The Circus

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Fiona will do anything to go to the circus.  And she has quiet an adventure on the way there, but it lands her across the lap of her Brazilian “brother.”

———

The only thing I ever wanted was to go to the circus. Of course, my family made that nearly impossible, always busy with their lives, taking their cars halfway across the country while I begged and pleaded to come along so I could be dropped off in the next town over, at the circus. As a ten year-old, little things like that would make me happy. But no one listened, so I decided to go myself.

I woke up early that morning, before the sun rose. The house was eerily empty, but I paid no attention as I dressed myself in my jeans and T-shirt that said “Answers are what we have for other peoples problems.” I knew I’d get at least a comment or two on it. I always did.

I crept silently downstairs althogh I wouldn’t be able to wake anyone up anyway because nobody was home. Feeling the cool air hit my face when I got outside, I knew I was free, and I was going to the circus.

I walked a couple of blocks to the busstop and caught the first that was going to the city I wanted. The bus driver opened the door for me and I noticed he was an old balding man, stooped over the wheel with a sad pathetic look on his face. A younger man stood behind him, messing with his hair and checking himself out in the mirror. I stepped on, dumped my coins in the machine and sat in the seat behind the driver because the rest were occupied. Of course, when I sat I realized why this seat was available: someone had evidently left the window open during a rainstorm and both seats were soaked. Great.

“… all this dandruff,” the younger man was saying. “Damn Head & Shoulders… doesn’t help at all.”

The bus driver glanced at him in the mirror. “To a bald man, dandruff is a thrill,” he replied.

“Well you can have mine,” the guy said, then nearly fell over when the bus driver made a sharp turn.

I let out a slight giggle, picturing how amusing it would have been if he fell. Then the two most popular girls in school got on the bus in their short skirts and tiny shirts. Alyssa and Kathryn… my worst nightmares. While my hair was frizzy and I ore worn T-shirts that had been my brother’s at some point in time, their hair was perfectly straight and clothes brand new and expensive. And they made sure that I didn’t forget.

“Ew it’s frizzy Fiona,” Alyssa said when she caught my eye.

“Ohmigod!” Kathryn shrieked. “Ew!! What’s she doing here?”

I didn’t say anything, just adverted my attention to the dandruff guy who was still messing with his hair. Lucky for me, the only seat that’d emptied was the one directly behind me. So now not only as my butt wet from the water in my seat, but my two least favorite people were behind me, giggling and talking about me… and I could hear it all.

“I heard she doesn’t wash her hair.”

“Or brush it.”

“I bet we could stick a pencil in it and it’d stay.”

“Look at her gross clothes. I bet she has to shop at Goodwill.”

“Because her mom’s poor.” Giggles. “I heard they had to eat at the Salvation Army for Christmas.”

From the bus driver’s mirror I could see the old lady behind them move inbetween their heads. Great, was she going to make fun of me, too? “A little gossip goes a long way,” I heard her say and smiled.

Neither understood so Alyssa said, “whatever.” But at least they spared me from anthing else until they got off the bus each saying “bye, Loser.”

The old woman gave me a sympathetic look and I shrugged to let her know I was used to it. The dandruff guy was still messing with his hair. The bus driver looked bored out of his mind.

I looked out my window and noticed that we weren’t even close to the city yet. Clouds were forming in the sky. And of course I’d forgotten my umbrella. I sighed and leaned my head against the window. The trees whipped by quickly. When oh when would we get to Marfil?

Sometime later, I felt myself being shaken. “Hey…. hey!” someone was yelling in my ear.

I popped open my eyes to see dandruff guy towering over me. “Are we in Marfil?” I mumbled, wiping the drool from my cheek.

“Marfil? This bus doesn’t go to Marfil…”

“It doesn’t? But I thought it said…”

He chuckled. “That’s ‘Arfila.’ Completely different place.”

I groaned leaning my head back against the window. The sun was high in the air so I must’ve slept for an hour or so. I turned around and noticed that I was also the only person aboard.

“Where are we?” I asked.

“Lomas… the closest you’re going to get to Marfil,” the bus driver said. “Unless you want to go back downtown and catch another bus that actually goes there…”

“No, no… I think I’ll be okay walking, but thanks. For waking me up, too.”

“No problem,” they both said as I got out of my seat and stalked out of the door. The sky was overcast on one side, but on the other the sun was beating down on me. I stood there for a moment trying to figure out where I was.

“That way,” the dandruff guy said, pointing towards a mountain where the sky was overcast. I thanked him then started my hike. In the city, mountains are rare, so I wasn’t used to climbing them. Not to mention there was no sidewalk so I was walking in the ditch and just barely missed getting plummetted by a couple of cars. Within minutes I was dripping with sweat and panting like a dog on a hot summer day. I also felt my face beginning to sun burn. But I kept hiking, praying that a bus to Marfil or even a car with a non-crazy driver would pick me up and take me the rest of the way.

The mountain was huge, and since I wasn’t used to climbing, it took me about thirty minutes to get halfway up. No cars or buses had offered to pick me up yet which was really sucking and I wished for a place to sit. Even though the clouds had moved over the sun, it was still really hot. My hair was matted to my face… where’s a rubber band when you need one?

As if things couldn’t get any worse, when I was almost to the top it started raining. And I don’t mean sprinkling or even light rain… but pouring!! The cars weren’t expecting there to be a person on the side of the road anyway, but in the rain it was worse because they couldn’t see me! So I plopped down in the grass under a tree, hoping it didn’t start lightning, and stayed there a while, watching rain drip down my face. By the time the rain finally slacked up I was soaked and muddy. The clouds were gone and now the sun was shining full blast. But it was humid so I stayed soaked and sweating.

When I got to the top of the mountain I looked over the edge at my city. Everything was so beautiful from up there… I almost forgot about my aching legs and soaked socks. I sighed and turned around, seeing a sign gleaming underneath the sun: “30 minutes of exercise a day could save your life.” And I laughed. I’d done enough exercise in one day to last me for weeks!

I walked farther, easier this time because it was downhill, and soon found a convenience store with an eating area. I had ten soggy dollars in my pocket with my ticket to the circus, so I stopped to rest and have a hot dog.

And of course the person behind the counter was my brother’s friend, Hunter, the hottest guy in the world. Just my luck.

“Wow, Fiona… you look like you’ve had quite a day,” he said when I walked in.

I took a hotdog and handed him the $10, taking a seat at a booth and explaining my sad story. Since we were out in the boonies and he had no customers, he sad across from me and listened to my pathetic tale, patting my arm gently.

“You’ve had such a rough day. I’m so sorry for all that’s happened. Is there anything I can do?”

My mouth was stuffed full of my second hotdog, but I tried to speak anyway. “You could take me to Marfil.”

I don’t think he understood me because he just smiled, not saying anything.

I finished my food, washed it down with a coke, then just relaxed a few minutes.

“So how much farther do I have anyway?” I asked.

“To Marfil? A couple of miles at least.”

I looked outside to see the sun getting lower. That’d be just dandy to get to walk in the dark… no streetlights or anything. It was pure luck that I hadn’t already gotten hit by a car, but I suspected it wouldn’t be too long before that did happen.

As if God were listening to my thoughts, a man with a cowboy hat walked in the store. He wanted a pack of Camel’s then decided to sit down and have a hot dog. Hunter and I were still talking about my horrible day.

Then the man said, “I’m going right through Marfil. I’d be happy to drop you off.”

My day was suddenly looking up, except the sun was setting so it wasn’t exactly daytime anymore. “Only if you don’t mind,” I said.

He stuffed the last bit of food in his mouth and motioned for me to follow him. I waved goodbye to Hunter, thanking him for his company, then hurried outside.

The man’s name was Garth and he drove a pickup truck and listened to twangy country music. The song on the radio was terrible with whiney violins and the guy complaining about his life. “Take my wife, please,” he belted. “She never gives me cheese. And although she weakens my knees… she loves you so take her please.” It was horrible.

Things were going okay, except my bleeding ears, until I saw flashing lights behind us. Garth didn’t slow down… if anything, he went faster.

I cleared my throat. “Aren’t you going to pull over?”

“Shut your mouth, kid.”

I did as ordered, shifting uncomfortably. I’d thought things couldn’t get any worse…

… Then the police yelled over the loud-speaker “pull over!” And Garth just kept going. And going. And going… just like the Energizer bunny. Then I heard a loud BOOM! and we slowed to a stop, the truck bobbing from side to side. He swore under his breath, grabbed a rifle, then pushed the door open and jumped outside. There was shooting for a few minutes then I saw Garth disappear into the woods and the gunfire stopped. By now it was pitch black outside.

I almost wet my pants when an officer popped up beside me.

He yelled something to the other officer then opened the door. “Step out of the vehicle, please, ma’am,” he said in an offical tone.

“What did I do?”

“No questions, just step out of the car.”

I gulped and hopped down, narrowly missing the ditch. The officer ordered my hands on the hood then searched my pockets to find only the change and circus ticket. Then he pulled out a tiny bag with white powdery stuff in it.

He showed it to the other cop then asked me how old I was.

“Ten,” I answered.

“Where did you get this?”

“I don’t know, honest! It wasn’t there when I was at the convenience store… you can ask Hunter!” I had no idea what it was but the way they were looking at me, I knew it was bad.

They put me in the back of the cop car anyway and one talked on the radio while I relayed my story to the other. Then he lectured me about hitch hiking and the dangers of running away even though I assured him that I only wanted to go to the circus.

The two policemen discussed me as if I wasn’t there, then decided to take me home.

“But what about the circus?” I shrieked. I hadn’t hiked up a mountain in the pouring rain for nothing!

“Maybe some other time. Tonight the only place you’re going is home. Unless you want to come to the station.”

I pouted, but they didn’t care. The driver made an illegal U-turn and sped back towards home.

“So what was so bad about Garth anyway?” I asked, leaning forward.

“Garth…?”

I waited for an explanation but they didn’t seem to know who I was talking about. “You know… the guy who ran off into the woods?”

“Kid, that was Robert Lyons. He’s wanted on ten counts of auto-theft and drug trafficking.”

“Oh,” I said, not quite sure what that meant, but it still sounded pretty bad. I slumped back in my seat while the two officers ate donuts and listened to their radio. What a crappy day it’d been. But everytime I’d thought it couldn’t get worse, it had, so now I was just hoping it didn’t get worse.

There were no cars in my driveway when they pulled up, but one of the officers insisted on walking me to the door and knocking.

I was shocked when I heard footsteps from inside. I actually thought I was hearing things until the door opened and I saw Daniel standing there. Daniel was the 16 year old exchange student from Brazil who’d been living in our house for about four months and was like a second older brother to me. Upon seeing him I welled up in excitement and would have attacked him except the officer was talking. Explaining the story of Garth, or Robert… whomever he was. Daniel nodded and listened carefully, keeping his eyes fixed on the officer until he finished. Daniel explained that the family was out of town, but he could take care of it from here, then thanked him and helped me inside.

“I’m so happy to see you!” I yelped, hugging him tightly.

He patted my back. “Fiona… you’re a mess! Why don’t you go shower up, then we’ll talk.”

Talk? What was there to talk about? Oh, who cares… I was home at last and nasty and wet and sore and just wanted to be clean and rest. So I took a long bath, soaking myself in the hot water. When my fingers turned pruny, I decided to get out. I dried off, pulled my hair into a ponytail, then changed into my pjs. Daniel was waiting downstairs in the living room watching tv. I skipped happily towards him.

He turned the tv off. “So what happened to you today?” he asked.

“I wanted to go to the circus,” I said, then relayed the story to him exactly as it’d happened from beginning to end.

“You had me worried to death, Fiona. I didn’t know where you were and when your parents called and said you weren’t with them all I could think was the worst. They convinced me that you were with some friends, but as hours passed and you didn’t call or come home… then it got dark… I was almost panicking.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t even think to leave you a note.”

“And not only that, it’s dangerous going all the way over there by yourself! If nobody here would take you, you could’ve taken a friend or even asked me. And I know you know that getting into a car with a stranger isn’t smart.”

“But I didn’t think about all of that.”

He shook his head at me. “You worried me so much, Fiona.”

“I’m sorry,” I pleaded, wanting nothing more than his forgiveness.

He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. He paused, rethought the words, then began to speak but stopped.

“What is it?” I asked, not eager to hear more lectures but bothered and curious as to what he wanted to asy.

“It’s just that I consider you a sister and if my sister at home did something so stupid, well, I’d spank her. But you’re not my real sister and I don’t know that it’s my place to do that to you.”

I gulped. It wasn’t uncommon for me to get whallopped every once in a while, and sometimes he just happened to be around. And it would be uber-embarrassing for him to spank me, but it was only fair since it was he that I worried and the alternative would be him telling my father which would only be worse. “I’m close enough to being a real sister, and I do kind of deserve it,” I said, trying to be brave.

“Kind of? You *really* deserve it.”

I blushed.

He didn’t wait for me to say more, just grabbed my arm and pulled me over his lap. I tried not to struggle but it was hard seeing as I didn’t like being in this position at all.

Daniel wasn’t a big guy, and he was only sixteen, which was nothing compared to my father. So while my dad’s hand covered my entire bottom in one swat and had me crying by two, I expected Daniel to be more gentle. He just seemed that type of person. Then again, I didn’t take into consideration all of the working out he does and the fact that he was pretty upset with me. The first smack took me by surprise and he didn’t give me time to breathe for the next few. And I was wearing pj shorts, which is more than I had on for my dad’s spankings, but they proved to be no help at all. Within seconds I was squirming and bawling like a baby, begging him to stop.

“What you did was so dangerous,” he reminded me with some really hard spanks. “And I never want you to do something so irresponsible and stupid again, understand?”

“Yesssss!” I wailed, trying to cover the smacks but failing miserably. I hadn’t realized how hard he could spank until that moment.

And he kept it up, tugging down my shorts halfway through to spank me only on my panties. I howled like crazy, begging for mercy inbetween sniffles and cries. But he continued, determined to make an impression.

“Are you ever going to do something like this again?” he asked.

“No!” I promised, still trying to dodge smacks.

“Good beacuse you will be spanked again if you do it, got it?”

I nodded as he finished up with two extra-hard smacks. He pulled my shorts back up as I lay there, sweating and crying, tired from all the squirming and still fatigued from all the walking I’d done.

I could feel him breathing heavily, as if he were nervous. He rubbed my back softly to ease my cries, then helped me up when I’d calmed down a little. I hugged him tightly then eased down next to him, lying my head on his shoulder.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I nodded. “A little hungry.”

“Come on, I’ll fix you something to eat.”

We walked to the kitchen together and he popped a pizza in the oven then sat down next to me listening to me tell my misfortunes in a brighter light — like talking about the dandruff guy, or the exercize sign, or running into Hunter.

“What do you say we try again tomorrow?” Daniel said. “And hopefully take the right bus.”

I smiled. “That’d be great!”

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