Time for something totally different.
This afternoon the kids and I took a prompt from Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse and sat down to write some flash fiction. Thirty minutes later we’d all cranked out some crazy stuff. Our prompt? “When I first told my family about (fill in the blank) they didn’t believe me.” Here’s mine:
When I first told my family about how I’d quit my job to join the carnival, they didn’t believe me. They stared across the table at me. Exchanged stares between them. My wife smiled, even while staring hard at her baked potato smothered in sour cream, silently giving the kids permission to do the same.
I didn’t smile.
I told them I wasn’t kidding. How I’d walked into Mr. Parker’s office and handed him a hastily-penned resignation and how his face had turned a shade whiter. I must have laughed at the memory, but my wife thought I’d perhaps pulled the curtain back on some practical joke. She exhaled in relief.
Then I told them about Charlie.
We’d met on a street corner outside the office one morning as I walked back from Starbucks. His hands moved quickly, juggling an orange, and apple and a lemon. Taking bites out of the apple as it traced and arc inches from my face. I’d almost bumped into him. Had to do that stutter-step thing and pull up short before knocking him off the curb. Our eyes met and where I should have seen annoyance I instead saw peace. He caught the fruit with animated flair and then reached out a hand and touched my sleeve.
“Join me, friend,” he’d said, his voice authoritative yet genteel.
Something slipped inside my brain. A train that never arrived late squealed its brakes and slid to a steamy stop. And a new voice spoke in tongues. Though unfamiliar and tainted by static I understood every word. I parroted what I’d heard. Felt the foreign syllables slide off my tongue with an exhilarating ease.
Charlie smiled. “Excellent, friend! And welcome to the show.” He reached down beside him and lifted a suitcase toward my outstretched hand. My latte somehow not there anymore. Something jostled inside the weathered and musty case as I accepted it. A knock of sorts. And the voice screamed to be set free.
They got it when I walked out the front door. Just left my uneaten supper sitting on the table and walked away. I imagine they wonder where I am. Or when I’ll be back.
For now, I heed an insistent call. Buried deep, it rumbles forth with a passion that enraptures every sense. Every pore. I travel this circuit where people show me pleasures beyond reason. Give me money I never ask for. And smile blankly while never speaking.
Unlike Charlie. He speaks often. And I listen . . .