By Gay Degani
She lived in a colorful mule-drawn wagon with her father, a snow-white rabbit, and three ring-neck doves he used in his act. She too was a prop because he sawed her in half from El Paso to Tallahassee and back, but always managed to join her top to her bottom before the next town, the next performance.
Though Pop claimed he went to doctor school once upon a time, something was always lost, a sliver off her kidney, a nick in her pancreas. She fretted that one day she wouldn’t mend.
When she confided in the doves, they were sympathetic, cooing reassurance into her ears as they sat on her shoulders each morning, reminding her that everything would be okay because, after all, her father wasn’t really a doctor, but a magician, an illusionist, a prestidigitator!
“He takes care of us, doesn’t he?” whispered the birds. “He loves us, even the rabbit and that stupid old mule.”
Still, she wrung her hands before every performance. What if the sheriff chased them out of town? It sometimes happened, and Pop would leap onto the wagon, whip the mule, and they’d take off faster than abracadabra, the rabbit jumping into his hat, birds flapping their wings, the girl’s top half in one wash tub, her bottom in another.
Other times, Pop would lock doves, rabbit, and his precious daughter inside the wagon and tramp into town to curry drinks from the rubes who’d cheered his feats. She always worried he wouldn’t come back and one day he didn’t. Oh, how she cried, rabbit nuzzling her neck, doves murmuring into her ears, but nothing gave her comfort while her bottom half was three feet away and shivering.
Where was her father? Where was her handsome prince? Where in the world was Walt?
Gay Degani has received honors and nominations for her work including Pushcart consideration and Best Small Fictions. She’s published a small collection of eight stories, Pomegranate, a full-length collection, Rattle of Want, (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). She occasionally blogs at Words in Place.