Jessie threw the cellphone across the room and almost shouted, forgetting the people in the lab above him. He looked around at all the blinking lights of the computer and picked up a hammer from the tool box.
“Jess? You okay?”
Jessie raised his head and looked at the hatch in the roof of the server room. Ellen’s face stared at him.
“Whatcha doing with that hammer?” she asked.
“Nothing,” he said, and dropped the hammer back in the toolbox. The clatter bounced around the walls and made her face twist.
Her head disappeared and her legs stretched down. She lowered into the library tunnel and stood by the ladder.
“Me and Debbie were thinking lunch. Maybe going over to the taco place?”
“Okay. Need me to watch the desk or something?”
“Nah, we’re just gonna run over and come back. Caleb came in from Tent City for a bit to help out. Want anything?”
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
He shook his head and turned back the screen.
“Was it about your daddy being a clown?”
He looked at her and laughed. Not many people had ever said that out loud.
“I guess,” he said, “but mostly because he’s my dad.”
“I get that. My daddy drank some. A bunch, and he would get loud. Talk a lot about being big. I know what it’s like to wish your dad would just go away, you know?”
“Yeah. I mean, if I could only tell why he wasn’t with the… I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know what he wants.”
“Where was he?”
“You said he wasn’t with something.”
“Oh, yeah. The family. The circus.”
“Your family’s in the Circus Lands?” she asked. Her eyes grew wide.
He nodded, “They came back into the county a month or so ago. I ran away with my cousin to join the Air Force. S’wear I got my computer training.”
“So your dad wants you to come back home to the circus?”
“More complicated than that. When I was younger, my mom took me away, said he was dead. By the time I learned about the Circus Lands, I guess he and it had parted ways. They… they invited me in but me and Dave, my cousin, we just didn’t want to.”
“Funny thing, he used to be here but now he’s a big shot up there. Gave me his old IT position.”
“Always thought it was cool we had a circus community here. So your dad used to be in charge of the Circus Lands, but not when you were there?”
“Something like that. People come and go, nomads. Different families take charge at different seasons. Now’s the Cartwright's turn. But they don’t seems to be answering their phones, so I can’t get a straight answer.”
Ellen made a noise in her throat and turned back to the ladder, “So, still no on the tacos?”
“Nah, but thanks.”
Ellen started to climb up.
“Thanks for talking to me about this. You mind not telling anyone?”
“No problem. But only if you tell me something?”
“What’d you do in the circus?”
Jessie smiled, “Clowning. Knife throwing.”
She grinned, “Secrets safe with me. I’m good keeping secrets.”
Jessie picked up the phone and checked to see if it worked. It did, so he found Dave’s name in the contacts again and kept calling.