writers digest contest 32

This is for the writer’s digest prompt 32 contest.  750 wc, with the opening line (below).  Apparently, it’s cute…


It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. The brakes hissed as the old train came to a stop. Nobody heard the sleeper door slide open or the tiny feet displacing gravel, as Mara raced to King Louis’s car.

She had a hard time unlatching the rusty handle, but when properly motivated, nothing was impossible for her.

The silverback turned his head as the warped door slid open. His muscles tensed; he crouched at the ready. A gentle breeze carried the scent of dying leaves, and Mara, into the car. He was too old to jump around, and smart enough not to grunt as she began picking the lock to his cage. The door swung open and the giant gorilla stared at her; the tiny girl stared back.

She shut the door, and took a step forward. Instantly, he was upon her. The beast wrapped his arms around Mara, lifting her into the air. He roared.

“I miss you too, big guy,” she said, resting her head on his fuzzy shoulder.

He roared again.

“I know, I know, but keep it down or we’ll get caught.” King Louis put her down and made his best puppy dog expression; he was surprising good at it. “Shush. It’s not my fault, Hex told me I couldn’t be in your cage anymore.”

He made his softest angry roar.

“Yeah, I don’t like him much either… Hey, I brought you something.”

He held out his hand, smiling. Mara placed an apple into his wrinkled grey paw. Louis held it up, examining it in the moonlight that pierced his wooden car.

“Don’t be such a snob, it’s all they had.” He rubbed the apple on his chest, inspected it again, and took a small bite. Mara folded her arms. “Maybe next time I won’t bother.” Louis let out a resigned grunt and finished the apple in two bites.

They sat in an extended silence. He began tapping his fingers on the his leg.

“Oh, I know. Let’s read your future, we haven’t done that in a while.” He rocked back and forth, clapping his hands. “Do you want to cut the deck?” He rocked faster, making a series of excited grunts.

She removed her tarot cards and unwrapped them. No matter what, she always carried them, they were her only true possession. As she shuffled, she repeatedly slapped his hand away. When she finished, she said, “Okay, now you can cut them.”

She laid his spread and began his reading. “Hmm… interesting.” He eyed her suspiciously. “If I were you, I’d avoid travel for a while. Do you have any new love interests?” He tilted his head and raised an eyebrow. “Now’s a good time for the two of you.” He clapped his hands again, laughing. “Ut oh, what’s this.” He stopped rocking, his face frozen. “Do you play the market, Louis?” He didn’t respond. “This says be wary of new investments. If I were you, I’d be very careful with money matters for the next six months.” He let out a soft grunt and nodded.

She placed the cards onto a worn silk cloth, her only other possession, and tied it around the deck. She held it up for Louis. “Did I ever tell you how I got this handkerchief?” No response. “It was my mothers.” Mara put the cards securely into her pocket. “She was really beautiful you know.” Louis listened, breathing softly. “On starry nights like this, I think I miss her the most.” After a pause, she smiled. “I used to pretend I had a nightmare and run into her room. No matter what, she’d always hug me and say everything’s fine. Then she’d play with my hair ’till I fell asleep.” She looked away. “I wonder if I’d be here now if she didn’t…”

The King roared, softly.

“Yeah, I know.” She picked up and bent a piece of straw. “Be strong,” she said, it was their mantra.

He roared again, a medium roar, and slapped his chest.

“That’s true, if I didn’t… join the circus, I’d probably never have have met you.”

He closed the gap between them, and hugged her. She squeezed his fuzzy arms back, and said, “Thanks, Louis.” She sniffled and wiped her nose. “So what do you want to do now?”

Without another word, he began playing with her hair. She tried to resist, but slowly Mara drifted off to sleep.

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