Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Life was all about backwards and forwards. Agnes liked to think of it as backwards and forwards. Circles made her giddy. Every week a new place but every week an old place. Just like clockwork, they’d turn up and be greeted by cheers and by jeers. Like clockwork. But Agnes didn’t like to think of it like clockwork. She didn’t like clocks and circles. They made her giddy.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Agnes’s hands flew over the material. She didn’t need to look down at her work; her hands knew where to go, how tight to pull the thread. She didn’t follow a pattern. She didn’t like working to a pattern. She knew they were dangerous.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Agnes reached into the great trunk, pulling out yards of material. Different material. What she was searching for was at the bottom of the trunk. It had been neatly folded and put away years ago, redundant, unwanted. After decades, she still knew the feel of that satin. Out it came, shining navy blue and crimson, untouched by the years of neglect. Agnes picked up the iron embroidery shears and hacked at the cloth, slicing through the jagged cuts which had been made, when last she’d worn the dress.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Agnes fashioned the satin into a tiny outfit for the little calico doll she’d made. The calico doll smiling, just as she’d smiled sixty-two years ago. It looked fearless. She’d been fearless. Now, she feared everything. She feared being outside. She feared being inside. Most of all, she feared circles. Her hands shook and stuttered. A pinprick of deep red soaked into the off-white back of the doll, dripping down its spine.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. They passed the doll between them, admiring Agnes’s work. The delicate face. The tiny hands. The shiny costume. Each one in turn looked. Each one in turn frowned as they lifted up the costume. The doll’s withered calico legs, sewn together.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, the trapeze had flown up into the big top, high above the crowds. Agnes, hair flowing, young body strong and taut, swinging faster and faster. This had been the plan, the pattern. He, on the other side, swinging backwards and forwards, ready to catch her. She had let go of the bar and begun to spin the circle, just like they’d planned. Just like they’d practised. With a safety net. She’d reached out her right hand, just as they’d practised, and felt his fingers brush hers. This was not it. This was not the plan. She circled and circled until she stopped. She had been stopped now for sixty-two years.
Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards. Agnes’s mind jumped more these days. The present was too difficult to hold onto. She circled back to the past.
R. J. Kinnarney is trying to make sense of their tiny corner of the world, through tiny pieces of writing and lots of reading. Work can be found at 100 Words of Solitude, Funny Pearls, Daunt Books, CaféLit, Bluesdoodles, The Daily Drunk, Dwelling Literary, Pure Slush; soon to be at The Hungry Ghost, Free Flash Fiction. Winner: Briefly Write, Southam Book Fest, Didcot Writers. Placed/Highly Commended: Bluesdoodles, Strands International, Glittery Literary. rjkinnarney.com @rjkinnarney