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"The Circus Life" by Nadine Darling



John slipped his flask from his coat and unscrewed its cap.


“A coward is what you are,” said John.


He said, “Do you know that? Do you know what you are?”


He raised the flask to his lips.


“Coward,” he said.


He saw the lightning before it struck him- they both did- and the flask slipped from his fingers and drenched his chest in gin, and the fire that ensued was immediate, triumphant; it unfurled in great curves and fins, a salute, an allegiance of light.


John hit the ground but the fire did not wane but ignited anew, and Kate blanketed him with her coat and the fire burned hotter. She was on her hands and knees, then, on her belly and chest, and the gun was there, it’s handle pressed into the soft earth like a heel. She turned onto her back and shot. The fire flared once, stuttered, and went out, and Kate lied there on her back with a gun clasped between both hands and her chin tipped to the sky, waiting.


There was wood smoke in the air. There were warm homes on the horizon. There were people in these homes, and more than likely the people were kind. She saw them when she concentrated, their faces pink and soft, creased as palms. They reached for her, giving her things, steaming mugs of things, listening to her and nodding.

Kate sat up and set the gun aside; she took her cards from her hip pocket and shuffled them. She sat beside John in the fading light and she laid out the same three cards, again and again, with the same damned vaudevillian magic; and when it was too dark to see the cards she turned them over anyway- cool, familiar snaps in the evening air- and she was so tired. 


            Then, of course, it began to snow.



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