In Which Principia Magenta Takes Exception

Tromboni the Magnificent was hungover worse than Sparky the midget clown after poker night. Principia Magenta, his erstwhile assistant, hurled obscenities at him as he paced their small trailer, massaging his temples and smoothing his rumpled tux. She dumped armfuls of shoes and laced undergarments into a steamer trunk as she berated him, "Don't tell me it was a coincidence Tromboni, no more lies, I can't live this way."

"But my darling child everything is a coincidence, but only so far as it is ordained by the stars. And whether a lie is reality or an illusion," he continued, tripping along the warped floorboards of the trailer as he spoke, "is determined solely by the degree to which the audience is willing to participate."

A dagger flew towards Tromboni's head. He ducked it easily. He ducked it as a matter of course. A second flew his way, this one lower and as he turned it lodged into the meaty muscle of his right thigh.

"Magenta, darling," he bellowed. "Really, what's the meaning of this? Honestly, there's no one even watching?"

"You two-timing fraud. How could you? The Bearded Lady, I can hardly believe it," she said, choosing with care another dagger from a battered side table spilling over with a proliferation of cutlery, candle stubs, steel rings and silk handkerchiefs.

"Magenta my sweet, you are taking an illusion, a sublime moment, and creating from it not merely reality, but a supposition, which has basis not even in illusion, but in your overwrought mind. You saw me pull the rabbit from the hat, didn't you? You were present."

"Tromboni, the rabbit was wearing the Bearded Ladies knickers," she shrieked as she hurled another dagger, sinking this one into his left thigh.

"Can I be expected to keep track of Jack's comings and goings? Can I? A creature with his reputation for philandering? Planting those half-breed children of his across the countryside like Johnny Appleseed on crystal-meth. Honestly my dear, it would be easier to believe that Jack Rabbit was pursuing the Bearded Lady, especially with his fondness for all things hirsute."

Principia let another dagger fly, sinking it deep into the upper corner of Tromboni's chest, just below the clavicle. He gripped the handle and tugged at it fruitlessly, "Principia, don't you think that's a bit hypocritical of you, especially since I've heard from a reliable source that you were very recently seen smoking the Lion Tamer's hookah."

"Ridiculous," she shrieked, hurling yet another dagger. "Who told you that?"

"Why the Ringmaster himself was a witness to these events." Tromboni's head bobbled back and forth, as if admiring the deft accuracy with which the twin daggers pegged opposite ends of the shoulder girdle, and the vertical symmetry with which they were aligned with the daggers in his thighs.

"The Ringmaster and the Geoffrey the Lion Tamer have been lovers for years. He's just trying to provoke you because it's rumored that Geoffrey has been seen out on the downlow with Pinchy the Clown. That drama queen just trying to lure you into the mix." She juggled another dagger in her left hand, tossing it casually as she spoke, catching it with the handle on each successive flip.

"Principia, this is all news to me," Tromboni blubbered.

"The only reliable source of gossip is Madam Gnomeclencher, and she told me whose trailer you were creeping out of the other morning."

"Honestly," stammered Tromboni, tugging at the knives with both hands, first those along his shoulders, then at those in his thighs, grunting as he tugged, then groaning in frustration, as he could not extract the blades.

"Why don't you be a real man and confess, tell the truth Tromboni, for once in your life."

He straightened up and held out his hands, "Principia," he pleaded, "You're the only girl for me. Before you became my assistant Vanessa, Horse Goddess of the Steppes played that role. She was my lover then. You knew that. I confess Principia, yes, the other day I helped her once more into the saddle, yes the Madam is correct in her divinations."

"You bastard," she shrieked, hurling yet another dagger, which sank deep into his belly, just below his sternum. That's not who the Madam indicated Tromboni." With a flourish she produced additional blades as if from thin air, holding them by their sharp tips and composing them as a fan. "One more time Tromboni, who were you with last Wednesday?"

"Principia," Tromboni pleaded, "Please no more. It's really starting to hurt." He cupped his hands together, holding them over his manhood, which he supposed, given the geometric patterns she was composing upon his body, would be her next target. "Again, I believe this to be simply a matter of misunderstanding. On Wednesday past I did practice the flaming eyes on Cynthia the Popcorn Girl during an afternoon matinée. This was not something done in secret, but I can see how it may have been misconstrued."

"Cynthia the Popcorn Girl doesn't even have a drivers license yet Tromboni," she cried. Before Tromboni could even flinch she buried another dagger deep into his belly, this one just below the navel.

"Principia, my darling," he cried, trembling and staring down the blade lodged perhaps an inch from his hands. "I always hold myself accountable for those things, which I have done for the pleasure of the audience. So yes, now that you insist I make a more thorough search of my memory I do recall helping Heather of the Flying Radish Flowers into her leotard on Wednesday past. It was the Late Late Show, the final performance and so it must have slipped my mind."

"Enough," she shouted, sinking two more daggers, one into his left and the other into his right foot, pinning him to the spot. "I've heard enough lies from you Tromboni. Is there any female employee of the circus that you haven't slept with on Wednesday?"

Tromboni let out a great sigh of relief. "Truth be told Principia, I never in my life would sleep with that wretched prune Madam Gnomeclencher, she just isn't my type."

Principia released a sigh of her own, one of bitter disappointment. She concluded packing, emptying drawers and tossing in a few books, mirrors and silk scarves, objects of sentiment rather than professional practicality. She kicked open the rickety door and shoved the trunk through. It rattled down the wooden stairs and landed in the dirt of the alleyway with a dull thud. Tromboni could hear her dragging the trunk off with great effort.

"Marvelous marksmanship darling," he called after her. "Your aim is superb my sweet. I dare say you're ready to headline your own show. Principia Magenta and her deadly daggers. You could have your own assistant. Perhaps Sparky the Midget Clown could help, he's always been asking after your health. You could have billing. We'll have a banner made. You can choose the colors. Principia?" he called. "Darling. Please, help me pull the knives out now. Sweetheart. Honestly, and I don't say this everyday, but it was a fine performance."

About the author:

Mike Damascus writes fiction in San Francisco.