She sells seashells by the seashore. Of course, there isn’t much call for seashells these days. Not since the circus moved in. Seems like people just aren’t interested in good, old-fashioned seashells anymore. They just want the cheap thrill of a dancing bear and the spun gold sugar high of pink cotton candy. But she’s still standing there, down at the end of the pier, where the wind comes in over the waves and tousles her hair and dries her nail polish with a speed she just can’t get any other way, even with a hairdryer. She’s still there because she thinks some things are just too important to compromise.

Her father visits her sometimes. He’ll show up at lunchtime or in the early evening, after his shift at the plant is over. The sun sets and lights rise, and he comes by, smelling of motor oil and toasted peanuts. He talks about work, but she knows that he’s been at the circus. She doesn’t blame him. After all, everyone else goes too. She doesn’t blame them either. Bearded ladies and strong men and a whirling trapeze are a lot more exciting than the slow swooping seagulls and the old men with bait buckets who stand at the end of the pier. But she doesn’t go. She’ll never go. She doesn’t like clowns. But mostly, she believes in something. She believes that some things take time to make and time to enjoy. She believes that there is nothing like the curve of a shell, held tightly, while the ocean beats time against the shore. She believes that someday soon the big top will be folded up and the unicyclists will ride away in a cloud of dust. The circus will be gone, but she’ll still be there; three for a dollar, except dollars (sand) for three. She sells seashells because she believes. She sells seashells by the seashore.

- - -

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear. But he wasn’t the bear, was he? Not until tonight, anyway. Tonight, things were going to change. Big time.

For the last three years Fuzzy had been playing second banana, understudy, if you will. He went out there every night and busted his ass, but did he ever get those prime spotlight numbers with the balancing ball or the ukulele? Oh no. Earle just had to be the one. Earle was the one who had trained with the Russians. Earle was the one who had saved that girl from the burning train. Earle Earle Earle.

But the salt air in this latest stop had given Earle a nasty case of mange and it was finally time for Fuzzy to shine. About sixty seconds from now, the lights would go black and the music would swell and the crowd would go crazy and it wouldn’t be Earle walking out into that spotlight, it would be him. Him. Fuzzy Wuzzy. The bear.

He was sick with nerves. His paws were sweating and his stomach tumbled like a Flying Valencia. What if they hated him? Would he ever be able to face the lions again? Would the clowns just laugh and laugh? Oh god, this was all a terrible mistake. He felt like an imposter, a fake, a fool. He couldn’t go out there. They’d see through him the second he stepped out into the ring. He looked around for somewhere to vomit.

Ok, deep breath. It was going to be fine. It was going to be great. They were going to love him. This was the moment he’d been waiting for. Earle was nothing. Earle was a hack. Earle had all the subtlety of the Human Cannonball. His ham-fisted emotional burlesques were a nightly embarrassment. Fuzzy, on the other hand, he was an artist. This was his moment in the sun and by god he was going to make it count. He was the paycheck. He was the star. He, Fuzzy Wuzzy, was the bear. Or was he?

Tomorrow: Part 2.