The Crossroads Carnival

Wheels of Fate, carousels of time; past lives and karmic ties. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

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Re: The Crossroads Carnival

Post by Patch » Sun May 17, 2020 2:47 am

“What do ya know eh, Sweeps?” Patch asked as he strolled up on the elderly carny who’d taken a lean against a metal railing. The Fixer field stripping the remnants of his cigarette and tossing the little pinch of paper in a nearby can. He’d come to enjoy their conversations over the last couple of weeks…chance to take the temperature of the Midway from a man he’d known practically his whole life and trusted with the same.

“More than I will tomorrow and less’n I did yesterday.” Came Sweeps patented answer a moment before the old timer spat a bit of his tobacco into a cup and mopped up the extra across his beard. “These circus jumps an barn stromin might have played when I was your age an younger, Patch, but we got no rhythm…no feel…an no time to let things stretch.” Another pause, hammers clanging against pig iron in the distance as men hoisted bits of a new calling card ride up into the air.

“New owners.” Patch exhaled as if that should explain everything and tipped his iconic trilby hat up an inch or two on his brow with a thumb before shoving hands into his pockets and coming up alongside Sweeps. They’d lived a carny life…both coming in carrying the banner and working various jobs as they travelled. Sweeps had been in long before Patch and yet Patch had a feeling he’d find himself in Sweeps’ shoes when the years ran long on him too.

“New problems.” Sweeps grunted and gave another spit. “Hirin them cattle rustlin heat merchants that don’t know no better. Ain’t no more respect when you mercenary up the Midway, Patch. You know that.”

Patch was quiet for a moment, burnt bronze of eye watching the new ride going up. It was modern mess of iron and plastic…sterile and no soul. But it was expensive and new…and it’d take the place of the Dragon…the ride that had been the iconic centerpiece for ages.

“I know.” Came Patch’s answer though no solution…no silver-tongued charisma kissed words followed that would smooth Sweeps’ ruffled feathers.

“Huh.” Sweeps giving a glance Patch’s way. “You also know they’re putting the carousel together? Dragging all them pretty painted horses an animals outta storage without a care for the paint an character? Fia’d have a fit ifn…”

“I know.” Patch cut Sweeps off, a bit of temper tinging his tone. Of course, he knew.

“Word is you gonna get promoted too. Dixie been whisperin it for a few days now…ever since Benny ain’t been seen about.”

“New owners sent him ahead to scout out the next jump.” Patch repeating what he’d been told by Benny himself as he packed up his van.

“Uh-huh…or they fed him to Rufus.” Sweeps wiping at his unruly winter beard. “You gotta make a decision Patch…we know you got their ear and we know you got our back…but we’re losin more an more each day. Hell…even I’m thinkin I might be better off findin a real job…” Sweeps pausing with a small shrug of shoulders before crossing arms across his bird’s chest. “Whatever that looks like.”

“Getting too old for such a life?” The unctuous tone of the Hedonist announcing his arrival behind the pair before the rhythmic tap of his cane marked his gait with metronome precision. “Surely not after Patch found you a comfortable place with the children’s rides.” Though he knew the carnival language as fluently as Latin and all the others, the Hedonist would never deign to dirty his tongue with such ignoble and uncultivated vernacular. He joined the two though was careful to keep them in his orbit rather than give either of them ownership of his own space. His arrival a clear indication that he wished to speak with Patch…a pointed look towards Sweeps…and Patch alone.

“Don’t you be forgettin where you come from, Patch.” Sweeps’ parting words before giving a small nod and pat to Patch’s shoulder and slipped away towards the cook tent. The flag was up and there was sure to be hot food waiting.

“Are the natives growing restless?” The Hedonist asked the Fixer though leonine eyes tracked after Sweeps’ departure as if stalking wounded prey.

“We’re a tight bunch.” Patch began and angled towards the new boss. “The changes have some of the lifers in a twist. But they’ll settle in once the Arch opens.” Patch quick to provide cover for those he considered family.

“Old dogs hm?” Casually observed with the smallest hinting of annoyance as he swung that chartreuse gaze round on the fixer…the threat obvious.

“Its not like that.” Patch began, aware that he was in a no man’s land between his friends who were his family and the jackals in the suits circling about. He had to appease the latter to protect the former. Such a balancing act was sure to be an amazing act if performed for an audience. Shame this one played itself out behind a drawn curtain. “I’ll bring them around. It’s what I do.”

“Perhaps seeing some familiar faces would help settle their solicitude.” The Hedonist suggested, eyes magnetically pulled towards the slow assembly of the carousel. The temptation simply too much for him to resist. “Bring Wheeler back.” The enigmatic suggestion purposefully left open as the Hedonist refused to clarify which Wheeler he desired…or perhaps his machinations steered towards them both. Either way, it was not for the messenger to know his true intent. "I'm told the show was always one of the largest attractions." The Hedonist finally able to return his eyes to the Fixer after giving into the temptation of the carousel’s hypnotic dynamism.

“Wheeler walked." Patch stated flatly, a hint of bitter betrayal lacing those two simple words.

“Then redirect.” The Fixer's weak attempt blunted by the Hedonist with words and tone woven together with menacing thread.

It took Patch a moment and finally a defiant look of burnt bronze into the golden green mess of the Hedonist's eyes to fully understand that it wasn't just Isaac that was desired. He reached up to adjust his trilby and cleared his throat, the next words momentarily stuck there like red rock sand when he thought of May Day. “Josie doesn't trust me anymore.” Patch felt no relief as he breathed life into his confession. He was momentarily taken back to the moment he’d first laid eyes on her. She'd been standing there pulling at all that spun sugar and looking greener than the first of May. He’d lost money betting that she’d only make it two weeks. The nickname stuck, however, as she’d blown in like an early summer breeze and warmed the hearts of the motley Midway crew. “I don’t think either of them can be steered back.” Patch shaking his head alongside disagreeable words.

Taste and scent of the smoke and ashes of Palo Santo suddenly filled his mouth and nostrils and caused an irritated glance upwards. Yes, he remembered the rules. Free cut so cruelly when weaponized against him. The sensation was there for a moment, gone the next. "Is it faith you lack? Or loyalty?" The prurient prose of the rhetorical question sounding from one who could still taste repugnant remnants upon the tongue; a shame for it defiled the enjoyment of his mocking inquisition. Yet there was a curiosity as to how this one would approach his task as well. The Hedonist well aware of the Cimmerian shadow and its long history which dwelled within Isaac as well as the importance of trust and integrity to Josette. Not unlike the two wolves that stalked within Patch…oh yes, the Scorpion knew all about one’s nature. The symmetry between the three, Fixer, Scion and Star amused him and any warning of its truth stayed mute. The test, when it came, must remain, ironically, pure. “Fix it or find out what happens to stubborn old dogs.” A tap of the cane to indicate that their conversation…and Patch’s presence in his company…had come to an end. “And do work quickly, Patch…patience is His virtue…not mine.” The stressed word accompanied by a gloved forefinger indicating the sky before the Hedonist smiled…a wanton expression as that finger wagged to and fro in warning.

((Thank you to The Hedonist for the collaboration.))
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