Evan wandered among a collection of small tents occasionally being drawn in to test his skill at various games that were offered. At the far end of the field Evan came across a tent with the label of Freaks! above its entrance. He went in curious to see what this might mean. The lighting of the tent was kept very dim perhaps so that fooling the eye was easier. The first thing that confronted Evan out of the gloom was a large tank of water in which swam a fierce eyed mermaid, next he came across an incredibly large man who had various weights before him to prove his prowess, Evan noted that he had a hefty chain around his ankle. There were other strange creatures and people that disturbed Evan’s sense of reality in one way or another. The very last display he found was tucked into farthest reaches of the tent. It was a small man with long red hair who sat alone in the middle of a cage. He was by far the most forlorn and least unusual of all the beings Evan had seen. There was a little plaque in front of the cage that read Foxman. Evan felt a twinge of sympathy for this sad figure. He stepped closer to the bars. The man stirred and raised his shaggy head. Evan found himself gazing into intense light hazel eyes. It was hard to define their expression, somewhere between rage and despair. Evan took a small step back but did not turn away instead he asked;
“Why are you called a Foxman?”
The man smiled wryly, “ stay long enough and you’ll find out.”
“Are you a prisoner here?”
“Would you want to be kept in a cage, of course I am a captive.”
“I don’t think anything should be caged,” offered Evan nervously.
“Well what are you going to do about it?”
Evan considered this, “I could let you out”
“And all the others?”
Evan glanced around, “no there would be mayhem and we would get caught but I could let you out,”
“Would you?” The Foxman seemed unsure perhaps he had been disappointed by people many times. He raised his brows and looked Evan up and down.
“You know I believe you would,” he moved closer to the bars and spoke more softly,
“Come back when they are doing the main show tonight and I’ll show you how to free me.”
Evan nodded his heart beating fast. When he left the tent he walked around the rest of the circus thinking distractedly of his promise. I must be mad, I don’t even know him and I don’t owe him anything. Despite all these thoughts Evan knew he would go back, it was as though he had recognized a kindred spirit or at least someone who knew what despair was and he couldn’t bear to leave the Foxman trapped.
Towards dusk the circus folk began to heard everyone towards the main large tent calling everyone into the bigtop to see the show. Evan hung back and slipped out of sight, he waited until he heard music and laughter , a sign that the show was underway. He went back to the freak tent and eased his way under the hem. The interior was in darkness now, he moved carefully around the edge of the tent, his hand on the outer canvas. The strong man stirred, “Who’s there.” he called. Evan froze...
“It’s just a friend of mine” the Foxman spoke up.
“You have no friends,” the strong man scoffed but he turned away sighing.
Evan continued his progress and at last came to the Foxman’s cage.
“I didn’t think you would come,” said the Foxman eagerly
“Neither did I for a while, what do I do now?”
“See that post, there is a nail in it with some keys hanging off it.”
Evan went over and felt around until he felt the cold metal of the keys, he closed his hand carefully around them so that they would not rattle.
“Now find the one with a clover shaped head that opens my cage.”
Evan felt over the keys and found the one, he slipped it into the lock hoping that his instincts were right and he would come to no harm.
The Foxman waited for the click and then gently slid open his cage. He took the keys from Evan and put them back on the hook.
“We could still free the other’s” offered Evan
“ No you were right,” muttered the Foxman, “ in truth they have no liking for me and would probably rouse the circus folk.”
He went to the tent wall and lifted its edge, “Crawl under,” he urged Evan. Evan complied and then held the fabric up for the Foxman to follow.
Once outside the red haired man stood still for a moment taking in deep breaths of air.
“Oh that feels good,” he crowed and then glanced at Evan and smiled.
“Hey what’s your name?”
“Mine is Taren pleased to meet you.” He offered a hairy hand.
“Do you live around here?”
“Yes but I’m not a local.”
“Got any food? I would appreciate something to eat.”
It seemed to Evan that freedom had transformed his new companion who was becoming more confident by the second.”
He smiled, “Come on home then.”
He led Taren carefully around the tents sticking to the shadow. As soon as they were beyond the circus ground they both broke into a run. When no pursuit was evident the two slowed to a walk. Evan lead the Foxman at a sedate pace back to Helona’s house. At one point on a dark street along the way some dogs started barking and Taren leapt sideways in fright.
“Is anything wrong?” asked Evan.
“ No, I just don’t like dogs.”
“Oh well we don’t have one,” Evan tried to reassure his odd companion.