tom and perry walked down to the mawl. jimmie skipped ahead, clack-clack-clack on his little lead feet. He was all excited, for he hadn’t been there all day, or possibly any time at all.
“Don’t fall,” said perry, “I will not put up with that.”
“We surely will not,” said tom.
jimmie ignored them, and hopped on ahead. The day was cool, and the clouds scraped the rusty sky above. Sometimes, the sky came down, and the clouds smelled just like dust and went tickly in your head.
A shadow fell over jimmie, and a bhug crossed his path up ahead. It chirred, whirred, rattled and buzzed.
“Hello,” said jimmie.
“Morning,” said the bhug, and scuttered on away.
“Don’t talk to that thing,” said tom.
“It talked to me,” jimmie said.
“If it eats you, don’t look at me,” said tom.
“Honestly,” perry sighed.
The mawl appeared behind a row of skinny trees. It was hollowday, and very few dealers had set up their tents.
“I told you it wasn’t worth coming,” tom said. “Why, there’s nothing here at all.”
“Oh, come on,” said perry, “there’s always something at the mawl.”
And, indeed there was, as jimmie could see the minute he saw the raggedy tent.
“Look-look-look!” he cried. “What’s it say, what’s it say!”
THE MUSUM OF TIM AND SPAYCE
perry looked at tom. Tom looked at perry. “It’s two monies,” tom said. “And we don’t even know what it is.”
“I don’t care what it is,” perry said. “I want to see it.” He grabbed tom’s hand and pulled him gently along. tom reached in his pocket and jingled the monies there. He’d intended to save them up for something else, but he certainly couldn’t tell perry what.
Inside the tent, there was a row of glass panels with raggedy curtains inside. Something was behind each one, but you couldn’t tell what even if you peeked, which is what jimmie tried.
“Stop it,” said tom, who grabbed jimmie by the ear.
“Well, hello there,” said a man, who suddenly appeared from nowhere at all. It was a tom, and looked just like the tom with jimmie, except he had a hat.
“Good morning to you all,” said the tom, “welcome to the mawl. We’ve got a lot of wonderful things to see.”
“Uh-huh.” jimmie’s tom stuck a hand in his pocket and jiggled it about. “Just what is it and how many monies will it be?”
“Just pay him,” said perry, glaring at tom, “you’re embarrassing us all.”
tom looked around, to see who that might be.
The tom with the hat winked at perry, which tom didn’t like at all.
“Come on,” the tent tom said, “one monies, all right? And I won’t even charge for the boy.”
“Well I should think not,” perry said.
The tom drew the curtains aside. Another perry stood behind the glass and gave them a happy grin.
“Welcome,” said the new perry. “I feel privileged to present the most awesome, spectacular, UNbelievable sights you nice folks have ever seen.”
“If it’s a pencil, forget it,” said visitor Tom, “I’ve got half a one at home.”
“Which half,” asked the perry, with sudden interest. “Mirado 2?”
“None of your business.”
“If it’s the top—”
“Get on with it,” tent tom said. “These folks came for a show.”
“Righto” said the perry, and, in a blink, in a flash, a pale blur of light filled the little room behind the glass.
“Oh, what is it?” cried perry, grabbing onto tom and holding tight. jimmie held his breath and pressed his face against the glass.
The mawl tom and perry seemed pleased.
“What you are seeing,” said tent perry in a soft, mysterious breath, “is a peek into the very distant past. Through scientific methods and a great deal of luck, my partner and I have learned to capture tiny lumps of light invisible to the naked eye, and hold them a moment before they flit away again.”
Even tom had to admit he’d never seen anything quite so awesome, so amazing in his life. Somehow, the scene “moved” from the left to the right, and though it was blurry and scratchy at times, you could often make out whatever was going on.
The scene was a room, that much was clear, but nothing like any room he’d ever imagined. A cloth with pretty colors was on the floor. There were things with four legs, some soft and some hard. Strangely enough, though he’d never even seen one before, he knew at once what they were: they were things you could sit on. Things a lot higher than the floor. What an incredible idea!
“Truly a wonder!” he said aloud. A thrill of discovery started at the base of his spine and tingled at the top of his head.
And before that thought could set his mind awhirl, there were other miracles to behold. On one wall was a big, bright picture with people moving around inside. There was a jar, filled with colorful globes. Froot, came the image at once. Froot! Melins, Helens, lemins, lymes, pears, claires, apuls and thymes. Some he’d seen in pictures, many he’d never seen at all. There were stacks and stacks of paper, paper on a shelf, paper on the floor, paper everywhere . . . a bright glass jar, all in one piece, shiny as the sea, with living flowers inside . . . a light on the ceiling, that glowed by itself. And, most wondrous of all, a dawwg, just like one in a book, squatting on its hind legs dropping dark blobs on the floor . . .
“Okay, hold that, cut it,” shouted the tent tom, glaring at the perry inside.
The curtain swept shut and the scene went dark.
“Sorry about that folks,” tent tom said, “things like that’ll happen, you’re working with your condominium and outerstella life.”
“Well we got to see a dawwg,” said jimmie.
“Just about all of that I’d ever care to see,” said jimmie’s perry, stalking off by himself.
“I guess we’ll be moving along,” said jimmie’s tom. “Real—interesting place you got here.”
“Come back again,” said the other two.
jimmie hung back while tom and perry walked on. He knew it was a good idea to leave them be when one got on the wrong side of the other. peeples did that all the time, and if you were a khido, you knew not to be there when they did.
A perry had a little stand on the corner, and tom had given jimmie half a monies to spend any way he liked.
“Got mudberry cone and popweed,” said the perry, who wore a small white cap. “Popweed’s hot, just made it fresh.”
The mudberry didn’t look good, and never did, so jimmie got a sack of popweed, which was mostly his favorite of all.
“Don’t run off with that sack,” the perry told him. “Only one I got.”
“I won’t,” said jimmie.
He chomped on the tasty seeds, and listened to them pop. My, they were good. Good and hot, just like the man said. He walked along the empty road, crunching and munching as fast as he could. There wasn’t much to see, but there really never was. Still, it was fun to look. Something might happen when you were doing something else.
Then, of a sudden, one of the seeds went pip! instead of pop! and a bright silver nub flew out of his mouth and hit the ground . . .
Jimmie was scared to death. He dropped his sack and ran back the way he’d come. He went down on his knees, scraping dirt and weeds aside. The nub was gone, nowhere to be seen. It could be anywhere, but somehow he knew he’d never see it again. And when he got back they’d know. You couldn’t guess how they would, but they’d know . . .
There were poles in the ground and pegs on the poles and wear of all sorts sagging here and sagging there. Wear for your arms and wear for your legs. Dickeys, doublets, knickers and bibs. Socks, jocks, pinafores and frocks. All were faded blue, pale, frail, washed-out, threadbare, fine as a spider’s den.
“I kind of like that frock,” perry said.
“What, which one’s that?” tom said.
“Up there, on the right.”
“You got one at home, just like it.”
perry didn’t answer. He tugged at tom’s sleeve. “You thinking any more about the boy?”
tom looked at jimmie from the corner of his eye. The boy was just standing there, not saying anything at all. His yellow trousers were dirty and something was the matter with his mouth.
“What’s wrong with his mouth?” tom asked.
“How would I know?” said perry.
“He’s a pretty good boy,” said tom.
“He is.” “You think you want him again?”
perry thought about that. “We can always get him next time.”
“We could do that,” said tom.
tom looked at the sign at the bottom of the hill.
He didn’t have to look at jimmie. jimmie could see the sign, too.
The sign on the shop read:
K H I D S
The paint was faded and cracked but you could read it fine up close.
“Well,” tom said, “here we are, jimmie. It was really nice being with you.”
“We hope you had a good time,” said perry.
jimmie kicked at the ground. He didn’t look up. “I liked the musum.”
“Yes, that was fine,” said tom.
“It surely was,” said perry.
“Well then,” said tom. He smiled, and looked at perry, and perry smiled too. They both looked at jimmie, then turned and walked back up the hill.
Past the rocky slope they could see the river and the town nearby. The river was a dry and tortured path going this way and that. Peeple called it a river, since peeple always had. No one called the town anything at all. There were burrows, dens, boxes, coops and flats. Shanties, shacks, places made of slats.
tom paused as they reached the top of the hill. “What I’d really like right now is a sex. Seems to me a sex would be fine.”
“Well don’t look at me,” said perry. “It doesn’t seem fine to me at all.”
tom knew, at once, pursuing this was not a good idea. As a fact, perry liked a good sex, but he surely didn’t want one now. perry always let you know what he liked and what he didn’t. tom watched him stalk off down the hill then turned back the way he’d come.
Copyright © 2011 Neal Barret, Jr.
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