Synopsis: When James's parents abandon him for their work during a family outing once more, he finds a way to not only gain the needed attention from them, but to leave their work where it should be: at work.
I don't understand why they brought me here. They always do stuff like this: act like they care by offering to take me somewhere fun for once and end up doing nothing but talk on their stupid phones all of the time. Like now, for instance, they've suggested and successfully dragged me to, the circus. It's a Barnum and Bailey-type big-top circus with all the shows, the clowns and the acts.
To be honest, it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. Despite acting like I wanted nothing to do with going to the circus, it's actually something I've desired to experience for a long time. Stuff like this are things that I've wanted and desired to do for so long, but, usually end up having them ruined because my parents spend the entire occasion talking to their bosses on their blackberries.
I remember when I was ten and we went to see some movie in the theaters. It was honestly not a movie I wanted to really see, but, I hoped to get some time with my parents for once. Well, no sooner did the first scene flash up onto the screen did both of my parent's cell phones begin to ring. They both got up and left, promising they'll be back in a minute and I didn't see either of them until the movie was done. By then I was in tears, quietly sitting in the top row of the theater.
It's been six years since then and finally I've decided to give them another chance at doing something like this right, but, I don't trust me. We've driven for twenty minutes to the circus and, surprisingly, they've been good. No phones going off, no business calls, no meetings, nothing. We parked the car and went to go get our tickets and then we waited for the show to begin.
We sit in the stands off to the right of the center of the tent. My mother and father sit on opposite sides of me and are quiet, waiting for the show to begin, just like me. Down below us, the masses of people shift around, talking and passing the time. I look up to my dad and see him smiling gently, dazed off into la-la land, something I haven't seen in a long time.
Checking my mother, I see she's busy digging through her purse. I fear she'll pull that stupid phone out, but, instead she takes out different tubes of lipstick, frowns at each one, drops them back into the purse and then just sighs. She must have left her favorite color at home. I smile and begin to actually believe that this will be a good night for once.
"Attention, ladies and gentlemen, the show shall begin in just a moment." A voice announces over the intercom system. "If you would take your seats, the opening act shall be on its way momentarily."
"Finally, I thought this thing would never begin." Dad comments as the people begin to quiet down.
The lights above begin to lessen and the spotlights rigged up on platforms around the area swing around to focus on the main ring in the dirt below. As the room darkens completely, I turn my eyes downwards and see a hefty man walking out of the side entrance, hobbling towards the center.
"Ladies," he begins, with a gruff, seemingly angry voice, "and gentlemen. Welcome to the circus and do we ever . . . have a show . . . for . . . you."
The man is dressed in white slacks with a black coat on and a strange-looking hat. But that is all I can see because we're so high up in the stands. From here, he looks no more like a man than a bug with a jacket and slacks on. With his arms behind his back, he begins to stride about, looking upwards and around, seemingly smiling, I suppose.
"But this isn't just a circus, folks, it's a place of wonder, of imagination, of pure enjoyment and I, Mr. R.P. O'Higgins, am here to give you the show of your life!"
He throws his arms up and fireworks flash and fly out of the ground. White doves take flight from within smoke funnels that appear around him and for the longest time, the man disappears. A band begins to play, low, creepy music that wows and boggles the minds of the other stooges that came here tonight.
A spotlight behind us swings and shines down upon a huge column of smoke and steam that has engulfed the big ring in the center of the tent. As the light goes across the smoke, a face appears. The face is of an older white gentleman, with big, black, bushy eyebrows and a moustache that looks like he has black needles poking from each side of his upper lip. A big, purple-red top hat covers his balding head, while white and black hair tuffs stretch out from the back of the hat itself.
"Oh, this is a place of wonder, my friends." The face says, with the ringmaster's voice. "There are magicians and clowns!" Men begin to pour out from the column of smoke and do strange tricks. White-gloved hands appear on the smoke beside the head, without arms or even wrists. "And they'll do just whatever trick you want them to do, as long as it makes you smile." He wraps his hands around each other and then produces three doves that take flight in every direction.
"We have acrobats, we have motorcyclists and we have daredevils!" The ringmaster announces.
The hands point upwards and up in the rafters three men begin to swing about as a woman with a quarterstaff begins across a tight rope that is strung from one side of the big tent to the other. A buzz of noise comes from the ground level and three men on dirt bikes fly out of the smoke to begin going around the dirt arena, spraying mud and dirt up everywhere. The face smiles and the eyebrows furrow, making the face look creepy, rather than friendly. The eyes appear to look directly at me.
"And we have animals." The man says slowly, lowly, as if he wanted people to lean in and listen to a secret.
The hands go up and he snaps his fingers. Down below curtains open up along the sides of the tents and a parade of animals begin to march in. Trailers, cages, and fancifully colored floats pour in, all being pulled by camels with hats on, horses in neon colored bows, and elephants with huge, strange colored saddles and boxes on their backs.
As the animals begin to circle around, completing the strange menagerie of slowly circling groups of acts, the smoke begins to dissipate, but, the face doesn't disappear. It continues to smile towards the crowd, towards me, with crooked, unkempt teeth. The hands lace fingers with each other right beneath the chin and the ringmaster begins to chuckle. Just before the smoke disappears, he snaps his fingers again and the lights go.
"But, my friends, they shall not occupy this arena all at once, no, that would be just chaos, now, wouldn't it?" The ringmaster spiels. "No, that is why were going to have our animals and our acrobats and riders disappear for a little while. They'll be back, but, not until the opening show is done."
The crowds of animals and people begin to disappear back into the sides of the tents, marching up aisles between the stands and out into the unknown. The ringmaster turns around and begins to walk directly away from me, towards a black doorway that must go outside. But before he gets there, he turns around and I swear looks directly at me.
"Enjoy the show." He commands.
Then he snaps his fingers again, as it echoes over the loudspeakers. Finally, he turns and marches out of the big top. As soon as the tarp closes, a woman rushes towards the center of the arena and her magicians, clowns and actors begin to put together some sort of strange show. At the same time, I begin to hear a buzzing sound coming from either side of me.
Turning my head, I look to my dad and see him look down to a cell phone that hangs at his waist on a strange holster that makes him look like some middle-class cowboy with a cell phone revolver. He grabs it and looks at the front of it, glowing blue as a phone call comes in.
"Dad, no, please, you promised." I say to him, quietly as not to disturb the people around me.
He looks to me, makes an awkward, dissatisfied smirk and shrugs his shoulders.
"I'm sorry, champ, I need to take this." He says to me and stands up.
I grab at him as he walks by, but, he ignores me and goes out into the steps and is gone out of sight before too long. I knew this would happen I just knew it would! They always do this kind of crap: promise to have some family time and then ruin it with work! I cross my arms and look down into my lap. I don't want to be here anymore, there's no point. They ruined it already.
Moments later I hear another buzzing noise and know that a phone call is coming in for my mother. I'm sure that office needs her to clear up some kind of employee disaster that happened on her weekend off. But, I don't even talk to her or try to stop her from going. I knew it was going to happen.
"I'll be right back, James, don't go anywhere." She says to me and touches my shoulder.
I shake her arm away and look away, angry at what they're doing. They must know about how much pain their inflicting, but they always made their choice to put work before everything else. She takes her hand away and then stands up. As she shuffles out into the staircase to go outside to take the phone call, I watch her go and then close my eyes.
"Whatever." I say to myself. "They ruin everything, but, they don't give a shit about anything anyways. Work always comes first, no matter what."
Within moments I'm alone again, just like in that movie theater six years back. The only difference is my age and the size of the venue that I've been abandoned in. Sitting in my seat for five minutes, I try to enjoy some of the show, but, when they don't come back, I decide that I'm not going to take this anymore. There is no way that I'm going to go through this again.
Standing up, I slide out of my seat and then begin down the stairs that go to the floor and then lead out of the tent. People watch me as I go by, probably wondering why so many people are leaving already, but, I don't look at them. I hurry down the stairs and as I near the bottom I put my hands into my jeans pockets and watch my feet as I walk.
I pass by the arena where a bunch of clowns are jumping around telling jokes and hitting each other in a cartoonish-violent, yet hilarious fashion. Unfortunately, I can't laugh at anything. In fact, I'm trying to keep in my anger and my sadness. Looking away, I continue to watch the dirt between my shoes as I walk. Finally, I hurry up the aisle and towards the door through which we entered, desiring to get away from all the people and what was supposed to bring me joy.
Outside I stand in the cool June afternoon weather and sulk. Leaning back against the wall of the tent, I pick up one leg and put the bottom of my shoe against the wall. I then cross my legs and look down at the bottom of my black Beatles Abbey Lane t-shirt. Closing my eyes, I try to blink back tears that come to me.
My jaw begins to quiver and the tears force me to open my eyes and close them tight once more. I can't help myself, I'm so angry at them for doing this again. But, at the same time I'm miserable sad that my family has no unity. So I hide my face in my t-shirt and then just cover my face up with my arms entirely.
I sniffle and wipe my tears into my skin and a little bit of my shirt. With my eyes tight, I listen to everything that's going on around me. That isn't much, only I can hear some of the act still going on inside. Then, over the noise of the far-off act, I hear the sound of shuffling feet moving across the grass and towards where I stand.
"Hey, kid, what's wrong?" A familiar voice asks. "Aren't you enjoying the show?"
I lower my arm, but, still look downwards. I don't want whoever this is to see me crying like this, it's embarrassing. But, emotions are normal and come naturally. I just wish that I could help it. I shake my head wordlessly and then sniffle, blinking my eyes.
"It's my parents." I say. "They're so caught up in their work life that they never have time for anything else. Every time we go someplace, they abandon me for the first vibrate of their blackberry. They just did it now. Now I can't enjoy that show."
"Well, that's parents for you." The voice consoles. "They'll do stuff like this, it's important to be able to get through it. I can understand why you're so sad, so miserable . . . so angry."
"I wish that there was some way to make them see what they're doing!" I suddenly announce without thinking. "I wish that I had some way of making them see what's important in their life, what's going on outside of that stupid little black box inside of their stupid fucking pocket!"
I grit my teeth and ball my hands into fists. Hearing the footsteps again, I look up and see the creepy face of that ringmaster, with the straight needle moustache and terrible sense of color coordination. Suddenly I see him raise his hand up from his waist and begin to smile wickedly. In his hands is a needle. He jabs forward with it and gets me in the shoulder.
Before I can scream, he injects me with something and I begin to feel faint and weak. My legs buckle under me and my arms fall to my side. I begin to slide down towards the ground and the ringmaster lets go of the needle, letting it hang from my skin. I look up at him and see him feel over his hands again and again, obviously happy with what he's done.
"Wish granted, kid."
"Get up!" A voice cries.
Suddenly something hits me in the side and I jerk to life. Gasping for breath, I stare at the darkness that is behind my eyelids and feel what is beneath me. I don't think I'm outside anymore, I feel like I'm lying on concrete or wood or metal or something hard like that. But, I feel strange. There feels like there's a layer of down between me, or maybe a coat or another shirt.
I open my eyes and look out in front of me and the first thing that I see are the large iron bars that go upwards in front of me. Lifting my head up from the ground, I look to the bars and see that they run from a wooden platform that I've been lying on, all the way to a metal roof above.
"What? What's going on?" I demand.
Looking around, I see a whole bunch of men and women around me. Strong men, magicians, miserable-looking clowns, acrobats and actresses all crowd around an area outside of the tent, but, with a lot of trucks, small, portable buildings and other tents around it. A lot of them look at me with pure awe, but, some smile dastardly as if they were in on some terrible joke.
"You're our newest sideshow, kid." That familiar voice says.
Swinging my head around, I see the ringmaster walk out from a dark alleyway between the sides of two trucks. He smiles, obviously proud of himself, and walks with his hands linked behind his back. Walking towards me, I stare directly at him and not know what's going on.
"You wished to get away from those parents of yours, well, guess what, I've given it to you." He announces to me. "But, in return, you're going to have to make me a lot of money. And that shouldn't be too hard. Just move around in that cage of yours, maybe make some sounds. Oh, and try to look cute, the ladies and children love that. Here, just take a look at yourself."
The ringmaster takes his hands from behind his back and presents me with a hand mirror. He turns it to its side and then throws it between the bars. Quickly, I crawl towards his side of my cage and then reach towards the mirror. Immediately I know that something is wrong. I don't see one of my hands reach towards the mirror, I see a strange, furry hand with tan fur and black spots over it reach towards it.
Gasping for air, frightened and surprised, I snatch up the mirror and then turn it towards my face. Slowly, I look into the mirror, my jaw agape, and then begin to moan and whine at what I see. A strange dog-like face looks back at me, covered in tan fur and punctuated with black spots. A black nose sits at the end of a dog-like muzzle. Round, black ears sit up beside my usual black haircut.
"I'm a . . ." I begin, seeing the mouth move and form the words as I say them. "I'm a--"
"You're a hyena, kid." The ringmaster finishes for me. "But not just a hyena, you're a very special hyena. You can stand up and use your arms like a human being, see forward and talk like one too. But you have paws, fur, and a hyena head and even a little . . . feathery . . . tail."
I look up to the ringmaster and see him pacing just outside the bars. I'm so angry, but, at the same time, I feel so saddened by the whole thing. If I were pissed enough, I could reach through the bars and rip him apart with the new claws on my fingers, maybe bite him with my new hyena teeth. But, I don't. I just sit and watch him walk.
"Nobody is gonna save you, so, don't even try anything." The ringmaster informs me. "Nobody would believe that a talking were-hyena was a human teenager at one point anyways."
He smiles and then chuckles to himself, rubbing his white-gloved hands together in front of his chin. Next the ringmaster turns and looks towards the men that are standing around and staring at me. He nods to a few guys and suddenly the cage begins to move. That's when I realize that the cage has wheels and, turning my head, I see it is drawn by two horses.
"Enjoy the show, you miserable kid!" The ringmaster yells at me with a wicked smile. "And don't forget to wave to Mom and Dad!"
Standing up, well, standing up the best that I can, I rush towards the cage bars. Quickly, I find out that it isn't so easy to walk on paws. My shoes are gone and so are my socks, but, still it's very difficult. In fact, the only clothes that I still wear are my jeans, which are now ripped a little bit, too.
I stumble around like a three-year-old trying to walk and finally make it to the cage bars just in time to wrap my hands around the iron and feel the cold chill rush in through the black pads that stick through the tan and black spotted hyena fur before I go into the dark big top and the curtain is closed. Seeing this happen, I turn around look around and see all the people staring at me. Moments later spotlights begin to whirl around me.
Stepping away from the bars, I turn and go to the bars on the other side. Once there, I hold myself against the bars and stick my muzzle out between two of them. A woman walks along side the rumbling cart. I look to her and begin to whine and to cry like a dog.
"Please, help me." I beg her.
She looks to me, frowns sadly and then looks away. I know that she can't do much of anything but just console me and continue on with the show anyways. Despite this, I still do a puppy-dog stare at her and begin to quaver and quake my jaw and form real tears.
"Don't forget to say hi to Mom and Dad." She says to me.
At first I think she's mocking me, but, when I see her face, I begin to believe that there's something more to this than I'm seeing. She nods her head and then looks away from me. After a few more moments, the cart rumbles to a stop at the very center of the dirt arena.
"Now, people, it's time for the finest piece of entertainment that I could ever want to present to you." The ringmaster's voice says from somewhere out of sight. "I picked him up when I was going on the third of my many travels through the Belgian Congo. The people there called him Xiaquian, or, 'The Monstrous One'. Do not be afraid of him, ladies and gentlemen, he is quite tame. And, of course, he is restrained in his cage. Now, please, if you would put together your hands for . . ." The spotlights stop circling around and suddenly focus on me, blinding me and making me cover my eyes with my hands. "The Beast."
I hear gasps roll throughout the audience and know that they can all see me. Lowering my hand, my eyes finally adjusting to the light, I look out and see the crowds of people all staring at me. They're all silent as church mice and staring at me without absolute disbelief. This is when I begin to whine to make a sound that I didn't intend to.
"Mom," I cry out frightfully, "Dad, please help me!"
My voice reverberates around the room and suddenly the entire crowd begins to talk and take pictures. Flashes go off and it suddenly makes me feel like I'm on the field at a Super Bowl game. I pull at the bars and they do not move. No, they don't even shake and that tells me that there's no way that I can get away now. I moan and cry and whimper pathetically, but, it's the only thing that I can do.
The ringmaster begins to say some more things, but, I don't hear it. Not consciously at least. I simply stare out at the masses of people and hope that one way or another that I'll be free. The noise gets louder and people all stand up, to get a better vantage point and to take more pictures.
Soon, everything is just overwhelming and I begin to slide down the bars into a sitting position. Still staring out at the crowds, I sit down and then lie onto my side, my hands continuing to cling to the bars. But, after a while, I let them fall and I am still. As I close my eyes, I begin to hear boos from the crowd.
"Now people, now people, he's a very tired creature. He's not used to the weather and . . . oh, alright." The voice says. "Get the chain. We're taking the Beast of a walk."
Before I can contemplate what is going on, I hear hands grabbing the bars and shaking them around. Lifting my head up and opening my eyes, I look around to see two strong men, bald heads and matching leotards and all, opening the door. One opens it up and suddenly the other one is climbing into the cage and is upon me.
"At your demand, we've decided to take the monster that is the Beast out of his cage. Now, people, we're not used to this, oh, no, so I cannot tell you what will happen. He may go mad and try to attack some people!" The crowd gasps. "Or he may lie down and go to sleep. It's no telling, not with a beast that has the most powerful bite in the animal kingdom."
I don't fight the strongmen as they equip me with a studded collar that has a long, steel chain on it. But I do fight when the strongmen step out of the cage and begin to drag me across the wooden floor. Yelping and crying, I am pulled out of the cage and land on the dirty, slightly muddy ground with a thud.
The people start oohing and aahing at the creature now out of its cage. Cameras flash, accompanied by an obnoxious, nagging 'ka-ching, ka-ching' sound. Lying on the ground for a few more seconds, I sniff and dig my newfound claws into the dirt. Footsteps sound all around me and then I feel somebody grab the collar that has been attached to my neck.
"Get up, doggy." A dumb, Austrian-accented voice commands.
Yelping, I am dragged up onto my paws and then dropped into a standing position without wanting it. Stumbling forward, I open my eyes and then grab the collar and hold it away from neck. As I look around, confused as to what is going on, I feel a foot press against my back and then push me forward.
"Get walking, doggy!" The same voice mandates.
I yelp again but do as he commands. Stumbling forward, I feel the feathery tail now jutting from the end of my spine bend into me, tickling against the insides of my legs where my jeans have been ripped, probably from being dragged across the ground, or, maybe when I turned into this thing that I have become.
A band in the corner begins to the play the unforgettable tune 'Entry of the Gladiators', seemingly mocking my condition. But this only forces the people to make even more sound, thunderstruck by what they are seeing. The ground feels strange beneath my paws as I waddle along for the crowd's amusement.
My eyes scan over the masses of people and then I look up and down some of the aisles leading outside, hoping to see my parents. Gazing upwards, I find where I was sitting and still see a huge hole where we were supposed to watch the circus from. They're not there. They're probably still outside, talking on their cell phone to important managers about unavoidable matters that I could never understand, as my father puts it. Why is it when I need them the most, they're never here?
As I look away, I continue to walk around the arena, humiliated, with the two strong men at my shoulders. The people continue to gawk and photograph me, obviously not caring for me. But, why should they? They don't even know that I was ever human. The ringmaster walks up and I see him out of my peripheral vision. He raises his hands into the air and smiles wickedly.
"See, the Beast is tame under my supervision!" He announces heartily. "Now, if only I could get him to clean the floors!"
The crowd lets out a low laugh, meaning that only a few people thought that it was at all humorous. Looking down towards the ground, I march onwards, not caring about the people anymore. I'm not sure, but, I think that this is now my life and this is what I will do for all eternity.
Lifting my head up, I look to the crowd again, scanning from my far left, all the way to my far right. As I turn my head, I see a light open up at ground level and then focus my eyes upon it. A figure begins to walk through the light and then the light disappears.
I stop marching and turn my body towards the figure. Up the aisle between the two sets of stands walks my mother, pressing buttons on her phone as she holds it at waist-level, meaning she's checking e-mail and basically done with her work. Beginning to yip happily, I feel my tail begin to wag and then take off towards her.
The crowd oohs at this and quiets down. I focus my eyes on my approaching mother and as I near the four-foot-high concrete barrier that surrounds the dirt arena, suddenly my legs are cut out from underneath me. Flying upwards, my legs going out in front of me, I fall to the ground and then lie in the mud. The people laugh.
"Oh, it seems that our little Beast has found a playmate." The ringmaster taunts.
Rolling onto my side, I get up onto my knees and then look over my shoulder and at my mother, who walks towards the barricade, meaning to turn and go up into the stands. As she nears me, without even looking at me, my tail begins to sway again and I smile, half-heartedly because of the pain in my neck where the chain choked me.
"Mom," I say to her.
My mother looks upwards and then all around, having heard my voice, but, doesn't see me. She walks to the end of the barricade and then turns to begin up towards where she and my father were supposed to be seated with me.
"Mom," I cry at her loudly.
My mother stops walking at the bottom of the metal stairs, her hand holding the steel-tube railing and begins to look around. The people sitting in the bottom row look at her and smile, but, don't make any noise.
"James, where are you?" My mother says.
"Here, I'm right here!" I cry out.
My mom turns her head around and looks directly at me. My eyebrows go up and my jaw hangs open as my tail begins to thrash about happily. She connects eyes with me and then suddenly takes several steps back, her eyebrows going upwards and her rose-red lips falling open.
"Oh my God, what is that thing?" She screams.
My tail ceases its happy motion and my eyebrows fall down. Dipping my nose towards the ground, I look at her with puppy-dog eyes and don't move.
"Mom," I ask her quietly.
Suddenly she realizes what has happened and begins towards the concrete wall, her jaw still ajar and her eyebrows as high as the sky on her tanned-white forehead. Placing her hands up onto the top of the concrete barrier, she looks down over me and breathes heavily. The crowd is silent as a graveyard, although some talk quietly, confused about the situation.
"James, is that you?" She asks, confused.
I nod my head and suddenly the chain begins to pull at me. Looking over my shoulder, the strongmen hold onto the chain and begin to pull backwards on it. The chain goes taught and suddenly I am being drug over the muddy ground on my back. My head turns and my eyes watch as my mother slowly is pulled away from me.
"Come on, now, you can't play with just one of our guests. Let's try to entertain them all, shall we?"
As I am dragged over the ground, the crowd breaks out into quiet chatter, obviously stupefied by what just happened. My mother begins to walk along the concrete barrier while staring directly at me. I'm not sure if she believes me. Somebody in the bottom row says something to her and she looks up towards her seat. When she sees my seat is empty, her eyes turn towards me, wide as dinner plates.
"James!" She screams out.
The crowd goes silent again and people in the lower rows stand up to look at her. People far away all stand up to stare at the woman who now screams a name at the monster being paraded around the ring, as if it were her child. The strongmen stop dragging me and I flip over to climb onto my hands and knees.
As I lift my head up, I look to the ringmaster, who looks around to the crowd, frowning with his mouth hanging slightly open. He seemingly doesn't believe what is going on. After a few seconds, as I stand up on my knees, he smiles and then swivels his head around like a gun turret on a battleship.
"People, people, ignore the crazy woman screaming names at my new beast. She has no idea what is going on, she hasn't even been in big top during the show!" He yells towards the crowds.
The people begin to boo lowly, which absolutely stuns me. The booing grows louder and, turning my eyes, I see this has a detrimental effect on the ringmaster. He frowns again, lowers his arms to his side and looks around.
"Ladies and gentlemen, don't let this imposter fool you! There is no relation between the Beast and her!" He blasts, his voice becoming angrier and angrier by the word.
As I climb up onto my paws, I look around at the people and see them all standing, booing the ringmaster and his treatment of me. Looking over my shoulder, I see a man, my father, running towards where my mother stands. Mom screams at him, her arms flailing around and her head red as a cherry.
I begin to smile, despite my tail hiding between my legs, and know that they're finally coming to their senses. She points to me and then points up towards the top of the stands, and finally she pokes my father in the chest several times when he nears her. My father stares at me and his jaw slips open.
"Let's all calm down just a minute and think!" The ringmaster commands. "How could a pair of normal business folk spawn a hideous, monstrous beast such as this? How could normal people raise a child to be like that?"
Somebody throws a half-empty Pepsi bottle that smashes onto the field just in front of where the fat ringmaster stands. The cap breaks open and soda sprays over the man, drenching some of his clothes. He grits his teeth angrily and holds his arms at his side, gloved hands clamped into fists.
Checking on my parents, my father pushes past my mother and then vaults over the concrete barrier. As he marches towards the ringmaster and me, his cell phone gripped in a shaking hand, I see the look of both embarrassment and anger painted over his mug. As he nears me, his anger subsides and he slows his murderous march towards the man who is responsible.
"Are you okay?" He asks me.
My smile goes away and my ears fold back.
"Do I look okay?" I demand of him. "You abandon me again, just like you did when I was little and this is what happens! You promised that I'd have a good time, you promised to leave your stupid work back in the office for five minutes, but you break that promise just like every other one you've ever made."
My father looks downwards, obviously ashamed of what he's done. As I see the pain I'm inflicting onto him, I close my mouth and calm myself back down. Then I take in a cleansing breath and push it out audibly. My father raises his eyes to look at me.
"I know that you only work so that we can have a good life. But you need to know when you end your work life and begin your home life and vice versa." I explain. "You've never done that and look what its lead to."
Dad smiles and he steps forward, throwing his arms up and around me. As he embraces me, I look over his shoulder and at the crowd of people surrounding us. They all, every last one of them, get to their feet and begin to clap and whistle and cheer. Through the entire hubbub, I hear the footsteps of the ringmaster go behind me. Like last time, I don't see him, I only hear him.
"Looks like I've lost again." The ringmaster says quietly. "The jury's spoken, you're a free freak. Enjoy it while you have it."
The chain around my neck loosens and crashes to the floor. As the weight is pulled from my body, my dad leans back and looks to me. Then he looks to his phone as it begins to ring once again. Shaking his head, he throws it into a large pile of elephant crap on the floor.
"Come on, let's get out of here." My father says. "I think you and your mother have had enough excitement for a night . . . or a lifetime."
Putting his arm around my shoulder, he leads me towards the barricade where my mother practically straddles it because she's leaning so far forward. As I approach the concrete barrier, my mother quickly embraces me across the gap. As she sinks her face into my newly found fur, she sighs.
"I'm sorry we left you alone." She says to me. "We won't do it again. From now on, we'll leave our work where it should be."
"Thank you." I reply. "Maybe next time you'll stay for more than the first five notes of the overture. And maybe we can go get something to eat. Whatever they did to me, it took a lot out of me."