A letter to my mother
rating: +11+x

The soft lights of the county fair lit up around the young man as he made his way through the gates. Booths sat side by side each one peddling a different thing, though, most were selling overly greasy and sugar filled food. All around him stood sleazy game owners and towering rides beckoning children. It took him a while to navigate the neverending maze of booths and seats. He could hear the barking of the ringmaster's dog as it raced past him. A grin crossed the young man's face as a little boy chased after the dog, shouting and yelling orders at the mop-looking beast, but each one seemed to fall upon deaf ears. 'Sally, come!' 'Sally, heel!' 'No! Sally! Not there!' The man glanced over at the last command to see the dog, a leg slowly lowering from the air. A chuckle slipped out of him as he slowly moved forth

After ten minutes of walking, he arrived at his small, homely booth. His face creased into a frown as he slowly approached it.

"Only one more day of this fair." He thought as stood in front of it. First, he picked up the rickety stools, gently setting them onto the ground closest to his table. Then came the well-used wooden easel being placed into the soft ground. Finally, a small handmade sign which bounced off of the booth with a soft clack. A sigh slipped from his mouth as he bent over to reach under the booth. His hands stumbled upon a cardboard box which was soon pulled out into the light. It opened with a groan and revealed tons of assorted art supplies; pencils, pens, pastels, markers, watercolors, acrylics, and a hundred other things.

The last pastel settled with a clink as his hands carefully set it on the table. He turned around to see the carousel still being set up. His eyes stared forward in shock, was he that quick? His hands reached for a silver pocket watch. An hour more till the circus began. His mind went blank for a second. It had been months since he had this kind of free time. His eyes darted to his booth then down to his watch. Maybe tonight, he should take a walk.

The young fellow set off at a steady pace with leaves which would softly crunch underfoot. The brightly lit path seemed to greet him at every turn, guiding him towards sweets, rides, and soon-to-be-played games. He noticed the strongmen standing around a 'Test Your Strength' machine, all joking that they couldn't get it off the ground. The owner of the machine began to giggle and waved them off.

The artist began to smile. His father could hit the bell on those machines each and every time. He would always brag about being the most powerful man alive. A younger version of the young fellow crossed his mind; he was a skinny boy with little muscle. He would always try to hit the bell, like his father, but he never could. His father's voice came to mind;

"Oh now then, you can do better than that! You aren't even trying!"

The voice was reverberating in his mind. Slowly it overcame to him. Pangs of pain spread across his body, leaving behind a hollow feeling everywhere they went. It had seemed like an eternity since he saw his father last. The corners of his mouth carved a frown into his face, and his back hunched over. The bell of the machine went off, mocking the artist. He let out of a huff, then donned his typical façade of a jolly man before moving again. He soon found himself stopped due to a large crowd of handlers and animals. Massive footsteps filled the air, as the elephants and camels came drifting along.

A memory swept through his mind; a small camel, in his backyard, was supposed to be protecting his father's sheep. Though it never did; it would always chase him and his brother. Their father would only laugh and send them inside for dinner. Inside, his mother was ready to help patch them up. Though often, the solution was just to suck it up and stop crying. It was only a bruise and some scratches. Later that night they would all laugh about it. His father would mimic him and Erin running from the camel, talking about how dumb they acted. Then his mom would chime in with a clever remark. Then, at the end of dinner, Erin would joke about eating the camel. Although, Father would yell at him for the remark. How was Erin doing?

The man stopped and looked up at the sky, watching the stars glitter in silence. The stars glittered quietly. His eyes dropped down to the ground, and his feet began to move.

Step by step. The weight on his back began to grow.

A couple more and then…the weight on his shoulders became too much.

He sat down, his head bent down toward the ground before slowly looking up at the sky.

Why had he left? Soft, hot tears spilled down his face. His mother, his father, his brother, were they okay? Guilt was flooding his body; his hands slowly shook as he placed his face onto them. His heart felt a strain as a contorted sob spilled from his mouth. A soft pair of feet moved in toward the young man before a voice broke the silence.

"Oh, hey you're that artist fellow! I've been lookin' all over for ya. I got a com..mission for..ya… Is everything okay? You look kinda teary."

The young man's face slowly rose from his hands to see the lion tamer's soft expression. He felt a lump in his throat as he tried to speak.

"Just fine." The stale lie clung to the artist's tongue as the tamer stared at him. Tears dripped down his still face.

"Is that really the truth laddie?"

"I'm serious, everything's fine."

"Come on. You've been down for days, sleepin' in and frownin'. There has to be something there."

"I've… I've been missin' home."

"Oh lad, we all miss home. It's natural to feel that way."

"I just left home under… some bad circumstances."

"Now come on lad, most of us here, were the kids who ran away to the circus! There's nothing wrong with leaving on the bad foot. Now, what is wrong, and let me tell you, I know this better than anyone here, is not apologizing to your folks. I would be terrified if my wee boy just ran out into the world. Now, if he returned, without a scratch that is, then I would be thrilled just to see him. You got to understand, parents are there for you, they don't hate you. They have your best interests in mind."

"I don't have enough money to return home…"

"Then write a letter to 'em! You should tell them how you're doing, how your job is going. Ya know?"

The young artist slowly nodded as he sat up. The lion tamer reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cotton cloth. He held out the cloth to him.

"Now then dry up your tears. While I got you here, here's the commision, a birthday gift for the kiddo, a small cartoon dog, one that looks like Sally, ya know her?"

The young fellow nodded while handing back the handkerchief. Upon the exchange of thank you's and goodbyes, the artist walked back to his booth and took a seat. His eyes began to scan around it for any lined paper. Soon enough he was in the cardboard box looking about for one. Upon finding the lone paper sheet he plucked it out and set it down on the table.

A shaking pencil met the paper.

Then pent-up breath was let out of him.

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