The American Big-Top

I’ve been a little behind this past week and struggling to catch up on my NaNoWriMo word count. Not to mention on Friday, the day I normally do my following week’s postings, I face planted doing wind sprints for the fire academy tryouts. I got some pretty gnarly road rash, so I’ve been feeling like crap.

On the bright side, I’ve got some NaNoWriMo Tuesday’s Gone short story action for you. This is part of the backstory of Tuesday’s circus sister, Nicole and her family. They are immigrants from Portugal who were circus performers back in Europe and came to America in search of the American Dream. Their mother Isabella may have some different ideas though…

From The American Big-Top

IMG_3333 copyLeaving Maria and Nicole with Miss Millie, Isabella hurried home to get her soup from the windowsill. Returning to the circus she found Maria and Nicole performing their own acrobatics for Tuesday as she sat on Millie’s lap. There was another man with them now, standing beside Mr. Handfield. He was a large man with a rotund belly and top hat. His shoes were shined and the suit he wore was of a fine pinstriped material.

“We’ll give her some of this,” Isabella said putting the pot onto the wood stove. It hadn’t frozen over, but the air temperature was cold enough to have kept it cold and fresh.

“What is it?” Millie asked.

“Soupish Caldene,” Isabella replied. “It’s got everything you need to feel better. My mother made it for me and her mother for her.”

The large man approached as Isabella fussed with the pot over the stove. He extended his fat hand and Isabella shook it. She knew who she was dealing with even before he spoke. Most circus folk didn’t dress as fancy as the boss did and his gold pocket watch and fob spoke volumes about who he was.

“My name is Francis Eugene Delmar and this is my circus, madam,” he spoke eloquently. “Thank you for looking after our little one.”

“It’s no trouble,” Isabella replied.

“I understand that you were a performer in Europe?” he asked.

“Portugal and Spain mostly,” Isabella replied. “We did some work in France as well one summer,  before the war.”

“How old are you, if I may be so bold?”

“Twenty-eight,” Isabella replied.

“I see,” he said. “And you passed on your acrobatic traits to your daughters, I see.”

“My husband as well,” Isabella said. “I was brought in when we fell in love. My parents wanted me to be a dancer, but I found the circus to be enchanting.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Mr. Delmar said grinning. “And what did your husband do?”

“He was an acrobat and a tumbler. His mother was the daughter of a gypsy king and a fortune teller. She read cards and palms.”

“But not you?”

“No. My oldest daughter Maria has the sight though,” Isabella said. “She’s quite good.”

Mr. Delmar turned to Maria who was busy turning cartwheels up and down the tent, holding Tuesday’s attention and even getting the feverish little girl to clap once or twice and smile. Mr. Delmar called to Maria and waved her over. He reached into his pocket and produced a silver dollar. Struggling to get down on one knee he offered her his hand which she took and began to look over, reading the lines and ridges on his palm. A chill went up her spine and she caught a flash of darkness, pain, and suffering. She let go of his hand and looked at her mother.

“Well?” Mr. Delmar asked. Maria held her breath and looked at the silver dollar in his hand and improvised.

“You’ve got a long life line,” she said. “I also see that you’ll have a great love that will follow you to the grave.”

“Perfect. Just what I wanted to hear,” Mr. Delmar said. He tussled Maria’s hair and handed her the silver dollar which she slipped into her pocket. Her mother brought the pot over to Tuesday with a wooden spoon.

“Eat this, querida,” Isabella said. “It’s good for you.” She held the spoon up to Tuesday’s mouth, full of broth with a bean and a small chunk of chorizo. The girl looked at the spoon and then up at Isabella, unsure of the offering. “Eat, eat,” Isabella coaxed the girl. Tuesday caught the scent of the soup in her nose and opened her mouth, sipping on the broth. She immediately went to eat the bean and meat, chewing them inspecting the taste and texture. “Good?” Isabella asked. Tuesday nodded and was rewarded with another spoonful which she ate heartily followed by three more until she took the spoon from Isabella and began to feed herself.

“Well I’ll be,” Mille said. “She ain’t ate nuthin’ in two days.”

“Where is her mother?” Isabella asked.

“I’m her legal guardian,” Mr. Delmar explained. “She was an orphan.”

“I see,” Isabella said. She thought about inquiring as to how she’d gotten her tattoos, but thought better of it. Everyone in the circus worked for their keep and if this Mr. Delmar was the owner she knew better than to question his business practices. She wasn’t sure why, but this venture into the circus felt more like a job interview than a visit to a culture she felt comfortable in.

“We would love to meet your husband, Mrs…”

“Gomes,” Isabella said.

“Mrs. Gomes. Could you all attend the show tonight?” Mr. Delmar asked.

“We couldn’t possibly afford a trip to the circus, Mr. Delmar,” she said. “But thank you.”

Mr. Delmar shook his head, dismissing her concern. “You’ve shown such compassion for our… our ah…”

“Tuesday,” Millie said.

“Our little Tuesday,” Mr. Delmar said. “I wouldn’t think of charging you admission.”

“Thank you, Mr. Delmar, but my husband will not be home from the mill until supper time and he’ll be expecting dinner.”

“You’ll eat with us!” Mr. Delmar exclaimed. “Your lovely daughters could see more of their own culture with a night spent at the circus. Please, come see us perform tonight. It’s on the house.”

The American Big-Top copyright © 2015 by James Windale

Cover art information:

License: <a href=“”>(license)</a>photo credit: <a href=”″>Marquee, Gifford’s Circus. The Cotswolds</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>(license)</a&gt;

James Windale is the author of Twenty-Five at the Lip and Tuesday’s Gone. Both titles are available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle. Click the images below to be redirected to the Amazon sites.

IMG_2067 Official Tuesday's Gone Kindle Cover


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