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 Cornersand 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.
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
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.
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