Professor Magneto - Sample
Jack Willard held a rolled-up circus flyer under his chin and slapped a hefty dollop of paste onto the old wooden fence. The fence had been long-used for such announcements; the old ones were seldom removed and recorded a history of shows and events going back for many years. Using the same long-handled brush, Jack smoothed out the fly-poster alongside three others – all identical.
‘Roget’s Circus,’ it proclaimed. ‘All the thrills of the Big Top starring The Amazing Vincentis: Daring-do on the Trapeze and High Wire.’
‘The Great Lorenzo: Fire Eater and Sword Swallower extraordinaire.’
‘The Spectacular Roget’s Liberty Horses.’
‘Roll in laughter to the antics of Koko the Clown and his pals, Stumpy and Jacques.’
The gaudy poster displayed a collage of the circus acts in fanciful poses and dubious situations – more idealistic that representative. A panel at the bottom was overprinted with the times, location and admission prices.
Jack stood back, admired his handiwork, and tossed his brush and paste bucket into the open back of his rusty old pick-up truck.
He jumped into the cab, slammed the door and headed off to the next location.
* * * * *
A large 4x4 towing a shiny silver trailer pulled into the grassy field gouged with tyre marks of heavy vehicles in the soft ground. It had been raining and there was the heady smell of wet grass.
The shiny aluminium trailer was just like any regular Airstream travel trailer except that it had a peculiar fin growing out of the top and two vestigial wings on either side. Moisture cascaded down the sides, forming rivulets in the mirrored metal surface.
A tall, thin figure swung out of the cab and landed on the flattened wet grass with a squelch.
“Who’s boss around here?” he called, trying to make himself heard over the din of a diesel generator.
A short, stout man in a brown Stetson and leather jacket broke off from a group of others deep in discussion and wandered over to him.
“Theo Rogers,” he offered his hand. “Theodore Rogers the Third.”
“What can I do for you?”
The taller man looked round at the circle of brightly-painted trucks and trailers and the red and cream circus tent still being erected.
“I was kind of hoping that we might be of use to each other,” he said, rocking back on his heels a little. “Fact is; I’m looking to team up with an outfit like yours.”
Theo detected a hint of a foreign accent but couldn’t quite place it. East European perhaps? Russian? He frowned.
“Oh really, what you got?”
“Call myself Professor Magneto,” came the reply, “and I have this, um, mechanical man.”
“Mechanical man?” questioned Theo.
He blinked. In all his time in the circus and going back three generations, he had never heard tell of a mechanical man in a circus act.
Magneto could sense that the man was uncomfortable with the concept.
“Allow me to show you please,” he begged, beckoning Theo toward his trailer as he headed towards it.
He grabbed the handle and opened the door. Reaching inside, he pulled a small box from the interior. It looked like a model airplane radio-control transmitter but seemed to have a lot more knobs and switches than usual. He flicked one of the switches, twisted a knob, and then another.
The door to the trailer framed a silvery metal figure with glowing violet eyes.
“This is Charlie,” explained Magneto, twisting his mouth.
Charlie looked more like Dorothy’s Tin-Man than a hi-tech robot. It looked like it had been jury-rigged from pieces of junk.
“Charlie is my amazing mechanical man and he can perform just about any circus act you like. You name it, he can do it.”
“Oh yeh,” sighed the boss. “Now I’ve heard everything.”
“Look, we ain’t hiring at the minute,” he hissed. “Things are a bit…” he rocked his hands, “…quiet at the minute. Can’t do anything for you, fella. Sorry.”
“Tell you what,” said Magneto, waving a pair of jazz hands vigorously. “Give me a try-out, it won’t cost you anything. If you like what you see, maybe we talk some more?”
Theo stroked his chin and looked back at Charlie.
“Mmm. Let me think about it.”
* * * * *
“Aw, come on Vince,” complained the pretty young woman in the spangled leotard. “Take it easy on the booze.”
“Just to steady my hands,” the young man replied wiping his sleeve across his mouth and slipping the hip-flask into his back pocket.
Dorrie had just turned twenty-four. She had blonde hair pulled-up into a short pony tail and the lithe figure of an athlete. She was Theo and Marie’s daughter. Her real name was Doreen but she hated it. That was the name her Mother used when scolding her as a child.
She was born into to the circus exhibiting a natural ability for circus skills from a very early age. Like her sister Polly, she was an all-rounder, walking the high wire, swinging from a trapeze and performing death-defying gymnastics on the back of a galloping pony. She had sawdust in her blood.
Vince was a little older. As a disillusioned teenager and college dropout, he had run away from home to join the circus. He started-off mucking-out the animals and doing odd jobs, but Dorrie had taken a shine to him and schooled him in the ways of the circus. He was a good pupil.
Vince was now the resident knife thrower and the other half of the star trapeze act, ‘The Vincentis’, but like many other circus folk, Vince and Dorrie had multiple roles. A quick costume change and they were transformed into a different act entirely.
“Vince, it’s me that’s at the receiving end of your knife throwing. Just lay off the alcohol or you’ll have to find yourself another pin-cushion!”
“Have I ever as much as split a hair on your pretty little locks?” asked Vince in exasperation.
The couple’s tiff was interrupted by Polly stepping up into the trailer, her tall ostrich feather headdress brushing the top of the door.
“Hey, you guys. Heard about the new act in town?”
She pulled Dorrie over to the doorway and pointed at the silver trailer across the way.
Vince joined them, putting his arms over the two girls’ shoulders. Polly pushed him off with a scowl.
“What’s that all about?” asked Vince.
“Professor Magneto and his Amazing Mechanical Man,” chimed Polly. “Pop’s giving him a trial tonight. Should be interesting.”
“Ugh Vince, I can smell the booze on your breath!”
Vince gave her a pat on the butt and got a smack round the head from Dorrie. He stepped out of the door and headed over to the silver trailer followed by the two girls.
* * * * *
Vince tapped on the door of the odd-looking trailer.
He knocked again, a bit more forcefully. The door cracked slightly.
“Who’s there? What do you want?” came a sharp voice from inside.
“Oh, just came to say ‘Hi’,” called Vince.
The door opened a little more and a tall man walked out and stood on the trailer step, deliberately pulling the door behind him. He was handsome, too handsome. The kind of handsome you only get on catwalks and in fashion magazines: tall cheekbones and black hair sleeked back with hair cream. He looked like he was in his late thirties and was clad only in a black dressing gown.
“Just came to say ‘Hi’,” repeated Vince. The two girls behind him waved cutely.
Magneto nodded slowly in acknowledgement but remained silent.
“So, whatcha doin’ in these parts?” asked Vince.
“Work,” came the blunt reply.
Vince looked at the girls for a reaction but they just stared blankly.
“You performing tonight then?” asked Vince expectantly.
Magneto nodded again.
“What exactly is it that you do?” quizzed Dorrie.
“You’ll see,” replied Magneto slipping back inside the trailer and careful to block any glimpse of the interior.
The door shut with a soft metallic click.
“Weird,” whispered Polly slowly.
Professor Magneto and his Amazing Mechanical Man
by Joe Gillespie
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