Mr.President - Nicolini and Westrin do a thing (notes)

The soft lights of the county fair lit up around the young man as he made his way in past the gates. Booths peddling popcorn, elephant ears, and slushees. Sleazy game-runners and crickety rides sat side by side on the winding path ahead, each with their obnoxious set of sounds and lights. He heard the barking of the ring master's dog as it raced past him. A grin crossed the young man's face as a little boy chased after the dog, shouting commands which fell upon deaf ears. 'Sally, come!' 'Sally, heel!' 'No! Sally! Not there!' The man glanced over at the last command to see the dog, a leg slowly raising into the air, then followed by a golden stream. A chuckle slipped out of him as he turned and walked forward.

After ten minutes of walking, he arrived at his small, homely booth. His face creased into a frown as he got ready for work.'Only one more day of this fair, thank god.'

First, he took out the chairs from behind the booth and put them in front. His wooden easel was carefully unfolded next, and the young man sighed in anguish as it tilted ever so lazily to the left. At least it held his supplies well enough, but for how much longer? Finally, he unfurled the garish sign which would denote his stand.

'Caricatures, Portraits, Doodles! Five bucks a pop!'

He was ready for tonight, but judging by the fact that the big top tent wasn't playing music it seemed he was early. A quick glance at his watch revealed this to be true, the artist was not one, not two, three, or even four minutes early, but a whopping sixty.

He needed something t kill time.

The young fellow took off at a steady pace, the autumn leaves softly crunching underfoot. The brightly lit path seemed to greet him at every turn, guiding him towards sweets, rides, and soon-to-be-played games. He noticed the strongmen standing around a 'Test Your Strength' machine, all joking that they couldn't get it off the ground. The owner of the machine began to giggle and waved them off.

The artist began to smile, remembering how his father would hit the bell on those each and every time. He would always brag about being the most powerful man alive. A younger version of himself crossed his mind; he was a skinny boy with little muscle to him. He would always try to hit the bell, like his father, but he never could. His father's voice came to mind;

"Oh now then, you can do better than that! You aren't even trying!"

The voice began to reverberate in his mind. Slowly it came to him. Pangs of pain spread across his body, leaving behind a hollow sensation everywhere they went. It had seemed like an eternity since he saw his father last. The corners of his mouth slowly moved down, and his back hunched over. The bell of the machine went off, mocking him.

He hated it.

But this was a carnival, and there was no room for frowns. He donned the mask of a joyous employee and started walking once again. Though, he was soon stopped by a crowd of handlers and animals. Massive footsteps filled the cold air, as the elephants and camels marched ahead.

A memory slowly began to sweep through his mind; a small camel, in his backyard, it was supposed to be protecting his father's sheep. Though it never did, it would always chase him and his brother. Their father would only laugh and send them inside for dinner. Inside his mother was ready to help patch them up from the camel.

Often, the solution was 'Suck it up and stop crying. It's only a bruise and some scratches.' His father would mimic him and Erin running from the camel, talking about how dumb they acted. Then his mom would chime in with a clever remark. Then, at the end of dinner, Erin would joke about eating the camel. Father would yell at him for the remark.

How was Erin doing?

The man stopped and looked up at the sky, watching the stars glitter quietly. His eyes dropped down to the ground, and his feet began to move once more.

Step by step.

The weight on his back began to grow.

The weight on his shoulders became too much.

He sat down, his head, sitting in his hand. He slowly looked up at the sky. Why did he ever leave? Soft and hot tears spilled down his face. His mother, his father, his brother, were they okay? Pangs of guilt spread within his body, his heart felt a strain as the contorted sob spilled from his mouth. A soft pair of unnoticed footsteps came close as a voice broke the still night air.

"Hey! I've been lookin' all over for ya. I got a com..mission for..ya… Is everything okay? You look kinda teary, slim."

The young man's face slowly rose only to see the lion tamer's soft expression. He felt a lump in his throat as he tried to speak.

"Just fine." The stale lie clung to the artist's tongue as the tamer stared at him. Tears dripped down his still face.

"Now really, tex? Come on now then, your a hard-workin' man and, it really upsets me when I see ya down."

"I'm serious, everything's fine."

"Come on. You've been down for days, sleepin' in and frownin'. There has to be something there."

"I've… been missin' home."

"Oh son, we all miss home. It's natural to feel that way."

"I just left home under… some bad circumstances."

"Now come on son, most of us here, were the kids who ran away to the circus! There's nothing wrong with leaving on the bad foot. Now, what is wrong, and let me tell you, I know this better than anyone here, is not apologizing to your folks. I would be terrified if junior just ran out into the world. Now, if he returned, without a scratch that is, then I would be thrilled just to see him. You got to understand Jim, parents are there for you, they don't hate you. They have your best interests in mind."

"I don't have enough money to return home…"

"Then write a letter to 'em! You should tell them how you're doing, how your job is going. Ya know?"

The artist slowly nodded as he sat up. The lion tamer reached into his pocket and pulled out a small cotton cloth. He held out the cloth out to him.

"Now then dry up your tears. While I got you here, here's the commision, a birthday gift for the kiddo, a small cartoon dog, one that looks like Sally, ya know her?"

He nodded while handing back the handkerchief. Upon the exchange of thank you's and goodbyes, the artist walked back to his booth. He grabbed a piece of paper, and set it down on the table.

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