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Circus Chapter 1

 

Circus Chapter 1
 
The employment list amounted to a tiny column in the Rochester Bugle. In a small town like Rochester, it was whom you knew, not what you knew, that often secured employment. The woman casting her eye over the newspaper glanced at the available jobs and found two clerical administrative posts at the lowest pay possible and a gardener needed part-time, probably for old man Beaufort, who thought it beneath him to cut his own lawn. That left a motor mechanic and a part-time cinema attendant.
 
Rita Collins bit her bottom lip as she circled the clerical posts and wondered how ends would meet if she had to take a cut in salary. Not that she had any choice. Watson’s Mill, where she had worked, filed for bankruptcy. With no chance that a new buyer would bail it out at the last minute, Rita was desperate for a job. She wasn’t the only one in trouble. The mill had employed over thirty people, and they were all looking for work. It was going to be tough to secure any administrative post, especially because she’d be overqualified for most.
 
The door to the small, three-bedroom house opened and her younger sister, Angel, breezed in. “I’ve got the ideal job for you, Ri, but you’d best be quick if you want the job, since the interviews are tomorrow. Take a look.” Her sister threw her a flyer and left the room.
 
Rita’s brown gaze traveled to her pretty sister, now disappearing down the hall. At twenty-five, Angel had blonde hair, usually in a ponytail, and thick lashes that covered light blue eyes. Her slim figure never seemed to put on weight no matter what Angel ate, it wasn’t fair. At an early age, Angel decided that all she wanted to do was settle down, get married, and have a hundred kids, a decent education wasn’t on her list. From Rita’s point of view, their parents were over indulgent and didn’t insist that Angel attend college. She at least attended college and had a career to fall back on, except in Rochester.
 
Rita and Angela’s father, who owned the local hardware store, had been rather stingy with money, but he had decided it would be a good thing if Rita learned a useful skill.  Dutifully, she’d done her stint at college, obtaining a degree in accounting before she went to work for her father. He didn’t pay much, so she decided that someday she’d venture out on her own when Rochester became a more affluent town. Then she’d make pots of money, but that never happened. Their parents died in a freak accident when the only bridge over Jansen River flooded as they crossed it in an unexpected storm. Rita had been twenty-five and Angel seventeen. They couldn’t afford to keep up the store and the mortgage on their house, so their only option was to sell the business to the highest bidder. Fortunately, the profits from the sale made it possible for them to live mortgage-free, but still they had to live. From then on, Rita had taken over the care of her sister. After the death of their parents, Angel went a bit wayward and that resulted in Charlie, Angel’s seven-year-old son.
 
Angel refused to tell Rita who the father was, but it didn’t matter. Rita loved Charlie.
 
How could you not love a tousle-haired boy with an impish grin and sea green eyes that looked in wonder at all he saw? He questioned everything and announced to anyone who would listen that he was the man of the house. The sisters had brought up a wonderful, loving child. Just thinking about little Charles Collins made Rita smile.
 
Her smile lingered as she looked at the flyer clutched in her left hand. Hmm, she thought, puzzled. I wonder why the job’s posting is in a flyer and not in the local paper. She read the flyer with curiosity.
 
Wanted Immediately: Accountant- must be experienced - to work for half a year from May to October, with possibility of position becoming full-time. Excellent compensation for the right candidate. Call L Garmancelli at 889 213-8898.
 
Rita read it again. How strange. I’ve never heard of a Garmancelli in Rochester. With her brown hair swinging from side to side, Rita contemplated the flyer still in her hand. She walked over to the bathroom door and shouted, "Angel, where did you get this flyer?"
 
There was no immediate answer.
 
“Angel, turn down the radio and speak to me, please.”
 
A few moments later, the radio muted.
 
“What did you say, Ri?” Angel’s blonde head, with a cheerful smile, peeked out the door.
 
Rita looked at her sister and shook her head. How can someone look so good with their hair all wet? I always look like a drowned rat. “I asked where you got this. Do you know someone in town named Garmancelli?”
 
Angel said, “No. Whoever Garmancelli is, he must be new in town. You should go, Ri. Who knows? It could be just what you’re looking for.”
 
Rita considered her sister’s suggestion. Angel often told her that she had a tendency to think about things too much and too seriously. Perhaps this time spontaneity would win the day. Yeah, right, one night of spontaneity for Angel resulted in Charlie. 
 
Still, something about the position intrigued her. “Okay, I suppose it won’t do any harm to inquire.” While her sister was deftly applying make-up, Rita asked, “Are you planning on a late night tonight?”
 
Angel smiled. “Is that okay? The girls and I are going over to Johnstown, where a new band, The Grunge is wowing the locals. We thought we’d check it out,” she said with a shrug.
 
“You’re making a habit of going to Johnstown every Friday.” Rita heard a note of irritation creeping into her voice. “Oh, go ahead and enjoy the band. I promised Charlie a trip get ice cream.”
 
Angel asked, “Did you hook up with Dan? He was asking about you again.”
 
Rita considered how she and her sister were complete opposites. Her looks were nothing special. Her brown eyes matched hair that hung just over her shoulders. Her figure wasn’t the best either. Wide hips, from their mother’s side of the family, would never help in the quest for the perfect figure. She also was cautious, which might have had more to do her career path than with her personality. However, whatever she lacked in looks and daring, she more than made up for in compassion and love. She loved her sister and Charlie fiercely.
 
“No. I did not hook up with Dan. Now finish getting ready.”
 
Once back into the kitchen, Rita gazed intently at the phone on the wall before she made a decision. Her hand trembling, she picked up the receiver and called the number on the flyer. Within two minutes, her name was on the list, and she received a time and place for the interview the next day.
 
“Well, that was painless. I guess I should call about the other positions, too.” She found that one job already hired someone but she obtained an interview for the other at six that evening. “I guess it will be good practice for tomorrow. It’s been a while since I’ve had an interview.”
 
After the calls, Rita sank down on one of the kitchen chairs. She’d had no choice but to accept the evening appointment. Though it would disappoint Charlie, she would make it up to him.
 
***
 
Rita quietly opened the door to her house and smiled at their neighbor, Lory Parker, a motherly soul who had been able to babysit for the two hours that Rita took for the interview. Although Angel had volunteered to give up her big night out, the disappointment that flooded her sister’s face, even for a few seconds, had Rita declining the offer. They could afford the few dollars that they insisted Lory take.
 
“Hi, was he okay?” Rita asked in a hushed tone.
 
Lory Parker grinned, her wrinkled skin creasing even more as her eyes moved to the sleeping child. She gently moved him off her lap, placing him on the sofa as she got up. “As good as gold. He’s never any trouble, Rita. You and your sister are doing a grand job of bringing him up.”
 
Rita looked down tenderly at the boy. Although she and Angel shared parental responsibility, Rita took the lion’s share of raising him. Her sister’s job as a waitress at Mel’s diner had long hours. “I promised him a visit to Hopkins for ice cream and he didn’t even make a face at not going. Instead, he said another time was okay.”
 
Lory smiled. “That’s Charlie for you, considerate to a tee. Are you sure he isn’t yours?”
 
Rita frowned. Is Lory being critical of Angel? If so… “Thanks for taking care of him, Lory.” She opened her purse to pay the older woman. “Here’s the money I owe you.”
 
“I don’t want your money, Rita. I enjoyed watching Charlie. Now that all my boys are away, it feels good to be needed again.” Lory began to put on her coat.
 
Rita insisted “Please, Lory. You know I like for us to pay our own way.”
 
The older woman scowled and shook her head. “I know, Rita, but if that job doesn’t come your way, you’re going to need every cent. How did the interview go?”
 
Rita considered a few moments exactly how it had gone. “I have more than enough qualifications, probably too many. It was clerical work for Riley Cropper’s supermarket with minor cashier work at night. They want their blood because they know people are desperate for work.”
 
Lory scrunched up her face. “Why, Rita, if you take that job, what about Charlie?”
 
Yes, what about Charlie? “I know. I’ll have to talk with Angel tomorrow. Seems I can have the job if I give my answer by Sunday” Rita quietly replied. Cropper wants cheap labor from the desperate, and he knows our family circumstance. He’s such a cruel mongrel.
 
“It will all work out as it should, Rita. The good Lord will come to your rescue, I’m sure.” Lory pocketed the money with a shake of her head. “Good night, Rita.”
 
Rita gazed at the little boy, now curled into a ball on the sofa. He was the reason they would be in trouble if she didn’t get a job quickly. His needs were most important. Working for Cropper, however, was about the worst possible scenario she could think of. “I hope that interview tomorrow works out. It might be our only chance to keep things as they are.”
 
Moving to the sofa, she picked up the child, a featherweight, and hugged him to her. “I love you, Charlie, and we will just have to hope that Lory is right and the Lord will make things okay.”
 
 
 
 
 

 

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