curious · Liz's stories · May

Coming to an Understanding

By Liz Parkes

JULES had been a curious child. The sign, in sweeping gold lettering on a crimson painted board was bound to catch her attention. ‘You’ll never believe your eyes,’ it said. The striped canvas marquee prevented any peeping without the payment of a sixpence which was one week’s pocket money. She’d so nearly turned away.

The man’s hand had been greasy with the doughnut he had been eating and he’d smudged the ticket he’d pulled from the strip. His dark eyes had shown no spark of interest in the slight child as he turned back to scoop up the drip of jam.

The fair had been on the green for a week now and the canvas passageways were heavy with the smell of well trodden grass. In the first enclosure had stood a small white calf, one head slightly larger than the other. There’d been no sign of any stitching. She’d looked, leaning in as close as she dared.

In the next section there had been a tea party. Like her parents on a dull Sunday afternoon waiting for evening service, four dwarves whiled away the hours. They were smaller than she had been yet there was nothing reassuringly childish just an uncomfortable feeling of prying.

There’d been the fat lady with six fingers leaning over to talk to the occupant of the next booth, the tattooed lady, her skin rippling like a snake under a tapestry of intricate pattern and colour.

Coming to the last exhibit, Jules had been astonished. Sitting slouched on a chair was a lady in a floral dress, high heels, frilled blouse and a red bushy beard. She had been taught there had been two sexes ever since Adam and Eve. Who could she ask about this? – certainly not her father who washed her mouth out with lye soap or her timid mother. It was hard not to see that this bearded lady was at ease in the body she had been given. She looked straight through the child and carried on listening to the conversation between the fat lady and her tattooed companion nodding and smiling every now and again.

Jules often thought back to that day. It had been the moment that she realised that there were no boundaries, that sexuality was a fluid concept. The lonely little boy she had been had found a truth about himself that had led to a journey, not always easy but worth the sixpence he had invested fifty years ago.

© Liz Parkes 2016


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