by Kyle Beasinger
It had been on-again off-again for the past three years and was off again for the time being. She told me that she didn’t love me anymore and that I had to work on my problems before I could help with hers. It had been said a million times, and I had heard the same excuse in every chick-flick we watched together on Sunday nights. The breaks in between courting had never lasted long. The longest had been around two months. Breaking up is difficult when you work with with the person.
This time didn’t feel any different than the others. She was yelling, pacing, and I tried my best to keep up with her. Between every tiff I would try to sneak a peak at her jugs. “Up here,” she’d snap. Those beautiful mud-brown eyes. They made it hard to stay focused in arguments. She was one of the most gorgeous creatures on the planet. Her freckles stood out against her pale skin. She had fire-red hair braided in two pig-tails that swayed each time she turned her head or walked.
Sweat dripped down my face after running around in the hot sun trying to get her to calm down. She never missed a beat as she waited on customers. She could ask the family at the counter what they wanted, insult me, ask if they wanted to try the fried pickles, tell me that I always thought of myself and never other people, get their food, tell me to piss off, take their money, and still have enough breath to tell me we were over. Dodging all the patrons, I never got a word in edgewise.
Sweat soaked through my white blouse, and from the looks I got from everyone at the park, I could tell it had started to seep through my black tights, coalescing at my ass-crack. “Can you please just let me explain,” I was finally able to squeak out.
She stopped dead in her tracks. As she stood behind the counter in that huge pseudo-castle she looked like Juliet about to profess her love to her dear Romeo. She slammed a pitcher of Diet Pepsi down, spread her palms on the counter, and put all her weight onto her arms, hunched forward like a busty puma ready to strike. Thinking with my second head, I took that chance to get a wonderful glimpse at her chest. She let out a deep breath and said, “I’m pregnant.”
Holyfield floated down from the sky and laid a hard right into my temple. My vision blurred and I started to stutter.
Just then, Scotty, my assistant, ran up to me. “You’re on in, like, five minutes, dude.”
“What the hell did you say?” I said.
“You’re on in five minutes.”
“Not you. You.” I made a quick gesture towards Sylvia and rained salty arm sweat all over the counter and the plate of turkey legs next to the register.
“Jesus, dude. You look like you’re about to die. You need to hydrate.” Scotty pulled out a long bottle of Smart Water from his leather satchel, “The sun is killer today,” he cracked open the top.
“I said that I’m pregnant.”
Hot white spots started to pop in my vision. I wiped my head with my arm and tried to catch my breath. Black streaks ran down my forearm like casted shadows. I had smeared my eyeliner, which was probably now all over my face.
“Aw, man. We don’t have time to do any touch ups before you get on stage. Don’t touch your face.” Scotty said.
I took the bottle of water from Scotty, took a few gulps, and splashed a handful of it on my eyes. I blew the water out of my face, which thoroughly soaked the basket of turkey legs. My sweat was dissolving the fiber gum that held the curled mustache extensions to my substandard mustache, so I pressed them back into place with my fingers. Scotty took the water back, capped it, and placed in his leather satchel.
“You ready to go? You’ve got, like, two minutes now.”
I held up my hand in protest. “Just give me a sec, okay.” When I looked up, Sylvia stared me dead in the face, tears rolling down her cheeks. The tears had fused with the sweat on her neck and I couldn’t help but notice the beads that cascaded down between her breasts. Baby-feeders.
“Is it mine?”
Sylvia took off her waist apron and threw it on the floor. “You’re an asshole. A real asshole.” She turned and stormed out from behind the counter. She pushed me and headed around the corner behind the glass-blowing demonstration.
“Is what yours?” Scotty said.
A man holding a plastic sword and shield walked up to the counter and nudged me and Scotty out of the way.
“Excuse me. Forgot my turkey legs.”
The trick is to practice with water and then move onto using lighter fluid. A lot of people make this mistake and end up burning their faces off the first time they try to blow fire. Some also like to use Bacardi 151 when they practice. This is helpful because if you accidentally swallow any, the worst that can happen is that you’d get a good buzz going. But accidental swallows can lead to on purpose swallows, which can lead to an unwanted pregnancy. That is why I would suggest practicing with water. Trust me. I use a barbecue fork because they are more sturdy and less expensive than a juggling fire torch. Cut the prongs off the end and wrap an old t-shirt around the tip, forming a one to one-quarter inch oval ball. Hold the torch about sixteen to eighteen inches from your face and try to spit a fine mist towards the tip of the torch. The best way to get a fine mist is to pucker your lips like you’re about to kiss your fourth-grade girlfriend. Take a deep breath through your nose and then blow. After you blow a nice fireball, you close your lips, turn your head, and move the torch in the opposite direction from your face.
This was how I got people to see my show.
I would usually stand on a garbage can just out front of my stage. That way, people walking from the cotton candy stand over to the lotion candles could see that my show was about to begin. I tried to yell something interesting about knives or chainsaw juggling, but lately nobody seemed interested. I got an occasional laugh but nothing more. The young couple wrapped in tin foil, wearing homemade helmets and carrying newly purchased swords, pointed, whispered to each other, and kept walking.
Blowing fire seemed to bring in the most people, but still not enough. Filling the seats wasn’t to stroke the performer’s ego. Granted, the more people in the audience, the more into a show I could get. But anyone could feign enthusiasm when needed. I needed people to watch my show so I could sell them merchandise afterwards. T-shirts, DVDs, posters: these were the staples of my true income. By the time the patrons opened their new DVD and found that I had burned the performance from my computer, or washed their t-shirt for the first time and the logo peeled off, we were off to the next state to entertain a new batch of Ren-fest loving yuppies. It was pure profit. The problem was that no one here promoted any of the shows; it was all up to the performers. The ones who filled the seats were the ones who had R-rated shows and spat off joke after joke. Talked about tits and dicks and harassed the guy in the front row about how much he loved man-ass. I’m a little more old fashioned. What’s more entertaining than a man who can ride a ten foot unicycle while juggling knives or balancing a sword on his chin? Who wouldn’t want to see me throw knives at someone from the audience? Why doesn’t a thirty-nine-year-old man who walks a tightrope twelve feet off the ground and juggles fire torches impress as much as it used to?
I could understand that this time may have been my fault. It wasn’t that I wasn’t trying. It wasn’t like I didn’t care. It was just that I could see Sylvia’s vending station from the stage. My mind was divided.
It wasn’t that I was half-assing the show, but to be honest, I was half-assing the show. I did a ladder walk about five feet across the stage. The teenager in the front row turned his hat backwards, crossed his arms, murmured to the girl next to him.
Sylvia handed a turkey leg and fried macaroni to a mother and daughter with matching dragons painted on their faces.
I juggled three bowling pins and explained to the audience how you could trace back the origin of bowling to the early Egyptians. The teenager cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, “Then you’re doing the wrong show, jackass!”
Sylvia wiped up a fried coke that she had spilled while trying to adjust her corset.
I moved on, juggled three chainsaws and told the audience that nothing says Renaissance more than power tools. The little prick in the front row hunched his shoulders, puckered his lips, and wiggled his fingers towards me. The girl sitting next to him laughed and slapped him on the arm.
Sylvia pulled out a single packet of Kleenex tissue and cried briefly before she helped three teenagers dressed like Robin Hood while they stared at her breasts.
I finished my show, took a bow, walked backstage and said, “I should tie that fucker up and make him watch me do things to his girlfriend he never thought possible. Split her in half. Teenaged asshole dipshits.”
Just then, Scotty opened the doors to the front of the stage. A girl cried and there was a low commotion out front. Scotty walked in and closed the doors behind him. He took a deep breath, rubbed his eyes, and pointed to my chest. “You’re mic is still on.”
I rode a bike around the park, which was the best means of conveyance and the easiest way to avoid Bernice, the short, plump, greasy-haired manager. Bernice looked like if Dom DeLuise crawled out of his grave, put on a dress and corset, and ruled an imaginary kingdom with an iron fist. No doubt she had heard of my latest upset and would be on the lookout. So I decided to take a bike ride through the park until it was time for my last show.
It was always harder to hit a moving target.
I had to be careful though. Bernice had a way of plugging herself into the social pipeline. Her little spies roved about and fed her intel like raw chicken to an alligator. Without a second thought, she scarfed it down and took each uttered syllable as truth. This was also a testament to why Sylvia was pissed at me. Besides the fact that she was now filled with the bastard seed from my nondiscriminatory loins. My ever-flowing chowder. My ungrudging gonads. It was my unslaked libido that fueled the fire on this Hindenburg.
About a week ago I was meandering through the park after a show that I was pretty proud of and desired a little more praise for my efforts. I stopped by Sylvia’s stand to see if she could spare fifteen minutes behind the lost and found castle facade. Raymond, an eighteen-year-old college student, was serving hot turkey legs and fried dough in Sylvia’s place. He had short, black, slicked-back hair. His blouse hung loose on his thin body. He constantly wiped his forehead with his greasy sleeve, which left him with an acne-filled brow. He told me that he didn’t know where Sylvia was, but that Bernice told him to work Sylvia’s spot for the day. A little disheartened, I wobbled behind the counter, took a few beers, and headed back to my stage.
It was time to repress all emotion.
Beers gone, roaches blasted, I headed back out into the masses. My eyes weighed ten pounds each, flies buzzed and battled in my head. I high-fived a group of teens. They laughed, shouted at each other. I walked on my hands, grabbed one by the neck with my knees and told them that if you stand on your head for ten minutes after you have sex you’ll have a more explosive orgasm the next go around. I hugged an old asian woman who was buying a tea kettle and kissed her on the cheek. Out of respect, I bowed several times and walked backwards. I winked at some little girls playing in the sand pits and snatched a sword from someone walking past, balanced it on my chin. I told everyone to see my show and that every other show here was bullshit and run by amateurs. If they wanted to experience something life changing, head to my stage. I told them, if they wanted cheap laughs and homophobic remarks, to head that way. My following started to grow. Messiah Of The Renaissance Festival. Then I felt a hand grip the back of my shirt collar. The hand jerked, my body complied, and I fell backwards onto my ass.
I was inside the lotion candle tent. Abigail leaned over me with her index finger over her mouth.
“You need to be quiet. Bernice is going to kill you.”
Abigail helped me into a chair, closed the tent curtains, and lit some of the candles, illuminating the tent. She pulled up a chair and plopped right next to me. Her face looked oily due to working with candles all morning, but her hands were as soft as cream. Her hair was pulled tight into a bun and she wore a sash around her waist. She crossed her extremely long legs and leaned towards me. Abigail was my on-again when Sylvia and I were off-again. It just happened to be, at that time, Sylvia and I were on-again.
Candles flickered and made the tent smell like vanilla. I tried to swallow but my throat felt like sand. “I need a drink.”
“I have some water,” Abigail said. She stood up and walked over to a cooler in the back corner of the tent. She bent from the waist and kept her legs locked, straight.
“No. A real drink.”
She turned her head, looked at me, and scrunched up her nose. “I have that too.”
I leaned my head back and stared at the ceiling. The tent started turning, slowly. My eyes turned in one direction and my body went the other. The room spun faster and faster. I closed my eyes tight, tensed all muscles. I leaned forward and opened my eyes. Abigail was standing in front of me with a half-empty bottle of tequila and two glasses. I extended my index finger and thumb apart like a socket wrench. “A big one, please.”
Abigail smiled, turned around and placed the bottle and glasses on a table. She uncapped the tequila and poured for what seemed an eternity. She fiddled with her shirt, picked up the glasses and turned back around. She held a full glass in each hand, leaned forward, handed me a glass, and showed me her newly exposed cleavage. She sat back down in her chair and we clinked glasses. We both took a long, deep swallow. Fire rained down the back of my throat and swished around in my stomach. I winced and turned my head to the side. After a moment, the fire went out and I took a sigh of relief. I looked at Abigail—who had undone another button on her blouse—and I smiled. She put her hand on my upper thigh. “Is that better?”
“Abby, you know I’m still with…”
Abigail squeezed my cheeks and jammed her tongue in my throat. She dropped her glass on the ground, spilled what was left of her tequila. With her free hand she undid my pants and shoved her hand down the front of my underwear. I grabbed her wrist and squeezed. She rubbed me gently and I let go of her. I thanked God for inventing lotion candles and hammered the rest of my tequila. I threw my glass hard against the ground. The loud crash sent tiny jingling pieces flying. I grabbed the back of Abigail’s head and pulled her lips harder into mine. Tequila and saliva glistened on our mouths and the candles sent glimmering shadows across Abigail’s chest. Orbed cupcakes. Jiggling milk-pops. Tits.
I ripped open her blouse and took a handful of breast. Before I knew it, my pants were off and she was churning butter. I would moan, then she would moan, and I would grab her harder. Right when I was about to concede and add to her collection of homemade lotions, a voice outside the tent said, “It smells like a Mexican candy shop. What the hell is going on? Why are these closed?” The tent doors rustled and popped open.
Bernice stood in the doorway, her face redder than the devil’s sunburnt ass. I was slouched in the chair, legs spread wide, and my pants hanging off my right foot. Sweaty, tits jumping, Abigail played tug-o-war with my middle leg. Pop went the weasel, Bernice shouted, shut the tent doors, and stomped off. It was three days later that Bernice fed Sylvia the tale. And Sylvia ate each goddamned bite.
That was a week ago.
Now, sexual deviant, impregnator of the unwilling, I weaved in and out of families, fencing demonstrations, kids puking, and fellow Renaissance slaves, keeping a low profile. A moving target. Hidden in plain sight. I already kissed enough ass after Bernice caught me with my pants down.
No pun intended.
Bernice took twenty percent of my merchandising sales, and in lieu of getting my pay docked, I had to clean port-o-johns and scoop horse shit up after the jousting shows. I couldn’t afford Bernice taking my money. Especially if I was going to have a baby.
If Sylvia would ever let me near the baby.
Finally, some kids recognized me from a show of mine they saw the previous weekend and wanted to know when my next show was. I told them that it wasn’t for another forty-five minutes, but I would give them a little something to tide them over. They cleared a path and I walked my bike twenty yards uphill. I held the handle bars with my left hand and the seat with my right, put my left foot on the pedal, pushed off with my right and headed down the hill. Like a pro, I swung my right foot on top of the seat and popped my left foot up onto the front end of the crossbar. I stood up and spread my arms. As I surfed down the hill, kids clapped and others turned and pointed. When I reached the end of the run a familiar voice yelled, “Daniel!”
I turned and saw Bernice waddling my way. Then the handle bars took a sharp snap to the left which stopped the bike dead. My body shot forward like a cannonball. With one loud thud I hit the ground and landed on my right shoulder. Acid pooled into my socket and the muscles in my back snapped tighter than a whip. Ice flooded the fingers on my right hand, then turned to needles. I wasn’t sure if I dislocated my shoulder or broke it. I jumped to my feet and ran. Fight or Flight. I had a show coming up and by the look of Bernice’s face it could be my last.
I needed to deal with my shoulder. I ran past first aid and back behind the backdrop of my stage.
Scotty was arranging my props when he caught sight of me. “Hey, man. I was wondering where you were. I tried calling your cell, but it kept going straight to voicemail. Why are you holding your arm?”
I grabbed Scotty’s arm and gritted my teeth. “I need you to find Raymond and get his stash of Vicodin.”
It was always good to keep the odds in your favor. That was why I only did one knife throwing show a day. That was why I ran to my stage and started the show. That was why I took three Vicodin.
My right arm hung limp at my side and tugged at the muscles in my neck. My body was rubber and my head sloshed like a half-empty fish bowl in the hands of an epileptic. I grinned at the audience and threw my hands in the air. My right shoulder popped. My knees buckled and I hit the stage floor like broken cement.
Judging by the gasps, the mic check appeared successful. And the fact that Sylvia turned and looked at me from behind her counter, I knew it was more than loud enough.
On my knees like a pleading sinner, I threw my head back and looked at the sky. Clouds looked gray and mashed. The sun flickered on and off. My eyes blinked out of sync, focused and refocused. My lips felt numb and I tried to lick them but my tongue wouldn’t cooperate. I felt a fire deep within the confines of my skull. I blew hard out of my nose and tried to blow smoke. The audience murmured amongst themselves and I smiled. I smiled so big that the muscles in my ears began to burn. I basked in the heat for a few moments and wondered what was really in Raymond’s bottle of Vicodin.
“I know what you’re here for,” I said, looking into the sky. “You’re here for the death defying. You’re here to be amazed, taken to another place. You want to see life flash before your eyes. You’re here to feel something. Something revolutionary. And me?” I turned my gaze to the patrons of the show. My show. “I’m here to dance for you. Juggle. Put my life on the line, for you. But not tonight. Tonight, it’s your turn.”
I looked each viewer in the eye. I stared until I could feel them squirm. Until they felt like leaving but couldn’t because of my stare. I could feel their anxiety. I smelled their fear. It gave me power.
“Now, let the show . . . begin.”
To throw a knife properly you have to first line up your feet. Stand with them about two foot lengths apart, both pointing at your target. Contrary to popular belief, in knife throwing, you actually use both arms. One to throw with and the other to aim. Point one hand at your target. With the other pinch the blade of the knife with your thumb, index, and middle finger. When you throw it, make sure you follow through and snap your fingers together at the end. That is how you properly throw a knife.
I did some warm-up throws at a target and told the audience how difficult it was to throw a knife accurately. I told them you could trace knife throwing back to around six hundred B.C., when iron was introduced. I told them it was used for hunting and fighting. That Confederate soldiers used to throw knives in battle to kill enemies at close range without causing threat to themselves and to conserve ammunition. I told them this as I threw knives at a target on a large piece of plywood.
I took aim and whipped one as hard as I could. It hit the target flat, rang like a dinner bell, and bounced off the stage. My right shoulder cracked and snapped like Rice Crispies. I tried to pick up another knife off the table next to me, but my hand wouldn’t close. I picked it up with my left hand and touched the blade to the palm of my right hand. In the meat below my thumb, I pressed the tip of the knife. I looked over at Sylvia. She was counting money in her register.
I told the audience how I knocked up my girlfriend.
I pressed harder until I finally drew blood. I didn’t feel a thing.
Sylvia looked at me and shook her head. She gritted her teeth, held her hand horizontal, and made quick side swipes in front of her neck.
I told the audience about the incident with Abigail and how Sylvia found out about it.
It could have been the drugs as to why I was being so confessional, but I didn’t care.
I wiped my hand on my blouse and left a maroon steak across my left breast. I pointed to Sylvia’s refreshment stand. “And there she is. My dear, Sylvia.”
Sylvia’s mouth hung wide and tears rolled down her cheeks. Some of my audience members turned to look at her. I kissed my hand, extended it to her, and smiled. Sylvia put a hand over her mouth and opened a door that was behind her. She walked through and slammed it hard.
I took the knife in my left hand and threw it into the floor, regaining their attention. “Now. I need a volunteer.”
The audience sat in silence. No one nudged the person next to them. There was no playful laughter. The teenagers ducked behind each other and a family in the back slowly collected their things and left.
I walked slowly back and forth on the edge of the stage. “Come on. Who’s it going to be?” I had my right arm draped behind my back. I leaned forward and pointed a knife at each individual. “Don’t…make…me…choose.”
Just then my prayers were answered. Bernice came waddling around the corner. She huffed and wheezed. Her face was red and sweat beaded on her forehead.
I clicked my heels and stood straight up. “Ah, yes. A volunteer.” I jumped off stage and made my way towards Bernice. I took her by the wrist and lead her up the stage steps and placed her against the large piece of plywood. I motioned for her to stay still.
“Daniel, we need to talk,” she said.
I held up a finger in front of my lips. “Shhh, not now. Right now, it’s showtime.” I pointed to the audience. “Can’t keep them waiting.”
I backed away from Bernice and took my stand next to the table of knives. I started sweating as my shoulder filled with acid again. Heat pulsed in my body and the fish bowl in my head emptied. It seemed as if someone installed a kick drum in my right hand and Phil Rudd was keeping a steady beat. The muscles in my back wound tight like guitar strings.
As quickly as the drugs kicked in, they faded.
I tried to pick up a knife with my right hand, but lightning shot through my arm and my shoulder unhinged. I gritted my teeth. “Damn it.” My shoulder was a door and someone was trying to break in with a crowbar. The crowbar jammed and separated. Jammed and separated.
I picked up a knife from the pile with my left hand. I looked at Sylvia’s station, but Raymond had taken over, serving cold drinks and greasy turkey legs.
I placed my feet one in front of the other about two foot-lengths apart. I tried to lift my right arm, but the burglars that lived in my shoulder pried harder with their crowbars and forced me not to. So, I gripped the knife tight with my left hand, cocked my arm and let my right arm hang dead at my side.
Bernice’s chest went up and down like a rabbit’s. She took short, hard, breaths through her mouth. Her eye’s were wide and she never broke her gaze from mine. Her cheeks were flushed and her nose was as red as a baboon’s ass. She clenched her jaw and shook her head.
I told the audience how a good knife-thrower was ambidextrous and could throw with either hand.
Unfortunately, I injured my throwing arm and I was not ambidextrous.
It was her fault I was in this situation. She was the one who told Sylvia. She couldn’t keep her goddamned mouth shut. I wanted to bury that knife deep between Bernice’s eyes. I wanted her lifeless body to slump to the ground and her blood to spill over my stage.
I thought about each fight I had with Sylvia and how difficult it was to say that I was sorry.
Remembered each time she took me back.
I thought about Sylvia and how we used to take walks together after the park had closed for the night.
Remembered the times we spent apart and how each time I slept with Abigail I would think about Sylvia.
I thought about what it would be like to be a father.
Then, I threw the knife.
Kyle Beasinger is an actor, writer, and musician. He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.