for her needle and thread. Birdie needed costumes, elaborate ones, and Serena was only too happy to create them for her. She was happy to help anyone that needed it, usually it was fixing zips, taking in waists and shortening hems but Birdie’s designs were something else entirely. Feathers and beading, heavy corsetry and elaborate patterns. They were hard work but she had little else to fill her time when she wasn’t in the water. Where the others drank and socialised, she stayed in her trailer sewing with the soundtracks of old movies to keep her company. Besides, there was nothing quite like watching one of her creations swinging effortlessly through the air and sparkling under the lights. Birdie would have an idea, a vision, and Serena would turn it into something she could wear. The latest outfit she’d made was hung up in her trailer.

Serena decided that before she went to check her tanks she would take it around to Birdie to make sure it fitted, make sure it met her expectations. This one was a pale pink, almost white, concoction with a heavily jewelled corset and a huge feathered train that could be detached when she wanted to. It would make for a grand entrance and another eye catching performance up above the audience. She’d also made a small plume to go into Birdie’s hair, several long feathers held together at the bottom with a small mass of glittering jewels. She hadn’t asked for one but Serena thought it was a shame to see the feathers go to waste. After all, who knew what colour Birdie’s next vision would feature. She giggled softly to herself as she climbed into her trailer and collected the costume in question.

With the heavy costume covered and contained within a bag, she draped it over one arm and set off for Birdie’s trailer. After knocking and waiting, it was clear she wasn’t in. Hanging the costume carefully from the door, the bag ensuring it would be protected from the elements, she added a note around the hanger,

Hope it’s alright, let me know if it’s not. There’s still time to adjust it before we open.
S x


Feeling a little disappointed she wouldn’t necessarily get to see the costume until Birdie wore it for the first show, she headed towards the place where the main tent would soon rise up from the ground to dominate the small area they would call home for a little while. Walking around the equipment and men setting up the ropes and supports to where she knew her tanks would be waiting for her.

Serena had three tanks, each with a different purpose behind them. While none of them were overly small and all weighed a large amount once filled, her smallest one was slightly mobile and could be moved when full. This was also the tank she used outside, on the days when small tents and booths lined the main walkway down to the huge tent within which they all performed. During the evening they housed food vendors and games, ways to extract a little more money from the audience without them even realising. Hoopla and a coconut shy, all to win prizes that cost next to nothing. During the day there were some amusements but there were also small performances, previews of the main show to entice the uncertain and the curious into buying tickets.

For a time, she’d only had that small tank. She didn’t have a full act, nothing that would hold the attention from the centre of the ring, but she had an almost permanent place out on the walkway. She’d swim and wave from behind the glass, lean over the top of the glass and sing softly to passers-by. They could take a photo with her, for a few dollars, and most little girls leapt at the chance of having a photo with “a real life mermaid”. Skipping away, with eager waves back over their shoulder and plaintive whines for their parents to buy tickets to be able to come back and see her again.

It hadn’t taken long. A few gentle complaints from customers – mainly parents – that the aquatic performer wasn’t on the bill to Clancy had seen him suggest she thought of an act and that a slot in the ring would be hers in the next town. It hadn’t really been a suggestion and so a few evenings had been spent watching Esther Williams movies late into the night, a routine pieced together and when the next town came, so did her second tank. This tank was huge in comparison to her first. She’d had a hand in its creation, given vague dimensions and an estimation of how much space she’d need to move but even so, when she’d seen it for the first time she’d been slightly overwhelmed. Firstly that her vision had come to life and secondly, that it had been made for her and her alone.

Rounding a corner she was pleased to see a hose pipe had already been draped over the side and the tank was already half full. Jake’s doing no doubt. She sighed. He was only trying to be nice. She hated that it made her feel so…cold, inside. Frowning and trying to shake off the memories that rushed at her, she walked slowly around the tank. Running her fingers along seams to check for any sign of a leak. Eyeing the glass, particularly in the corners and edges, to check for chips or cracks. The glass was toughened but a weakness in the wrong place would cause the whole thing to shatter. Finding none she did the same to her smaller tank and her final tank. This one was the one she used most rarely.

It was only a fraction larger than her small one but this was reinforced around the edges with steel with a thick stand upon the bottom and designed to fit onto the back of pickup truck. Sometimes, when they visited communities further from the beaten track, a parade of sorts was needed to make sure those from the surrounding area would come to the show. She hated those drives. Even though the road might seem smooth, it was like being inside a washing machine when she was in that tank. One look back towards the tank that was filling, she figured she still an hour to wait before it was full and ready for her to rehearse in, she wondered if she might have time to head back to the lake for a quiet swim. It had been so quiet there.

“Watch it, Ariel!” A gruff voice yelled as she started to back away from her tanks, her mind made up to grab her suit and towel and jog back to the lake. Before she could turn, large hands caught her shoulders and stopped her dead. A heavy thud not far behind her made her insides tingle with nerves. “Almost lost that pretty head of yours.” One of the riggers laughed, his hands leaving her shoulders and letting her turn around to see the heavy bundle of canvas that had fallen down almost exactly where she would have stepped next.

“Sorry,” She blushed, her cheeks aflame with unwanted heat. “I’ll get out of your way.”

“Just watch yourself, eh, Ariel?” Their teasing nickname for her was good natured and an attempt at friendship no doubt but as with most things, Serena just felt herself getting anxious.

“Not sure I’d squeeze into that tank of yours, never mind your tail, and I don’t think Clancy fancies having a merman on the bill,” joked another.

“Probably not.” She laughed, the sound tight and quiet.

“Pretty little head…”

All thoughts of swimming in the lake gone from her head as she scurried away from where the canvases were getting ready to be winched into place. Trying to banish the feel of those hands on her shoulders.

”Pretty little water baby…” The laughter cruel as it echoed off the walls.

A shaking hand pushing hair back from her face as she all but ran back to her trailer.

”Never happier than when you’re all wet. One of my favourite things about you…”

Throwing open the door and shutting it quickly behind her, sinking down to sit with her back against it. Eyes squeezed tightly shut against tears, arms wrapped around knees, hugging them to her chest. It wasn’t him. It couldn’t be him. It just wasn’t possible.

”I just,” Serena exhaled noisily, trailing the spoon through her cereal as she tried to find the words. “I just think it’s a bit quick. Don’t you?”

Her mother frowned at her.

“I’m not replacing him, I could never do that.”

“I didn’t say you were,” Serena winced, dropping the utensil with a clatter into her bowl. “I just mean that it’s not long ago you said you were going to go for a drink together and now, he’s moving in?”

“Don’t you want me to be happy.” That tremble was in her mother’s voice, the one that signalled the conversation was going to end, whether it was through or not.

“Of course I do.”

“You’re not a child, Serena, I have needs just like any woman.”

“I’m quite sure you do,” she felt a little ill at that concept.

“And it’s not as if he’s a stranger, we’ve known him for years.”

“True, but he was Dad’s partner, a friend of the family. Slightly different to him being, well,” Serena faltered, she couldn’t bring herself to say the words.

“And he’s always been very kind to us, to you,” her mother continued, “driving you to all those meets after your father-“ her mother’s words now running out.

The kitchen was silent, the two women trying to find the words to move on.

“I just meant, maybe you should wait-“

“He’s moving in, Serena, and we’re getting married. That’s the end of it.” The bowl was swept up from in front of her and the sound of a door opening behind her stopped the conversation entirely.

“The end of what?” came the voice of her mother’s boyfriend.

“Nothing, dear,” her mother gushed, accepting a kiss to her cheek that Serena made sure she didn’t see. “Nothing to worry about, is there Serena?”

“No,” she tried to make the word sound as sullen as she possibly could.

“Oh good,” Serena heard him move around behind her chair and felt his hands land on her shoulders. Heavy and oddly warm. “That pretty head of yours shouldn’t worry about a thing.” She then felt his lips on the top of her head and almost vomited all over the table, his fingers squeezing her shoulders and lingering longer than they should. His lips moving close to her ear as her mother moved to get cream from the fridge for his coffee. She tried to shake off his hands but they stayed where they were, tightening ever so slightly as he whispered, “not yet, anyway.” Then the hands were gone and he moved to hug her mother from behind, kissing her neck and making her giggle.

“I have to go, I have class.” Serena stood and got out of the kitchen as quickly as she could, trying to banish the feel of his hands on her shoulders. The heat was still there, making her feel queasy and on edge.

Nervous.

Worried.

And trying to figure out how to tell her mother she wanted to leave. She
had to leave. It was surely just a matter of time...

Last edited by Britwitch : 09-27-2014 at 08:18 AM. Reason: Cleaning up grammar
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Old 12-17-2016, 12:49 AM   #23
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Darkness had swallowed the sky hours ago. The Tipton crew fought it back with large towers of harsh, florescent lighting. The bright, ugly illumination pushed the shadows into dark corners between trailers and equipment trucks. The night hadn't tempered the day's heat. The air was a swamp of thick, muggy humidity. Work had come to an end for the day.

Off in the distance, rowdy laughter and the twang of guitar fluttered through the air. It didn't matter if it was the dead of summer in a desert, the crew always built a fire at night. After the day took its tribute of blood, sweat, and tears, the crew either gathered around the fire or traveled to the closest town for booze and cheap pleasures.

While Jack often spent time at the fire, the night was so sticky it clung to his skin like tar. His body was covered in dirt and sweat. the fire was the last place Jack wanted to be. Out by his equipment truck and practice zone, the temperature was marginally cooler and Jack was alone. It suited his mood.

Jack's arm and shoulder were sore and heavy. After inventory, repairs, and educating Kristen and Kyle in beginners throwing, Jack had worked on his act with Roxy. They discussed different approaches, changes, and practiced new angles for hours. Eventually, Roxy's time ran out. She had taken her children back to her trailer for lessons. Formal education was rare in Tipton, but children still needed the basics. Roxy was more strict about home schooling than any other mother Jack had known in Tipton.

With very little education himself, Jack didn't blame Roxy for wanting more for her children. Roxy never missed a practice session and always managed to finish her share of the work within her shorter time frame. Jack had no idea how Roxy did it, but he admired her for it.

After Roxy left, Jack had taken to his practice targets and thrown long into the night. Jack did his best to accept the vast amount of flaws in his daily life, but his knives were the one place Jack would tolerate nothing less than perfection. His practice ring was a thirty foot circle with both stationary and moving targets all around. There were boards and posts of all shapes and sizes.

Any strike Jack made that was more than a centimeter off its intended target was met with a mental dress down worse than any beating Jack's rather ever gave him. Jack didn't miss. Period.

The tired ache in his arm would be gone by morning. The arm was strong and resilient. It did the work of two. Though exhaustion crept into every bone, the care of Jack's blades was never skipped. Quality knives were an expensive investment. Jack couldn't afford to constantly replace blades lost to neglect. Wear and tear was normal, but Jack could prolong a knife's life with meticulous care.

After each use, Jack made sure to tighten any loose screws. Sharpening was always tricky. To compensate, Jack had purchased a small vice grip to hold between his knees while sharpening the knives. As with all things in his life, the extra steps took time. If losing an arm had taught Jack anything, it was patience.

With the moon high in the sky and the guitar soft but audible, Jack sat on a crate with his back to the truck and the handle of a knife between his knees. he cleaned the blade with an oiled cloth before he set the knife aside to take another.

"Hey there, sugar."

Jack looked up to see Roxy walking toward him. The echoes of the camp light played across her features and tangled in the dark strands of wavy tresses. Jack almost sliced himself as his hand slipped on the oily cloth. Every time Jack looked at Roxy, his heart skipped a beat. he had learned to put the feeling away and control his responses, but sometimes Roxy's beauty caught him off guard. He quickly looked back to his knife.

"Hey," Jack replied quietly.

"Whatcha doing in a dark corner all by your lonesome?" Roxy asked as she kicked a crate close to Jack's and sat down.

"Cleaning my knives. Almost done now. Its too damned hot for that fire," Jack replied.

"Its pretty miserable tonight. Trouble and Chaos went to bed butt naked and still whining," Roxy said.

Jack laughed and nodded. "Sounds about right. If you're not careful, you'll have to chase two naked kids all around camp tomorrow morning."

Roxy smirked. "I wouldn't put it past them. They can take that walk of shame all the way back to the trailer where I'll tan their already bare hides."

Roxy leaned over and gently took both the knife and the cloth from Jack. Her hand brushed against his. Roxy was always casually touching Jack. While he had gotten used to it, the feel of her skin always sent jolts straight to Jack's stomach. He raised an eyebrow but didn't try to stop her. Roxy raised an eyebrow right back and set a brown paper bag in Jack's lap.

"Tay says you were not in the dinner line tonight. You can't be forgetting to eat, Jack," Roxy scolded.

Jack smiled sheepishly and shrugged a shoulder. "I was in a zone and trying some new throws."

"You won't be throwin' anything when the day's heat leeches your energy. I'm under strict orders to make sure you eat everything in that bag," Roxy said as she gestured to the bag with Jack's knife.

"Tay is a tyrant," Jack replied playfully.

"She is and every last one of us is grateful for it," Roxy said.

As Jack pulled a burger wrapped in foil from the bag, Roxy took over cleaning the remaining knives. Jack peeled the wrapper back and took a bite. the moment the flavor of grilled meat and cheese hit his tongue, Jack's stomach rumbled. He caught Roxy's smirk out of the corner of his eye.

"Shush you," Jack said before he took another bite.

"I didn't say anything, sugar. I didn't have to," Roxy replied with a grin.

Jack glared at her but was too hungry to deny it. He continued to devour the burger in silence.

"So, when do I get to see this new throw?" Roxy asked casually.

Jack glanced up and wiped his mouth with the napkin Tay had dumped in the bag. "When I'm sure I ain't gonna kill you with it."

"And when will that be?" Roxy pressed.

"Look at you, Miss. Pushy," Jack replied as he pulled a bottle of water from the bag.

"Maybe I'm always immensely curious about your talents," Roxy said.

"Maybe I'm immensely concerned with keeping your beautiful smile intact," Jack countered before he downed the entire bottle of water.

"You can show me on a target, you know. You don't have to throw it at me," Roxy said.

She finished with the last of the knives and handed it to Jack hilt first. Jack put the trash in the brown bag and wiped his hands on his jeans before taking the blade.

"I could, but I'm not gonna," Jack said. He slid the knife back into its sheath and did the same for the rest. "Thanks for finishing these for me."

"You're a giant tease, Jack. Why not? And you're welcome," Roxy replied.

Jack stood to stretch his legs. The need for nicotine scratched the back of his brain. Jack pushed the crate out of the way and leaned his back against the truck. Jack made Roxy wait as he pulled a cigarette and brought it to his lips. He glanced down at her as he sparked the tip and took the first, slow drag. The flash of firelight danced in the darkness of Jack's eyes.

"A man has to keep some things up his sleeve, otherwise you'll get bored and go join someone else's act," Jack finally said.

The playful look on Roxy's face fell, replaced by something darker, heavier. She stood and closed the space between them. Roxy took the cigarette from Jack's fingertips and extinguished the tip against the truck. She tucked the rest of the smoke behind Jack's ear. Roxy's hands gently found his waist and her body leaned into his. She tilted her head and brought her lips a breath away from Jack's.

"There isn't another act I'd rather be a part of," Roxy whispered.

Jack froze. His heart rate spiked. He could feel his heart pound almost painfully against his ribs. Heat flared through his body. Jack's skin tingled and his breath was shallow. His fingers itched to run along the miles of Roxy's smooth skin, but Jack didn't dare. Pure, primal need surged through him. If Jack started touching, he wasn't sure he could stop. His voice trembled as he whispered.

"What are you doing, Miss. Roxy?"

"Kissin' you, Mr. Reed," Roxy whispered back.

Roxy's lips brushed across Jack's. Though, the touch was feather-light, Jack's lips burned. He caught hints of the wild, exotic taste of her. The scent of lavender clung to Roxy's skin. The softness of her hair whisked across Jack's cheek. The need was almost unbearable and it sliced Jack raw.

Roxy leaned in closer. Her chest pressed against his. Fear suddenly poured through Jack, fear that Roxy would be able to feel the oddity of his chest. Fear that she would discover he had spent the entire time he'd known her lying. Jack couldn't stand the thought of the disgust that would twist Roxy's features if she knew. Self-loathing crept in and Jack leaned his head away from Roxy.

It was painful to look her in the eye, but Jack forced himself. Roxy deserved it. Jack put his hand over hers and brought it between them, a small barrier to keep their chests from fully touching.

"I'm sorry, Roxy. You deserve much better than the likes of me," Jack said quietly.

Roxy met his gaze. Jack could see his need reflected back in her eyes. But there was also a compassion, a gentleness Jack hadn't seen before.

"I get to choose what's good for me, Jack," Roxy replied.

Jack closed his eyes and his features twisted in a wince. Jack had never wanted Roxy more, but he would only disappoint her. His body would never measure up no matter how hard he worked or how many toys he brought. Jack would never be good enough, would never be whole. the pain of it clawed at his heart.

Jack opened his eyes to look at her. Roxy hadn't backed away or pushed forward. there was no anger or hurt in her face, only a strange patience. Jack leaned in and pressed his lips softly to Roxy's cheek.

"It ain't me, Roxy. I'm sorry."

Jack squeezed Roxy's hand once before he slid out from between her and the truck. He didn't look back as he walked to his trailer. Jack's pace as slow, but angry. Everything hurt. His heart screamed. His head ached. His body burned. Jack hated himself, furious with his short comings. Jack shoved his fist in his pocket and sunk into his anger. it served him right for wanting something he had no business wanting. He deserved the pain.

Jack swung the door to his trailer open and slammed it behind him. He ripped the sleeveless hoodie off and yanked the tank top over his head. Frustrated fingers twisted and pulled at the chest binder until it was nothing more than a puddle on the floor.

Jack walked to the mirror and forced himself to look. He hadn't noticed the tears streaming down his cheeks. they only made Jack's hatred worse. Weakness. Jack had embarrassed himself, embarrassed Roxy, all because of the hideously ugly and inadequate shape of his body.

"You're a fucking coward, Jack. And a liar," he told his reflection. Bitterness was acid on the tip of his tongue.

All of Jack's pain, his fear, his anger rose uncontrollably to the surface. Jack couldn't stand the sight of himself for even a moment longer. He ripped his gaze away from the mirror, but the pressure of his emotions threatened to blow. On pure instinct, Jack reached for the one thing that gave him comfort.

The blade was an extension of Jack's arm. In one smooth stroke, the blade flew with all the power and emotion in his body. A loud thud echoed through his trailer. Disgusted, Jack turned away and crawled beneath his covers. He buried his head beneath the pillows.

The blade was embedded in a practice post at the far end of the trailer. The force of Jack's throw had shoved the blade straight through the wood. Even drowning in rage, the King of Blades hadn't missed. But the blade was forever stuck. there would be no freeing the steel without destroying both the post and the knife.
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