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Walter awoke each morning with one thing on his mind: How to pay the damn bills. He tried to live frugally, in fact by Government standards he was well below the poverty level. Truth be known, by Government standards he hardly existed at all. He was below the line in every category they measured; his income was in the 4-figure range, his IQ hovered in the 60’s (at least in book-smarts. He had common sense and clever to spare), he came from the most minor of minority groups. Even his height put him solidly in the freakishly tiny category. That didn’t help pay the bills once he quit the circus though. The ringleader was a bastard in every sense of the word, and his cruel stupidity finally drove Walter to the breaking point.

The circus had been his livelihood for a decade, and he filled every job that could accommodate a man of his stature. His voice was just as small as his frame, so barking out a fast talking sales pitch didn’t suit him. He tended toward kiddie rides and animal care, cleaning up and ticket sales. The ringmaster hadn’t paid him much attention at all most of the time, until the time Walter asked for a raise. That was a mistake, he realized too late.

Today would be different, he told himself. Mr. Vanderhof, the banker, would be satisfied, and by sundown he’d be walking around with enough cash to pave a road back to Uberwald. One of Walter’s many skills included tailoring. He could piece together a proper outfit from the children’s consignment shops. This day he got dressed in his best carney suit and set up the camera. The little black box was perched on a suitcase and tilted upward with a few flat stones. Walter set the auto timer and posed in front of his new ferris wheel for several shots. He scuttled down to the photo shop and waited with folded hands while the pictures were developed. Thanking the clerk and handing over his last dollars, he folded into the bank next door.

“Here are some photos, Mr. Vanderhof,” he managed, peering over a massive mahogany desk. The banker eyed the pictures, gathered the loan application and pronounced everything in order. He scribbled his signature on a bank draft, and offered it to Walter with a silent handshake.

Quickly jumping from his seat, he went to the only open teller. After a moment, he knocked on the countertop with his cane to get her attention, and slipped the note to her. Embarrassed for not noticing him, she blushed and apologized. Smiling kindly, he assured her it was no problem, and could she place the money in his cloth purse?

Clutching his fortune, he exited into the bright sun, looked left and right, and boarded a trolley as it trundled down the street. He didn’t relax until the border, sure they’d find the ringmaster in the top chair at any moment.

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