“The generator…!” Rustia stalked up a down a row of terrified lever boys, “is the only thing any of you should be focused on!” Mingey weaved and coiled around Rustia’s shoulders and neck, glaring at each of the lever boys to emphasize her sister’s words. Above Mingey’s head, she was opening and closing the white lace parasol they had stolen from Marrionetta. It was a rather chaotic scene, the two of them marching back and forth in the big top, the opening and closing an umbrella over their heads with no particular rhythm.
Rustia snatched a pumpernickel roll out of one of the boy’s hands. She chewed a great morsel of its end and then spat the rest of it in his face.
“There will be no eating. There will be no horseplay. There will be no talk of any kind except what’s necessary to get this generator operational! Those are instructions directly from Mister Doctor Lorelei! Is that jamming its way through your tiny skulls?”
From the back of the group of adolescent laborers, a rustle of whispering was suddenly audible.
“What’s that!” shrieked Mingey. “Whot are you tweedleheads saying about my sister’s direction?!”
Rustia shoved her sleeves up to the elbows and stalked through the lever boys to the whispering pair. In an instant, she had the boy’s slender, beautiful neck in her fist. His speaking companion tried to move away but Mingey tripped him with the parasol and stomped on his stomach, knocking the wind out of him.
Rustia shook the talking boy around a few times and then released her thumb from his larynx. “What did you say?”
“N-n-nothing. I didn’t say nothing.”
“What did you say!” Rustia boomed. The boy was too frightened then to even speak. Mingey went to work on the other boy who was still lying on the ground. She pinched his wrist against the floor with the rounded tip of the parasol.
“What’d your friend say?”
“Ouch ouch ouch that hurts…” the boy on the floor began sucking air through his teeth.
“No, I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s what he said!” Mingey puts her face very close to the boy’s and doubled down on the parasol tip.
“Ahh! He said he wished Ungulen was here, miss!”
Rustia pursed her lips and nodded. She released the boy. She scanned her eyes over the group of workers.
“Ungulen, ey? Is that who you miss? That great incompetent slope of goat? You know that electrifying the big top is the only thing standing between you and your next paycheck? This entire circus is likely to be nothing more than a picked scab on the carpeting if we don’t move ourselves right along into the next century. Who do you think was in charge of getting us there? Hmm? Was it your precious Ungulen with his chocolates and his stupid jokes in the morning? Is that the one you want back? For how long has he been saying that we need to build the generator to get the big top on electric power? Hmm?”
Many of the lever boys looked at the ground. Ungulen had been talking about getting the generator project going since before most of them had ever even heard of the circus. The oldest boys knew what it meant. Their boss and friend had betrayed them in his disorganized approach to circus business.
“Alright then,” Rustia concluded. “Back to work.”