The Iron Writer Challenge #167
2016 Summer Open Challenge #4
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
SzeTeng Ong, Geoff Gore, Vance Rowe
Hear Their Roar
The only sound lingering in his ears was the echo of the lions’ roar, the low feral sound undeterred by the fuzzy sound recording. A horn blared to signal the end of the clown’s talk and he shot to his feet, shoving his way out till he was free from the hall’s confines. Afterwards, with the school a speck in the distance behind him, his gaze settled on the clouds trying not to imagine them as lions lying on their side after a good whipping.
“Didn’t you enjoy the talk at all? You used to love clowns, Jason.”
“That was before I knew how they treated animals,” he muttered, picking at his cutlery restlessly.
Gingerly a bowl was lowered to his placemat. A single sniff of the aroma of the brown substance was all it took to sound the alarm. “Rabbit stew?”
“Only the best!”
“I thought I told you to stop!”
“You will eat whatever I bring to the table or nothing at all,” a low voice spoke, menace burning underneath. He didn’t have to turn around to know that it was him, donning a wolf-skin, still sweating after hunting.
There was no room for argument in his tone and he did not want to feel his father’s wrath. Fist clenched, he spat into the bowl of rabbit stew and slid out of the kitchen with his mother already starting her berating.
8 mice, 3 pigs, 1 cat, 13 of them.
The 13th was him, greeted by 12 voices welcoming him back to the abandoned barn. They were eager to have their go at prancing in puddles after the light shower before, and the headcount was all the more harder to carry out. He stepped gingerly as thin-tailed bodies scuttled around his feet, while Twelve meowed and wound her tail around his legs. The pigs’ pen was noisy, and he smiled at the game of tag ongoing. After a few minutes the speckled pig scurried out of the barn for her daily walk, drawing from him a smile as he took her place.
The next day was tense, though the clown had not returned for another talk. He was silent, shifting his attention to the dish she was cooking instead. The pot was bubbling just like yesterday, but the scent was different. “What is this?”
“Pork soup, since you didn’t want rabbit stew?”
Speckled black and white, the pig skin hanging by her side served only as a trigger. His fists clenched and he refused to look up as the pot churned cheerfully.
“How’s the pork?”
As his father strode towards him, he grabbed the pot’s handle, tipping the steaming hot soup over the stove. From behind him his mother yelped but made no move towards the flying liquid. The wolf pelt could only raise an arm to block himself, the boiling soup splashing all over his face and torso.
The howl rang low and long. It lacked the buzzing of a sound recording, but the roar pounded against his skull, urging him away from Fifteen’s dried skin and cooked thighs. Roar still ringing in his ears, he took flight again.
The perfume wafted by his nose as he sat at the bar with his drink. He turned and saw a beautiful lady taking the seat next to him.
“Is this seat taken?” she asked with a smile.
“No, it isn’t,” was his simple reply. He then tried to gather the courage to say something to her when the bartender walked over and asked her what she was having.
“A gin and tonic, please.”
“Put that on my tab, Pete.” The lady thanked him.
“That is an intoxicating perfume. What’s it called?” he asked as he tried to make conversation with the beauty next to him.
“You like it? It’s a new perfume called ‘By the Numbers’. It got rave reviews in the fashion mags so I had to try it.”
When the bartender returned with her drink, he looked at the man and asked, “Another drink, Rabbit?”
The man winced when he heard the bartender call him Rabbit and with a sigh he said, “Yes.”
“Rabbit? There has to be a story there,” the woman said with a smile.
“Yes, I am afraid there is. To make it shorter, I used to be a track star in college and they called me rabbit because I was so quick and sadly, it is one of those names that stick with you.”
“I think it’s cute.”
The man blushed a bit and replied, “Thank you, but I hate it.”
As they nursed their drinks they got to know each other a bit better. When they finished their drinks, the woman asked, “Do you want to go to my place?”
“Yes, I do,” he replied with a smile.
“We’ll take my car and then I will bring you back here later,” the woman offered and the man graciously accepted.
They climbed into her car and they both laughed as a drunk clown staggered up to the car and he knocked on the passenger side window. “Open it and see what he wants,” she said with a chuckle. The man opened the window and the woman said, “Hey, clown. This is Rabbit.”
“Good-night, Rabbit,” the clown replied with and squirted a liquid from the flower on his lapel into the man’s face and he passed out. The woman then went through the man’s pockets and found his car keys. She handed them to the clown and then she drove off with the unconscious man. She drove to a diner that had a huge barn out behind it and drove up to the barn. The clown followed them in the man’s car and he dragged the unconscious man from the car, stripped his clothes off and she went through the pockets. He tied the man to a table and began sharpening his knives.
The next day a truck driver walked into the diner and asked the cook what the special is today. The cook chuckled and replied, “Rabbit Stew.”
“What the hell happened back there?”
I look across to the driver’s seat. The clown’s red rimmed eyes are focused on the road ahead. He says nothing, instead brutally jerking the gear stick, taking a sharp left before slamming an oversized foot sharply down to the floor. The car shudders in protest but takes the corner and once again accelerates.
I watch as the numbers on the dash climb steadily back toward 100.
I was supposed to be the ringmaster, but it’s the clown who’s calling the shots now. I look down at the blood splattered across my blue suit pants. It’s already turning a crusty brown, indistinguishable from the remnants of last night’s rabbit stew. Last night, when we went through the plan one last time. Except…this wasn’t part of the plan.
“This is bad. This is very bad.”
“Shut up!” Barked the clown.
“We need to get this car off the road.”
“We need to get to the hideout, like we planned.”
“Like we planned? What the hell happened to ‘like we planned’ when you decided to turn the bank lobby into a war zone?”
“The disguises have been good up until now aint they? How was I supposed to know that woman would have a clown phobia?”
“You didn’t have to fire! We agreed, the guns were for show. I didn’t even know yours as loaded.”
“What was I supposed to do?”
“Well not kill her for a start!”
“She was screaming the place down. When people scream at me I get jumpy, okay?
“You shot a woman and her child for God’s sake!”
There was a long silence before the clown spoke again. “We’ll be okay.”
“We’ll be okay? What about that lady and her kid?”
“What can I say? Mistakes were made. Son, let me give you some advice, if you wanna survive in this game you gotta try not to think about it too hard.”
“I want out. I want no further part in this. I can still see the kid’s face!”
“Don’t think about their faces, otherwise you’ll go insane. They were collateral damage. Just numbers. Granted, you gotta try and keep those numbers down, but its numbers, that’s all.”
We’re on the open road now. The clown starts to relax a little. One hand leaves the steering wheel and fumbles around for something inside his oversized tunic.
“We’re nearly there,” he announces.
Ahead looms the abandoned barn. We slow to a halt and the clown looks across from behind the steering wheel. “You sure you still want out?”
I steel a glance back at the two sacks of cash lying across the back seat, but all I can see are the faces again. Eventually I just nod.
“That’s too bad.” He pulls the Glock from his tunic and points it directly at my head. “But then again two hundred grand goes a whole lot further when you don’t have to split it in two.”
“Don’t take it personally. It’s just numbers.”