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Anthony Kane Evans has had a number of stories published in various magazines, including London Magazine (UK), The Tusculum
Review
(US) and Etchings (Australia).  He has pieces in up-coming/current issues of Pear Noir, an American print magazine, and Big
Pulp
, a US on-line journal.   He's British but lives in Copenhagen.  When not writing he makes documentary films on a freelance
basis for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.
My Second Gear Approach to Life


The local newspaper I work for sent me out to cover the circus. I asked if I couldn't sneak around the back and check if
the animals were being well-treated.

"They've taken out a full-page ad, don't be barmy. Why are you always trying to take the bread out of your mouth,
Mark?" Bustos, the editor asked.

"Because it is stale and tastes bitter?"

"Oh, very droll, very droll. Now if you don't mind, bugger off. And here... "

He tossed me a camera.

"John's sick, you'll have to take the photos yourself."

                                                                    ***

The bloody circus. I've never liked the circus. Horror movies about the circus, yes. The real McCoy, no, no, no. The clowns
are never funny, the trapeze act gives me a literal pain in the neck and the elephants standing on their hind legs make me
want to cry. But I'm working for the rich man, or rather, worse: I'm working for a tight-fisted bum who'll never get rich.
I'd like to know how much the circus people paid for that full-page ad, probably a bucketful of tickets, which Bustos is
selling door to door.

                                                                    ***

The girlfriend looked at me over dinner.

"What's up, don't you like it?"

She'd made lemon chicken.

"Oh, it's great, love, it's just that they've asked me to cover the circus."

"Well, that's great, you've always been itching to do an exposé."

"I think Bustos has more in mind that I write a glowing review and take some fancy pictures to boot."

"But you're not allowed to take pictures, what'll the union say?"

"I'll just put them up under a nick. Nick Nack, whaddya think?"

"Not funny."

                                                                    ***

I drove over in second gear. They were still putting the tent up as I got there, the big top. A man came running over to
me, waving his arms.

"Cut the engine, you'll be frightening the lion!"

I cut the engine and coasted to a stop, hitting a white picket fence in the process.

"You should let Jimmy have a look at that," the man with the arms said.

He meant the car.

"Its okay, it's just that I can't drive. I only took the 'L' plates off last week. I'm from
The Post. I think I'm expected."

                                                                    ***

The owner was in a huge caravan with walnut walls and an oaken desk that looked like it had stepped out of a Cecil B.
DeMille silent. We drank brandy and bandied words.

"I guess you'll be wanting a potted history of our circus," he said, "It just so happens that I have here a press handout.
And there are a bunch of photos you can download from the net."

I whipped out the camera, took a quick shot. The flash disturbed him.

"Bloody hell!"

"We like to do our own angle on things down at
The Post," I said.

He waved an arm.

"Help yourself, old son, my circus is your circus."

                                                                    ***

I went over to the big top and had a look around. There was a young woman with tassels on her nipples juggling apples. I
looked at her for a while.

"If you say they look tasty, I'll brain you," she said.

"I wouldn't dream of it," I replied, "Besides, I've got a girlfriend."

"Since when did that stop anybody."

"What's up, don't you like the job?"

She dropped the apples and put her hands on her hips.

"I've just joined, if you must know."

"Then you might be just the angle I need for this second rate article, lyric poem, essay, advertising copy for a cheese
commercial, whatever it is I end up writing."

"You what?"

"Do you fancy putting your coat on and I'll buy you lunch. I'm from
The Post."

"Oh, so you're the man from
The Post?"

"The one and only."

"You also take the photos?"

I looked down at the camera.

"On a bad day, yes."

                                                                    ***

I took her to the Chinese. I said I didn't mind what main course she had but I insisted that she have won ton soup for
starters as they did the best won ton soup I'd ever tasted. She said okay then started to put some lipstick on. I took
some photos.

"Hey, wait until I'm finished, can't you!"

"I want the startled look," I said.

"If you're so artsy what are you doing working on a local paper?"

"That's what the boss is always asking me."

"That's no answer."

"Maybe there is no answer."

"I read a poem the other day," she said.

"Oh, yeah?"

"You being sarcastic?"

"No."

"Well, I read this poem and there was a line I couldn't understand. Do you want to hear it?"

"Sure."

And she quoted:
The horse waded into the city of grammar.

"What's that mean?" she asked.

"Haven't got a clue but I like it."

"Jesus! Fat lot of good you are, you and your pretensions."

"Listen, if you knew what that line meant you'd forget it instantly. It only stays in your mind because it's a puzzle."

I ordered lemon chicken.

"Is it any good?" she asked.

"We eat it all the time," I said.

"We?"

"Me and the girlfriend."

"I'm not eating lemon chicken with you. So you can just change your order."

"You're kidding?"

She stood up and slung her handbag over a shoulder.

"All right, already," I said.

She sat down again.

                                                                    ***

The tape recorder wasn't working so I had to write the interview down in long hand.

"You're pretty old-fashioned on this paper, aren't you?"'

"We try to be," I said.

                                                                    ***

After lunch I drove her back. Half-way there she took hold of the gear stick and forced it from second into third. The car
made a lot of protesting noises.

"Put your foot down and then I'll put it into fourth for you."

"Fourth?"

"Put your foot down."

I put my foot down.

"Not the accelerator!"

I put my other foot down. She shifted us into fourth. I had to admit that it made for a smoother ride.

                                                                    ***

She asked me if I wanted to come into her caravan for a drink.

"I've got a girlfriend, remember!"

"Jesus,
you remember! Now you want a drink or you don't?"

I went in. She took the camera off me, took my jacket off. Pulled her dress over her head and that was that.

                                                                    ***

Bustos glowered at me.

"What kind of a story is this?"

"It's from the viewpoint of somebody newly started for whom the circus is a brand new world."

"But you don't mention anything but juggling!"

"That's because it is from the viewpoint of a juggler."

"What about the clowns, the elephants, the lions? Not to mention the trapeze artists! Why, the Lukunku Brothers are
working up quite a reputation for themselves."

"All edited out."

"Since when did you become the editor of this rag?"

                                                                    ***

Back home, the girlfriend's mood gradually soured.

"Where've you been?"

"Writing that article on the circus."

She was sniffing. She came closer and sniffed some more.

"You stink of
Sunflowers."

"There's flowers springing up all over the place, its spring for crying out loud. What's so bad about that?"

"I mean the scent not the flower,
the perfume. You've been with some woman who's been wearing Sunflowers."

"Look, I've been interviewing all types for this article. I can't tell them what perfume or aftershave to wear just because
you might object."

                                                                    ***

Next day Bustos sent me off to the circus again.

"I want pictures of the Strongman, the lion, the two-headed geek--everything!" he shouted after me.

The Strongman said: "Why'd I join the circus? Because I disliked being pinned down, boxed in with commitments, you
know, those places where a drink is the one unguarded escape route."

                                                                    ***

I interviewed the Siamese twins. They didn't have much to say about themselves but both agreed that it was funny how
words seemed to form in the air by themselves.

The trapeze artists wouldn't come down.

"How'd you get such a crazy name as the Lukunku Brothers?" I called up.

"Because we come from Africa," they called back.

                                                                    ***

Back home the girlfriend was fuming. She held up my article.

"Who is this?"

"Didn't you read the article? It's Suzie LaLu, the juggler."

"And what kind of a picture is this?"

"A natural one."

"And who is she putting her lipstick on for, if not for you?"

"For the camera."

"And what the fuck are you doing in our favourite restaurant, why didn't you take her to Greasy Joe's, I bet you even ate
lemon chicken, didn't you, you
bastard!"

"I didn't eat lemon chicken, honest!"

                                                                    ***

Bustos was smiling as I walked in.

"Now that was more like it, that was more like it, Mark."

"Yeah, great. What's on today's menu?"

"Well, I thought we'd get the Ringmaster's overview?"

"Not the bloody circus again?"

"Mark, they've just taken out another full page ad, my hands are tied."

"And John?"

He tossed me the camera.

"Still sick as a parrot."

                                                                    ***

I was told the Ringmaster, who was none other than the owner, was in the big top. He wasn't, but Suzie LaLu was there,
juggling some bananas.

"What is it with you and the fruit?" I asked.

"It's the boss' idea, ask him."

"Where is he?"

"He's gone to lunch. You want to come back to my place?"

I looked at her tassels.

"The girlfriend found out about us."

"Impossible, unless you told her."

"I told her."

"Idiot. Why are all men such idiots, so... so second-rate? She thrown you out?"

"Gone to stay with her mother."

The Ringmaster came in. He was just on his way out to lunch.

"You recommend anywhere in this town?" he asked.

"Greasy Joe's," I said, "They do a mean black pudding."

"He's looking for a job here," Suzie said.

The Ringmaster looked at me.

"A job, here?"

"No, she's just kidding!" I protested.

"We can always use a good PR man, especially one who can double as a clown when the clown's sick or as one of the
Siamese twins when one of them gets locked up in the loony bin. And that's not for printing."

"Thanks but no thanks."

After he'd gone, Suzie looked at me.

"I don't get it, you seem unhappy here and yet you are unwilling to get out."

"I'm not unhappy, just... "

"Blocked."

"Yes."

"So, get out."

"I can't join the goddamn circus."

"Why not? No, I'll tell you why not. Because you are too much of a snob."

"Well, that's true but the real truth is that I don't believe in that myth. I never even believed in it as a kid."

I found myself looking at her tassels again, I moved my gaze down. The fish net stockings didn't help any.

"If you didn't believe in it as a kid then maybe it is time to start believing in it now."

"Yeah but... the girlfriend... "

"She hasn't even got a name, that's how vital she is to you. What is she, the girl next door? The girl from the next
street?"

"She was three streets down."

"And I'll tell you what you are going to put on her gravestone, because she'll go before you, that's for sure: The Unknown
Girlfriend."

                                                                    ***

Bustos looked at me.

"Dull, dull, dull, this isn't your usual style, Mark, what's the beef?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, it's basically their press handout. Give it to Ziggy, ask him to punk it up a bit. What do you say to my
getting a real inside story on that circus?"

"I told you, Mark, I don't want no exposé stuff."

"I don't mean exposé, I mean I join the circus for a couple of weeks, they're off to Lancaster and then the Lake District,
so I could do some travel writing as well."

He looked at me.

"It's that juggler isn't it?"

"No, it's not that juggler... "

"The one with the tasty apples."

"Now don't go getting crude on me, boss."

                                                                    ***

The girlfriend was still at her mother's. I got her on the phone.

"If you go, you'll never see me again!"

"Maybe it'll help me find out just how strong my feelings for you really are," I said.

The phone cut out.
Anthony Kane Evans
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