"The Circus Wagon" Short Story Review
I've avoided the backyard entirely for a few years. – Christopher
Written by Andrew S. Fuller
2010, 7,191 words, Fiction
Released on September 1st, 2010
Like most avid readers, there are 'go to' authors in my library that fulfill a mood that I may be in. For straight brutality, I might go to Brian Keene, Jack Ketchum or Richard Laymon. For consistency, I may venture into Richard Matheson's world, as he rarely disappoints. But for straight storytelling, I know I can always rely on the likes of Gary Braunbeck, Joe Lansdale and Stephen King (pre-Misery, or course). Those cats just know how to spin a yarn like no other. When you pick up a book by one of those three, you might as well be gathering around the campfire for a good old fashioned ghost story. They can make just about anything terrifying and, if The Circus Wagon is any indication of Andrew Fuller's skill, he could very well join that club.
In The Circus Wagon, Fuller takes something seemingly innocuous in, you know, a circus wagon, and pumps it full of mystery and terror. The main character, Christopher, had always feared this box-on-wheels ever since he was a child and it sat in his grandmother's backyard. Almost two decades later, Christopher is living in his old hometown and the wagon mysteriously appears in his backyard. What follows is a string of strange accidents and deaths, all centered around the wagon, and Christopher becomes obsessed with it. Yeah, Christopher. Good luck with that.
What's most impressive about this short story is how Fuller manages to envelop you into the story almost immediately. From the first paragraph, I was hooked and he quickly instilled a feeling of dread in that old circus wagon. The tale is extremely King-esque in both his way with words and the obvious similarity to Christine. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Fuller ripped off King by any stretch of the imagination. God no. Rather it's a compliment that Fuller took what is in essence nothing more than a vehicle of sorts and turns it into something you never want to have anything to do with. Ever.
What makes The Circus Wagon work is that Christopher seems reluctant to tell the story. There is almost a hesitation to talk about the enigmatical container and the anxiety he is feeling rolls off the page and into the reader. You desperately want to know more about this caravan, but Fuller only dishes out just enough to add to its mystery, never explaining its past and all you need to know is this thing will fuck you up. Sometimes, that's all the explanation that is needed (although I would love to read a full blown novel on this beast).
As well as the story is written, and as much as I really enjoyed the tale, the last paragraph damn near destroyed the preceding ones. Without giving anything away, because it very well could be a spoiler, I just don't understand why Fuller decided to go the route that he did with those final words. Through the entire narrative, he avoided personalizing the wagon, giving the impression it is what it is. But in just four sentences, he negates everything he set up prior and the carriage is no longer an enigma. Goddammit.
However, last paragraph aside, there is no doubt I will re-read this again in the future, no doubt numerous times, because everything that leads up to it is that good. It's the same reason why I continue to watch Haute Tension. Sure, the ending is a big problem, but overall it's an incredibly solid story and well worth the $2.99.
You can also purchase various eBook editions from Damnation Books.