Tales from the Golden Goose: The knife-thrower's new girl
When I was young I ran away from home and joined a circus. The circus master was a dwarf with rings on all his fingers and in his ears. He looked me up and down and said that since I was so skinny I should work with the knife-thrower. The knife-thrower needed a new girl anyhow, he said.
What happened to the last girl? I asked.
There was … an accident, the circus master said.
I didn’t ask him what sort of accident. I’d used up most of my nerve just leaving home. I didn’t want to hear anything that might send me running back there.
I found the knife-thrower practicing in a tent. I watched him for a while before he noticed me. He was beautiful. He was like a knife himself. His sleek dark hair was the hilt, his lean golden body the blade. I imagined if I touched his cheekbone I’d cut myself.
Every evening I wore a blindfold and a red gown and I spun on a wheel and the knife-thrower threw his knives at me. When he’d thrown them all the people would applaud and cheer and I would climb down from the wheel and take a bow with the knife-thrower. When I looked behind me there was the outline of my body in knives.
Many women came and went from the knife-thrower’s caravan, but he never invited me. Never touched me. He only talked to me when he’d been drinking. One night he said, I’ll tell you a secret. I can only throw knives at someone I don’t love and who doesn’t love me. That’s why I need you. If we fell in love, I would lose my nerve and I could hurt you.
What happened to your last girl? I asked. He didn’t answer. I went and took a closer look at the wheel. A few of the holes made by all those knife-tips, night after night, traced out my skinny girl shape. But most of the holes traced the lines of someone more curvy, more a woman. In the centre of the wheel there was only one hole. Where her heart would be. And mine.
Every evening he threw his knives and made the shape of my body on the wheel. Every night I cried alone in my bed and hated him. Then one evening I ran away from the circus, and joined another circus. I married the circus master, a dapper man with a gold pin. Now I sit in a cage outside the big tent and I take people’s coins.
Some nights I wake up in my bed and it is spinning, spinning.