The singing armadillo and the rat child were nowhere to be found, and Bernie was in a rage. How could two of the most profitable freaks in his sideshow just walk away, especially since he locked them in their cages at night? No, it wasn’t humane, but Bernie was anything but humane. He was a foul feeble man with no heart and an appetite for fried chickpeas. And now, as he drove around the streets of Hobbs, New Mexico in his beat up old pickup cradling a sawed-off shotgun in his lap, he was nursing a mean streak bent on violence and vengeance. After all, it was he who had saved the rat child from the orphanage in Tijuana (well, maybe abducted was more appropriate) but still, the strange little being would never have been adopted and likely had lived a horrible life until a premature death caused by the advancing symptoms of its disease. And that damned armadillo. No, it didn’t actually sing, but the noise it emitted when a faint electrical current passed through its body was somewhat melodious and people would pay to hear it, as stupid as that might seem. Up ahead, Bernie saw the flashing lights of a police car, and using his criminal instincts to their fullest, slipped his shotgun under the seat of the pickup. As he rolled by the scene, he saw the rat child’s body crumpled in an insignificant heap and the armadillo crouched on top, it’s teeth bared to prevent anyone, including the patrolman with the drawn pistol, from bringing further harm to his dear and loyal friend. Bernie started to roll down the window to offer his help when the sound of the patrolman’s pistol rang out. With no hope of recovering any of his investment, Bernie swore and pressed the accelerator down, heading back to his Traveling Circus of Curiosities and Monstrosities, Featuring the Remarkable Rat Child.

Of course, the sign would need to be revised.

Walter Ate a Peanut and Passed On

Greta knew that Walter couldn’t eat peanuts. He was deathly allergic to them. His parents had discovered this one day when he popped a peanut into his ever-exploring mouth at the age of two. He was rushed to the hospital and from that day forward was never again given a peanut or anything containing peanuts.

As he grew older, he often wondered what they tasted like and what he was missing. In 1955, he met and married Greta Moussleman, the love of his life, with whom he sired and helped raise five children without peanuts, for fear that one of them might have Walter’s deadly allergy. One by one, the children would secretly discover that they did not share their father’s burden, and would go on to lead full and happy peanut-eating lives.

So it was a shock to hear of their father’s sudden death, and even more disturbing that it had been caused by ingestion of not one, but upwards of the equivalent of 35 peanuts. Equivalent is the word used, because the peanuts had been dry roasted and finely ground into a powder that had been sprinkled onto Walter’s morning oatmeal. Greta insisted it wasn’t she who had ground and sprinkled the peanuts, and her children could find no reason to suspect that their father’s mate of some 56 years would have cause for murder.

Shortly thereafter, Greta passed away like so many forlorn mates of deceased loved ones and the mystery of Walter’s death continued to haunt the children until Eric, the oldest son, discovered a secret cash of peanuts in his father’s workshop cabinet, along with a sealed envelop that read: upon my death.

Eric was shocked to read the words of the letter within, and decided that none of his siblings should ever know their father’s final thoughts about life, about the miserable years he spent in a loveless marriage, his hatred of his wife, and how the irresistible urge to try the forbidden legume was more appealing than continuing to put up with Greta.

Eric shortly thereafter became depressed and went on medication.

No one could understand why.