Gloria traced the rough texture of the bricks, the abrasive particles of sand and grit catching the tender skin of her fingertips. A concavity caught her attention, and she paused, cocking her head in curiosity. She scratched at the small hole, widening it, and flakes of mortar tumbled to the ground at her feet, littering her shoelaces with their crystalline dandruff.
She reached the bottom quickly enough, and lost interest when nothing of note appeared. She continued on her way, meandering back and forth across the sidewalk, never stepping on a crack for fear of breaking her mother’s back.
Cedric leaned against the street sign catty-corner to Gloria’s wandering dance, and he watched her with bright eyes. Such a girl would likely have some interesting stories to tell, he thought. His mind made up, he crossed the street, Gloria in his crosshairs.
Gloria froze, her sneaker toe millimeters from a large insect blundering its way across her path. She squatted and squinted at the poor thing–a beetle, she judged. She reached out a hand to touch it, and like that, it spread its wings and disappeared into the bright blue sky without a trace. Gloria smiled broadly, unperturbed that her plans had been so swiftly shattered by such an insignificant creature.
She stood back up and prepared to continue on her way, but a man blocked her.
Cedric knew that with his fighter’s build, he could bed intimidating, but he had spent years perfecting his kindly and disarming smile. He used that smile on Gloria, to an unexpected effect.
“And that’s how your mother and I met, kids.”
Charisma’s explicit blink stirred something in Frank’s memory; he shook his head when he couldn’t recall any details.
The lime-green Chevrolet in the garage rusted silently.
Serene gathered her courage and pulled the knot a little bit tighter on the top of her polka-dotted bikini. She nodded decisively at her reflection and left the bathroom, slapping the light switch on her way out.
She paused dramatically at the top of the staircase, pointing her left foot and bending her knee.
“How do I look?” She called downstairs, startling her husband.
“What?” He rounded the corner and let out a wolf whistle. “You look…so good in that.” He smiled broadly. “I can’t wait for our vacation now,” he said, winking, as he climbed the stairs to wrap his arms around her.
She sank down to her knees in the sand, and then fell to her left, reaching to hold her legs against her body, for steadiness or warmth or some unfathomable reason. The tears streamed down her cheeks as she looked up at the clouds sliding across the sky.
“I can’t remember what color his eyes were,” she sobbed.
The field was dry, bristly grass. It waited simply, as only an empty field can wait, for what was to come.
As promised, the annual circus arrived Thursday night and began setting up for the first show, scheduled for Friday evening. This spring was much hotter than usual, but still quite temperate for late April; the cirkies sweated no more than they were used to as they set up the big top and all that came with it.
But no one was prepared for the diabolatry later in the weekend, save the escapist.
And by the end of it, only the single shotgun lying in a drying pool of sticky red blood knew the whole tale.
He cackled like a Bond villain, and continued to carefully explain the severe corrosion the acid bath was going to have on her body if she didn’t talk.
She continued smiling, shaking her head at his ever more frantic insistence. “I don’t believe you want to hurt me,” she said.