Merle was in Jackson when her nerve went.
One minute she was snuffing out candles on Leslie’s head and the next her hand was shaking so bad she couldn’t aim.
Her finger tightened imperceptibly and red bloomed on the collar of her assistant.
He screamed and screamed and clutched at his ear.
Puddy rushed out onto stage.
“I’m sorry, folks, the show’s over for the night. See the cigarette girl as you leave for a free pass to any ride on the mall. With our compliments. No, everything’s fine, we’ve got it under control, thank you sir. No, we’ve got a doctor. Yes, and a nurse. No, no, everything’s fine, don’t worry. Go have a good time. These things happen. No, not serious. Just a scratch. Yes, yes, please… out, out, thank you. Enjoy the rides.”
Backstage he was less affable.
“What the hell was that, Merle? What the hell happened?”
“I- I don’t know,” she stammered. “Suddenly I couldn’t focus.”
“Jesus, you nearly killed Leslie. You gotta –“
“It’s okay, Puddy, really,” protested Leslie, white-faced and sweating under the care of Nurse Rollo.
“You shut up, I’m tellin’ it. Merle –“
But she was gone, out into the night, the tent flap swinging behind her. Her pistols lay neatly crossed on the barker’s table.