Ken Poyner lives in the lower right hand corner of Virginia, with his power-lifter wife and a number of house
animals. His 2013 e-book, Constant Animals, forty-two brief but unruly fictions, is available at all the common e-book sites, and you should go buy it so more brewery workers have jobs. Recent work is out in Corium, Analog Science Fiction, Spittoon, Poet Lore, Mobius and many other places. He Webs at kpoyner.com.
All the years I have worked as a circus bear have given me the talents I prize most. My balance from the ball is beyond the understanding of ordinary bears. My swiftness of paw is unseen in the common elements of my species. I can juggle sometimes as many as three objects as high as my forehead. I know I am only lightly batting objects in the air, my own paws unable to grasp and guide. But I do it so well that no one understands the edge of the artifice.
And yet, all these years in my former jobs, I have kept the understanding of what it is to be a real bear. I have kept always in one serrated corner of my regimented mind the memories of foraging, of establishing fatefully what of the roughage around me is edible. I have remembered always that I have no natural predators, and that I once idly terrorized the small, insignificant orders of beasts lurking around me.
I strode the line between servitude and mastery. And I realized that, in fact, the circus master with his suit and tails, his useless and simply-for-show soulless whip, was doing only the same as I. Performers. Entertainers. Even the ring master was such as I.
So why not apply? I wriggled into this suit and had my wife cinch up my drop dead conservative tie. With her sensuous electric fingers she can do things I can only watch. She patiently combed out my wire hair and filled out the initial application with the information I dictated to her from the safety of my living room chair.
I met her, if you care to know, after her fall from the high wire: a fall I broke quite happenstance, rising to the audience’s feral delight on my unmatched hind legs, my front legs extended to maintain my perfect balance. My act was proceeding independently along its own, well planned course. And there she was: a blur of motion materializing into my dumbstruck arc of limbs, enough weight that holding her I could not stand as upright as my script demanded. And for no filed reason, that lovely fall was serendipitously broken in the bargain.
Since that time I have come to believe that I can do anything. And this is one of the things I can do. My strength is legendary, my luck obvious. You must understand this: when I place my arms on a ledger, magic will happen. It will be a dark, balancing wizardry that anything with a history that fits well in a department store suit cannot give you. This march of dry numbers in dry columns is what I was made for. Balance this against that, keep like objects together. I am a natural, and trained to be so. My wife says that I am quite the omnivore.