Keith J. Powell ~ Head Over Heels

My old­er sis­ter was a Trapeze Artist, a famous fly­er who worked with­out a net. One night in Toledo, she let go ear­ly, missed the bar, and died, her gold­en future pud­dling out of her cracked head like yolk from an egg onto the saw­dust and peanut shells.

Suddenly alone, a chuck­le of clowns spent the rest of the sea­son trip­ping over their over­sized shoes to fuck me. I’d slip their grease paint by hid­ing in the dark beneath the met­al bleach­ers, feet from where my sis­ter died. Even when Toledo was long behind us, I was still always feet from where she died because noth­ing changes under the big top, no mat­ter how far you go.

I met Henry that spring. Henry ran a game where cus­tomers shot water down the throats of plas­tic clown heads, inflat­ing bal­loons until one popped. I took that as kismet. He was beefy and kind like a big friend­ly cow, and one night I led him behind the fun­house where we kissed, and I float­ed three feet off the ground. I’d kissed oth­er boys before, it was the cir­cus after all, but until Henry, the most any of them had man­aged was an inch or so — bare­ly worth the chapped lips. Henry was dif­fer­ent. I knew that if I took him back to my trail­er, let him dip his hands inside my yel­low leo­tard, I’d need the tin roof above me to keep from float­ing away.

The ring­mas­ter sched­uled my debut for our first night back in Toledo. By the time I’d reached the lad­der’s top rung, the crowd was on its feet, thrum­ming with macabre antic­i­pa­tion, as eager to see me fall as they were to see me fly.

Henry closed his game ear­ly to come see me. He sat in the front row, twist­ing his cap in anx­ious hands. High above, I chalked my own and took a breath. My part­ner swung the bar, and I leaped to catch it, know­ing Henry’s love would keep me pinned to the clouds.


Keith J. Powell writes fic­tion, CNF, reviews, and plays. He is a found­ing edi­tor of Your Impossible Voice and occa­sion­al­ly tweets @KeithJ_Powell.