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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 20 page 03

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I know Joey is staring, just staring. Staring at something, or past something. He’s resigned himself from this life. Doesn’t care anymore. Just stares. I think that Joey thinks that people don’t like him. I don’t think people don’t like him. I think that people don’t trust him. I don’t think he cares. At meals, people leave him be. I tried being friendly. Everyone needs one, a friend. More than one, I guess, but I only tried three or four times. He eats likes it’s his last and you’re gonna take it. He’s our dog, more like a junkyard dog with two arms. Joey’d be an odd duck, if he wasn’t Joey.

I’m boiling in this getup. We’re waiting and I can’t see. My eyes are straining to see, see anything. I can hear. I can hear my own heart. I can actually hear the beads of sweat coming down my face. It has to be 100. It’s hotter than hell. A special type of hell reserved for me and my companions. They can’t be friends. I couldn’t see my friends coming along to this. Each one of us made our own way here, and each one of us will lose. When we lose, we’re gone. We might lose it all like Montana, or lose most of it like Sam. I don’t want to lose. The company mostly dresses the same. The leader says it promotes unity. I never asked the others if heat is worse in the getup. What do they do? What can you do? Nothing. Be a man and take it. The world wasn't created for me. I’m not here to be pampered. I have something to do, and as a man I’ll do it. I know Montana was used to the heat because of his birthplace. Joey too I bet. Kansas Keith maybe? I don’t know the ins and out of the plains, probably gets real hot and real cold. Trusty sweats. I’ve seen it before. I don’t care if he said it’s not so because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Never trust Trusty. Sam’s almost gone. Never trust a man that’s lost. I won’t lose. It’s damn hot.

I think it's started. It think I heard a faint sound, faraway. Did I? I’m nervous. Always the same. One slight sound, then another. Almost a scampering, if that makes a sound. Without eyes, the sounds are scarier. Then I hear a scream. Did someone see? Have we been spotted? You never know until it’s too late. I know we didn’t make the scream, why would we. The scream didn’t even sound like something a homo sapiens could make. It definitely wasn’t Kansas, Trusty or Bill. Sam’s too far gone to scream, and it couldn't be Joey. Then another, another scream from a different area, my left. Joey’s staring. I can’t see but I know. I know Joey is just staring. He creeps me out. I feel the steps getting closer. A third scream. I want to run but I can’t.

Bill and Keith say their moms told them. Told them not to do it. Did they listen? Who really does? They’re here. They’re here with me. Trusty brags that his family, his mom, encouraged him. Why? I don’t think Joey knew his mom, and I wouldn’t trust Sam. It’s morbid, but I’m glad my mom has passed, she can’t see me now. Another scream, thirty to forty yards. I loved my mom.

“LIGHTS!” A command from the back.

Almost in unison, my world changes. The fire of flashes blinds me even more. Left, right, centre, the screaming is unbearable. Trying to adjust my eyes, scanning and searching for Kansas Keith. I see Bill juggling three or four pegs. More screaming. I see Trusty doing the hoop manoeuvre. Poor Sam, I see him scrambling for anything. He motions to Joey as if that’ll save him. Some screaming. I can see now, I see the eyes now. All eyes are on me. What do I do? I was trained for this. I fumble, but I see Kansas Keith now. I see Kansas Keith come to save me. Kansas Keith coming running. Running directly towards the screaming, flipping in the air. Landing and pointing to the last area of dark. I’m saved. The area lights up with Joey staring at the screamers. The sound is deafening. Joey doesn’t care.

“BOYS AND GIRLS, WELCOME TO THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH!”