Her Circus

Patrick McGinty

My best friend Grace has this circus, and the two of them go everywhere together, her and her circus, because they’re in love.
       Even I have to admit that it’s the real thing, and I know how Grace can get. You can see it in how the circus always kind of hugs around her, or hands her warm cotton candy straight from the catching bowl. She’s there for every show, and sometimes it’ll find her in the stands, pick her up and race her around the ring on one of its purple-plumed zebras, or orbit her in an iron-cage sphere with all its daredevils on their dirt bikes.
       And of course I have Bernie, and it’s not bad. It is what it is. He’s not going to shoot me out of a cannon and into a net two hundred yards away. And he’s not going to stop the Ferris wheel for me when we get to its highest point, and even though he can actually juggle pretty well, he’s not about to do it with flaming chainsaws or anything. But he’ll buy me dinner at the Olive Garden, even if it’s only a Wednesday night, and I’m nothing but tired and still wearing my nurse’s scrubs.
       The other day my car was in the shop and it was Grace who gave me a ride to work in her old blue pickup with the turned-over odometer. She was that crazy kind of happy, where we couldn’t drive by the furniture store, which was having a 60 percent off sale, without her saying, Hey wow a 60 percent off sale, or, Oh look at that adorable dog, or, I just love the way trees make the air smell, don’t you love trees, et cetera.
       She said she was heading to the feed store to buy her circus new harnesses and hay, and then she was going downtown to tape its posters to shop windows. There was going to be a show this Friday night, and she asked if I wanted to come. I could bring Bernie and she’d have tickets for both of us.
       And I had to say no, that we had plans, although we didn’t really. It’s just that I’ve been to her circus before, and I’ve seen all that—how she almost prances around with it, how she’ll just reach out and touch any one of its ears as if it were her own, but delicately, like they’re china saucers. And then one of its lions will open its mouth so she can put her head inside—they’re always like that, flirting, and most of the time, I can’t stand to be in the same room with them.
       That one night when I did go to the circus, I stayed late with Grace after everyone else had left.