“The Soul Must Go On” by Timothy Gager
At forty, I was the oldest man to run away to join the circus and I stayed about nine years until I got sick, very sick. My job had been to clean up the camp and feed two hobo dogs, Joe and Bangles, who were found somewhere along the way of our traveling show. Quickly I was unable to do even that menial task. Doc Snickens offered me some of his miracle cure but I’d sworn off drinking recently. I should have taken a slug, but it was a matter of principle by that point. If I knew then what I knew now I would have stayed a drunk, never worried about what town or even what time it was. Now I knew everything there was to know.
The trailer bounced to the next place as Maggie sat over me. She was known as “The Amazing Woman with No Arms or Legs” who could drive a car and play video games with her nose. The crowds loved Maggie. What they didn’t know was that the car and the games were pre-programmed. A corpse could have driven that car but everyone wanted to believe in a good story which would warm their lives.
When the day came Maggie had a certain light about her and she reached down to give me a hug with the soft arms of a million Gods.
I wanted to be cremated, but there was not time. The show had to move on so Snickens and Wolfboy built a huge bonfire and hoisted my stiff body in. I had left my that body three hours and thirteen minutes ago and was watching from a tree so I wouldn’t have to rise out of those damn ashes. My body crackled in the flames but my soul was totally clean. Snickens offered to do a eulogy but he hemmed and hawed, finally admitted he had nothing to say. Maggie wheeled in with a note in her lap and passed it to Doc Snickens.
“Is that from him?” Wolfboy asked and pointed to the fire.
“It is,” Snickens said. “It says, I know how this will end, burned in a campground that I would have lovingly kept up but that’s OK. If anyone wants to honor me by spreading my ashes wherever you see fit or appropriate in my honor, that would be the best I could have ever hoped for. Additionally, if you wanted to keep any of me, it would be fine too. You all were the family I never had.”
The next morning Wolfboy and Snickens raked my remains in with the dirt. They tossed two bits of bone to Joe and Bangles but the dogs only sniffed at them. The caravan was ready to go but I knew where I was going. I knew that hell didn’t exist for anyone after they died—but it was a place that we all had to travel away from.