The Girl on the Trapeze: A Piece of Short Fiction

Over the summer, I posted some short fiction on Fridays. Once the semester started, I got a little bogged down with work, students, and grading papers. I haven’t written a piece of short fiction in a while, so I thought I’d share this one. Just a little something to keep me fresh.

THE GIRL ON THE TRAPEZE

He stood for a moment at the entrance, ticket in hand. He couldn’t believe he was about to see the show. He hesitated, and almost changed his mind at the last minute, but then thought, what the hell? She’d left him the message that she was in town and had asked him to come. There was a ticket for him at the Will Call window just as she had said.

The place was packed with kids and adults of all ages. The music was blaring from the sound system, and he could detect the faint smell of horse or elephant manure. He found his way to his seat, only a few rows from the main floor. He was sandwiched between two families, and young kids with glow sticks sat on either side of him. The old showbiz saying was right. “The show must go on.” It was true. He was here for a reason. Perhaps this was the final moment. The period at the end of the sentence. He’d been trying to move on from her.

There were clowns and the high wire act. Then the motorcycles came out and did their loops in the big wire wheels. Elephants took the center ring and performed tricks like standing on their hind legs and playing dead. When it was time for her act, he caught himself holding his breath when she entered the Big Top. He watched her climb to the top of the trapeze. He couldn’t help but feel a pit in his stomach as he watched her up there, graceful and elegant. She had promised it would be only a year. But one year turned into two, and before he knew it, their relationship had dissolved into cell phone calls and quick text messages. And then, silence. Circus life became tough on them both, but mostly on him.

The spotlight caught the sequins of her costume and her face; she looked stunning. With her dark hair and heavy eye makeup, she was one you couldn’t miss. He remembered what she had said before she left.

“You are my everything.”

“And you are mine,” he had said in return. “But somehow I think you may never come back.”

“I have to do it, you know. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I may never get this chance again.”

He shook his head, afraid. When she left that day, he wondered about his fear. He hated that he felt that way about her.

When the house lights came on after the finale, horses and elephants and clowns and daredevils all sharing the center ring, he moved down the aisle slipping on popcorn kernels and trash, as he tried to find his way to the backstage area. In the ticket envelope there was a pass that was left for him in his name.

As the usher checked him in, he saw her out of the corner of his eye. She was waiting for him at the door, already out of her costume and wearing jeans and a sweater, looking like an ordinary person instead of the girl on the trapeze.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m glad you came. It’s good to see you.”

“You, too,” he said. “Thanks for the ticket.”

“You’re welcome,” she said, a smile moving across her face.

“Good show.”

“My last one,” she said.

He looked at her, but didn’t respond. He didn’t want to feel anything. It had taken him a year to get stronger.

“There’s a coffee shop across the street,” she said. “Care to join me?”

He nodded. She grabbed his hand and they made their way out the stage door and into the night air.

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