By Briar Ripley Page
It’s after midnight, and the crowds are all gone. Evelyn the Giant sits in his specially-reinforced chair and picks at a hole in the knee of his calico skirt. He’s growing again— he’s twenty years old and over seven feet tall, but he’s still growing. He’ll keep growing, like a lobster, until the day his heart gives out and he dies. The hem of the skirt has risen to expose his hairy ankles. Mister Callahan, who runs the carnival, puts Evelyn in women’s clothes because it’s easier and cheaper than having a new, huge suit tailored every six or ten months. Also because a seven foot seven inch giant is even more impressive if ostensibly female. Also because Evelyn never complains about it. He likes the airy freedom skirts afford, the way they hide the slowly collapsing struts of his long legs and the ugly baggage of his hips.
Crickets and cicadas sing in the dark. Laughing and cursing and smoke puff out of other tents and trailers in soft clouds. Magdaline the Bearded Strumpet and Orrin the Collapsible Man nod to Evelyn as they walk past. He’s dragged his chair outside the tent where he does his show in the afternoon and evening, and he’s sitting sentinel, staring up at the pinprick apertures of the summer stars.
“You waiting on that girl of yours?” asks Magda.
“She’ll come,” Magda reassures Evelyn. “I saw her changing out of her leotards. She said she’ll come. She likes you, too.”
Evelyn smiles a little. “I know that,” he says in his soft, slow voice.
“Well, don’t smash her when you stick it in, big fella!” Orrin winks and grins. Magda rolls her eyes. They walk off across the muddy, yellow-lit fairground together.
Evelyn waits. Orrin has it all wrong, but he doesn’t need to know that.
After a little while, he hears her voice calling his name, like a little crystal bell being struck.
He turns, and there she stands.
Lilybeth the trapeze girl is very small. Her skull strains to break through the scant flesh on her face.
“Lily,” says Evelyn. He smiles; she smiles back. His heart feels swollen with love. He reaches a massive, knobby hand out to Lilybeth but does not touch her.
Lilybeth believes she’s made of glass. It’s not a metaphor. She carries a quiet but steady conviction that her body was blown like a bubble from heat-fused sand. If touched too hard, she’ll shatter. Every time she does her trapeze act, she risks breaking.
“Hello, Evelyn,” she says. “It’s a fine night, isn’t it?” She gently rubs the ball of one wrist, then reaches out to lightly brush the giant’s fingers before withdrawing with a shy blush.
“It sure is,” he agrees. “Field was full of lightning bugs earlier.”
“I’m sorry to have missed that.” She’s so beautiful to Evelyn that he wishes he could paint, that he had a camera, something. Trapeze acts are there and gone, art that belongs to the little span of time in which it moves and leaps and swings. He wants people far into the future, long after they’re both dust, to know that Lilybeth existed, that she stood upon the earth and glowed.
“I had a bit of trouble after the show today,” she confesses.
“I thought I saw a hairline fracture in my neck.” She stretches it out like a swan. Evelyn squints in the dim light.
“I don’t see anything.”
She steps closer to Evelyn’s chair and tentatively leans an elbow on the armrest he’s not using. “Guess I have a little longer,” she whispers.
“I guess you do,” says Evelyn.
“We’ll live and work a while yet,” says Lilybeth. A stray strand of her hair floats out in the night breeze and brushes against the polka-dot sleeve of Evelyn’s dress. Static makes it stick there in a delicate loop. He doesn’t tell her, and he doesn’t reach to pluck it away.
One day, not so far distant, Evelyn’s body will grow too large for his heart to support and he’ll fall to the ground with the pain in his chest and he won’t rise again.
But now Lilybeth’s fine hair sticks to his calico arm. Now the sky is filled with tiny holes that leak light across vast expanses of space and time. Nothing will break until the dawn does.
Briar Ripley Page lives and writes in the middle of a field surrounded by oak trees and asphalt. They have had previous flash fiction published in Beestung magazine and Random Sample Review. Find Briar online at briarripleypage.xyz.