“The ring, Jack?” Marko prompted, and Rosemary became aware that Jack was already there on the carousel, waiting for her. His long, cool fingers closed over Rosemary’s hand and she flinched, just a little, although he had warned her he grew his fingernails long as part of his act.
Rosemary heard footsteps. The Incredible Frog Boy–his name was Roy Pruett and he was forty if he was a day–shuffled onto the carousel and pushed something into Jack’s hands. Rosemary felt the flat, confused webbing that should have been separate fingers on Roy’s hand brush against her cheek, and then he was gone.
“By the power invested in me,” Marko intoned, “by the mighty auspices of the Blake Brothers Big-Top Bonanza Extravaganza–” his pause was well-timed, but the effect was shattered by Norah’s tremendous nose-clearing honk into the pillow-slip. Marko glared at the offense and Norah shrank back against the calliope, wringing her hands and batting away Thumbo’s further attempts to minister to her.
“–I now pronounce you RAT AND RAT-WIFE!” Marko said as Jack eased the ring onto Rosemary’s finger.
Rosemary’s heart skipped a little as Jack tucked her arm through his to guide her between the painted unicorns and bears toward the low-slung double swan seat on the carousel.
“Begin!” Marko shouted, stepping down from the platform as Norah, sniffling, fidgeted through the sheet music until she found something appropriate.
One of the roustabouts threw a lever and the carousel lurched into motion to the strains of “Love Makes The World Go Round,” complete with steam and leiderhosen.
Rosemary and Jack circled, circled again, and three times made their union complete in the eyes of the circus family.
“Greetings from Baraboo!” the card exclaimed in bright red letters above a picture of an old-timey circus wagon.
Aunt Fanny held it at arm’s length, trying to make out the message without resorting to her reading glasses. A photograph fell out of the card as she opened it. Groaning, Aunt Fanny bent to pick it up.
“Dear Aunt Fanny,” she read aloud from the card, “Congratulations to you–you’re a great aunt again!”
Aunt Fanny shook her head and glanced at the photograph. It was a picture of Rosemary and the two older boys, all smiling at the camera, and pointing toward the blanket-wrapped bundle Rosemary cradled across her knees.
“Hmmph…” Aunt Fanny snorted. “Just like the others. Looks like a drowned rat.”
She placed the card carefully back in the envelope, smoothing the ragged flap where she’d torn it open. She propped the snapshot against a ceramic clown that Rosemary sent from Sarasota the year before.
“Well, I never,” Aunt Fanny said, shaking her head. And she never did.