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Stories - Fiction

The Lovely Margolia
October 1, 2005

Iím bleeding to death

by Robert Caporale

The Lovely Margolia is attached to a big bull's-eye with her legs and arms stretched out and held down by thick leather straps with brass buckles. She is upside down. Her squeezed-together breasts are about to pop out of a little red and silver sequined carnival outfit. Blood drips off her shoulder onto the planks of the wharf. Her oily black hair dusts the salty planks while her red, open-toed slippers stick straight up. Her legs are covered in diamond-shaped fishnet stockings. She shivers with a death chill, but not from blood loss. She is cold because of a cruel September wind howling in off the harbor and slapping at her scantily-covered body like she were just another white-cap out on the choppy waters.

Curtis Maxwell has a kerosene torpedo heater to keep his hands warm during the performance. And with the winds snapping at the billowing sleeves on his puffy satin shirt, he turns the heater and aims twenty thousand BTUs right at The Lovely upside down Margolia. The perfumed petroleum odor of #2 fuel oil mixing with the dead fish stench of low tide gives her a queasy stomach and a light head.

Curtis Maxwell herds the gasping crowd back a few more steps and with his delicate surgeonís hand he spins The Lovely Margolia around until the poles are lined up again on the painted bull's-eye: north is north, south is south. The Lovely Margoliaís breasts fall back into cadence like the good soldiers they are and her hair lands nicely onto her shoulders and the blood takes a new path to the planks, but dripping more steadily now, pooling at the base of the bull's-eye.

Text BiteThe Lovely Margolia is outlined in knives sticking into the bullís-eye at various dangerous distances from her limbs and torso. Except for one knife pressed right up against her underarm next to one of her augmented breasts. It is from this knife that blood drips.

Curtis Maxwell shoos a couple of wide-eyed kids back into the crowd.

Youíve gone and done it this time, Curtis.

Donít be so dramatic.

Iím bleeding to death.

Itís just a nick.

I think you severed an artery.

You may need a stitch or twoÖtops.

Last time you said that it took ten to stop the bleeding.

Youíre exaggerating.

I have the scar.

Curtis Maxwell opens up a first aid kit, applies a tourniquet, dabs some disinfectant and tapes gauze across the Lovely Margoliaís arm and breast. The gauze spots up pinky-red.

Call an ambulance.

Itís on the way.

The Lovely Margolia wiggles her feet and hands. Get me off of here.

You bleed less upside down. Curtis Maxwell gives the bullís-eye a half spin. The Lovely Margolia is beginning to feel like an hourglass.

Whereís that ambulance?

Soon, Margo.

I donít even hear a siren.

The crowd inches in for a better look at The Lovely Margoliaís predicament, some thinking the sideshow is a hoax and looking for clues, fake blood or knives up the sleeve, while others are just ogling her tits.

Curtis Maxwell hustles them back again. Spread out, he gestures. Give the girl some space. She needs air.

Reluctantly, they shuffle back.

I hate the crŤme-de-la-crŤme, the Lovely Margolia tells Curtis.

I know you do.

Itís a stupid trick.

All the great ones did it.

Again with the comparisons?

What are you insinuating?

Whereís that ambulance?

Are you saying I donít stack-up with the likes of Hermann Vinegold, or Natalio Benzinne?

Iím just wondering how many assistants have to die before a knife-thrower is considered great.

Iíve heard of only oneÖand rumor has it was premeditated: a loverís quarrel.

I still say balancing on a big rubber ball with your back to me tossing knives over your shoulder while looking through a small shaving mirror should be left to the circus clowns with fake knives; itís just plain reckless, thatís what I say, Curtis Maxwell.

Thatís where the money is Margo, you know that. You can hear the moans from the crowd with every toss of a knife.

Those are sighs of relief coming from me while I pray my ass off.

Itís the damn wind from the harbor; it threw off my trajectory.

I love the wind.

I know you do.

That log cabin we had in Vermont, years ago, remember, Curtis, up in the foothills? It was always windy there. We flew kites in the day and listened to the wind in the trees at night. I miss that time.

I fell in love with you in the Green Mountains of Vermont.

When things are at their darkest you always say something pretty.

Curtis Maxwell lays his surgeonís hand on the Lovely Margoliaís foot. Itís cold as ice. He rubs it. We were cleaning out the barn, remember, all that crap the dirt farmers left behind? What a mess, dead cats and all; we were throwing Text Biteit into a dumpster and you climbed into the dumpster to make more room, you were up to your tits in trash jumping up and down. God, do I love this girl, I said to myself right then and there, not only does she let me strap her onto a bull's-eye and spin her around and toss knives at her, sheíll even climb into a dumpster for me.

We should have never sold that place, Curtis. We should have gotten real jobs and brought up a family there.

Looking at life backwards is nothing but asking for trouble.

Turn me around.

Donít think thatís a good idea. Itís better to keep the wound below the heart.

Come down here, so I can see you.

Curtis Maxwell crouches in his black tights.

Kiss me.

Curtis Maxwell tries his damndest to get his head turned around enough to lay one on the lips of the Lovely Margolia. Nothingís lining up quite right, teeth, nose and chin clank together, getting in each others' way, but the effort is there and a kiss is a kiss. The crowdís into it; they love it; they OOOH and they AHHH along with a sprinkling of romantic applause.

The ambulance pulls up to the end of the pier, turns around and starts backing down slowly. Beep-beep. Beep-beep. Itís a long pier and it takes forever. Beep-beep. Beep-beep. The crowd parts allowing the ambulance to pass between them with the pageantry of a funeral parade in reverse.

Everythingís backwards tonight, Curtis?

Youíre looking at the world upside down.

The Lovely Margolia watches the wide planks and rusty spikes on the pier shift and squeal and screech in pain as the ambulance rolls over them.

Itís a bad sign, she says.

Curtis Maxwell shrugs.

You havenít passed the hat yet, and this crowd is primed.

Shit!

Youíre scared, Curtis Maxwell. Scared as I am.

Iím playing with them, Margo. You know me; nobody works a crowd better than the charming Curtis Maxwell. Timing is everything.

Curtis pulls out a black Bowler hat, flashes a toothy grin, twirls the hat by the rim and goes into the self-employed-no-one-pays-us-we-work-for-tips-no-health-insurance spiel as he weaves through the crowd, hat in hand.

The hat fills up fast with folding money.

Some candy-apple tourist mumbles something about fake blood.

This is real life, and thatís real blood, Curtis tells him. Youíre just a little confused because thereís no remote control.

Curtis stuffs the overflow bills into a leather pouch around his shoulder. He keeps up the collection. Theyíre having a good night.

The medics place The Lovely Margolia onto a stretcher and roll her into the back of the ambulance. Iíll be following right along, Curtis tells her.

Not until you squeeze every last dollar out of that crowd, Curtis Maxwell.

The siren blasts a couple of times for dramatic effect. The doors slam shut; off they go.

That doesnít sound like any siren Iíve ever heard, some wise-ass kid says.

Arenít you the clever one, Curtis tells him.

Itís a hearse, someone else points. Itís painted to look like an ambulance.

OK, folks, Curtis yells. Showís over; time to go home.

The crowd thins out.

Curtis collects the knives and places them into a velveteen-lined mahogany case.

Left to himself, Curtis Maxwell gives the big bull's-eye a final spin. He stands there in a drowsy trance watching it turn and listening to the brass buckles rattle before climbing up onto the big rubber ball. He balances himself in the stiff offshore breeze, turns his back to the spinning bull's-eye, peers through a small beveled mirror and lifts a bright shiny knife over his head. He times the rotations, calculates, exhales, and hurls the knife over his shoulder. The glinting knife slowly pinwheels through the twilight. Curtis listens for the THUMP before jumping down to score the shot. The is knife spinning around in a perfect silvery effervescent circle precisely where the Lovely Margoliaís disappointed heart would have been bleeding forgiveness.

Damn that wind.

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