backhand stories the creative writing blog

The lights caught her first. They made the window glow with elfin colors, warming the foggy glass, spreading soft light out into the cold street, pulling her in, grabbing her attention, widening her eyes. She pulled her face up against the wet glass, her weight pushing down through her straight arms on to the sill as she balanced on the tip of her toes, resting on the edge of her heavy shoes’ rubber soles. The cold and the snow and the ice seemed to disappear as she peered inside.

The lights were stars in a display of old toys, wispy glints in the sky above a circus parade getting ready to board a huge rust-dented steam ship. Elephants lead the way, their cardboard tusks carving forward as their paper trunks wiggled in the air, proclaiming their exotic music. Next came monkeys, twelve in a row, with long arms past their feet and small red fezzes perched between their big ears; and then there was the ringmaster, round as a pumpkin, and just as bright. More people were dancing behind, acrobats twirling forward hand to ankle and ankle to hand, lion tamers stroking their mustaches and cracking their whips as their dark and furry lions licked their chops.

Behind the lions were tigers, and a small girl in a blue costume balancing on a ball, and a man with no hair throwing balls in the air, and all around were clowns falling and bending, racing and sitting. There were rotund men pulling on ropes, and a horse refusing to be pulled out of its box, and a gorilla, and a giraffe. There were kids watching from the top of cargo boxes, and people in suits and hats climbing down from a Greyhound bus as the porter pulled out their bags.

She saw it all, from end to end, from front to back, from elephant to monkey, from monkey to tiger, from tiger to greyhound. At each new piece she took a short breath and smiled, and she glowed brighter than the stars, and she rubbed away her breath from the glass. Then it was time to go. She took one last glance at the lights, let her weight fall back to her feet, and caught up with her mother at the street corner.