Gasher's Writing Playlist
Each month, Gasher asks a former contributor to donate a playlist of songs that they have or actively listen to while writing. We then share this playlist to inspire new writing. This month, we take a listen to our managing editor, Erin Armstrong's playlist. Take a listen and follow our playlist on Spotify.
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APPROACH #4: THE CHAIR
Holding the lower side of a chair or stool in the face of a lion will cause disorientation. The lion will try to focus on all four legs at once and enter a state of confusion, thus making the creature susceptible to instruction.
The Ringmaster had adopted the lion as a project. Idle hands were no good—his life prior to taking over the circus had been proof enough of that. He’d thought at times if he only stuck to a hobby like collecting coins or lifting weights or bird watching, he might have infused purpose in his life and been happier for it.
He’d never been good at taking care of himself. Frozen orange chicken and Johnny Walker—these were the meals he subsisted on, left to his own devices in his old life. A multivitamin when he remembered it. He stretched his budget around these things. Stay drunk enough and you didn’t need much.
Lion taming, now, was a daunting task.
He avoided Lucille those first couple days, and in the process forgot to feed her. He rationalized the choice, after he’d realized his mistake the second night, thinking maybe the lack of food would make the animal weaker and thus easier to corral. He just as quickly second-guessed this line of thought. Hunger could make a creature weak, but it wasn’t it just as likely to make her angry? Desperate for anything she might eat? Starved for flesh?
So, the Ringmaster found a folding chair.
Lucille wasn’t his only stressor. Before he joined the circus—let alone took it over, the Ringmaster had avoided the spotlight. In school, he’d been the sort of student to feel intense anxiety before delivering a presentation, right up to his more apathetic teenage and adult years, when he overcame fear only to the extent that he stopped caring about much of anything at all.
Joining the circus, let alone in the Ringmaster’s coat meant needing to not only speak in public, but perform. He’d affected the identity of a Chinese man who spoke only broken English, and had since struggled to decide which words to omit, which grammar to flub to not only play his part, but convince an audience of this identity. He had all of that to consider, not to mention managing the logistics of a circus—charting which towns to travel through, and how to ration ticket sale revenue into gasoline for the trucks, and three square meals a day for the entire traveling crew.
The Ringmaster went to Lucille after a particularly draining performance—one for which he felt certain he’d slipped and spoken too properly, blowing his character for the both the audience and the circus performers. He thought this exhausted state might numb some of his fear around the lion. That had to be an advantage, didn’t it?
Lucille advanced on him when he got in the cage. So he lifted the chair, showing her all four legs.
He hadn’t slept well since he took over the circus. He recalled the old days of drunken stupor when he’d sleep away whole afternoons and wake just in time to eat and drink some more. That seemed like heaven—the good old days, regardless of how miserable he’d felt in the moment. Before all of the corners of his life collapsed in on him. Everything distracted from everything else until his legs were too weak to support him, his head too heavy to carry. And though Lucille was transfixed on the four legs at first, the effect only lasted so long. She picked one leg and clenched her jaw down on it. She couldn’t sink her teeth into steel properly, but she could tear the chair from the Ringmaster’s grasp.
He fled. He escaped the cage just in time. As he lay on the far side of the cage door Lucille stared him down, growling, pawing at the bars. His heart pounded.
He had had not tamed the lion that day. Far from it. But as his pulse throbbed in his neck and his adrenalin surged, he felt roused, alive, untamed himself.
For one night, perhaps that was a good thing.
Read more from Spring 2018