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Issue number three




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Circus by D. Harlan Wilson

After the cashier gives me my change, we proceed through a rusty turnstile and into the tent. Inside, the circus roars. Swinging acrobats, clowns on stilts and in Volkswagens, ferocious demon-eyed lions, men in tuxedos and handlebar mustaches, trumpeting elephants and wandering freaks of all shapes and deformities are just a few of the many curios that entertain the innumerable onlookers, including Kieri and me. But we get bored quickly.

We go and sit down on a pile of bricks that have been smashed by the telekinetic frown of an Egyptian mystic who, ironically, had had his face surgically removed and so had no real brow with which to frown. I have positioned Kieri on my lap and she pulls my head down so she can say something in my ear about the mystic's peculiar feat. I can't hear her very well, what with so many people swarming around us like insects, and at any rate the mystic has disappeared behind a velvet curtain. So I kiss her, and she kisses me back, and soon our tongues are one slippery thing. I slide my hand down to squeeze one of her breasts, then move on to her belly and finally between her legs. She coos like a bird and comes. Satisfied, I maneuver her off my lap, rise and ask if she wants anything. She thinks about it for a while, shrugs and says, "I guess not." "Fine, then." I bend over and give her a peck on the cheek, then weave my way over to a snack bar.

I wait in line. "Sausage dog, please, with sauerkraut all over it." "Oui, mon frere! Maintenant!" shouts a pale boy with a dead asp wrapped around his head like a turban. He quickly processes the order and I pay, then he gives me my food. "Voila!" he screams. I head over to a condiment table to get some more sauerkraut, along with some ketchup and mustard and relish. The table is crowded but I muscle my way in and out without too much trouble.

Soon enough I have returned to Kieri, who, I find, is engaged; that is, she is sitting on somebody else's lap now. This somebody else is a shirtless mesomorph with short-cropped, pumpkin-orange hair. He strokes Kieri's shapely thighs and calves and she, in turn, strokes his smooth chin. Now and again she nuzzles the curly bright locks of his chest. I stare pointedly at them and take another bite of my sausage dog, chewing on it with a loud, open mouth. They don't acknowledge me. Do they even see me? I take a step closer, tilt back my head and widen my eyes menacingly. The mesomorph, pinching the back of Kieri's neck so that she can't turn her head around, looks up at me. With a twitch of his rosebud lips he motions me away. I stuff the rest of my sausage dog in my mouth, swallow it in one gulp. Eyeing the mesomorph, I huff and shake my head. He twitches his lips again. I loom there for a moment longer, flexing my jaw . . . Then I leave.

Head down, I weave my way through the interstices of the buzzing crowd, take a wrong turn and find myself in a dank elephant shithouse. Pinching my nose, I get out of there, get lost again, this time in somebody's dressing room, as much a maze as everywhere else in this place. Convinced there is no way out, I collapse into a not uncomfortable Naugahyde chair and stare at myself in a dusty, dimly lit mirror. And minutes, possibly hours later, someone enters behind me. "Ah-ha!" I exclaim. I spring to my feet and face him, then pause, smacking my lips inquisitively. "Say, do you know how to get out of here? I've been trying to get out, you see. My girlfriend . . . well, do you think you can give me a hand?" "Yes. I think I can," rasps the naked Egyptian mystic through a mouth that does not exist. Subsequently, he grabs hold of his hideously erect nipples and yanks back, opening himself up, with a sound of tearing Velcro, exposing me to his rib cage and the shiny wiggling organs lodged behind the bone. I laugh. "How do you expect me to negotiate that?" But the mystic, petting his seemingly moth-eaten intestines with a pinky finger, can only nod at me in dark, faceless understanding.

D. Harlan Wilson has had poetry published in the anthology A Moment in Time and in the magazines Waterworks, Anthology, Malfunction Press, Psychopoetica, Ecto-1 and Exile. He has had fiction published in the magazines Liquid Fiction, Akkadian and Doorknobs & BodyPaint. He holds two M.A. degrees, one in English literature (University of Massachusetts-Boston), the other in Science Fiction Studies (University of Liverpool), and is currently teaching an American Studies course and working on his Ph.D. in English at Michigan State University. A collection of short stories, The Kafka Effekt, will be published in early 2002.

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