a working nod

Violet practically slid off stage in a pool of her own sweat and exertion. The elephantrinas packed in and shuffled out, guided by a duo of lever boys with coaxing sheaves of spinach. The audience was still applauding and a last-act aperitif was sent out to amuse them: Mingey hoola-hooping atop her unicycling sister.

Violet peeled away parts of her costume as she descended into the big top’s basements. Her wild hair was oiled into a pointed angle that composed itself westerly but changed as she combed her anxious fingers through and through again. The air was cooler down here and it felt good on her skin. One of the Keurmite brothers grabbed her shoulder companionably.

“All done!” he cheered her.

She gave him a working nod and kept moving. All done was right. Her showcase had wrapped. Six viewings in all. And she felt rank about it.

As she proceeded further into the basements, nobody seemed to pay her any mind. The lever boys had their switches and pulleys which needing pulling and switching. The other performers were standing around gossiping, smoking, undressing, chatting up the more attractive locals or groping one another. People who had congratulated her on her first performance hardly noticed her on her way out from the last.

The snub compounded itself as she returned to the communal dressing rooms. She, not being a star in any way, was never afforded a private area or space even while she had been leading the showcase. Violet fell into her chair at her prim little station. She threw the fabrics of her headpiece down and, with a single elegant hand, she shredded the front buttons of her tunic.

A few of the other dancing girls were hooting and applying lipstick onto the face of a nascent acrobat who had somehow found his way into the dressing rooms. One of the hooting girls noticed Violet.

“The tap’s iced tonight if you want some beer,” the girl offered.

That was it. That was the last straw. The show had been shit, Violet felt. Everyone seemed to be saying it without saying it. She bent her head low. She culled her fingers around her sweated, throbbing head. She wanted to scream.

But instead of losing what little cool she had, she composed herself. She rose from the chair and smiled at the other hooting dancers. They smiled back, unwitting and unconcerned by any of Violet’s behavior.

She drank one cold beer after the next that night. Her blood cooled. Her hair dried. Then she tipped over the line of friendly non-sobriety into frenzied drunkenness. In the early hours of the morning, she laboriously stupored back to her cot in the dancers’ barracks. It was a dreamy prelude to a scalding hangover.

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