Well here we are on a new Thursday! As promised, I give to you the second half of Pedro’s Tiny Circus. Also I have the complete story available on the Short Fiction page, which you can find by either clicking on the link within this post or using the menu tab at the top of the page. I hope everyone enjoys the story.
I do have to say it was a bit outside my comfort zone as I’m not Hispanic nor am I religious. I only hope that the religious Mexican heroine comes across well. I loved writing the Grandmother Maria Guadalupe Chavez y Ruiz, she was terrific fun!
Please feel free to comment on the story. I would love to hear your thoughts on it, whether good or bad. Have a great day everyone and thanks for stopping by!
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Maria Guadalupe ran to her front door and yelled to her neighbor who worked as a nurse in the small clinic in town. She came running and helped to move Francisco into the living room, laying him on the couch.
“Can you watch my nieto, Ana Maya? I must go, it is muy impotante.” Maria Guadalupe dug into Francisco’s shirt pocket for his keys. “Tell him I have his truck and not to worry when he wakes. I thought he could do this with me, but I fear this must be done alone.”
“What are you talking about, Maria?”
“Do not worry yourself. All will be fine,” said Maria Guadalupe.
She pulled a shawl around her shoulders and pinned it with a simple brooch. Maria took her cane from where it rested against the wall and made her way out the door. She passed one final look back to where her grandson lay unconscious on the couch and crossed herself with her free hand. Then she shut the door and hobbled down the two steps to the street and walked the short distance to Francisco’s house. She climbed into his truck and started it.
She gripped the wheel for a moment. Tonight, as it was forty years ago, she would see the monster. It would be in the same place that it had taken her son so many years before. Maria only hoped she could stop it before it took any more children. She dropped the lever into drive and stepped on the gas, the truck jerking forward as she sped out of town.
In the fading light of the day the countryside was aglow with orange and red from the setting sun. Swathes of shadow spread over the mountainous desert. The trail of dust from the truck rose into the air and danced with the breezes. Maria found herself thinking back to that night as the truck bounced down the dirt road. The eyes of the old man who was no old man. The scaled wrists buried in those thick gloves. The long dusty coat and the wide hat pulled low over it’s face. She shivered slightly as she rounded a bend in the road.
Maria Guadalupe pressed hard on the brakes. Down in the shallow valley she could see the truck. The faded sign in blue and red with chipped gold lettering. The spirit was there too. It lifted the section of wall from the stage platform in the back of the pick-up truck. The tattered curtains were pulled shut but Maria knew what was behind them. The missing children, their spirits trapped in the puppets that made up the monsters tiny circus.
Maria glanced to the horizon, the sun was just beginning to touch the edges of the world. Soon the people would be here to watch the puppet show, to watch the marionette children. She would have to act quickly.
Maria stepped on the gas and the sand and rocks scattered beneath the tires of the truck. The old man, the ghastly spirit, looked up from placing the coin box as Maria rocketed down the low hill. Without warning, Maria smashed her grandson’s truck into the circus truck. Steel screamed, steam hissed, and puppets flew through the air as the wreck slid through the dirt. Pedro simply stood holding the coin box and watched.
Maria slowly eased herself up in the seat, reaching for her cane as she tried to push the door open. With a groan of hinges it moved and she slid from the seat. Maria hobbled from the truck praying quietly, her eyes fixed on Pedro.
“Tell me your real name monster,” she said. “You are not Pedro. I know that. You’re not even a man, you have no machismo. What is your real name?”
From beneath the brim of the hat, a toothy smile and a flash of bright yellow eye. Pedro set the coin box down and moved closer, whispering softly.
“I have a connection to your grandson. The things I could make him do to that poor Nurse you left him with. Or maybe I will just take him too.”
Maria pulled out her rosary and wrapped it around her free hand. She moved with her cane through the sand of the dirt road with purpose. She still did not know quite what she was doing but knew that if the spirit was still here then the idol that bound it could not have been damaged in the collision. She had to find it.
“You cannot have him spirit. You cannot keep the other children. You are not of this world and so you must go! You must go spirit!”
Maria could feel the pain in her hip starting to scream at her, and she saw that Pedro knew. She hobbled to the trucks and leaned, the evil spirit calmly watching. Maria tried to peek into the cab, but she could nothing other than old clothes and newspapers, empty food cartons, and dirty plastic bottles.
Pedro slipped the hat from its head and let it fall to the ground. Next it pulled off the wig, the white of the skull gleaming in the setting sunlight. Its bright yellow eyes were unblinking, lidless, and shone with a light like a jack-o-lantern. It peeled the cracked leather gloves from its hands revealing the claws of an eagle, black talons sparkling.
Maria’s breath caught in her throat. She had known from pictures how it would look, but the reality seemed to her far more gruesome. She clutched the rosary to her chest and hobbled towards it, forcing herself with a renewed strength. As she glanced around at the scattered marionette puppets, she thought only of the children.
Pedro stepped ever closer, taking its time as a cat would sneak up on an unsuspecting bird. It seemed to smile, a strange expression on the boney face. Maria saw then what it was doing, how it was moving, but she had to be sure. She moved to her left with the aid of her cane, moving again towards the circus truck.
She made ready to lunge at the evil spirit but something caught her eye. It was one of the marionettes, the look on the small painted face was the look of her long missing son. She gasped and knelt to pick him up from the dirt road. Her hip protested but she could not help herself, it was her Juan Carlos. Pedro only laughed, a dry cackle.
“Take him and go, but leave the others. They are mine,” it said. Then whispering in that papery thin voice, “I love them so.”
Maria gently kissed the puppet and laid the tiny bundle back on the road.
“No, they all go home tonight,” said Maria.
Maria moaned softly as she stood, the crash had aggravated her already painful hip. She looked into its yellow eyes, a smile of her own forming. Quickly she looked up the low hill letting her eyes widen.
“They come! And you have lost your disguise!” Maria yelled.
Pedro turned its head and saw nothing on the top of the hill, it was empty. No people. But it was enough. Maria lunged forward as fast as her weakened sore joints would let her. She swung her cane and hooked the coin box, pulling it hard to the ground. There was a heavy thud from within, a chip of stone clattering as the old dry wood splintered. Pedro shrieked, its body flickering like a dying light bulb.
“I am Maria Guadalupe Chavez y Ruiz, the ninos are going free spirit!”
She limped to stand before Pedro as it dropped to the ground wailing. Sweat was beading on her forehead and cheeks as she gripped her rosary tightly, leaning on her cane.
“Padre nuestro que estás en el cielo, santificado sea Tu nombre, hágase tu voluntad así en la tierra como en el cielo. Danos hoy nuestro pan de cada día, perdona nuestras ofensas, así como perdonamos a los que nos ofrenden. No nos dejes caer en la tentación, y líbranos del mal. Amén,” she crossed her chest as she finished the prayer.
Maria left the thing as it faded away. She gathered every marionette from truck and surrounding area, making sure to count them until she was sure she had every one. Maria dug an old duffle-bag from behind the seat of her grandson’s pick-up truck and placed the puppets inside. As she slung the bag over her shoulder, breathing heavy, she began limping her way up the low hill. As she reached the top she looked back down on the ruin of Pedro’s Tiny Circus. All that was left was empty clothes and a broken stage amid the wreck of two trucks.
Maria smiled as the apparitions of dozens of children blinked into the road. Their transparent glow lit the dirt road around Maria, each child laughing and dancing. Maria wiped tears of joy from her eyes as the spirits of the children lifted into the air. Her son Juan stood before her and reached out to hug her before joining the other children. As the sun set, the children were gone. Maria knew they had found their place by the Lord’s side. She turned back to the road back to town and began her slow walk home.