4 sho sho
A cannonball turned the rest of the saloon into confetti showering Canard and Efron with debris.
Efron shook her red mop for debris and dust, coughed and looked up at Canard. She handed him the gun “It’s up to you I guess.”
He took it and let it hang at his side as he watched Pookie narrowly dodge a wrecking shot at his feet.
Pookie had taken to running along the rooftops for cover. Unfortunately the brothers were a lot more agile than their size had initially suggested.
The oldest stayed below from his firing position, arching up like a mortar, the middle brother followed Pookie up on to the rooftops.
The middle brother retracted and spat the wrecking ball at Pookie’s feet tearing huge chunks out of the roof of the building. A bemused post nuclear family sat around a scrappy dinner table looking through their new skylight.
“Err sorry” Pookie said.
But before he could react he heard the chain tighten, the middle brother swinging it by biting down on it and turning his hips and shoulders.
The ball slammed into Pookie’s gut and tossed him off the building. Luckily he landed on his head and was totally fine.
Pookie rolled onto his back, dazed from the first strike he looked up at the sun which had peaked and was slowly going down, the sky a bruised orange colour. The middle brother smirked and swung the ball over her is shoulder and muttered to himself “For Juan”. With all his abdominal strength he turned and swung the wrecking ball at a downward angle, meaning to crush Pookie like a bug.
Meanwhile the oldest brother circled around and was coming at him from the other side. Aiming right at him.
Pookie was unable to move, looking up at the sky as the ball eclipsed the sun coming right at him like a comet just coming over the pivot point of the swing.
A shot rang out and the chain snapped freeing the wrecking ball which shot off careening towards the eldest brother. The ball lodging itself with some force into the barrel of the cannon just as it was about to fire.
There was a deathly pause and then internal indigestion noises. A bead of sweat ran down the eldest brother’s brow right before the cannon backfired and tore him in half like a piñata full of sausage meat. The entire cannon exited his body taking most of his internal organs with it and leaving an exit wound the size of an elephant’s foot.
Another silence, the smell of cordite, Canard stood, feet planted holding the gun in his outstretched hand. “Why did I?-oh” He said as he looked at his hand and saw two smaller hands wrapped around it.
Efron smirked as she sat curled around Canard’s shoulder.
“What if the chamber was empty?”
“I would have fired again” She laughed as she climbed down off of Canard.
But her laughing was cut short. The moment her feet hit the ground a broken chain wrapped around her leg and yanked her like a tiny side of beef, dragging her through the loose dirt and sand.
Pookie groaned as he raised himself onto his side only able to watch as Efron was reeled in like a carp flopping on the ground.
The Middle brother slurping on the chain like someone sucking a giant piece of spaghetti with a huge unwilling meatball on the end.
It all happened so fast, Canard barely had enough time to react. He went for his staff but before he could even flick the blade out Efron was in the middle brother’s mouth with chain wrapped around her. The middle brother devoured her inch by inch, his jaw stretched wide like an anaconda.
Canard was so stunned for a second he forgot he was missing a leg and tripped when he took the staff away as a support falling face first into the dirt. It was like he was wading through custard, like it was all happening in slow motion for some reason.
He recomposed himself and tried to get to his feet.
The middle brother let out a vicious chuckle which was muffled by the person in his mouth. He put one finger over his left nostril and shot out a couple of giant buggers which hit the ground and exploding into a cloud of smoke.
Canard instinctually froze like a deer in headlights until the smoke finally cleared revealing him to be alone with a very sore clown.
“What just happened?”
“Nothing good” Pookie mumbled.
“What do we do, go after him?”
Pookie got to his feet groaned and said. “Nah.”
“Gosh darn it, I’m too late!” The dog faced boy cursed under his breath as he peeped through the little hole in the big top. The one he chastised Margherite for looking through only a couple of chapters ago.
The sun was going down, the meeting was emptying out. The heads of the clans going back to their little pieces of turf leaving only the icecream man and the Ringmaster alone in the big top. His icecream van was his home so he didn’t need to go anywhere.
When they were alone, he put his feet up on the table and grinned.
“Want me to ice’im?” He laughed.
The Ringmaster said nothing.
The icecream man laughed “It’d be poetic, don’t you think?” He chuckled.
“He’s more use to me alive” The ringmaster said coldly.
“Oh so this was part of your master plan all along?” He smirked a little too wide, his lips were thin and cold looking almost non-existent, two thin bloody streaks on an icicle.
“Something like that” The Ringmaster smiled jovially, but not with his eyes, his eyes were fixed and issued a silent threat.
The icecream man let out a little breathy laugh and took his feet off the table. “Don’t you forget, you owe me” He stood and looked around the big top. “All this is cos of what I done for you” He leaned forward on the table. “And it can all go away like that”. He clicked his bony fingers.
“Are you threatening me?” The Ringmaster asked.
He smiled trying to look innocent, shrugging his shoulders “Just reminding is all.” The icecream man laughed and started to walk away. “Now if you’ll excuse me, those kiddies aint gonna get the sweet stuff theyselves”.
He climbed into the cab of the icecream truck, the suspension straining under him. That tinkling off key music started up again with the engine as he slowly drove away.
The dogfaced boy had no idea what was going on but watched as the Ringmaster sneered and spat on the ground, cursing silently.
“What the heck was all that about?” He whispered to himself.
The sun had set, Canard sat on a bench at a rest stop and bath house on the outskirts of the town. He was whittling that piece of wood again under a busted streetlamp that kept flickering, powered by a janky generator. The night was warm and buzzed with the incessant beat of crickets or something close to that. Not a star in the sky as usual. Just a deep blackness punctuated by a sickly orange glow and the potmarked moon bearing down on the world.
On the other end of the bench sat a stranger with a straw hat and a clown mask on his face.
“I love nights like this.” The stranger said wistfully.
“Huh? Sorry are you talking to me?” Canard stopped whittling to idly turn to the stranger sitting on the same bench.
“Yeah you don’t mind talking to strangers” The stranger in the mask laughed amiably as he looked at Canard. “I hope the mask doesn’t scare you”. The man laughed and took off the mask laying it flat on the bench.
“I don’t really do small talk, I don’t get the chance to.” Canard went back to looking down and whittling.
“Yeah I get that, only like to talk about the big things, got no time to appreciate a night like this.” The stranger sighed and tossed his hair to one side and closed his eyes.
“Hmm” Canard murmured.
“But to someone like me, a night like this, there couldn’t be anything bigger, ya know what I mean?” The stranger said.
Canard didn’t have a clue what he was talking about but looked around and breathed in the night air and looked at the sickly clear sky. Thought about how empty it was and how quiet, just the crickets and this big black eye above. “Yeah” he sighed.
“Could use some stars I guess, the night being so clear” The stranger added.
“What’s a star?” Canard asked casting a sideways glance.
“It’s whats just out of our reach- beyond the sky”.
“I see.” Canard said sounding disinterested continuing to whittle.
“They say one day we’ll be able to see them again.” The stranger said.
“When we die?” Canard asked.
“Most likely.” The stranger said thoughtfully.
“Isn’t that always the way, what a jip” Canard said.
“Do you know the difference between revenge and avenging someone?” The stranger asked.
Canard stopped whittling but said nothing.
“Revenge is very personal, very messy, very subjective. To avenge someone on the other hand is almost the opposite, it’s righteous- it’s justice. To strike down someone that truly deserves it on behalf of another.” The stranger said looking up at the bruised sky.
Canard said nothing and continued to whittle. He cleared his throat and said “Your revenge is out of your reach is that it?”
“I’m not after you.” Clown mask said smiling.
“What would a kid like you know about justice anyway?”
“I just want the clown”
“What about the girl?”
“The- oh her, you can have her, she means nothing to me.” The stranger sighed.
“And then what?”
“Then you can come back- if you wish” The stranger said amiably.
“Then what? I become a clown?” Canard chuckled.
“Why not? You’ll never walk a wire again, even with that peg leg you’re carving.” The stranger gestured at the piece of wood Canard was whittling. “You think that changes anything, you think you can carve out a new life for yourself just like that? You’re just as foolish as him if that’s what you think.”
Canard spat on the ground and looked at the misshapen piece of wood in his hand.
“Help me and you’ll have a place to call home again, isn’t that what everyone wants?” He laughed “Don’t you get it, you can’t change the stars if you can’t even see them, there’s nothing for you in this world, nothing except the circus.” The stranger said.
“Why can’t you do it yourself, are you afraid of him?” Canard asked.
“It’s more complicated than that.”
“I bet it’s not” Canard laughed. “Too much of a coward to take revenge on your own is that it?”
“It was never about revenge at all, justice is all that matters.” The stranger said flatly.
“Justice my ass, what part of kidnapping a kid is justice?” Canard spat.
“That wasn’t my idea and what do you care anyway? Last I heard your crew weren’t big on empathy and saving little kids, what changed?”
Canard carved at the bit of wood a little more.
“You got your wings clipped must be humbling, being down here with all the little people on your back like a flipped beetle.” The stranger laughed.
“I’ve still got a few surprises up my sleeve” Canard smirked.
“I hope so” The stranger said.
The crickets were a soothing metronome, the only sound but the sloshing of the warm water. The steam filling the room and Pookie’s lungs as he relaxed in the big communal tub made from what looked like discard roadsigns welded together.
“I thought you were some kind of hero?”
“Huh?” Pookie languidly lifted the wet flannel off his face and cast a lazy eye through the steam of the bath but he still couldn’t see a thing.
“The girl, aren’t you supposed to be running after her, risking life and limb and all that?”
“Oh that” Pookie said putting the flannel back and sinking back into the warm water of the tub. “Is that how that goes?”
“In most stories”
Pookie sighed “I’m sure it’ll all work out in the end.”
“Is that right? You think it’s that easy being a hero?”
“Sure, it’s real easy to die too. Who said anything about being a hero anyway?”
“Hmm, if it’s so easy then why are you still alive?”
“I’m too dumb to die.” Pookie smirked.
“Ha maybe so- did anyone ever tell you the difference between getting revenge and avenging someone?”
“No, you still sore about all your bird buddies I killed?” Pookie sighed.
There was no response just the sound of splashing as the other person in the bath got out.
“Canard? Donny?” Pookie lifted the flannel off his face and saw something bobbing in the water and he picked it up.
It was a clown mask.