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Buck and Me

The shooting finally stopped. Rose had gone. I jogged over to the trailer and peeked through the gaping, ragged hole in the side. Buck sat on the bed, dazed, lightly tugging his drooping moustache. The blonde girl whimpered and cowered in the corner behind the bed.

I looked from her to Buck. “Everybody okay?” I asked.

Buck knitted his brow. He half-smiled, etching a puzzled expression into his face. “You know, I sure didn’t think Rosie’d be back.”

I met Buck the summer I worked as a ticket agent with the Stanton Brothers Circus. He had been hired on as the mechanic a week before the season. I’d often see him, shirtless, sitting under some shady tree, tinkering with grimy mechanical things he’d removed from one of the circus vehicles, his ever-present glass and bottle of Johnny Walker Red nearby. He’d wave a greasy hand as I walked across the lot.

Within a few days I became friendly with him and discovered that he wasn’t the sole inhabitant of his trailer. He shared it with his mostly anti-social wife, Rose, an overbearing mountain of a woman nicknamed “Thunder Thighs” by the show people.

Outdoorsy-handsome Buck had never made any attempt to conceal his flirtations with local young lovelies who visited the circus lots, and I think it was getting to Rose. I was in the main tent one afternoon when I heard her calling from their trailer.

“Bu-uck!

No answer.

“Buck!

I looked out the back flap and saw Buck, rag in hand, talking with two young ladies. They turned away and Buck headed for the trailer.

“Buck! You get over here!

Buck broke into a leisurely trot.

“Hurry up! You were goin’ to run me into town to get some foot powder. It’s gettin’ late.”

“I know, honey,” said Buck, “but I gotta finish workin’ on that carb for the tent truck. Can’t you go by yourself?”

Rose placed one foot out on the trailer’s step.

“Don’t you give me that. We’re not leavin’ ‘til tomorrow. You got plenty of time.” She waved a meaty arm toward the tent. “I saw what you were workin’ on.”

“Aw, Rosie…”

“Don’t you ‘Aw, Rosie’ me.” She gestured toward their station wagon, one of their two well-used vehicles. “Jes’ get in the wagon and let’s get movin’.”

In a few minutes, I heard their station wagon sputter to life and bounce off across the field.

Three days later we were on a lot in Slidell, Louisiana. I’d picked up some apples in town and was feeding them to the elephants when I heard yelling and banging coming from the trailer area. I glanced over in time to see Rose, tote bag in hand, storm out her trailer. She squeezed into her old Chevy and fired it up. Buck tripped out after her and grabbed onto the door handle, begging her not to leave. Through the open window, she whacked him with her tote bag. He let loose of the handle, and Rose bumped and rattled across the field into the sunset. Buck watched her drive off, shrugged his shoulders, and went back inside.

Buck came to my rescue the next evening in New Orleans. Earlier that warm afternoon, while I was in the French Market with the ringmaster, someone had cut the cables and plucked the new battery out of my van. I was parked in a somewhat less than desirable neighborhood, so I opted to stay with the vehicle, hopefully to prevent the removal of any other necessary parts on my van or me, while the ringmaster took a cab back to the circus lot for help.

Twilight faded to black and signaled the start to an unsavory-looking-character parade that passed by the van. I sat nervously tapping on the steering wheel, wondering if I would ever see a canvas tent again. Then I heard it—something motorized, loud, and metallic approached. I scrunched down in the seat, reached over my shoulder, and locked the door. I squinted into the night, in the direction of the racket; it came from a beat-up station wagon dragging a sparking muffler. The vehicle slowed as it neared the van. I groped under the seat, pulled out a jack handle, and scrunched down even lower. The station wagon squeaked to a stop.

“Howdy!” called the driver.

I sat up. It was shirtless Buck. He reached for a glass half-full of golden liquid on the dashboard, grabbed a flashlight and, barefoot, walked over to size up my situation. I popped the hood and Buck clicked on his flashlight.

“Um-hmm.” He set his drink and flashlight on the bumper and went to the back of his wagon. In the dim glow of the streetlight, I noticed someone else in the front seat. Someone smoking a cigarette. Someone young and slender with a long ponytail. Someone who wasn’t Rose.

Buck came back to the van with a battery and clamped my ragged cable ends to the terminals with two pairs of vise grip pliers.

“Start ’er up,” he said.

I did. Buck picked up his glass and gulped the contents.

“That’ll hold ‘er fer now. I’ll fix you up with some better cables back at the lot.” He grinned.

A few hot, sticky Mississippi nights later, I had trouble sleeping, so I stepped outside my stuffy trailer into the bright moonlight to get some air. The generator truck had shut down for the evening. Two of the trailers were still lit, now from their own power. I listened to the elephants rustling through the hay with their trunks, the soft sounds occasionally punctuated by the growl of a lion.

There was a faint light coming through the curtains of Buck’s trailer. Briefly, I considered dropping over to chat, but then I remembered that I’d seen a young, moderately attractive blonde hanging around him earlier. I concluded he probably wasn’t alone.

In the distance, I heard the sound of a noisy auto. The noise got louder. I could see the flicker of headlights between the trees along the highway. The car slowed. It turned into the lot, clanking and bumping to a stop near Buck’s trailer. Uh-oh. It was that old familiar Chevy…and Rose. I stepped a bit closer and leaned on the spare tire at the rear of my trailer.

The car door squeaked open. In the glow of the interior light, I saw the massive, kinky-brown-hair-topped form that was Rose roll out of the front seat and up to the trailer door. Her pudgy hand opened it. Syrupy-sweetly she called, “Buck, honey, I’m back,” and disappeared inside.

In a matter of seconds I heard the booming, garbled, vaguely feminine voice. The door flew open and smashed against the side of the trailer. Rose spilled out, a continuous stream of obscenities spewing from her lips. Buck appeared in the doorway holding up his jeans with one hand, half-heartedly trying to calm her down.

“It ain’t nothin’, Rosie, I swear.”

My gaze shifted to the bedroom window where a blonde-haired female had her face pressed against the screen, trying to get a better look at the venom-spitting interruption.

Rose yanked her car door open and switched on the headlights, bathing the trailer in their cockeyed glow. She reached under the front seat. Buck must have had an idea of what was to follow; he dove back inside, slamming the door behind him. The still-cursing Rose pulled a huge double-barreled shotgun out of the car and up to her shoulder in one deft move. Barely taking aim, she pointed in the general direction of the bedroom and fired. The blonde’s face dropped down out of sight just as the jalousie window exploded into the trailer. The blonde began screaming.

Rose regained her balance and fired again, blowing another hole through the trailer, lower than the first. Buck’s face popped up where the window had been.

“You’re crazy, you know that?” he yelled. The blonde continued screaming.

Rose stomped back to the car for more shells. I walked around my trailer to get a better look and crouched by the corner. Buck suddenly appeared in the kitchen window. I’d heard from the ringmaster Buck kept a loaded .38 there, in a drawer.

Rose took aim. Another explosion from the shotgun sent debris from the door through the kitchen. Her next blast took out a window, a cabinet, and a load of plastic dinnerware. Buck peeked cautiously over the counter.

“Now, Rosie, don’t do nothin’ you’ll regret.”

Rose reloaded and took aim. Buck lifted his weapon, fired at her and missed, shattering the already cracked windshield of her car. He didn’t have time for a second shot. Rose was again getting ready to fire.

I crouched down, trying to see where she was aiming. Buck dropped out of view just before metal shot tore through the wall, taking plastic plumbing with it. I caught a glimpse of him scrambling back to the bedroom. Another blast opened the trailer side even further and sent a wall-mounted light bouncing off the ceiling.

For a moment, things were quiet. Buck inched up into the newly created opening and peeked out. He turned and looked back into the darkened bedroom.

“Shush! It’s okay. It’s gonna be okay.”

The blonde’s screams dissolved into whinpers.

A car door slammed. Rose started the engine and jammed it in reverse. Bits of shattered windshield slid off the hood as she spun around. The Chevy bounced and rattled back through the lot and sped off down the dark highway.

For the first time, I noticed the cacophony of roars, growls and other animal noises that filled the air. Performers and workers had also been roused. They stood at a distance, not yet sure that the mayhem had subsided. I stood and trotted over to Buck.

When I’d found that no one was hurt, I turned back toward my trailer. “Good night, Buck,” I called over my shoulder.

“’Night,” came the reply.

As I walked away I heard Buck speaking—partly to me, partly to the blonde, but mostly to himself. “I really didn’t think she’d be back…huh…sure was mad, though….”

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in All Stories, Contemporary Fiction, Drama, Humor

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