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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Wow! (03/11/10)

TITLE: Taming of the Tigress
By Rachel Phelps


His smile glinted in the sun like the gilded lettering on the wagons he passed. Several clowns dropped their juggling pins to stare as he strode through the practice rings toward the rope corral where several handlers were currying the ponies. The dust settling on his boots only slightly marred their highly polished surfaces, and he was careful to sweep his cape out of the way of several suspicious piles on the ground. Peter Petruchion was no stranger to the dirty side of circus business, but saw no reason to wallow in it like the workers he saw gathering as he passed.

“Could someone direct me to Monsieur Minola?” Peter asked politely, allowing more than usual of his French accent to curl through his words.

The clowns were fumbling with their pins. Several men who had been pitching the tents shouldered their hammers and edged nearer. The rag-tag gathering seemed more interested in gawking at his fine clothes than helping him. Petruchion stroked his moustache and struggled to keep his eyebrows from raising.

“Monsieur Minola?” He asked again, clearly enunciating each syllable.

Finally, a worker pointed toward the most gilded wagon, painted in violent orange that was chipping in a few places.

“Old Batty’s in there, ‘e is.”

Petruchion nodded and touched the brim of his bowler in acknowledgement.

As he neared the wagon, he heard the worker call out. “Ye’d best be wary, sir, if ye’re expectin’ to sign on with Minola’s Magical Exposition – ye’d likely soil them fancy duds ye’re a-wearin’.”

At that moment, the wagon door burst open, and a large mustachioed man stepped out. “Peter Petruchio, world-famous tamer of big cats of all varieties, I presume?”

Peter tried to look modest but failed. “Monsieur. Minola, it is indeed an honor.”

“Come in, come in, no need for formality,” the man insisted, sweeping him inside.

The interior of the ringmaster’s wagon was in dissarray. Several top hats were tumbled over a pile of capes of varying hues. A stack of posters proclaiming the sideshow’s merits lay in a wrinkled stack on the chair. The heavy odor of hair tonic nearly singed Peter’s nostrils.

“Now, we’re obviously in need of a good lion-tamer, but that’s not my only reason for requesting you.” Minola cleared his throat. “I hear you're in the market for a well-dowried wife.”

Petruchion inclined his head in assent,.

“I have a daughter, one of the finest bareback riders in the kingdom and handsome to boot. She’s in need of a strong hand – something I trust you can give.”

“You said as much in your letter,” Petruchion leaned forward, nearly touching noses with Minola in the wagon’s close confines. “Am I guaranteed the dowry I seek?”

“At least two thousand pounds by the end of the summer.”

Petruchion smiled. “Done, Monsieur. May I see the lady?”

“She’ll be in the ring, practicing, I expect,” Minola said, wiping his forehead with a rather obvious sigh of relief. “You won’t have any trouble picking her out. We’ll finalize everything after you’ve seen her.”

There was a slight twinge of remorse for the lady as Petruchion stepped from the wagon. Still, if the reports of her beauty were true, it would be a battle he would enjoy. She would be no different than any other tigress he had tamed.

There was a pony in the ring, its rider standing carefully balanced on its back. Petruchion moved closer as the rider threw herself to the left, now hanging on only by a hooked leg, her arched body dangerously close to the ground as the pony cantered in a wide circle. He clapped, giving a low whistle of appreciation.

The girl dropped off the pony with a grunt. She rolled once and came to her feet in one motion, blue eyes blazing as she pulled a piece of straw from her fiery hair. She was a small woman, but the sight of her charging at him almost made Petruchion retreat.

“You dithering fool! You could have gotten me killed!”

The husky timbre and broad accent of her voice were as intriguing as the rest of her. Petruchion bowed and flashed his grin.

“Peter Petruchion, dear lady. And you are?”

“Kalliope Minola, and none of that ‘dear lady’ rubbish from you.” The words fairly blistered the air. She slapped his proffered hand. “Don’t think I don’t know why you’re here.”

Before he could gather himself to answer, she had turned back to catch her pony. Petruchion whistled again.

“Minola, you have yourself a deal.”

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Laury Hubrich 03/21/10
I'm not entirely convinced this man can tame the tigress but he will have fun trying. Fun story:)
Patricia Turner03/23/10
I'll say it again as it's been said before; oh the limitation of 750 words! Nevertheless you did a marvelous job of squeezing the first chapter of what promises to be an interesting story. I wonder who ends up taming who? With the single exception of a misplaced comma somewhere the descriptions, characterizations, dialogue; all excellent.
Ann Grover03/23/10
Very well written. I was drawn in... loved the dialogue, genuine with the accents, but not forced, great characterization and descriptions. More?
Beth LaBuff 03/23/10
I love the way you create images, smells, and sounds with your phrases, "allowing more than usual of his French accent to curl through his words." "heavy odor of hair tonic nearly singed Peter's nostrils." I love your symbolism with…"Peter Petruchio, world -famous tamer of big cats of all varieties, " and the "daugher…in need of a strong hand." "Kalliope"-- Perfect name for a lady in the circus! I wanted to feel sorry for Kalliope, about to be thrown into an arranged marriage… but after reading your ending… I think she'll be able to take care of herself. :) Masterful, Rachel! Wow!
Carol Slider 03/23/10
I love this wonderful, creative take on The Taming of the Shrew! I'll bet Kalliope is going to prove a challenge, though...:) An original concept, brilliantly executed!
Mona Purvis03/24/10
My favorite thought in all the wonderfully descriptive phrases was where the men pitching the tents "shouldered their hammers". I could see this so clearly.
I think disarray has one s...
As always, Rachel, you write so very well.

Sarah Elisabeth 03/24/10
Who says you have to write what you know??? This captured the spirit of a circus as if you'd been a ringmaster yourself (have you? ;-)

The title had me grinning right away and the story did not disappoint. Excellent writing, I think they'll make a great couple...I have a feeling she might have a bit of taming to do herself
Loren T. Lowery03/24/10
Aside from the way you told the story which was terrific with it's characters and setting, I truly enjoyed the creative slant you took. Unexpected, refreshing and had me wanting to know more of what might happen.
Pamela Kliewer03/24/10
Great descriptive writing.
Eliza Evans 03/24/10
Loved it! What a great piece.
The dialogue and setting...super fantastic! Excellent show of creativity, here.

Very fine work, Rachel.
Sara Harricharan 03/24/10
Fun story. I sort of like Peter, but not too much, I'm inclined to go with the lady. A lot of details here, which is good for bringing out Minola's character, but I wish I knew more about his daughter. Good job though.