The Greatest Show On Earth
It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. The truck wheels giving a low roar in the still air. The sound carrying into the open windows of sleeping families. Rolo gazed at the houses as he drove up the streets. He was aware of the difference between them. The old, dusty, banged up truck he drove, compared to the clipped lawns and blue-sided houses with family friendly cars in the driveways. He took a long drag on the hand rolled cigarette. After a minute the smoke escaped in several short bursts. He thought about the families rising in the morning.
In a few hours they would be laughing, pouring milk over bowls of Rice Krispies, sipping steaming cups of coffee. The races to get ready for school, the paper, feeding the dog all danced in his head. Images he had seen on the deletion since his youth. The truck in front turned to the left and he followed along. The metal poles and large canvas tents slide to the one side then settled back. His wife grew up with that. Public school, sleepovers, school plays, dance classes. He never felt envious. He was born and raised with the crew. He traveled. Schooled by the teachers of the tents. He could do any job needed by the performers and management. Tents, electrical, repairs. He could even help the cook if necessary. They had friends and family the country over. One day he might have a son or daughter that would learn the skills that made The Greatest Show on Earth happen.
But tonight, for just a second. A flash of...maybe. He set the little butt in the ashtray and picked up the cup that rested in the holder. With a little swish he took a swig of the cold coffee. They had some money saved. A little ranch style perhaps. Lizzy could show him how to take care of the lawn. They could sit on the porch and wave to the kids in the neighborhood. Maybe have those block parties that they sometimes saw when in a town. He chuckled to himself thinking of trick or treaters knocking on a door. Or shoveling snow with a funny hat and mittens given at Christmas.
The truck in front stopped and he pulled up along side. He would be missed, he knew that. He would also be replaced. There would always be someone. It was hard work though. But someone was always there ready to learn. He drifted again. Thoughts of a warm bed. Sleeping at night instead of driving. Sleeping in on a Saturday. Watching the game on TV with neighbors.
Taking the pouch from his pocket, he concentrated as he spread the tobacco down the length of the thin paper. After a long glance at the figure sleeping in the seat next to him, he rolled the window down. The lit cigarette glowed in his hand as he watched Mike walking Walter around. The little guy liked the cool air after being cooped up. The baby elephant was still getting used to the travel. He wasn't desensitized to it yet like the older ones. His little trunk moved along the ground taking in the new smells.
"Are we running away to join the suburbs?" the figure spoke.
He looked over at Lizzy, then stared forward. "Nah. Not yet." he smiled.