Drum Roll Please: Flash Fiction
Ignatius Pobblewell III was born to run a circus…until the day he wasn’t.
The era of the great circus showmen was over. The strongman took a pay rise to become a WWE wrestler. The bearded lady discovered laser hair removal. And WorkSafe banned launching people out of cannons. The final straw was the last It movie – now everyone was scared of clowns. Stephen King has a lot to answer for.
The golden glow of the centre ring evaporates as Ignatius turns off the circus tent lights one-by-one. He heads to his trailer in the showground.
As Ignatius hangs up his ringmaster hat for the last time, his twirly moustache droops. His eyes fall on a fruit basket from the fortune teller. Her heady perfume still lingers in the air. A heart-shaped note says: Congratulations on your triumphant return. She was a terrible psychic.
Ignatius reaches for a banana. There is a flash of black and the banana disappears before his eyes. He leaps from his chair.
‘Who’s there?’ His eyes dart. There’s no one.
Hesitantly, Ignatius reaches for a grape.
A flash of black again and a razor-sharp claw plucks a grape, then a second one…a third…until nothing’s left.
Ignatius reaches for the basket but in the blink of an eye it’s gone. He races from his trailer and spots a figure silent and still in the shadows of the tent.
‘Hey you!’ he yells and makes chase.
The figure, with the basket, scampers up the side of the tent, runs across the top then somersaults to the ground.
Ignatius follows the thief to an abandoned trailer. There, surrounded by empty popcorn boxes and dagwood dog wrappers, a black cat stuffs strawberries into its mouth.
‘Who are you?’
‘I’m Phoenix.’ He pats a soft and doughy stomach then belches. His tummy immediately deflates. ‘I’m the show cat.’
‘You enter cat shows?’
Phoenix shakes his head. ‘The show. My mother travelled with a show family, but I got left behind here at the showground. I’m waiting until she returns.’
‘How long have you been waiting?’
Phoenix counts on his claws. ‘Thirty-five cat years.’
Ignatius frowns. ‘I’m sorry, but I don’t think she’s coming back.’
‘She will,’ Phoenix hisses.
Ignatius has a seed of an idea.
‘Why don’t you join me? Maybe we’ll find your mother.’
Phoenix’s eyes narrow. ‘Me? Join the circus?’
‘Well you have got some impressive acrobatic skills. Are there others like you?”
‘There’s only one Phoenix, but I expect other cats have similar talents – we are the superior beings.’
Ignatius’s mind whirs. More like Phoenix.
He makes a drum roll sound. ‘Roll up, roll up, for the marvellously, magnificent…’ his showman’s voice oozes like honey, ‘…Ninja Cat Circus!’ Ignatius looks eagerly at Phoenix.
Phoenix rubs his whiskers. ‘What’s in it for me?’
‘Top billing…and your own trailer.’
‘An endless supply of toffee apples?’
‘And fairy floss?’
Phoenix holds out his paw. ‘Deal.’
Then, as if on cue, Ignatius’s moustache springs back to life.