several, competing arrangements

Tasked with two buckets, a rucksack, her cleats, and a fresh bouquet of daffodils for her ailing mistress, Violet trudged back from the pasturelands towards the big top and its subterranean dressing rooms. One of which was still occupied by the flagging Marrionetta.

Things with Augromme had been steadily progressing. She had to keep up the clandestine habit of only visiting him while he was put out to graze. Ungulen still hadn’t caught on that she was rehearsing the grievous creature in her spare time. The zombified, nightmare elephant was picking up the dance routines in fits and starts. One week he would have grasped something superbly but then the next, he would forget nearly all of it. Almost purposefully, Violet felt. Essentially, he was a frustrating mess. Still, she felt certain that if she could get him into some kind of rhythm, some kind of mutual understanding, she could unleash his beastly bravado as a major coup for her showcases.

Practice with the healthy, un-brainsick elephantrinas was no less demanding. She had introduced new choreography and they had all been working on that together for several weeks. The elephantrinas were doing remarkably well with it but the constant count offs, repetitions, and management of their temperaments was draining. Still, Goren and Ungulen had agreed to extend her foray as manager of the elephant showcases. So, for better or worse, she was contractually obligated now. Violet couldn’t decide if she was pleased to be locked into the performance schedule as an official second bill for the circus or if she had gotten herself in over her head. Could she succeed the next time around? Would she soon fail to magnificent fanfare? Or was she better than all this? Perhaps the elephant show was beneath her and a waste of her time, youth and talents. It was hard for her to say which version of her predicament was the most real. So instead, each of the three blended together into an unfocused, self-feeding cycle of crushing doubt that released into giddy flights of pulsating energy that could keep her going for days.

Things with Marrionetta hadn’t been progressing at all. The star was a fixture on her chez-lounge, languid and pale. Violet continued to sleep up in the canopy cot in the dressing room with her and she was constantly at the star’s beck and call. Marrionetta could be harsh with Violet. At other times though, she was sweet, even circumspectly grateful. The otherwise fiendishly practiced puppetress was clumsy with her gratitude. Any word of thanks she gave was accompanied by avoidant eye contact or a rushed gesture. Yet, to Violet, this seemed genuine. Or at least it wasn’t an act. The unvarnished aspects of Marrionetta were like bird calls through dense, thick trees. Evidence of a life unperceived, except by those paying close, close attention.

In the mornings, Violet would breakfast with Ungulen down in the public mess. Buttering toast and chattering away on her flimsy, flighty energy of underslept resilience. It was a lie to eat with him. He didn’t know about her several, competing arrangements. As far as he knew she was handling the elephant show and that was it. Had he known that she had become Marrionetta’s full time caregiver or the de facto dance instructor to the wild and unpredictable Augromme, he almost certainly would have had words for her. As it was though, they broke bread in the curling sunshine of green mornings, discussing anything and everything that didn’t matter at all.

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