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” said the kid, settling back down beside him in the sand. “You staying the same, me growing older…that’s a joke.” “So how come neither of us is laughing? He’d told so many kids so many times they’d never die that after awhile it had seemed only fair he should join them in the immortality he’d been extravagantly granting. There had been too many funerals over too many decades, and he’d gone to as many as he could, for his friends deserved to be shown a little respect, but then, after a time, there were no more funerals to attend. Sure would have been nice if one of the others–any one of the others, he wasn’t picky–had still been around, so they could have shared a place. But maybe that was the only reason he willing to step up. Electrico could see the kid’s eyes grow large as he took in the Bearded Lady and the Alligator Boy and all the rest of them, saw how they treated each other when they were by themselves without the rubes around, as if the fantastic were common, and the common fantastic, and finally out along the sand dunes, where they sat and talked of their lives, and Mr. They talked for hours, about ferris wheels and movie stars, rocket ships and life on Mars, about comic strips which promised more than real life ever could, about things that might have been and things that never were…but then it was time for Mr. “We can go.” As he stood, he could hear his knees crack. He stretched, partially because he needed it after having been curled up on a park bench all night, and partially because he needed Josh to point him in the right direction so they could get started, and was delaying because he didn’t want to have to admit it. ” he said, and tilted his head in a vague circle he hoped night accidentally approximate the correct direction. When he woke, he could remember little of the dreams, only that he dreamt, which he did not like. Electrico managed to avoid “the talk” Josh kept insisting they have, making him think he still had some of the gift of gab which had served him so well during his carny days, but then, one morning, he woke and looked under his bed for the sword which would allow him to perform the ritual meant to remind him of who he’d once been, and he found nothing but dust bunnies, a sock he’d thought he’d lost, and a depression created in the carpeting by a long, rectangular box which had lain there since his grandson had taken him in. “What I’ve been doing ever since the day we met–living forever.” “That’s … Considering his decades on the carnival circuit, such wishful thinking was surely inevitable. Would have been nice, too, if his son was still speaking with him, so could have shared a place. Electrico was moved to say something he’d never said before, about how the two of them had known each other in past lifetimes. Electrico to head back for his evening shows–the final performances before he’d have to move on. He guessed he probably wasn’t the only one who’d heard them. Josh hesitated for a moment, looking as if he was about to speak…then shrugged instead and began walking. Electrico followed, trying his best to memorize the streets–some of which seemed familiar to him, and some not, as if buildings had been shuffled overnight–between the park and his grandson’s house. Electrico could tell, from the grim expression on his grandson’s face, that a speech was building which he would not want to hear. It seemed forgetfulness, which was now so much a part of his life, was spreading to his dreams as well. His sword, the only memento that remained, was gone. He seemed exactly as he’d been all those years before, unchanged by time. Ray laughed as he made a few passes through the air with the metal, marking the air between them. But he’d never learned anything more than his given name, and so a reunion was impossible. Electrico wished they known each other before in the trenches, the way he’d told him, because that would have meant there was a chance they’d see each other again in the future. Electrico snapped out of his reverie, suddenly aware of the streets down which he walked, realizing he had no idea where he was. Electrico insisted, hoping he’d been able to imbue his words with confidence. If we didn’t find you, who knows how long you’d have been out here alone.” “I was just taking my time, that’s all,” he said, his words less certain. I always do.” “Not always,” said Josh, his voice still a whisper. “So you’re saying the officer and I should just leave you here then? His grandson was not normally gone so early in the day, so it was strange he shouldn’t be there now. Electrico was about to take his first step down, a figure came into view from the living room. But he knew now, as he knew he’d known then, that there was no coming back in this life, that once a person was gone he was gone, one reason he fought so hard against his body’s signals that it was time to leave. What made it worse was that at the same time–he was also uncertain whether this confusion was because he’d wandered, while lost in thoughts of the past, to a neighborhood he’d never encountered before, or if, cruelly, he no longer recognized a place with which he should he familiar. He’d made so many believe so much, surely he could make one man believe that. The power to pretend, a power about which he’d once been so proud, had long ago diminished. Last time we were together, you showed me the secret to how one worked.
How could he dare reveal what he’d seen before Josh arrived home? “It’s not your fault,” Josh said, louder than he’d left off. If you can’t even remember that, it’s just one more reason you shouldn’t have it.” Josh stooped to pick up the sword, then turned toward the garage. Instead, he stayed in place, continuing to squeeze words out, words obviously as difficult to speak as they were to hear. You shouldn’t be doing things like that, doing the things you once did. You had to have used a ladder, or else how would you have gotten it down from where I stored it in the garage? The sudden movement left him dizzy, forcing him to press one hand against the wall to remain steady. That’s all I have left.” “Then what’s it doing down here with you up there? Electrico had seen him, when he visited to reminisce about the old days, the man could barely speak above a whisper. Electrico wished he could show the kid who he really was, and why, wished he could explain it all in the way he’d never been able to do for his son, whose empathy had been crushed by having to live through it. And if only he still owned the costume he’d once worn, red silk with yellow piping zigzagging down the sleeves to make it look as if lightning was about to come out of his fingertips. He held it out before him as he used to do at each show–more an extension of his arm than a piece of metal–and closed his eyes. Ray hadn’t been the first to come back–kids were always ditching their parents and returning to say the things they wouldn’t dare unless they were alone with him–but he was the first to come back who didn’t also ask to join him. Electrico went up to his room–slowly, as all stairs were taken slowly these days–where he fell asleep immediately, a thing which he hadn’t allowed himself in the park. ” “It seemed as if you needed me,” said Ray, pausing in his prancing to look up. I doubted you’d have been able to on your own.” Ray flipped the sword in his hand so that its hilt was now pointed up toward the top of the stairs. He knelt, laying the sword down sideways across the bottom step, the blade so long it stuck out through the bannister. All he could think was — how is it that Josh missed seeing Ray? Electrico could think of anything to say, Josh noticed the sword on the bottom step, and his expression darkened.
And the newspaper clippings, filled with awe and wonder. And so, of course, in that moment, from behind Ray came the sound of the front door being unlocked. Electrico recognized, and then looked briefly over one shoulder, unalarmed. No one should take it from you.” And then Ray backed out of sight, vanishing into the living room, just before Josh came into view from the front foyer. Electrico found himself without the breath to speak, so Josh was startled on seeing him there, at first not even noticing the sword. Josh had lately been accusing him of getting slow, and a snappy answer would help contradict that, but he had none. Electrico thought meant the kid would then ask the question, before the opportunity to do so was gone forever…but he did not. He wished he could have tracked the kid down and asked him. Electrico felt his grandson’s hand on his shoulder, and though the touch was gentle and though it was meant with love, it brought back memories of other park benches, and other touches, ones not so gentle, which had been meant to make him move along. He looked off again toward the unbroken stretch of cool, green grass, and imagined a tent rising there. “I’m not dead yet.” Besides, he thought, he’d been in the back of too many police cars. His knees were unfortunately not the only things giving out.