trapeze artist

Posted: October 21, 2011 in Fiction
Tags: , ,

Note: This was written a few years ago as a project for Utata.

The barren land stretches before him like a benediction. Gonzalez’s voice fills his head, tense and straddling the fine line between a plea and a reprimand. “You have to pull up, Captain! We’re coming in too low!” He ignores the warning. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. Too soon and radar will flag them. Too late and they will be caught in a thermal wave. The timing must be perfect. That’s the thrill of it!

“Target approaching in ten seconds. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five…” Now! He pulls back on the yoke, bringing the aircraft into a quick ascent. When the payload is released he has the fleeting thought he misjudged, waited too late. Suddenly the plane bucks violently and Gonzalez’ words morph into screams…

Tex woke with a start, bathed in a cold sweat, confused. He steadied his breathing, took in his surroundings. McAlister was curled fast asleep, his rumbling snores echoing through the trailer. The other beds were disheveled, but empty. Yancey and Fossett must be outside setting up, he thought. Diffused sunlight struggled through the thick, dirty plastic which served as a window and privacy shade. Somewhere a dog barked. He remembered they were in Oklahoma, halfway through his first summer on the circuit. He swung his legs off the bed, his feet smacking against the metal floor. McAlister groaned and rolled over. Tex rubbed his eyes, grabbed his quad cane and shuffled to the bathroom.

Brick told him it was an easy gig. “There’s nuthin’ to it, Jones. You take tickets, strap ‘em in, push the green button, let it spin a few times, push the red button and unleash ‘em.” Brick chewed on the stub of his cigar and flashed a cruel smile. “That gimp leg of yours shouldn’t be no problem. You don’t gotta run. Just make sure they’re buckled in. We don’t want no parents callin’ no lawyers ‘cause little Johnny got a bump on the head. Think you can handle that?”

It’s a long journey from the Wild Blue Yonder to Brick’s Amazing Carnivale, but for three squares a day, a place to sleep and some cash Tex Jones could handle it.

The gates opened at noon. It promised to be a hot one. Tex anchored himself on a rusty metal stool. The first riders of the day shoved tickets at him and raced to their chairs, their excitement palatable. Tex steadied his hand and the engine hummed to life. As the Trapeze began its journey to nowhere, youthful laughter filled the air. For ten hours a day, children soared above him like joyous angels while the breeze of another life blew hot through his thinning hair. And for ten hours a day, Tex Jones stayed rooted on the ground, staring at his control panel with its green and red buttons, forever working on his timing.

  1. That’s a world I didn’t want to leave so soon. It felt full, and I wanted to immerse myself in it for a while and explore.


  2. This is such a perfect example of what flash fiction should be. Beautifully done. Very entertaining. I love it.


  3. John says:

    Thanks. It’s such a happy tale, isn’t it?


  4. H.E. ELLIS says:

    I really liked this. You could have easily gone overboard and made it melodramatic but you didn’t, and that’s what I liked most about it. Especially your last line. Again, really good.


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