“I need some roasted. Can you hook me up?”
Peanut looked at the sullen acrobat from his cart window. The man was beyond gaunt. His electric blue leotard hung like laundry on his skeleton and his eyes were sunken.
“You got tickets?”
“I’ve got five bucks, and some change.”
Peanut shook his head. “What the hell do you think I’m runnin’? No tickets, no roasteds. End of story.”
“But, I really…”
“Piss off. Get away from my cart.”
The man slunk off down the street. He looked like he still had a few tricks left in him. He’d be back.
Peanut’s cart had four wheels and a hitch for a horse. He didn’t have a horse. He could drag it around himself, provided there was a downhill slant. As a consequence, day-by-day, he got deeper and deeper into Big Top. Once he got down by the elephants and giraffes, the real bottom of the barrel, he’d hire a couple of strong men to drag it back uptown and start the whole process over again.
He opened the back door, kicked out the steps, and descended. It was time to crank the winch that kept the electric going. This had to be done every few hours or else his neon “Eat Nutz” sign would flicker to death. He didn’t know if that was bad for business or not. He’d never let it happen.
When he finished he sat on his back steps and took a break. It was a nice night. It was always a nice night in Big Top. The Tent made sure of that. Suspended on massive poles affixed to the city skyscrapers it kept out the rain, the wind, and the light. During the day it was all red and white stripes, backlit by a sun nobody in Big Top had ever seen. At night, like now, it was just darkness. Poles and ropes formed an ominous spider web above everything. The Tent covered the entire city and nobody ever left. Peanut was fine with that. He had his cart. He had everything he needed. Why leave?
A figure rounded the corner down the street. Peanut didn’t have to wait for him to pass the lantern to know that it was Gritt. He stood and re-entered his cart. He pulled up the steps, shut the door, and locked it. He harbored no illusions that this would stop Gritt if he wanted to get in. At the same time, there was no way he was staying outside with the geek if he could help it. Peanut leaned on the counter and tried to look casual.
“Heya Nutter. Been a while.” Gritt’s voice was slow, heavy, and came from somewhere near his spine. This was on account of his face. His jaw was a massive, muscular thing, disfigured to the point of grotesque. He’d had surgery that took muscles from his arm and transplanted them along his chin and neck. His left arm was puny as a result. These muscles allowed him to detach his jaw, like a snake. On top of this, his front teeth had been replaced with molars. He could eat glass, metal, and bone. Peanut knew what that mouth could do.
“Yep, been a long time, Gritt.”
“How’s the job working out?”
“You know. It’s okay.”
Gritt nodded. “Yeah. I do. I’m gonna need that favor.”
This was it. The day Peanut had been dreading. He hadn’t asked any questions when he’d struck the deal with Gritt that had gotten his cart. He never asked where it came from, or what happened to the previous occupant. He just took it, gratefully, at the cost of a future favor.
“Alright Gritt. Tell me what you need.”
“First, gimmie some of them nuts. Them honey ones.”
Peanut got a three stapled paper bags full of honey roasted, LSD laced, peanuts and set them on the counter. Gritt took one and put it in his mouth, bag and all, and swallowed it. “So you know that bitch, Shayde Spider? The contortionist?”
“I think so. She’s got hair like a dyke?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. I hear she’s a regular for you.”
“Sure. She comes by.”
Another bag vanished. “Well, here’s the deal, you find her, you bring her to me all wrapped up in cotton candy, and we’re clear.”
Gritt licked his lips. “They taste better that way.”
“Aw, ring it man. I don’t know if I can do that.”
Gritt took the last bag, but he didn’t eat it. “You got twenty four hours, Nutter, and then I eat something. You got me?”
Peanut nodded. “Yeah, I got you.”
Gritt smiled. “Good, glad you do. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He popped the last bag into his cavernous mouth and turned away leaving Peanut sick to his stomach.
Peanut is stuck in a tough spot. Will the arrival of Banjo the Clown help or hinder his trouble with the hungry geek? Sign up and read the rest on my patreon!