I saw movement through the door window. The curtain was pulled aside briefly then the inside door opened as Micah held the storm door for me.
“You brought a friend.” The man in front of me was absolutely enormous. His voice sounded like rolling thunder and his head, completely surrounded by shimmering white hair and beard, looked like it belonged to a lion—an albino lion. He stepped aside so I could enter.
“I did.” Micah gently steered me through the door. “Abe, this is Miss Cleo Blair.”
Abe Abernathy took the hand I offered in his huge, rough hand, a hand with knuckles so misshapen by what I imagined was arthritis, that his fingers seemed to be growing sideways.
“Miss Blair,” he said in a deep bass. “Come in.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Abernathy.” I was aware my voice shook but it wasn’t from fear. He totally overwhelmed me. “Micah’s told me so much about you.”
“Here.” Abe pulled out a wooden chair at the table and moved a stack of newspapers from it onto the floor. “Have a seat. Micah.” He nodded to one of the two remaining chairs. “You don’t mind sitting in the kitchen, I hope. I spend most of my time in here. As you can see.”
“I can’t imagine growing up in a town like Halcyon Beach. It must have been fun to be a kid here.”
He snorted. Now, closer to him, I could see his eyes buried deep in his skull. They were the palest color—somewhere between gray and blue, but so light they almost seemed to have no irises at all. “I suppose it was fun when I was a little kid. You know, back then parents weren’t so watchful. In the summer, when the place was packed with tourists, me and my buddies were a pack of little hooligans. It’s a wonder we didn’t get our butts whipped every day.”
Micah was grinning. “I can imagine. No end of mischief to get up to.”
“Micah mentioned you worked in a sideshow for awhile,” I said.
“Sideshows was popular back after the war. I was a big, strapping fellow. All winter long I worked for my old man building and repairing the shops and the rides and stuff.”
“I’ve never seen a sideshow,” I said. “I don’t think they have them any more, do they?”
“Sort of. They’ve changed. When I was a boy they had what were called freak shows. Not very nice when you think about it.” I loved the deepness of his voice. I thought he could tell me anything and I’d sit enthralled just to listen to that voice. “Most of what they called freaks back then was poor unfortunates born the way they were—Siamese twins and the dog-faced girl and the lobster boy. Giants and midgets and the human skeleton. But by the time I was a youngster most of them poor souls was gone. We had a bearded lady for awhile. I don’t remember what happened to her. There was a tattooed girl and a mermaid.” He turned to Micah and winked. “I lived with those two girls for a few summers and can swear that the one’s tattoos weren’t any more for real than the other one’s tail was.”
Micah, who was taking a swallow of tea, choked and Abe slapped him on the back.