In Tents by Andy Kaiser is a look at Con Men (Con Persons?), Charlatans, circus performers, monsters, and the supernatural. All this for USD 3.99 or free through Kindle Unlimited. It is a very strange story which I believed could have been written from a cloud of hallucinogens. It is interesting in that it has strange and weird creatures. Ariel is beautiful except when she morphs into various forms of Alligator Woman. There is Half-a Man which is a rather self-describing name. Think of a person standing and a line is drawn from the middle of the head south in a 180- degree direction. Remove one-half and you have (fill in the blank). Penny is the owner of the rather strange circus which prides itself on being a family. She only looks perpetually pregnant because her stomach is the largest and most prominent part of her body. Another name appropriate character is Archie. He runs a game or concession at the circus. By shooting arrows and hitting the bullseye three times in a row, players can receive their heart’s desire. Archie will make sure the competitor’s most wanted object is in stock. Outsiders are not welcome to join the circus; new members must be invited. There is only one entity that does the inviting.
Joining the circus is something Dario must consider at some point. Although an excellent archer and possibly a fake Native American, his boss is constantly threatening to fire him. Weeko of the almost famous Weeko’s Cave believes that Dario is somewhat of a loose cannon. Weeko can never anticipate what Dario will say to visiting tourists. They have come to the cave to hear authentic stories of Indian lore as related by Dario. Men and male children pay more attention to Dottie’s chest than Dario’s narration but if the dollars come in, Weeko is happy. Weeko’s Cave is in Arizona which is almost a picture in a dictionary to define hot. Tourist traffic is down, Weeko is going broke, and suddenly for no good economic reason, the circus has come to Lago Springs. Weeko does not need competition.
Dario visits Mad Moon’s Shining Circus after a day of narration at the Cave. He has a question which he poses to the screaming barker trying to attract people to pay money and enter a freak show. Dario wants to know why any person would bring a circus to an impoverished, low population area like Lago Springs. The barker’s answer sets the sinister tone for what is coming in this 138-page read. “Mad Moon’s Shining Circus picks where it wants to go. It wanted to come here. Because sometimes you need a circus!” (Kindle Location 209). During this first visit to the circus Dario, a skilled archer tries his luck at Archie’s concession … and loses. There was that sound of a screaming woman in pain at the same time he shot his third arrow, but he felt that it shouldn’t have affected his aim. Leaving the circus late at night when it was almost deserted, Dario trips over the body of Dottie. She has been beaten badly enough to warrant hospitalization. Dario gets little information from Dottie but is eventually able to figure out she was beaten by someone belonging to the circus. Police investigate and decide to leave it alone. Circuses move on.
But Dario does not move on and he revisits the circus determined to find out who has hurt Dottie. Once his investigation begins, the strange backstories of the circus performers are revealed layer by layer. And some of the performers change layer by layer. There is one strange element to the story I could not relate to. Dario’s father was an alcoholic and probably died of the disease. Under the influence of alcohol, Dario’s father was vicious and cruel. Throughout the story, supporting characters who knew Dario’s father warn Dario he must strive to never become his father but to become a better man. By the end of the story, I could not figure out what contribution Dario’s father and Dario’s memories of him made to the story.
For readers who like descriptions of monsters and how monsters and humans fare as a result of violent confrontations, this is a good, quick, weekend read. I gave it four Amazon stars. Blame that on Dario’s father.