Alice O. Howell   



Diana and the Boy


                                                I was nine years old on the third of May

                                      and I ain't nobody's fool.  I'm a boy

                   judging by the contents of my pockets,

          which is what Ma says all the time

                             when she's doing the wash.


          The circus come last week to this here

                             village of Four Corners and set up over

                   in Farmer Boone's pasture at the foot of the hill.

                                      Me and Josh cut school

                             just to hang around and watch the tent go up

                                                like some grimy old flower.

          There was new smell:  sawdust mixed with zebra dung.

                                      Did you ever see zebra dung?  It's different.

                   There was new noises:  lion belching, elephant screaming,

          and roustabouts thumping on the big pegs

                                                in the sunshine.

                             And new curses, real good ones, but I ain't gonna

                                                say them, just in case --

          Josh is older than me and parts his hair on purpose.

                                      He ain't long for my friend at this point.

                   Anyways, he looks a lot older and stronger

                             than he is, so the men sent him for tobaccy

                                                and not me, and he got a free pass.

                                      I didn't.


                             That night just before the rising of the full

                   moon behind the sycamores, I climbed out

                                      my window and went barefoot up Farmer Boone's.

          I lay out a ways up the hill by the bull pasture

                             and heard the calliopes and the people

                                                roaring and clapping and whistling

                   in the valley.  I 'spect they was watching

          the lion tamer and looking at the lady acrobats

                                      and bareback dancers.  Josh would be looking

                             at them, all right.

          I mind I pulled on the weeds till a spot was bald,

                                      and I was so mad I cried baby tears.

                   At the end, the band played a real lively tune

                             and the folks streamed out by firelight.

          They looked like an orange snake

                   wiggling back to town on its belly.


          The bull in Farmer Boone's pasture

                   come down snorting and pawing the ground

                                                          like he was waiting.

                             I figured I'd wait, too.

          People was gone, and the circus folk

                   went to their wagons.  Some of the acrobats, I guess,

                                      looked twinkly in their fancy clothes.

                             like they was ghosts.

          There was a clown in baggy pants

                                      and he looked up at the moon and shook his fist.

                   I don't know why.


                   I guess I slept then, cos I never heard her come.

                                      When I woke up, I was dewy all over spangles

                             on my sweater, so you see I wasn't dreaming.

          The moon was climbing up behind the long, steep hill

                                                like it meant something.  A girl or lady

                   was leaning against the fence of the bull pasture.

          I could see her breath when she spoke

                             and she was speaking mighty soft and

                   excited-like.  She had on white pants and

                                      tinsely ribbon in her hair.  Looked

                             suddenly like she was having a fit,

          sort of.  This was something Josh

                                      wouldn't never believe.

          She kept making sweet noises and kisses

                   and I thought she was looking for a feller

                                      real bad.

                             But no, it wasn't no feller come but

          Farmer Boone's big mean old bull, Hiram.

                                      Pretty as you please, right up to the fence.

                   She petted him, not even scared, and then

                             she climbed up the fence and talked sweet and low

                                                and the moon rose a bit higher.

                                      All of a sudden she pulled off her top

                   and scratched herself like it was

                             the most natural thing for a lady to do

          on  a summer's night.  Mebbe it is.

                   Josh would know about that.

                                      Anyways, she was bare and just beautiful!


          Then old Hiram come straight up to her

                   after that and stood still as a statue

                                      and then she -- I mean it, I swear it

                   on a stack o' Good Books - - she stepped

                             onto his back, and he snorted and

                                                started up the hill.  I was so scared

          I couldn't of said nothing even if you

                                      stuck me with a pin.

                   Round and round, slow they went, and she

                             commenced to dance on his back

          doing handstands on his horns

                                                and somersaults and everything.

                                      My heart just stopped that's all.


          When they was done, they come back to the fence

                             and she got off.  But old Hiram, he walked

                                                up to the top of the hill and left her.

          He stood right still like he was dreaming

                   and the moon was caught like a live thing

                                      between his horns

                             and I knew deep down inside me

          I wasn't just a boy at all.


          She jumped off the fence, put on her top again,

                                                and lit a cigarette.

                             Then she saw me.

                                      Me, I didn't move.  I couldn't .

          But she come over to me and laughed

                   and said:  Remember, boy, all your life

                                      that you got to see Miss Diana. 

                             That sets you apart.

                   I know it.

          Now I can't never tell nobody.

                                                Not even Josh.