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American Gay Mystery

It doesn't take much to lose your job as a clown. I know that now.


For the record, I take full responsibility for what happened. We were stationed in Utah at the time, with its too-blue sky and overripe air. We'd been there four days when I decided to switch up my routine. Our ringmaster, Horatio Longbottom, advised against it, said it wasn't worth fixing something that wasn't broken. But when you give your best slapstick—rubber chickens and cream pies and squirting flowers—and all you get are a few lousy sympathy chuckles, I'd say that qualifies as broken. So that's why I did what I did with the novelty ten-inch sausage.


"Obscene," the circusgoers later called it. "Vile." Who knew Mormons could be so sensitive?


Horatio couldn't fire me—we were still in Salt Lake City where there were no clowns, where jokes were scarce and disapproval was high—so he temporarily demoted me to light technician instead.


The next day I was under the big top, pretending to know how to operate the Klieg lights, when Horatio announced himself. Pulling back the curtain, he walked inside and was followed by a svelte young man with long limbs and an undercut. The guy kept his head down, finding more interest in the pinwheel floor pattern than his surroundings. My eyes stayed on him the whole time. I felt the urge to drop my light and shine it in his face to get a better look.


Horatio gestured to me. "And this is Ruben," he said offhandedly, as though I were the stilt walker or the contortionist or the bearded lady, someone unimportant.


The guy offered me his hand. "Leo," he said.


I shook it longer than normal, said, "No, I'm an Aquarius."


Horatio belly laughed, but firmly reminded me I wouldn't be wearing my squishy red nose or size 16 shoes anytime soon.


Leo, however, didn't even crack a smile.


"Since we don't have a clown at the moment, he'll be joining our troupe," Horatio explained, clapping Leo on the shoulder. Then he returned to the entrance and shouted, "I'm counting on you, Ruben. Make sure you treat him right and show him the ropes." The curtain flapped behind him as he stepped into the Utah morning.


The heat and dust swirled around us as the tent grew still. Up close, Leo looked younger. When he walked in, I'd figured he was about my age, twenty, but here he was, baby-faced and speckled with acne. Certainly not old enough to have graduated clown college. But there was something else there. Something in the watery blue of his eyes that drew me in, that threatened to drown me if I looked long enough.


"So," I said, tilting my Klieg light up and down as a distraction.


"So," he parroted.


"Are you supposed to be my replacement? The new clown?"


"Clown? No," he said.


We let the words fester in the silence between us.


Then he said, "I think Mister Horatio meant show me the ropes literally, by the way." And maybe I looked confused, because Leo added, "I'm a tightrope walker." 


"Oh." Because what else was there to say? I grabbed the Kleig light and beckoned. "Okay. Follow me."


We trekked past the lion tamer cracking his whip and the sword swallower sliding the blade down his esophagus and the fire breather exhaling a stream of flame, until we reached the ladder the led to the high wire, forty feet up. We'd had a tightrope walker a few seasons before, a first-of-May who quit the day after she fell from the high wire into the embrace of the safety net below. And despite its disuse, the net was laid out now, just in case anyone got any crazy ideas after a night of drinking.


"All right, man," I urged. "Let's see what you got."


He shrugged, grabbed one of the ladder rungs, inched his way to the top. He moved gracefully, all muscle and bone, a man on a mission. It wasn't difficult to imagine him falling from the tightrope with the same elegance. In fact, I almost wanted him to fall so he would quit too, and my heart would stop pounding. I hit the switch on the Klieg light to see him better. A ring of light lanced the morning shadows, put Leo in clear focus.


By the time he reached the platform, he had amassed a few spectators. The sword swallower and the human cannonball watched with rapt attention. The strongman sidled up to me and asked who that was up there. I kept Leo's name to myself like a precious secret I couldn't afford to share.


Silence blanketed the big top. We watched him take his first step, then another. He kept his arms out, his fingers splayed. Under the glare of the spotlight, we could see everything: his blinking, the careful crisscrossing of his feet, the way the rope never gave an inch.


We waited for something that never came. We kept waiting until he was all the way across the tightrope and receiving a standing ovation.


While the troupe below prepared to introduce themselves, I tracked Leo's descent with my light. Halfway down the ladder he stopped and looked at us, blue eyes squinting in the brightness. There was something almost like a smile on his face. And I had a feeling that maybe being a light technician instead of a clown wasn't such bad news after all.


***


His initial tightrope act had been a resounding success, the audience watching with bated breath and exploding with applause when he crossed the rope. Not once did he give the illusion of being in danger. The entire troupe celebrated the following morning with champagne and funnel cakes. Leo himself, the guest of honor, didn't join us.


Later, I caught him practicing his tightrope act in the shadowy tent.


We stayed in Utah for two weeks, and because Horatio didn't want to risk me relapsing, I remained on light technician duty. But the thing is, I started to enjoy it, the time alone with Leo, trailing him with my spotlight. There was something magical about watching him, the control he had over his body, the way he never faltered or lost his balance. I couldn't explain why I enjoyed watching him so much.


Or, rather, I didn't want to explain it. Not to myself, and certainly not to Leo.


***


One day, while we were stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Horatio called me into his trailer. The windows were open and the electric fan doused us with cold air. Calliope music poured from his CD player. He motioned to the small bean bag across from his seat. "Please, won't you sit down?"


"Am I in trouble?" I asked. The bean bag swallowed me up when I eased into it. It felt like an omen.


Horatio wiped a pool of sweat from his forehead with his sleeve, fanned himself with his top hat, inspected his mustache in his vanity mirror. "Quite the opposite. Though I would like to talk to you about your job."


We exchanged glances in the mirror.


"My job?"


"Yes," he said. "See, Leo's been a great addition to the troupe. A total godsend to our ticket sales. But that stuff, it's all action, all adrenaline. Tightrope walking, lion taming, chainsaw juggling. Right?"


"Right?" I said, unable to stop the lilt from creeping into my voice.


"People get bored if that's the only thing we've got to offer. See, what we're really missing is comedy. Something funny. A clown."


Like a map unfurling in my mind, I shifted in the bean bag and saw the rest of my life in the circus reveal itself: the banana cream pies colliding with my face, the untied shoelaces that culminated in falling and ripping my pants, the mis-juggled bowling pins that hit my shoulders and shins and left bruises. All of it familiar. But when I searched the roads and highways of my future as a clown, I saw no routes or detours that led to Leo.


"What do you say, Ruben? We can find any old shmuck to work the lights. But you—you're special. You're our clown."


The fan blasted my arms with cool air, but I'd never felt so hot in my life. In that moment, I imagined what Leo must've felt on the tightrope: the dangerous balancing act, the way you always had to steel yourself so as not to fall and lose everything. That's what I was feeling in my heart.


With great effort, I peeled myself from the bean bag and looked not at Horatio, but at his doppelgänger in the mirror.


"I'm afraid I can't accept that," I told him. "I've really taken a liking to the lighting job."


He made no attempt to conceal his frown. "But you didn't go to college for lighting. You went to be a clown."


There are so many things I would tell Horatio now, if only I could. I'd tell him that there wasn't anything funny about life, not when you really thought about it. How one person can make you forget who you are and what you went to college for. I'd try to explain about the roads and the highways, the way that you can see them ahead of you or on a map and still miss every sign to take an exit.


But back then the best thing I could think to tell him was "I'm sorry."


***


It took me a month to ask Leo out to breakfast. Because our circus shows were always at night, the troupe was usually free in the mornings to do as we pleased. Leo inevitably spent his free time walking the tightrope, as though he weren't scheduled to do the same thing that night. I spent mine tracking him with my light, intimate as a photographer capturing a subject.


One morning, as he was walking to the tightrope ladder, I propped my light, tripod stand and all, in front of the rungs. I'd learned from his reluctance to touch the lion tamer's whip and the strongman's sledgehammer that Leo hated handling other people's things.


He looked from the tripod stand back to me, his blue eyes begging for an answer.


"You never take a day off from this thing," I told him, pointing to the high wire. "Day in and day out, you're always walking that tightrope."


"I enjoy it," he said, voice quieter than normal.


"I know, but I bet you'd probably enjoy some breakfast too. And I know I'd at least like a day off from following you around with that light all morning."


He bit his lip, glanced at the tightrope above, back down at the tripod stand, and sighed.


After thirty minutes of walking, we sat across from each other at a table in the local diner, watching the passing cars through the glass window. Leo shifted uncomfortably in the vinyl booth. In the restaurant's harsh overhead lighting, I could see the makings of blond peach fuzz on his lip and the triangle of acne on his left cheek. His eyes were the color of the sky.


The waitress, a woman with a hairstyle from the '50s, took our order. Leo, modest to a fault, chose the least expensive dish and stuck with his complimentary glass of water.


"So," I said, pushing the saltshaker closer to the pepper. That's usually how our conversations began.


"So," he parroted.


"What do you want to talk about?"


He shrugged. That was also a staple of our conversations. And it occurred to me then how little I actually knew about him, despite our time together. I ran through the list of facts I had: His eye color, his role in the troupe, his first name. I took a drink of water when I realized the list stopped there.


"You know what's crazy," I said, and took another gulp. "I don't even know your last name."


Leo swiped a packet of artificial sugar, flipped to the ingredients side, brought it up to his face. "McAllister."


Feeling bold, I added, "Or your age."


He flipped the packet around, read the brand name, put it back, looked out the window.


"Punch Buggy," he said, pointing to a red Volkswagen.


I suppressed a frown, then decided on another inquiry. "What do you think about Courtney? You know, the fire breather?"


It was a targeted question. Courtney was the strongman's girlfriend, well-proportioned and with hair like flame. It was no surprise that the other men in the troupe, jealous and alone, badmouthed the strongman every chance they got.


"She's nice," Leo said noncommittally. His eyes were closed now.


"And beautiful too," I goaded.


"I guess so."


I picked up the same packet of sugar Leo had, just to hold something. "You ever had a girlfriend who looked like that?"


"Never had a girlfriend."


"Oh?"


"No."


"What about," I said, very quietly, "anybody else?"


He grabbed his napkin, crumpled it, then made a grunting noise that suggested the end of the conversation.


I was losing him, so I decided to pull out the big guns: "Why the tightrope?"


Suddenly he opened his eyes. They'd never looked so blue before.


"I mean, with a name like yours, I would've guessed lion tamer."


He scoffed. "Lions? You ever seen The Wizard of Oz?"


"If I only had a brain," I sang.


"Wrong character. I'm talking about the cowardly lion."


"Come on. You're up there on that rope seven nights a week, and you're trying to tell me you don't have any courage?"


He thought about it for a minute. "That's different. The trick is not to look down. That's all," he said. "And besides, I've been walking a fine line my whole life. It doesn't scare me anymore."


"What does scare you, then?" I asked.


He said nothing.


And even now I don't know why I did what I did. Maybe because he said nothing, or because I couldn't stand not knowing the truth about him, or maybe because I couldn't stand feeling helpless about that. I'll probably never know why I leaned across the table and pressed my lips against Leo's.


He tensed immediately, flinched, pulled away. When I opened my eyes, he was looking at me as though seeing me for the first time. He shook his head, opened his mouth, remained silent. Then he got up and the bell on the front door jangled and I watched him through the window as he made the thirty-minute walk back to the fairground, just as the waitress returned with our food.


The idea came to me halfway through my chocolate chip pancakes. I've never been one for face-to-face confrontation, so when I fished my phone out of my pocket, I decided to leave him an apology through social media. Now that I had his last name, I could find him.


It wasn't until I typed "Leo McAllister" into Google that I discovered something else. A jumble of words greeted me, made my blood run cold. I read them slowly, checking multiple sites. Each one confirmed the same thing. One post, from a Mrs. Henrietta McAllister, said it all: "My sixteen-year-old son, Leo McAllister, is missing. If you have any information, please contact me or my husband."


I remembered that we'd picked Leo up in Utah, the Mormon epicenter, the place where my sausage-in-the-mouth joke had cost me my clown job. I wondered what type of people his parents were, why he would run away.


I took a long time staring at Henrietta's phone number while my pancakes grew cold.


***


A week later, stationed under the blistering Arizona sun, Leo decided to switch up his routine. Horatio offered the same speech he gave me so long ago, about letting things be and not trying to fix what isn't broken, but Leo was just as headstrong. And so it came to pass that he, for the first time since joining our troupe, would be performing his tightrope act without the safety net below him.


This I heard from the sword swallower. I'd never got around to apologizing to Leo, either in person or online, and we hadn't spoken since the incident at the diner.


Horatio marketed Leo's no-net act like a dog and pony show, selling its danger to the uninitiated. Of course, we knew that there was nothing to worry about, but the circusgoers packed the audience just the same.


After the lion tamer's meek performance, I dimmed the lights and Horatio boomed into his megaphone.


"This is the reason you all came! Now it's time for The Amazing Leo to dazzle you with his death-defying tightrope act. Are you ready?"


The roar of the audience filled the big top as Leo ascended the ladder. I kept my light on him the whole time. The tent grew still as night when he reached the top. On Horatio's command, two troupe members removed the net from below the tightrope.


Leo took his first step. Then another. He was halfway across the tightrope when I heard the big top curtain part and the sound of footsteps on dirt.


"Leonard!" shouted a voice that I knew, even without looking, belonged to Mrs. Henrietta McAllister. I wanted to turn, but I willed myself to keep the light trained on Leo.


And for the first time, I watched him lose his concentration up there. With one foot below him and one perched in midair, he wobbled on the rope, the narrow thread between him and the netless ground.


"Leonard, please," Mr. McAllister pleaded.


The rope teetered. Leo's arms flailed.


"Leonard, we love you," Mrs. McAllister said.


Leo looked down.


"We didn't mean what we said. Please come back."


Then it happened. And even with the McAllisters and the audience and everything all at once, I did what Horatio was paying me to do: I followed Leo with the light the whole way.

July 23, 2022 03:58

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54 comments

Aeris Walker
04:29 Jul 23, 2022

(I see you also are living life on the edge, waiting till the last possible minute to submit a story!) Your writing is so, so good. It just flows smoothly, and clearly. It’s eloquent yet relatable. The first line is stellar, this whole idea is like whaaaat, and you executed it beautifully. When it comes to the prose, I absolutely loved this paragraph. Each word was chosen and placed so perfectly. I love language at its smallest parts, and the way you connected each word just felt poetic: “We trekked past the lion tamer cracking his whip ...

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Zack Powell
04:33 Jul 23, 2022

You're so quick, Aeris! I'm still in the throes of line editing and tweaking things with this (this was absolutely, 100% a "living life on the edge" piece), so thank you very much for the typo catch! Very glad you made some sense out of this story too - I was so close to just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I still have to read yours from last week too, and of course the one you just posted. I relate so much on the difficulty of keeping up with Reedsy talent, LOL. So many good authors, so little time. Thanks for the read - expect...

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Aeris Walker
04:38 Jul 23, 2022

Ha, I am too! It’s amazing how much you miss no matter how many times you read over your own writing. I saw yours pop up and knew that if I didn’t read it right away while I was still hyped up on coffee and procrastination that it would get pushed to the back burner. Happy editing, and have a great weekend!

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Rob Lees
13:31 Sep 29, 2022

Really held my attention!

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Zack Powell
03:06 Sep 30, 2022

Thank you very much, Rob! Always a nice compliment to hear that a story wasn't boring.

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06:13 Aug 19, 2022

A I said, your new, biggest fan and this one, a heart stopper. There was too much to think about in this story and, as I go on, it will probably roll around in my head, this one. Absolutely stunning.

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Zack Powell
13:54 Aug 19, 2022

Thank you again, Jeneane! You're the type of reader ever writer would love, ha ha.

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J.C. Lovero
01:16 Aug 07, 2022

Hey there! This was my week off Reedsy, so I've been a bit behind on stories while working on other projects. But, I had some time and decided to read this one. Apologies for the late response! As always, I don't really have anything to critique from a technical perspective. Your writing is very easy to read and flows nicely. For the story, oof. I saw the makings of trouble with the suspense you built, starting with the whole kiss in the diner and the downward spiral from there. We all knew the tightrope with no net thing would end badly,...

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:08 Aug 03, 2022

Fine work Zack. It flowed.

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Zack Powell
19:02 Aug 03, 2022

Thank you, Philip! Glad to hear.

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Philip Ebuluofor
17:51 Aug 05, 2022

My pleasure.

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Raluca .
16:51 Aug 03, 2022

I saw someone else already commented this, but I was stuck reading this story from the first line! It made me chuckle and you kept me going all the way to the very well written end. Such a great flow!

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Zack Powell
19:02 Aug 03, 2022

Thanks, Raluca. Just came from your story and was glad to see you wrote a gay drama too. Great minds think alike, right?

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Raluca .
19:41 Aug 03, 2022

I'm actually going to read more of your stories and spam you in the next few days with comments hehe. "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

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Amanda Lieser
23:09 Aug 02, 2022

Oh my gosh! This piece was incredibly enchanting. I was dazzled by imagery and heartbroken by the twist! It didn’t end the way I had imagined it would. I also wanted to know more about all of the characters you created. I have always found the life of a performer very interesting. This piece surprised me in all the right ways. Thank you for writing it.

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Zack Powell
02:21 Aug 03, 2022

Thank you one last time, Amanda! This was a lot of fun to write because of the setting/imagery, so it's nice to hear that it worked for you. Appreciate the reads.

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Zelda C. Thorne
11:01 Jul 31, 2022

Wow. What a fantastic story. The build of tension and mystery was great, with humour sprinkled in. The end left me going No, no, no, no! And that last line - ouf. 👏

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Zack Powell
18:38 Aug 01, 2022

Thanks, Zelda! Really enjoyed yours from the upcoming week too. Hope your novel writing is going well!

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Zelda C. Thorne
19:13 Aug 01, 2022

Hey! I'm tapping away at it right now. Just cleared 40,000 words. Feeling very pleased and motivated 👍

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09:40 Jul 27, 2022

Zack, your work is genuinely stunning. Every piece you produce always captivates me, your talent is immeasurable. The drama, the relationship between Leo and Ruben, everything was written so well, and I loved the title. Amazing work, I look forward to reading whatever comes next. :) ~ Jasey

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Zack Powell
21:51 Jul 27, 2022

Thank you so much, Jasey. What a lovely comment. Just made my day!

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22:30 Jul 27, 2022

You're so welcome!

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Wafflez Wasfound
13:06 Jul 26, 2022

This is great!! :D

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Zack Powell
13:47 Jul 26, 2022

Thanks as always, Awexis! Hope your summer's going well.

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Charlotte Morse
07:28 Jul 26, 2022

I was hooked by the first line and completely captivated by every line that followed. Everything flows so smoothly in your writing, you make it all look easy - which is more than frustrating to us lesser mortals! I won't go listing my favourite lines as there are not enough hours in the day, and anyway they were all excellent. I do feel there was one slight anomaly, and excuse me if I'm wrong (different countries, different rules and all that), but social media spells modern day, and in the UK at least, lion taming hasn't been legal in circu...

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Zack Powell
13:46 Jul 26, 2022

Thank you very much for reading and for this comment, Charlotte! It's much appreciated. Wonderful constructive criticism too. I actually had no clue about lion taming being illegal (I assume that's the case here in the US too, if it is in the UK), so you're absolutely right about the anachronism there. Whenever I write the second draft of this, I'm definitely going to set this in an earlier time period. Thanks for the heads-up and the knowledge! And if you ever see anything in my stories you think could be better or something that looks like...

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Caroline Smith
17:48 Jul 24, 2022

This was such a captivating story, Zack! A circus was the perfect setting, offering a disguise for these characters who seem like they have something to hide. My heart dropped when Ruben found out Leo was a missing child and had to struggle with this conflict of what to do -- the "right" thing or respecting Leo's wish to hide away from his family regardless of the consequences. This was my favorite paragraph: "I'd tell him that there wasn't anything funny about life, not when you really thought about it. How one person can make you forget w...

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Zack Powell
22:44 Jul 24, 2022

Thanks for this, Caroline! Just came from your story and I enjoyed every word of it, so this is some high praise. Love your interpretation of the circus as a place that allows people to disguise themselves. Now I wish I'd included something like that in here!

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Kelsey H
10:25 Jul 24, 2022

This is such a beautiful story, everything in it was so captivating and just worked so perfectly, from the first line (which is probably my favourite first line ever!) to the last. First of all I love that it is set in a circus. I had this book as a child about a family who join the circus that I loved and used to read all the time, and although obviously that was a children's story and this is not, I feel like it captures that essence of the slightly magical feel to the circus, with all the different acts and the shows and the audience. I...

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Zack Powell
22:50 Jul 24, 2022

Thank you as always for such a thorough comment, Kelsey! Glad to hear the circus setting worked too. Confession: I've never actually been to one, but I love the vibe and the aesthetics of it. There definitely should be more stories about them! Happy to know that both the humor and the awkwardness came through here. Writing those things is a bit of a tightrope act in itself. Thanks for the note on the ending too! I was wondering if it would hit, if it was too obvious or too random, if everything made sense in the end. Your comment is incredi...

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Moon Lion
04:38 Jul 24, 2022

I didn't think I'd enjoy this story as much as I did but it was awesome. I think a lot of other people have confirmed what I think, that the opening lines were the perfect hook. I also loved the regal, Shakespearean ish names everyone had. I know it's a crocus setting, but it elevated their stories. The storytelling was also dynamic and really well done. There wasn't a single line that lost my attention or bored me. All the best with the next one!

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Zack Powell
15:38 Jul 24, 2022

Thank you so much, friend! Very happy the story and the character names worked for you. (I thought the name Horatio was pushing things over-the-top, so it's nice to know you liked it.) Appreciate the read and the warm feedback!

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Patrick Samuel
21:23 Jul 23, 2022

Zack, you did it again. Every new story of yours I read becomes an instant favorite. The characters here are so well-drawned they stand out even without the minimal amount of background - just like Leo does to Ruben. Your characters are so subtly layered, we don't need to know much about them to understand where they're coming from. As evidenced in this sentence, perhaps my favorite and one among many that makes this story as rich and satisfying as a whole novel : "I'd try to explain about the roads and the highways, the way that you can s...

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Zack Powell
23:21 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks for the kindness as always, Patrick! I wasn't sure how these characters would come across here (it's easy to conjure them up, but a lot harder to make them seem real), so this comment is all kinds of nice. And the "roads and highways" line is actually my favorite of the story, so double thanks for highlighting it! It's funny: I was trying hard not to add any overt contemporary elements to the story, because I also associate the circus with older times. In fact, in my original draft, I had Leo appear on a missing child poster, and in ...

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Patrick Samuel
23:40 Jul 23, 2022

If I may offer a suggestion, I think that having Leo appear on a missing poster (or a milk carton at the diner breakfast) (*) could have tied in with Ruben's gaze, which is basically the driving force (and, sadly enough, extent) of their relationship (his lighting being the extension of his loving look, like a secret hiding in plain sight of an audience.) It might also, for the sake of the plot, save you from having Leo tell his last name, or even allow you to change his first and last name, which is the first thing someone in his circumstan...

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Zack Powell
02:10 Jul 24, 2022

Ooh, I love this milk carton suggestion and its symbolic connection to the Ruben's gaze. What a great point and an even greater idea! Also enjoy the idea of Leo being more coy with his identity to create some more tension and ambiguity. This story is pushing the word limit, so whether those changes happen here or on a second draft, I can't be sure. But I am glad to have an erudite reader like you steering me in the right direction, Patrick! I appreciate it more than you may know.

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Patrick Samuel
14:41 Jul 24, 2022

Unfortunately I've learned the hard way that we can't edit our stories once they've been approved for publication. But Zach, if you ever do another draft, I'd love to read it if you'll let me. Heck, I'd love to read anything you might like to send my way. patrick.jlf at gmail dot com

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Michał Przywara
18:51 Jul 23, 2022

Love that ending. This story reminds me of Poor Unfortunate Souls (which I still think about occasionally, btw). Not in any way because of the plot or subject matter, but because of something in the structure. It starts off innocuously. It's even funny, with a clown getting canned for telling a joke. But it's light-hearted going forward. He gets a new job, one he grows to like, and we see a potential romance forming. Then we learn some details about Leo, and we see there's a deeper, darker history there. I love the line "I've been walking...

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Zack Powell
01:52 Jul 24, 2022

Ooh, now I'm gonna have to go back and reread Poor Unfortunate Souls. Lately I've been reading some of my previous work for inspiration, so it wouldn't surprise me at all if there are parallels between past and present stories. You're quite the astute reader (to the surprise of no one) if you caught a connection between that story and this one! Spot-on analysis too (also to the surprise of no one). Got exactly what I was going for here. Love your interpretation of reconciliation, because in a way, that is exactly what it is, isn't it? Or ma...

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Naomi Onyeanakwe
07:57 Jul 23, 2022

“But when I searched the roads and highways of my future as a clown, I saw no routes or detours that led to Leo.” My hearrtt😭 This was a such a nice read, cute too, and I certainly did not see that twist coming. I was curious though to know why Leo left, but I still enjoyed it all through. Thanks for sharing and good luck!

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Zack Powell
11:22 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks for the read and the warm comment, Naomi! Gave me something to think about too, explaining Leo's runaway situation a little clearer. I appreciate it! Saw that you posted a new story too! Gonna give it a read when I'm fully awake. I'm looking forward to it.

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Naomi Onyeanakwe
12:19 Jul 23, 2022

Awwn thank you! I'm looking forward to seeing your comment.

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Riel Rosehill
07:39 Jul 23, 2022

So, this time I'm the one procastinating finishing my Writers'Playground story, so I just read this as part of my Saturday routine and... OMG Zack. Let me gather my thoughts. Ooof, my heart's still racing! Huh. Okay. Firstly, I was HOOKED with the first line. I once read a fun book where the protag was a guy who lost his job as a clown, so I was here for it! The sausage thing too, that was hilarious 😂 And of course, bonus brownie points for giving us an LGBTQ+ story! I was sooo hoping for a happy ending...! Then the kiss happened. Then, t...

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Zack Powell
11:19 Jul 23, 2022

😂 The struggle of procrastination is real. I relate to that more than you'll ever know. #LastMinuteLaceyProblems If you ever need an extra set of eyes on the Writers' Playground story (or anything else, for that matter), you know where to find me! Side note: Please tell me you remember the name of that book, with the clown losing his job! That sounds like a hilarious read. (Plus, I too am a sucker for circus settings.) I wanted SO badly for this piece to fit into the Romance category and have a happy ending, but the roads and highways of t...

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Riel Rosehill
13:19 Jul 23, 2022

Haha sorry, nor Reedsy this week or next, because contest, Reedsy or other wise, will be every second week... priorities T_T But I'll definitely send that WP story over to you - still writing, but I'm hoping it'll be a good one (I like the premise at least.) And I can relate to you trying for the happy ending, because I have started writing this three times now and it keeps taking a dark turn on me, but I'm still hopeful I'll manage - I think I have found the tone finally! Btw I'd be super interested in seeing what you wrote for Globe Soup, ...

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Riel Rosehill
05:06 Jul 30, 2022

Heyy, what happened? No story this week? :( (I know, who am I to talk 🤣) But as always I refreshed the page first thing to see what I'll read from you this morning and.. 😱😱 I hope you just decided to take it easy, not just missed the deadline or something worse! Xx

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Zack Powell
05:35 Jul 30, 2022

No story this week - thankfully, it's nothing serious. After days of starting and stopping prompts, I just decided to give myself the week off. By Friday morning, I'd gone through four different story ideas (like, I'd written a fair amount on each of them), but I just couldn't get into them or find a path to their endings, so I told myself that if I saw two really solid prompts from the new set, I'd skip this week in exchange for doing two stories next time around. Fortunately, I really like the upcoming prompts and have already picked out t...

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Riel Rosehill
06:20 Jul 30, 2022

Not gonna lie it's nice to skip a week here and there - and I think it's going to help my writing on both fronts, hopefully it does the same for you! I started writing my story for this week, I already had something in mind and luckily I could find a prompt that resonated with it. I look forwards to seeing what prompts you'll pick from this new selection! 👀

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Zack Powell
06:47 Jul 30, 2022

👀 Not even gonna lie: after not skipping since January, the past two skips have felt so freeing. It's nice to give yourself the ability to take a break and recharge. Hopefully it does help my writing. We'll see in a few days, LOL. I'm really glad to hear that you're competing this week. (Keep me updated on the Writers Playground story too! I wanna know when you win 😃) Looking forward to seeing which prompt you choose this week. I have a guess which one it'll be, and I'm excited to see if I'm right.

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Kai Corvus
04:08 Jul 23, 2022

Never thought that I’d read a gay romance in a circus setting, but here we are! I enjoyed the different setting, especially when it ended up tying into Leo’s backstory. Ruben seems like the classic Zack main character- the one who’s less than perfect, but hey, he’s trying. These always make for super likable characters, in my opinion, because you’re always rooting for them to redeem themselves or get the happy ending. I really appreciated the twist with Leo’s character as well. I hope that everything goes well with that tightrope act 🤞 T...

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Zack Powell
04:37 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks, Kai! Super excited to see a new story posted from you, by the way! After I finish lined editing this piece, that's gonna be my first stop. Been too long since I've seen your writing. Glad the setting worked for you. I realized that, like, 95% of my stories are set in houses (how boring is that?), so I'm forcing myself to branch out. Ruben definitely is my style of character. Messy, imperfect, but like you said, he's trying. Those are the most fun to write for me. Thanks for the read, and I'm excited to get to your story!

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Rob Lees
09:32 Oct 01, 2022

Zac I am following you. As I said earlier it’s a good story.

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