Excerpt from the Memoirs of Mr. Robert Montgomery Tutons
Excerpt from the Memoirs of Mr. Robert Montgomery Tutons
October 12, 1944
It was Casey who first brought him to me. This was the morning after I had gotten the call from the downtown office, telling me we were cancelled. I had been up all night in the red wagon, poring over the papers again and again, trying to find the funds to jump us to our next date. But the numbers never changed, and at some point in the night it became less about number-fudging, and more about delaying the eventual talk I'd have to have with the whole crew.
I felt Casey’s approach before I heard it. The wagon suddenly jerked up, and leaned in the direction of the stairs as he lumbered his way in. I always thought it felt like the Scrambler starting up, although I hadn’t ridden that rusted deathtrap in years.
"Casey, dammit, not now!" I hollered over my shoulder. "Go find Roberta, she's usually up by--"
I stopped when I turned and saw the boy with him. Casey stood off to the side, eyes drooped and lowered, any sign of expression masked by the thick long hair that covered his face, forehead to chin. Next to him stood a young man, mid-20s most likely, but with boyish features that probably allowed him to get away with younger if he needed it. He was filthy from head to toe, wearing torn knickers and an unbuttoned shirt that showed his scratched and bleeding chest. And yet the look on his face was one of pure wonderment, his eyes darting around the wagon from knickknack to show flyer, taking in every detail with an openmouthed smile on his face. I remember not trusting that smile. It wasn't the smile of the children that used to visit in our early days, entranced by the kinkers or the carpet clowns. It was the smile of someone who has just been given a wonderful gift. Like he was looking over his inheritance, and imagining the possibilities.
"Who's this then?" I barked at Casey. "Look, kid, I don't know if you heard, but we're not exactly hiring riggers right now."
It took a few seconds for the kid's eyes to slide down to meet mine, like he had just noticed I was there.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said. "I'm not looking for a job. It's just...I've had a very strange couple of days, and well..."
He paused, and suddenly looked very uncomfortable, picking his next words carefully. "I don't exactly remember how I got here," he said slowly. "I was hoping, maybe you could find it in your heart...to let me stay here? Just for the night, while I collect myself, and figure out a way to get back home."
"And where exactly is home for you?"
"Detroit," he answered, but his eyes were already wandering to the stone elephant paperweight sitting on the shelf above me.
"Hey, kid, focus! We’re havin’ a conversation here, and I don’t got time for you to keep goin' doe-eyed on me. I mean, Jesus, ain’t you ever been to a circus before?"
"Oh! Yes, of course. As a child. But this place feels...different." His eyes landed on the pile of papers spread in front of me.
"Yeah, well, maybe that's because as of twelve hours ago, we're not technically a circus no more." Casey's eyes shot up, and I could hear a low whimper ooze out from his matted face.
"Oh, my. I'm sorry to hear that,” the boy said.
"Yeah, well it's been a long time coming. We've basically been a fireball outfit for about a year now. We had to let the bally broads go in April, which lost us any sex appeal we may have had left, and since then we've just been skating by, essentially stealing from the rubes and selling dike in between dates."
"Yeah yeah, you know, klondike. Like, brass, copper, whatever. We steal it from whatever lot they put us up in, then sell it on the road. Gas money, helps pay the riggers, all that."
"So what changed yesterday?" I seemed to have gotten his attention. He sat down in the ratty stool across the desk, and stared intently at me with those blue eyes of his. It was like this guy didn't blink or something.
"Ah, just these goddamn fatcat promoters. I shouldn't have signed the deal in the first place. They basically said I could have the land for the weekend as long as I guaranteed to sell out at least two of the three nights. Of course I knew that was ridiculous for us. Hell, it's ridiculous for goddam Barnum and Bailey in the middle of a goddam war, but I thought, sure, we'll say yes, sell enough tix to get to the next city, and be out of here before they even know what happened. But the bastards based it on our pre-sales! They called me last night and told me that based on their 'projections,' we weren't profitable enough, and they were canceling all three shows entirely. We've got til Sunday night to clear out, with nowhere to go, and barely enough money to get us to Ann Arbor!"
I was red in the face and I felt tears welling behind my eyes. I've never cried in front of anyone except Roberta, but I'd been up for over 48 hours and I felt like I was about to collapse. Perhaps sensing my distress, Casey started weeping in the corner. The sight of my oldest friend, the Dogman himself, the first and toughest freak in the Traveling Tutons Freakshow crying on my behalf, finally broke me in.
"GodDAMMIT!" I swept the papers off my desk, and stood for one long impotent moment, looking for something else to take my rage out on. I finally turned and grabbed the stone elephant off the shelf, and threw it across the room.
Quicker than I could even see, the boy's hand flew up, catching the statue in mid-air. He looked up, surprised, as if he didn't even realize he had done it. He slowly lowered the statue, starting at it intently. He held it in his lap, turning it over and over as I stared at him in amazement.
Without looking up, the boy asked softly, "What's his name?"
I snapped out of my trance and sat down. "What?"
"The man who canceled your show. What's his name?"
"Robell. Arthur Robell." Had his voice...changed? It wasn't just softer, but...lower. More like Casey's rough growl.
He looked up suddenly, and it was like someone else entirely was sitting there. The smile was gone, and he looked much older. His blue eyes were dark, almost perfectly black...but was there a hint of red in one of them? I tried to lean in and look closer, but he blinked and suddenly the bright blue was back, along with the charming, if a bit off-putting, smile.
"I'm so sorry to hear about your troubles, sir, but I'd really appreciate if I could stay here for the night. I promise to help out with whatever I can."
"Sure. Sure, whatever, I don't care. We only got about 2 days left here anyway, and we could use all the unpaid help we could get."
"Fantastic! I owe you everything, Mr..."
"Tutons. Name's right on the tent. You can call me Bobby if you like, everyone else around here does. And that beast there next to you is Casey Meyers, known to the rubes as the Fearsome Dogman."
"Oh yes," the boy said. "Casey and I chatted for quite a while outside. We get along famously already, it seems."
"If that's true, good for you." I gestured to Casey. "And good for you. Casey doesn't get along with anyone but me and the rest of the freaks."
"Thank you for your hospitality, Bobby."
"No problem kid. And what do I call you?"
"Oh! How rude of me. Deschain, sir. Dalton Deschain."
"Thanks for the help, Deschain. Casey, why don't you introduce him to the others."
The kid sat the elephant down on my desk, gave it one last puzzled look, and left silently with Casey. The wagon rocked up and back into place as Casey's weight stepped off of the strained stairs.
The next day, the police arrived at my door. Arthur Robell had been found bludgeoned to death in his home. During their search, the police had found a signed paper on his desk, giving me full ownership over the land upon which our circus sat. I returned to the red wagon upon hearing this news, and sat down hard at my desk, stunned and confused.
It was over an hour before I noticed that the stone elephant statue had gone missing.