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Concrete Elephants

By Lauren P. MacLellan

The tapping sound of crowds gathered past the entrance. "It'll be a good show today." He smiled in spite of the cooling temperature. Drumming along the gleaming steps below him, the thought of delighted fans seem to warm the brisk air of the stairwell.

"Hello?" A faint voice practically drowned against the sea of footsteps beyond it.

With a frantic comb of his hands he brushed through his gathered mess of hair while he darted off the stairwell. At its top floated a blue dress and he hurriedly straightened his jacket.

A cloud of contained curls still rustled at the mouth of the stairs; as if she still stood in a crowded wind blown street.

"I was looking for the theater." She stated simply, a quiver behind her crumbled ticket.

"You are standing in one." With a sudden glimpse at the pristine white of her shoes, he could only seem to answer the wall. They were the satin kind that children wear at Christmas and that Beauty would wear to a ball.

He felt the wall before him as if he was suddenly stuck to it; the sickeningly sweet smell of luck and fortune floated away from her and down each step to his holey loafers.

"It seems more a circus than a theater." he suddenly replied shyly. He abruptly couldn't feel the velvet he always saw, the rough crush of stone left his fingers white and shaking.

"This is your theater?" Her question swayed uneasily with the tentative click of her heels; a sway that left her leaning forward, shoulders drawn to the painted art of the concrete. Looking for a velvet curtain, she was not able to see.

"It is" His labored exhale merely bounced back from the wall, "a family business."

His fingers traced the roughed edges of each design, as her eyes suddenly could only do the same. The blackened outlines suddenly became colored with each calming trace of his hand.

A small step of her white shoes braved the next stair with a smile. "I'm afraid I see no elephants."

The warmth of memory opened his eyes with an excited stare. "You only need to look, you know." Taking his own brave step away from the cold stare of the wall as his eyes brightened at the twisted forms of hooks that curled from the concrete.

"These coat hooks aren't actually mixed metal and brass."

The wide globes of her eyes pulled away from the safety of the railing, and the comforting light that lay beyond its' handle.

His voice boomed in the quiet and filled the darkened emptiness of the underground. "They were once stubborn elephants, so stubborn that they wanted to prove that they were stronger than dried concrete. So they stood in wet stone trying to out-do one another. Unfortunately, by the time one of them came to its' senses, the only jungle they remained in was that of concrete. If you listen quietly enough, they may speak and trumpet their act through the walls."

The dainty heels of her shoes hopped down two more stairs to the shadows of tilted brass. "But what is a circus without movement?"

"But the light." he protested plainly.

"What about it?" as soon as the question left her, the fallen light of the street ran across the shattered shards of the floor, hitting each fragment at every beautifully broken angle and letting it loose across the walls. A race of colored fragments chasing each shapeless form to a finish line she could not see.

His coat was the conductor, its swinging tails both a moth and fan favorite swept at the cracking ground and made it marble.

Her voice fell to a polite whisper, fearful anything louder would stop the show entirely. "The clowns must be so gloomy without the sun."

"The best of clowns are the palest don't you know?"

"And the tight ropes?"

"Aren't there enough?" He waved the grandness of his sleeves to the air. "STANDING AS TALL AS BUILDINGS! Uncles and fathers taking their chances, unmoving from the thin wire they suspend themselves from! Daring and fearless in the face of a plummeting drop."

The click of her heels trickled off the stairs finally to his level. "What about the ringmaster? Doesn't he have a name?"

Her paled hands lifted from the safety of her ticket, before the cold of the underground pushed them to the shelter of her pockets. She watched as only his eyes lifted from the shadows of the ground.

"You will find my name in the brightest of lights." He paused in a breath, with a labored point to the streets above as an exhale eased out. "Two blocks and a right from the staircase. Look farther down each side of the streets, past the blinding sparkle of people; you will see something of my face."

Her wide eyes finally opened to the practiced hunch of his shoulders. "Who am I to thank?" She prodded softly.

His face fell to the grace of a bow and answered just as simply. "I am only here to thank you, for being such a great audience."

"Annabelle." she finished.

"Annabelle." He repeated, a delicate smile nodded. "You'd only need to look."

Her ringmaster calls from the distant echoes and with each kick of her expensive shoes, the shattered diamonds at her feet are dragged further and further away; dimming the race of light across the walls and leaving the circus once again in darkness.

The theater had been buzzing; with brightly made faces and glass covered gowns. The show was loud and left everything before your eyes. There were no stubborn animals with their noses sticking out from walls and no sparkles covered the floor, only the actors.

She remembered these things only as the bright lights dimmed, and the blinding people fell back to their expensive cars the theater's exit signs illuminated the performers left along the streets.

The shadowed faces that clung to the sidewalks and broken walls for support, their faded bodies weighed down by their own moth eaten cloaks accompanied by their broken props. Each possessed A simple cup empty of hope against a darken wall of concrete.

The more Annabelle walked, the more she saw him; with a shadowed face and a dragging coat, some without a coat at all. She watched each face that exited that theater, and only saw dulled colored dresses and shapeless black suits heading towards their own slab of wet concrete. All too blinded to look down the street and all too stubborn to notice how cold and unmoving concrete becomes.

Did You Know

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