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Chapter 5- Bar Association

“Well, ya didn’t need one ta spill it, did ya?”

Instantly, the stakes were raised. Nigel’s rescuer had become a worse tormentor. The man nodded as Nigel made a slight move. He was being instructed to use his bare hands on forty pounds of animal waste.

He fought the idea of tears. He couldn’t be seen as confused, helpless or weak. Even though he was. Dutifully, he bent over and began. Thoughts of the ape, the doctor and the twenty pounds were long gone. He just wanted to survive this moment and get back home. The two men watched as Nigel suffered the humiliation of the task. They stood in complete silence staring at Nigel.

“These are real bastards,” he thought. He knew they were enjoying the moment as they watched him struggle with the dung and straw in his hands. He wanted to throw a handful at both of them.

The Ringmaster looked at the Old Man. “Well, good luck wit dat.” And he wheeled off his load.

Nigel attempted to wipe his filthy hands on each other with no success.

He looked the old man in the eye and asked, “Will that be all?”

“No. Lad…that will not be all. First of all, what are ya doin’ on these grounds? And second you owe me a pound.”

“A pound? I don’t have a …what do you want a pound for?” Nigel protested.

“Admittance. You owe me for admittance to the carnival.[4] In fact you owe me two pounds. I guess because you went to the circus as well? Din’t ya? You sat right in the first row. Oh I saw you, Saturday. You slipped through the fence right before the matinee let out.”

Nigel felt himself turning beet red. “Uh, No, No.”

“It’s one thing to be a thief. It’s another to be a liar,” snapped the old man. “I’ll make you a deal. You work today… hard. Now, I know you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty. You do what I tell you. I’ll give you two pounds.”

Nigel hearing opportunity knock, he replied, “Make it five.”

“Three, or I call the constable.”

“Yes, sir!”

The thought of having a constable knock on his mother’s door was not an option for Nigel.

The day was misty and cold. The work was hard. For three hours he cleaned out the stallions stables. He polished their bits and wiped down their leathers and saddles. The horse master was from Yugoslavia. At least that’s what Nigel could put together. He was not a talkative man. He wasn’t slow to hit Nigel when he didn’t like the way something was done.

It was frustrating because this was not the first time Nigel had been around horses. His grandfather had three on his farm and he had spent plenty of days around them. Well, this man was certainly happy to have Nigel polish the gear but, when he reached out to touch the grey speckled stallion, his hand was stung with a riding crop.

Nigel made it through the day. He found the Old Man smoking a thin brown cigar in front of a caravan parked not far from Dr. Baas’. He collected his three pounds and handed two back for reparations. At least he had a pound, which was one more than when the day started.

“I’m sorry” Nigel said reflectively.

“For what?” said the Old Man.

“I shouldn’t have snuck in. It was wrong.”

The Old man snickered, “I could care less. You gave me a day off. You did all my work…and you paid me.” Then, He burst into a rolling, subdued laugh which made Nigel feel like he had really been taken. “The horses and the bear don’t know you didn’t pay to go to the circus. You fool.”

These people were so confusing. Never had he heard people think this way. Nigel took a few steps away and then stopped. He fully turned around and looked at the man straight on and said, “I really only worked half a day?”

“Yeah….so…what are ya sayin?”

Nigel grounded his feet. “I’ll come back tomorrow and work all day for five pounds”.

The man choked out a cough from his thin cigar. “Hmmm. You are half a man. That’s about half a man’s wage.”

“I can work as much as any man.”

“We’ll see, wee man. We’ll see. When the sun comes up, be here.”

Nigel made it home around seven o’clock. His mother was asleep in her usual repose. Making his way up the stairs totally exhausted, he sensed that what he was about to do would expand his horizons and abilities using Dr. Baas’ knowledge and secrets.

Morning seemed to come earlier the next day as Nigel grabbed a bit of bread, some apples and headed down to the grounds through another misty, dreary day. The world felt so still and quiet. Nigel had a pit in his stomach. It came from the fear of what might unfold with this unsavory cast of characters. He found his way back to the caravan where the old man sat. A small tin coffee pot percolated on a wire mesh resting above a fire. He got his orders for the day.

The next few days were excruciatingly difficult. He rarely did the same task. He was either cleaning stables, or shoveling manure, or moving bales of hay to the feed pens or carrying straw to line the tents. There was cleaning, scrubbing, shoveling and dish washing. The old-man’s list never ended and rarely repeated. The carnival was open every afternoon and was generally slow as the circus only performed on the weekends, Friday night through Sunday, with two weekend matinees.

Every day, as the sun set, Nigel would collect his wages and make the long walk home. He had learned where and when he could scavenge food from the beer garden or the even the uneaten remains of guests stands littering the midway. He felt like a rat at times.

Friday evening came as the crowds started to gather for the circus. Nigel was eager to collect his pay and waited, through the performances. As the crowd thinned out onto the midway and, with his twenty one pounds in his pocket, he decided to approach Dr. Baas. He reached the corner where the Professor resided and, was about to approach when the door swung open. Their eyes met.

“You!” Dr. Baas snapped. “What do you want now?”

Nigel extended his hand. “I have it. I have your twenty pounds.”

Nigel rolled his palm over and distributed the coins into the doctor’s hand. The doctor collected them with a smirk. He handed back two pound coins.

“Take these and go to the market. Come back in the morning with two large bunches of bananas and a large bunch of carrots”..

“I will see you in the morning,” Nigel smiled.

“Twenty-four bananas, fourteen carrots!” Baas shouted.

Nigel waved a hand in the air as he strode away. “Got it!”.

It had been nearly a week and there was a looming deadline coming. The entire carnival was slated to pick up stakes and move on Monday. It would be heading “who knows where”?

Nigel felt the stirring of fear in his belly knowing the decision which was before him.

That evening, he went near the market grounds, but the produce stalls had long since closed. This meant an even, earlier morning the next day in order to catch the vendors on their Saturday morning set-up.

He sauntered home along the familiar path dragging an old riding crop he had found in the some rubbish. He fantasized about being the ultimate, world renown, animal trainer and entertainer. A master of both the audience and the ape. He waved the wand about as his visions filled his eyes. He was able to deeply daydream with his body on autopilot, like a horse heading for the barn.

As he slipped through the front door, the doorknob felt different. His senses and awareness of everything about his home seemed became highlighted. The blistered black paint on the front door and the crease in the jamb where the wind whistled in. He tried to accurately record every detail with the knowledge that he would be leaving soon. There was a tingle in him, breaking through to his conscious mind. What if he never returned?

As he entered he looked up. His Mother's eyes met his.

“Spend the day at that circus? There are chores here you know?[5]

“Mum, I’ll clean up.” He said apologetically.

“There’s nothing to do Nigel, I’ve done it. But you could clean your bath and basin. Empty the rubbish.” She snapped.

“I’ll do it before I go to sleep.” He replied.

“You’re leaving aren’t you?” She looked away to hide the mist in her eye.

“Just for a few weeks, Mum. I’ll be okay. It’s for pay. I can pay my own way and you won’t have to worry about me for the summer.”

She turned and softly held his face. “Son, you have never been a trouble or a burden. But you are just a boy. I know you think you are a man, and soon you will be. I’ve seen those circus people come to town now and again. They are savages.”

He sighed as her hands dropped away. “I know you feel that way. They seem like savages but they’re outcasts. They’re no more savage than the men at the pub. I’ll be safe. I’m smart. I’ll be back soon.”

Her eyes flashed, “Your father used to tell me that”.

She knew exactly how to turn a phrase.

“No Mum. I’ll be back.[6]

“There’s some stew on the pot.” She quipped as she turned away and headed towards her elixir. Everyone had to dull the pain of this world, somehow.

In the morning, Nigel hustled to the town market carrying a canvas tote. Vendors were busily setting their stalls for the Saturday morning crowd. Nigel had been to the market hundreds of times but, never at this early an hour. He observed how similar it all seemed to the preparation that went on at the carnival. Lots of hustling and busyness.

Making it to the produce stand, he selected three large bunches of bananas, numbering twenty-four, and a bunch of carrots. He counted them carefully not wanting to violate his new task master’s directive.

As he made it to Dr. Baas’ caravans. He was caught off guard by a new view. There was a wooden slat missing from the bars on the trailer on its left. As he moved closer, something emerged from between the slats. The orangutan had his muzzle shoved through and was sniffing the air. Three of his, incredibly long, fingers poked through and were wiggling at him. The ape was motioning Nigel to him, in a very human way. The outstretched fingers were signaling him.

As he slowly moved in the direction of the creature, he craned his neck. He wanted to see beyond the ape’s face into the wheeled den. When he was within three feet, he stood on his tip toes and peered through the bars. The face, suddenly, disappeared from the portal and a four and a half foot arm shot through like lightning and grabbed the loaded canvas bag from Nigel’s hand. The massive bicep on the arm had squeezed through the grid of steel. Nigel had the presence of mind to grab for the bag, wrapping his arms around it like a life preserver. He was not about to lose the entire bounty to the monster and start all over.

The strength of the ape, however, was shocking as it pulled Nigel up to the bars, smashing both of the boy’s arms against them. In a second lightning move, the ape extended the other arm and, using both arms, grabbed Nigel around the torso and pinned him against the bars.

[4] There is always a price to get into any business. You should plan on starting at the bottom, it’s useful. You don’t need to do every job but should have knowledge and appreciation or you will expect to little from the people around you and they will be able to buffalo you. To manage you must understand. Go work next to people doing a job that they do daily. It can come across as humility and be very useful in managing later.

[5] There’s always work to do at home. You are not above it.

[6] Appreciate where you come from and what those people did to give you that base, no matter the base.

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