31 The Circus Is Coming

       “Honk, honk,” Steve McSwain taps his horn, but like the other vehicles around him, it doesn’t help. The traffic is not letting up and the GPS can’t find the satellite. He looks ahead, and although he is sitting taller than most of the vehicles around him, he cannot see what is causing the hold up. If he takes the next exist, he should be able to find a neighborhood route to get to the train depot. His phone rings.

       “How are we doing? Where are you?” the Vanilla Shed dispatcher, Selene asks.

       McSwain hits the speaker button on his phone. “I’m stuck in traffic. It must be a wreck. I’ve not moved in 10 minutes.” He answers.

       “I’ve checked with Amtrak and their ETA is still the same.” She says.

       “I don’t know if I am going to make it. If this traffic doesn’t break up?”

       “Hum?”She sighs.

       Here it comes, Steve thinks to himself. I am so not fucking driving to Sacramento.

       “If you don’t make the train, do you think you could…” Selena starts, but is cut off.

       “I can’t. I’ve got plans. This rush delivery wasn’t supposed to take this long.” He answers her.

       “I know, I know, I’ve already been here for 12-hours and will have to wait with you.” She empathizes. “Mr. Boss is not going to like the overtime, but he said what ever it takes.”

       Steve blows air loudly through his lips. He doesn’t respond.

       “I wonder why it is so important?” Selena says in a low voice.

       “I don’t know.” Steve answers.

       “Sorry, I was thinking out loud. I missed a dinner with my boyfriend and I can’t imagine why the remaining shipment has to be in Sacramento tonight.”

       “I don’t know.” Steve repeats.

       “I’ll make it worth your while.” She adds. “My manager really needs it there tonight, and although this wasn’t suppose to be this difficult, shit happens.”

       “You’ve got that right.” McSwain still doesn’t’ agree to go any further. He knows he’ll probably have to or move down the list of appreciative contractors. Vanilla Shed is a good customer. I can’t just give away my time. My life, such as it is, is important too.

       “I’ll be really, really appreciative. You’ll be my personal hero.” She adds in a desperate and submissive tone.

       He sighs again, loudly, “I don’t know,” Damn, he thinks to himself. He knows he will have to have to capitulate, but he just doesn’t want to. Vanilla Shed is a good customer. The truck inches forward and he signs again.

        “Please?” Selene is watching the train time tables on her smart phone, and “hey, some good news.”

       “What is it?” McSwain asks.

       “Fifteen more minutes,” she laughs into the phone. “The departure time changed.”

        “I didn’t now if it was that accurate?” He puzzles. “If I can exit soon, I may just make it, but remember, I’ve still got to unload.”

        “You can do it.” She cheers.

        “It shouldn’t take long to unload; it’s not but a few large crates.” The jam begins to move slowly, but consistently. “ Were moving again,” he shouts at the phone. “Maybe we can.” He looks in his side view mirror and can just make out the Ford with the Samoan brothers in it.

       

       Phoebe returns to the table carrying a pitcher of beer and a large insulated plastic mug with a lid, something you would buy at a truck stop. Sinclair 77 is printed under the illustration of a green brontosaur. It’s at least half the size of the pitcher. She sits next to Ethan her back is almost to the stage.

       ”That’s a serious beer mug,” Seven says.

        “It’s wine.” She replies and smiles. Phoebe picks up her kitchen knife and jabs the last chunk of cold steak on her plate.

        “A meat-sickle,” Seven says and laughs at the joke. No one else does. He takes a deep breath and sighs; relax, he thinks to himself. You just got here. He chomps another bite of the hot dog. Cochran keeps her head down in her plate. She’s feeling out of place, and wants to be in the office when the final photo of the subway killer comes in focus.

        “Let’s welcome back to the stage on the circus piano, Veronica of the Argonauts.” Bixxter announces. “She’ll be playing a little backup music for the acrobat team of Phineas and the Fogettes.” Bixxter claps his hands and points and claps as he steps off sideways.

       The audience joins in, and two women enter from opposite sides of the stage area with standing aerial somersaults into full split landings. Their arms are full outstretched to their sides, parallel to the ground. A man enters just off of the right of center to between the two with a standing aerial somersault to a stand position with both arms raised in a “V.” It is the three people who where putting on makeup as Seven and Emily came through Comma and Phoebe’s house.

       “I should have told Com to rig some lights,” Phoebe says to Seven.

       “I wouldn’t worry; I don’t think anyone will even notice.” Seven replies.

       The audience claps a little louder.

        “I’m Phineas,” the middle acrobat bellows and bows, “and these two beautiful woman, the Fogettes, are Diana,” she lowers her arms and bows, “and Camilla.” She follows suit.

       Veronica plays an old circus song on the calliaphone; it’s Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite, The Circus is Coming.

       Phineas drops down into a standing sitting position as Diana and Camilla stand and climb onto his thighs as counter balances into a forward flag. Their torsos are facing outwards, one leg on Phineas’ thigh and the other foot behind his neck both arms in the air as a “V” on its side.

       The crowd claps and Veronica punctuates the stance with an additional whistle fanfare, “TA-DA” on the organ. She inserts it perfectly into the song she is already playing.

       The women turn towards each other, grab the other’s forearm, and facing each other, lower the other foot on to his thighs. In perfect synchronization, releasing their grip, the two place their hands on Phineas’ respective shoulders and side of neck, lean in, lift up themselves into a handstand, as Phineas slowly stands upright. The women split their legs to combine a “W.”

       Veronica punctuates the move with another flourish, “TA-DA,” in a higher key.

       Phineas takes a deep breath, exhales slowly, repeats, and calls out, “the flying W.” He then proceeds to slowly, slightly step through a full 360-degree circle, and on conclusion, he shouts out. “The Flying W from any angle.”

       Veronica ends her current song with a foghorn-key “TA-DA,” on the calliaphone and the audience stands to clap with catcalls and whistles.

       The applause settles, and Veronica plays a second circus song. She plays, The Sidewalks of New York.

       The women reverse their ascension and lower themselves onto Phineas’ thighs, in synchronization. He reprieves the sitting-standing counter balance. The women reverse somersault to a dismount, and as soon as they off his legs, he jumps up quickly into a standing backflip. Phineas lands just as the two women somersault back at his side; all raise their hands and bow. The crowd claps politely, and Veronica doesn’t vary the song.

       Phineas turns his back to the crowd and lays down on the ground, flat. Diana runs forward and cartwheels into a handstand on his raised hand, elbows still resting on the ground. She splits her legs and Camilla somersaults through them. The partygoers clap.

       Phineas lowers his hands then thrusts them up at the same time Diana tumbles straight up and lands on her feet in his hands. The crowd gasps as Phineas bobbles his left arm, but Diana counter balances and the trick is saved. Camilla discretely circles them as a spotter, and steps forward at the bobble then back at his recovery.

       Phineas raises his legs straight up at his waist and Diana does a slow rising handstand onto the soles of his feet. The crowd claps. Diana spreads her legs and Camilla flies through forward through them and lands with a rolling tumble.

       Diana tightens her legs together and drops down out of the handstand back onto Phineas’ hands. Before anyone can breathe, he throws her forward and she lands sitting on his feet. The crowd gasps, but Diana smiles and raises her arms in a flourish like a letter turner on a television game show. She pantomimes nonchalantly like she is calmly smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer.

       She lays back into a back angel, stiffening her body as a board. Veronica punctuates the move with a whistle flourish from the calliaphone, and starts a more frenetic, classic circus song. It is Be A Clown. The partygoers clap more loudly, in unison with the song.

       Phineas spins her to her stomach, to her back, faster and faster, till she is a blur. Her arms outstretched become a solid disk. The audience gasps, as he stops abruptly, Diana on her back and then spins her laterally, like a helicopter wing. He stops and rolls her on to her stomach and spins her laterally again. He stops abruptly and shifts her to his right foot, as Camilla lands, stomach first on his left foot. The shift in motion is so subtle that it appears Camilla has landed from out of nowhere. The audience claps and cheers wildly. The two women lock their inner arms and Phineas spins them together latterly. He stops and Camilla rolls over the top of Diana on to her back, as Diana rolls under her in the opposite direction on to her back. The two lock arms and he spins the double reverse angel.

       Veronica wipes her brow as she plays the calliaphone as fast as she can. The tumult stops as quickly as it begin followed with a moment of silence. The acrobats dismount and again stand together in front of the crowd. Cheers, whistles, and all manner of calls accompany their bows.

       “We’ve one more for tonight, but we’re still learning it.” Phineas bellows. “It’s called the Inverted Totem.” The audience quiets down. He sits into a standing squat and both Camilla and Diana step up onto his thighs.

       Veronica starts a new song, The Man on the Flying Trapeze.

       Diana climbs onto his shoulders and Camilla steps out onto the front both his thighs and leans out as a counter balance. Diana bends down and slowly inverts to a full handstand on his shoulders. He exchanges his shoulders with each of his hands, and lifts her up.

       Camilla climbs up onto his shoulders, facing Diana’s backside. Phineas rights himself slowly, stepping backward and forward to offset the dynamic weight shift. Camilla climbs Diana’s inverted torso. She has inverted pockets sewn into her jumpsuit, and they are just loose enough as toe holds.

       Diana’s arms begin to tremble as Camilla climbs onto her feet. She sits for a moment to steady the wobble and then stands. Phineas continues to step to counterbalance, but Diana is just not strong enough. She is only able to hold Camilla in a full stand for a few seconds, just long enough for her to get her arms out straight to her side. Diana’s biceps give way, first the left, and she releases the right. The audience gasps and goes silent.

       Camilla jumps gingerly from her right foot and tumbles as she hits the ground. As if by magic, Phineas moves his head out of the way of hers as it drops to between his shoulder blades, and releases both arms. Diana has the presence of mind to push off of Phineas neck with hers and tumbles down his back into a perfect landing.

       The crowd roars to life with cheers, whoops, and whistles. Chairs fly back as everyone jumps to their feet. No one can believe what he or she has just seen. Even Veronica tips her stool back. The Inverted Totem was not a total success, but the acrobats were able to dismount in such mythical style as to question the foundations of physics.

       Veronica regains her seat and plays song from Star Wars, John Williams, the Throne Room and Final, Episode IV: A New Hope. Phineas, Diana, and Camilla stand next to each other with arms up in “V’s,” with one foot forward, and then all three bow as the cheering continues. Once, twice, three bows, and Bixxter returns to the stage.

        “Phineas and the Flying Fogettes.” He shouts into the microphone and gestures toward the trio as they bow again and again and again.

       The tumult quiets down, “Thank you, what a show.” Bixxter says and continues to clap lightly. “We’re going to take a short break, so fill your glasses and stomachs,” he raises his glass and rubs his belly respectively. “Then, will be back with The Argonauts, and later, don’t miss the magical styling’s of Mr. Magisto.” He claps lightly, “finally, see the terrifying accuracy of axe juggling on fire, The Crucible: Spark and Flame.” He laughs across the microphone. “The axes, not the jugglers will be on fire folks, I think.” He looks for guidance from back of the crowd.

       

       Steve McSwain approaches the last exit for Albany, but the exit ramp is queued onto 80. He should be able to take some back roads. As he approaches and looks down it from the Freeway, McSwain sees several Albany police cruisers in the intersection. They are blocking all right turns and forcing vehicles to stay on the access road or turn left at the light.

        “Shit,” he says out loud. I wonder what is going on down there? He thinks to himself. I’ll have to wait till University Street. Slowly, he waits and pulls the International into the middle lane. Traffic begins to flow a little, but stops abruptly after a tenth of a mile. “I’ll never make it.” McSwain says to himself.

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