So like I live in this dump out in the fucking middle of fucking nowhere. Trompsburg. You know the sort of place. A small dorp in the middle of the bush. Like Woop-woop. Only not much whoop. Dead. And dead boring. I mean, like, we don’t even have a shopping mall with shops with cool clothes a bloke can wear. No glamour, know what I mean? There’s a butcher’s shop and a baker’s shop which makes heartburn specials and a clothing shop run by Mr Gillivray which sells hideous polyester pants and tasteless sports jackets and daggy underpants from like the fifties. Like, I mean, as if everybody wants to be ugly. Oh and there’s a nail shop where fat women go to have colourful nails. Like you can’t notice their giant fat bodies with bums as big as Texas just because their nails are rainbow pink. And two pubs. And a video shop which only ever has the daggiest videos.
I used to go to the high school there which was as boring as the town. More boring. If you can believe that. But all this happened after the exams in November in the summer vac.
Anyway one day there was this notice that a circus was coming. Yeah I know, I’m not a kid any more and I know it’s all fake, but it was something happening. You don’t know how seldom that was. So I went down to the circus when it came that Friday night. Didn’t have any money so I slipped in under the edge of the tent. When I was small I could do that. Bit of a squeeze now. There were all the usual acts, the horses, the acrobats, the clowns. And, like, they were as boring as. The horses were nice. But I mean, horses? My uncle has a farm with horses. They were nothing special.
But then a magician came on and he was somebody special. Like, I know, magician, fairy, not supposed to believe all this stuff. But there he was. Shiny top hat, tails, you know, like, a penguin suit, those 1940s black and white films. And eyes of violet. Never seen people with eyes like that before. And he did the most amazing things. A rabbit out of a hat. A fire from a block of ice. Disappearing into a cupboard and then reappearing out of the grand archway at the edge of the ring. Like, how could he do that? That field had been just a field when the circus arrived. Actually, I couldn’t see how he did any of the tricks, it was too clever, even though I watched very carefully. Then I noticed him watching me and I suddenly thought he can see into me, he can see everything. It was the weirdest. So, like, I looked away and pretended I was looking somewhere else. He looked, like, how can I say, he looked totally different. Different from us. He looked strange and exotic like that time when the French old lady came to our town dressed all in black with a funny hat and spoke with a strange accent. Something about him shouted, not from round here.
Anyway so I watched the whole thing and I left through the doors and just outside as I was walking through a dark patch between the circus’s caravans to try and take a short cut across the field to home he was there. He looked at me.
“You didn’t pay, did you?” he said.
Like I’m going to admit to that.
“Of course I did, what do you think I am?”
“Ah, well, that’s another question,” he said, “maybe a strange one. Come, let’s talk.” He opened the door of the caravan he was standing next to, and gestured.
Like I’m going to get into some strange caravan with some strange man from somewhere else. In the middle of the fucking night. I wasn’t born yesterday, you know.
“Can’t,” I said, “got to go home to me mum.” Which was a lie ‘cause I don’t have a mum. I live with me nanna. She’s a bit daggy but she’s kind to me. And I have to be careful to hide the extra gin bottles and then she’s all right. He just smiled at me in a strange way. I didn’t like it. But there’s not much I can do ‘cause I wasn’t with a friend. ‘Cause I don’t have many friends. In fact I know you won’t believe me, I don’t have any. Just me and Gran and a Siamese cat called Hector and two fox terriers called Gilbert and Sullivan.
So anyway the circus was to be there for like three days before moving on to the next town. So the next night I said to me nan, “Like, nanna, why don’t we go to the circus?” She got all excited and put on her best dress and the hat with the cherries on and when we left she said, bending down to the cat and the dogs, “now you be good, nan will be back soon.” As if dogs and cats can understand people.
This time we paid. Well, she paid. And it was amazing. When we arrived we were shown into the front seats right next to the ring. Nan hadn’t been so excited for ages, since my cousin’s wedding, when she got drunk and got up to dance by herself and fell over. And once again the magician looked straight at us, his eyes on me and then on nan and back to me. Bit creepy, I thought but I felt safe with nan. After I’d been bullied at school by Jim O’Malley she went round and I don’t know what she said to him but that was the end of the bullying.
So the next day which was a Sunday I had to accompany nanna to church. The Lord sees everything she used to say. And so you must wear clean underpants. Like the Lord cares about clean underpants, I thought to myself. But the special suit I wore to church and weddings and to school graduation was the one I was wearing that day. With clean socks, with clean undies. Nan has a quick hand and knobbly fingers. I listen and obey. On the way to the church this amazingly beautiful shiny black 1980 Pontiac TransAm muscle car all burble and roar came along the road and pulled up next to us and inside was the magician. This time he wasn’t wearing a top hat or a penguin suit. Instead he was in jeans and a check shirt, just like an ordinary bloke.
“Can I give you a lift?” he asked.
“Why thank you,” said nanna in her special voice, and she climbed into the seat and the whole car sank down on that side. She hates walking. “I’m big boned,” she says. “Yeah, nan,” I say, “too right.” But I mean, she’s just fat. But that’s OK. I still love her.
I climbed in the back behind him. Okay I know this is rubbish and incredible and I mean elves, who believes in elves, but his ears were like pointed and I swear his hair started out blue-black near his head and got paler and paler creamy and gold as it grew out like a special breed of dog. I looked at the back of his head totally fascinated. Why had he had plastic surgery on his ears, it made no sense? He didn’t come into the church, dropped us outside, tipped his invisible top hat and wished us well. I knew nan liked him because usually she had things to say about young people of today who didn’t go to church and the youth of today and all that and all she said was “what a nice young man!” She hadn’t even noticed the ears. Or the hair.
Later on after I’d changed out of my suit I wandered round the town because there was nothing else to do like we don’t even have a cinema. Sometimes they have amateur theatricals in the town hall but you can see on the dusty floor boards where Jason diPietro peed himself and it went all over the floor and soaked in. He was only five though and his ma was in a play and he was too shy to ask someone to take him to the loo. He’s 18 now. He’s so handsome and plays in the footy team so no one says anything about that now. I wish he was my friend. Well. Yeah. More than a friend. Fat chance.
I heard the sound of the Pontiac’s exhaust in the distance and a minute later he swept up again.
“Lift?” he queried.
“Where to?” I replied. That was so not a stupid question. There was nowhere to go to. Just the town, fast asleep in the heat.
“Anywhere,” he replied, shrugging.
“Well,” I said, “you can’t take me to Paris, you can’t take me to London.” Like I was full of shit and I knew it.
“You never know,” he said. “I am Sidhe,” he said. “My name is—.” He paused. There’s power in a name. Even a loser like me knows that. “—Beasius”. At least that’s what it sounded like.
“Jamie,” I said.
Fuck, I thought to myself, a loony, he is ‘she’? WTF? Pretty much male to me. Too much male for me. That was another thing about growing up in a small town, not something you talk about. You know, footy and get pissed and screw a chick and then wham bam you’re married. But I knew about myself. Even if no one else did. She? I could see his fucking package from my side of the car. Big. I looked away. And his shoulders, broad as a bull’s. And his tits. And the little cleft between his collar bones on his neck. And the way his neck column joined to his head. And …
So I said, “She, like you’re a woman?”
He just laughed.
“I’m not from this world,” he said. Like why was he telling me this, some kid in the middle of nowhere, some daggy kid with pimples and thick glasses and no friends? Some hopeless loser queer kid with no mum or dad and a nanna who drinks?
“So why are you telling me this?” I asked, putting my hand on the door ready to open it and leap out if I had to. Too many American films on TV. I once leapt from a moving cart and gringed myself. And that was, like, doing only 10 k’s. Please. If he wanted to do me, what the eff could I do? I couldn’t even play footy and I loathed PE. I’d be putty in his hands. Actually, I rather liked the thought of that. In a pervy sort of way.
“I don’t quite know,” he mused. “When I saw you at the circus you looked … different. ‘Sidhe’ is the ancient word for elves,” he added, and spelled it out for me.
“Hence the pointed ears,” I commented sarcastically. Like I wasn’t about to be taken in by some big-city confidence trickster. You after my money, I thought, just as well I haven’t got any. Or my body. Pull the other one, it’s got knobs on. Then I got pretty depressed thinking how no one, like, no one was interested in my body. Who was I kidding? No one was ever gonna pull my knob, for sure. Except me.
“So, how do you think I do the magic?” he asked.
“It’s just tricks,” I replied. “There’s a book you can buy on line.” If you have the money. Which we don’t, ‘cause nan’s on the pension. 25 magical tricks for beginners.
“No, it’s elvish magic,” he said. “Not tricks.”
Yeah, right. We were even less famous than Woop-woop. Butthole of the world, Trompsburg. Wrinkled brown hole in the middle of fucking nowhere.
“Okay, why are you with a circus in the middle of the bush then?”
“I was forced to leave,” he said.
“The elvish queen’s court.”
“So you come here, to the arse-end of the bush?” By now I was interested to see what he would actually say.
“There are too many gateways in the cities.”
“Yes, between this world and the otherworld.“
“Don’t you mean ‘other world’?”
“So you hide in the fucking bush?”
He smiled, a little sadly. “Yep.”
“Well, fuck me.” On second thoughts …. “Um, I have to get home. For lunch, you know. My nan will be waiting.”
“I thought you lived with your mum.” His face was straight but his fucking violet eyes were laughing at me.
“All right, so you frightened me, and I had to, like, think quickly. So, yeah, I live with me nan.”
“Would you like to go away with me?” All my alarm bells went off, brinnnng, in my head. I haven’t watched Hollywood films for nothing.
“Nah,” I said, being casual, “me nan would be lonely. Anyway, she makes the most amazing macaroni cheese. And that’s what we’re having for lunch.” We were too poor to have roasts.
His eyes grew dreamy. “Macaroni cheese”, he muttered. “I could kill for some macaroni cheese.”
So that’s how he came to lunch.
Nan didn’t mind. We always kept half the macaroni cheese for the next day to make it last because of, like, the pension and being poor. But this time she dished him and me up seconds and then offered him dessert. Ice-cream! Wow! She really liked him.
“It would be nice with a liqueur,” she said wistfully.
“Give me that gin,” he said.
She slitted her eyes at him. No one took her gin. Except me when I hid the new bottles sometimes. But, quelle surprise, she handed it over. We did French for one year at school that’s how I know what that means.
He poured the gin into a glass. “What kind of liqueur would you prefer?” he asked, all fruity and plum in his mouth, like some sort of poncy salesman on TV.
“Cherry,” said my nan, and he waved his fingers over the glass and some kind of sparkly stuff fell into it and it turned purple.
“Here you go,” he said, bowing from his waist like a fucking courtier. I swear I heard nan say “fuck me” under her breath. If I’d said it, it would’ve meant a clipped ear for sure. I just gaped at her.
I swear I heard Hector say, “Elves are such show offs,” but how could that be? Cats can’t talk. But on the other hand, gin can’t be turned into …. And he was Siamese.
“What’re you staring at, Jamie? Mind your manners and pass me the cherry liqueur.” She could do bossiness like the fucking queen. She has a picture of HM in black and white cut from a newspaper from when she came out to Oz in 1954 or whenever. It’s a bit yellow now. When she wasn’t looking I poured some of the cherry liqueur on my ice-cream. I didn’t know then what cherry liqueur tasted like but it did taste sort of cherry-ish. It was max yum.
Then they talked. Well, my nan talked, and the elf/magician/confidence trickster listened.
At around 2 o’clock, he said, “I have to go. There’s a show this afternoon. I must get ready.”
At the door, he asked “Are you 18?”
“Yeah,” I said. Like get real, I was 17 and four fifths.
“Good,” he said, and he kissed me. I don’t think it was magic. Or at least, not his kind of magic, but I promise you the earth moved.
“Such a nice young man, Jamie,” my nan said. “So much nicer and more intelligent than that Jason diPietro you’re so stuck on.”
“I’m not stuck on—”
“I saw you mooning over his picture in the Trompsburg Gazette.”
I felt my cheeks and my ears go red. “Mmhhm” I mumbled.
“It’s time you got a boyfriend,” she said. “You’re old enough now. And stop kicking the table leg. I’m not made of money, you know.”
“Since you were 12, dear.”
“I didn’t know then. How did you know?”
“Nannas know these things,” she said placidly. “Now help me up so I can go’nd have me afternoon kip. And don’t forget to do the washing up.” As she lumbered off to her bedroom I heard her mutter “Cherry Liqueur. Huh,” under her breath. “And you better bring out a bottle of gin from the stash in your cupboard, because that one on the table is nearly empty,” she added loudly as she closed her bedroom door.
I went to the circus when I’d finished and dried everything and put it away. I asked for the magician’s caravan. It was kinda cute inside. Bijou, like the estate agents describe a building inhabitable only by one very small person. With no arms. He was getting dressed. He had no shirt on yet. His body was beautiful.
I was going to tell him what nan had said about boyfriends but suddenly I was shy. I just mumbled stuff.
He smiled a little. I read up afterwards that the Sidhe are supposed to be very beautiful but also arrogant and cruel. He was just kind. And beautiful.
And then, when his show started he invited me onto the sawdust and introduced me to the audience as his partner. He made me get in the cupboard with him and when the door was closed he kissed me. Then there was a sort of flash but like, invisible, if you know what I mean and then we were underneath the arch which was painted with all sorts of crap like “Smith’s circus. Entertainment for all ages.” I still wasn’t breathing properly when he waved his hands and I found myself dressed in the coolest leather gear—pants, jacket, boots. The audience loved it. When he’d finished he took my hand and we bowed to the audience in three directions and I could feel my hand still tingling ten minutes later when we got to his caravan.
I was still wearing the leather. “Will it last?” I asked him.
“Yeah. As long as real leather.” He gazed at me, all serious like. Now it comes I thought. Just when I get a boyfriend he fucks off and leaves me alone. He took my hands. “I’ll ask again. Will you come away with me?”
“No,” I said, even though I wanted to more than anything. I was almost in tears. “No. Me nanna is old and she’ll need looking after soon.” I looked away embarrassed to be so daggy. But right is right. “She looked after me, so I’ll look after her.”
His smile became brilliant, his violet eyes shining like jewels, as if he approved. “Well, can I stay with you, then?”
I started to smile like a lunatic. “Yeah. Nan said it was time I had a boyfriend.”
He reached out and unzipped the jacket. “We won’t be needing this for a bit.”
“What!” I squeaked. He kissed me again, his hands sliding down the front of my leather pants to, well, you know.
This time it didn’t just feel as if the earth moved. It did move. Mr Gillivray’s shop and the nail parlour’s windows were cracked and the Trompsburg Gazette ran an article “Mysterious Earthquake Shakes Residents.” It was the most exciting thing that ever happened in Trompsburg.
We moved from Tromsburg, butthole of the world, up to a small town in the mountains. Which even had a library. And decent internet service. And rain. Best of all it was like 200 k’s away from Jason diPietro, who’s just an arrogant up-himself arsehole. Really. “I never liked him,” said Hector, when I confided in him. “Anyway, feed the cat. I’m peckish.”
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