The front door klaxon goes off. Phoebe swallows and looks around for Comma. “COM,” but no answer. She stands, “COME ON, COM. COMMA, WHERE ARE YOU?”
Clowns sitting at the other spools hear her and chant after her, “Comma, Comma, Comma, Commilion, where are you? Comma, Comma, Comma, Commilion, come on and go, where are you?”
Phoebe sighs and Comma taps her on the shoulder. The front door klaxon goes off again. “Oh,” he exclaims. He turns, “I’ll get that,” and runs for the door.
“Put up a sign or something,” she yells after him. “COM,” louder and Comma turns to look. “Put up a sign, okay?”
“I heard you dearest. I will.” Comma turns back toward the house. At the door, several people are waiting. Comma doesn’t even look up at the monitor, and flings the door open.
A trumpet breaks the silence with horse racing’s, First Call to Race. The others follow in unison, “ta da.” It’s three men and one woman carrying instruments: one is trumpet, one is a base fiddle, one is a guitar and the woman carries a fiddle, a five-string violin.
“Hi,” the fiddler speaks up, “are you Comma?”
He smiles and shakes his head yes.
Valerie hugs Comma, “we’re here for Phoebe’s party.”
“Yes, I thought so,” Comma blushes.
“This is Mike, David, and Nathan.” She says. Comma smiles and holds out his hand.” Mike carries the guitar and shakes hands; David blows a C on the trumpet with his left and bumps fists with his right; Nathan’s left arm is around the center of the base, and he bumps his right fist with Comma.
“I’m Valerie,” the fiddler adds.
A van pulls up at the curb. Valerie turns to the white, beat-up, Mercedes delivery van. A large, round, “Old Sea-Hag Ale,” sticker is pealing off its side. “That’s our crew and our calliaphone.” She turns back to Comma, “where do we set up?”
He glances at the vehicle.
“HEY,” a woman shouts as she leaps out of the passenger side of the van. Her knee-high, purple, platform, working boots thud on the ground; and the group at the door stops to look back. Her pink country square-dance dress (shortened) blows up even with the bottom of her baby blue, leather motorcycle jacket, revealing blue polka-dot pink short leggings. “Can we double park to unload?”
Comma pauses, and looks up and down the street. “Yes. You should be okay, but I wouldn’t leave it on it’s own. Parking patrol is ruthless here, and open doors attract thieves.”
“We’ll come back and help as soon as we find out where to go.” Valerie yells back to the woman. She turns to Comma, “and, that is Veronica.”
Jaeble turns on the hazard blinkers on the van and before she can hop out, a 3-axle delivery truck goes speeding by. The Mercedes shakes in the turbulence. Jaeble checks her mirror, opens the door and hops out of the driver’s side. She is tall, stout and dressed all in black; black hi-top sneakers, black pleated kilt, black V-neck tank top, black bra, black hoody, and a black SF Giants hat, old school, with a black logo. She opens the doors on the back of the van and unloads several pieces of equipment while Veronica reapplies her lipstick. Jaeble stacks four amplifiers, a sound mixer, and a turntable. She struggles with a 2 x 2 x 1 foot toolbox. It slips her grip and she drops the corner to a clang.
“CAREful, Jaeb.” Veronica barks.
“Sorry. You could help, ya know.” She answers.
“I don’t want to ding my nails. The guys ’ill be back in a moment.” Veronica sighs blasé.
Jaeble shakes her head. “I’m going to need help with the calliope.” It is a four-foot tall studio piano painted bright with green and blue elephants. Forty-three brass tubes stick out of its top. It sits on a cart that has two pull handles with brakes and 10-inch pneumatic tires.
She pulls out a ramp off of the floor of the van, drags one end to the asphalt, and hooks the other to locking tabs at the back of the cargo bay. Jaeble unclasps looking mechanisms on the brakes, and pulls the instrument parallel to the bay. The van has a boat winch attached behind its cab wall, and she hooks it to the calliope. She slowly pulls the heavy instrument to the doors of the Mercedes and re-locks the brakes. At the winch, Jaeble lets out a foot or so slack in the cable and locks the winch. She pushes the instrument through the doors onto the ramp and as it rolls on it’s own, the slack pops the cable. Jaeble returns to the winch and releases the lock.
“VERONICA,” she shouts out of the door.
‘Yes?” Veronica pops her head into the back of the van. She has silver plated compact in her hands.
“Watch the wheels and let me know when they are off the ramp, okay?” Jaebel commands her.
Jaeble slowly winches the instrument out of the back of the van. After it is level on the asphalt, she looks the brakes on the cart, and rewinds the cable on the winch. She replaces the ramp on the floor of the van, secures it, and closes the door.
Jaeble wipes the sweat of her brow and throws a reel of power cables on to the ground next Veronica, “wait here with the gear, and I’ll go find parking.”
“Okay love, I’ll be right here.” Veronica responds and returns her compact to a pocket on her dress. She sighs again, bored, and sits on top of the amplifiers.
Comma leads the band, through his home to the back of his lot, to a 10 x 10-foot concrete platform. “I use to have a shed out here,” he says. “You can use this as your stage.” He bends down at the back of the slab, turns the knob on a green plastic box, ran reveals several electrical outlets. “You should have plenty of volts here.”
“This is perfect.” Valerie says.
“I’ve got some lights in the workshop; I’ll be right back.” He turns and walks back to the house.
“Okay, guys,” She sits her fiddle on a nearby spool. “Let’s go help the princess.”
Laughing with her, the band stacks their instruments on or next to the table, and walks back to the curb to get the rest of the equipment.
“Comma, did you put up a sign?” Phoebe grabs his arm as he walks by to get the lights.
“No. I will after I get the lights up.” He answers.
“You want me to do it?” She asks.
“Finish your meal; I’ll get to it in a second; don’t worry.”
“I’m not, but someone may come up while your working?” She suggests.
“Okay. I’ll do it first. The band’s to get the rest of their gear.” He shrugs and changes tact.
“COM,” Phoebe shouts again as he gets to the back door.
He returns to Phoebe’s table. “Yes, Mon ’Amie?”
“After the lights,” she smiles big and raises her brow. “You may need to cook some more meat.”
“Ah,” he says, “will do, pumpkin.” He forces a smile and turns back to the house.”
“I LOVE YOU, GOURD-HEAD.” She shouts after him.
From several directions, laughing and, “loves you gourd-head, kisses gourd head,” and loud, smacking, smooching sounds can be heard.
Comma shakes his head, waves the back of his hand at her as he enters the kitchen.
Phoebe uses her knife and fingers to cut off a piece of steak, when Chili wanders up to the table. “Phoeb’s, do those guys need any help.”
She chews for a moment and smiles. “No,” her mouth still full, “I think they’ll be fine.
“HEY PHOEBE,” booms across the small yard. “The kegs not working.” Bixxter will make an excellent ringmaster. He is standing next to a couple of the clowns, one of which is pumping the keg.
Chill turns to look and Phoebe grabs his arm. “Could you see what you can do?”
“Oh, sure.” Chili is a bartender as well as a juggler of fire. He walks over to the keg of Trumer. “Bix, let me take a look. The clown offers the pump. Chili leans down and wiggles the tap connection. It’s a little loose, but shouldn’t stop the flow. He tightens it. He takes the spigot, and actuates it. It is jammed. “AH HAH,” he grabs its hose, whirls the spigot around in the air, and taps it on the keg.
“Me first, one of the clowns,” thrust his glass forward.
Chili looks up. “Okay. Give me your glass.” He actuates the spigot, but it is still jammed. He taps harder on the keg rim. Chili pushes the button and strong stream of beer flows out of the spigot.
“HOORAH.” The clowns are almost in unison. As Chili fills the first glass, the others are do-si-do-ing.
Beer over runs the cup’s lip, “next,” Chili says. Several glasses are thrust forward to him at once.
“Hi ya,” Veronica says as a group of five people approach her from the street. They are dressed in shiny black unitards with bright green, skull and crossed-gloves across the back.
“Is this Phoebe’s circus party?” The tallest is wearing a bright yellow cape.
“Uh, yeah-ya,” Veronica answers. “I’m wit tha bayand.”
“We’re a wire act,” he says, “the Wiggling Deadsdamonas.” He holds out his hand, and as he walks up, David takes it.
“We’re the Argonauts,” he says, “mostly acoustic and our sound woman is an excellent DJ. She’s known as the Hydra.” He smiles.
Jaeble returns and each of the band members picks up a piece of equipment. Jaeble is carrying a laptop bag around her shoulder, and she picks up the soundboard. “Do we have juice?” She asks.
“Yes. Hopefully, a colon full.” Nathan says as the walk to the door and meets Comma hanging a sign on it.
In bold, black permanent marker letters on a torn piece of cardboard, Comma writes,
“Circus Party In Back
Come In Straight to Kitchen
Thru Back Door.”
He holds the door for the equipment porter and introduces himself to the Wiggling Deadsdamonas. He unlocks the front door, and before returning to the party to hang some lights, he stops at a terminal near the entrance and checks his video recorder. It has plenty of hard drive space and should catch everyone coming and going. He checks the rest of the cameras in his household surveillance net: the nodes are in the bedroom, living space, kitchen, and three in the backyard. Phoebe enters the kitchen, grabs a box of wine, and is out. There is no eye in the bathroom; Phoebe said, no way. All the cameras are up and the record streams are set. Everyone seems to be having fun. Phoebe returns to her table and Comma notes that he can’t see the face of one of the persons sitting there. The camera must have a smudge on the lens.
Bridget lays two cards on the table. One crosses the other at 90 degrees. “These are the base cards of the Celtic Cross.” She looks up into Ethan’s eyes.
He smiles, “what do they mean?”
“Here’s your beer,” Joel returns and sits. He places three beers on the table. “Those clowns are insane.” He chugs a drink, “except that cute one.” He points to one of the clowns who are attempting to out silly-walk each other. “Her name is Cuddles.” He stands and the both look up at him. “Cuddles. I like how that sounds. I’ll be back.” Joel joins the clowns in their pursuit.
“Joel, Joel, Joel,” is the chant coming from across the yard. Joel is blushing, but bites the lip of his beer cup and holds it in his mouth. The object is to follow all the steps in the previous walks, and add something at the end, without spilling the beer all over you. Once a beer is spilt, the walk starts afresh.
He stares back at her.
“These two cards represent the influences that are acting on you.” She says. “The one on the bottom is influences and the atmosphere at his exact minute as I read the cards. The one on top and at a right angle represents influences and obstacles around this time either in the immediate future or past.”
Ethan looks down at the cards and then up at Bridget. He shakes his head up and down.
“The bottom card,” she lifts it from its berth and shows it to him more closely. “The Fool is upside down which just means it is kind of the opposite of its original meaning.”
Ethan reaches out to grab the card.
“No. No.” You shouldn’t touch them again. “If you do, it changes the whole dynamics of the reading.” Bridget places it back on the table underneath the 2nd card. She looks up, “I just wanted you to the see the image more closely since it is covered with the other.”
“Oh, sorry.” Ethan reacts and instead swigs some beer.
“The upside down Fool card is in the present,” she continues. “ It is an intense atmosphere in the moment, but not necessarily a bad one. You were an affable beggar, a fun-loving rogue with an easy-going personality, headed away from a precipice or an unpleasant major life change.”
“Yeah?” Ethan is unsure. The image of train-girl’s last expression flashes across his mind, as Suzy disappears under the BART.
“Since you averted the precipice, opportunity abounds, but you are hesitant. You’re unsure, not confident of success.” She looks down and taps the top card.
“The card on top is the Four of Cups. See,” she points to the character sitting under the tree, “the position of the card represents recent events that are influencing you.”
Ethan bends down to study the card more closely.
“See,” she taps the card, “you’ve been thinking a lot lately. The character is sitting under a tree and grasping at the fourth cup to add to his three, but he can’t reach it. It’s probably something that happened recently. Something that has made you doubt and maybe a little bitter.” She tells Ethan.
“Hum?” Ethan thinks about the customer who was a total ass towards him. “Stale bread.” he says under his breath.
“What?” Bridget asks.
“Oh, it’s nothing.” Ethan says.
“No. No, go ahead, Ethan.” Phoebe interrupts for a moment. “Get it off you chest.”
“Well,” he looks at Phoebe first than at Bridget. “I had a run in with a customer at my job.”
“Your, a waiter right?” Bridget asks.
“Yes. Anyway, this douchebag–he was younger than me–goes on and on, complains to my boss that the bread, the free bread, is stale. I got my ass chewed from both ends, and I have nothing to do with the fucking free bread.”
“That’s ridiculous,” Phoebe says. “Some people feel so fucking entitled these days.”
“And, you know what else,” Ethan continues, “I ran in to him on BART. That asshole bitched at me, because I had my backpack on. Then, when I took it off, some other ass stepped on it and almost fell down.”
“That would’ve been Karma,” Phoebe comments.
“The night we were first supposed to meet?” Bridget asks.
“Joel said you were feeling really bad that night.” She adds.
“I got violently ill in the Shattuck station. I’m lucky that an old lady gave me one of her drugstore bags to…sorry, you don’t want to hear those details.”
“Eew.” Phoebe says, and Bridget just smiles.
“And,” Ethan begins.
“That wasn’t enough?” Phoebe shakes her head and shrugs.
“No, of course not, I got rousted by the BART Police.”
“Did, you get in trouble?” Bridget inquires; her brow furrows, her eyes widen, and her blue lipstick forms an “O.”
“No. Thank God,” he sighs. “They were actually quite nice.”
“How many/” Phoebe asks.
“It was two, then a supervisor, I think.” Ethan replies. “They were looking for someone, and I fit the description.”
“I wonder who they were looking for?” Phoebe ponders.
“I don’t know, but they convinced me to head home.”
“That explains a lot,” Bridget sighs. “I’m sorry you had such a rough night.”
“Thanks,” Ethan smiles. He takes a drink from his beer to hide the red heat on his cheeks.
“It’s eerily like what the cards are saying.” Phoebe adds and cuts off a piece of cold steak with her knife.