March 20, 2013 § 15 Comments
Certain things you smell, you gotta eat. Popcorn. Funnel Cake. French fries. The carnival comes to town every June selling tickets by the whiff. But honey – Mom said – watch out for those carnies. Pre-Deadhead, multi-generational grifters without hacky-sack skills moving from town to town in trailers that were new when Roger Miller was King of the Road, aluminum capped trucks of bugs and buggery. Who knows what they get up to before they blow off to the next empty lot owned by Greeks, the Romans and the saints?
Funny when you think about it. The Catholics natural heirs of all that ancient philosophy and power, and what have they done with it two centuries on? They sponsor a yearly carnival. Carnival. Removal of flesh. And that Latin translation sums it up nicely, as anyone who’s ever been the victim of a poorly constructed, jerky grinding Salt-and-Pepper Shaker will tell you. It’s the fucking Spanish Inquisition all over again when the ride operator, pasty skin prolific with meth sores, hangs his victims upside down whilst he extracts his pound of teenage girl flesh from the low cut tank tops of suburban America.
Honey, watch out for those carnies. When I was a small child in the early 1960’s, I was summoned with my sisters and friends into a shaded tent. The herald was a girl no bigger than me, which is to say six or seven years old, with a head of ashy blonde curls, eyes unsavory and cunning, and skin poxy with bedbug bites. She skipped happily through the midway crowd luring us on with the promise of free prizes, past Ferris Wheel, Fishing Well, Fun House (effs figure large in the lingua franca of the carnival). She found the place she sought, pushed back the tent flap and ushered us inside.
Within sat a bald, squat, toady old man in greasy brown Dickies and a white t-shirt, whereupon the young pimp boldly climbed upon his lap. His hand slid under her skirt as if taking control of a puppet. She began to rock back and forth upon his leg in steady rhythm. ‘See all you have to do is sit on his lap and you’ll get a free prize,’ she lisped. Her round eyes grew glazed and far away. The tent was airless and hot as hell in the noonday sun. ‘See, it’s easy.’
Four little girls sidled as far from the noxious pair as space would allow, making for the exit. ‘No, wait!’ hissed the old demon. He singled me out with his bloodshot eyes. He crooked a foul finger. ‘You. Come here!’ I shrank against the canvas and shook my head ‘no’. My sisters and friends were pushing through the flap, leaving me behind at the mercy of the carnies.
The little girl came out of her trance with a shuddering giggle and jumped down rubbing her crotch. She reached for my hand. I slapped at her as if at a rabid dog, knocking away the free prize in her grimy palm. I saw it hit the ground before I cleared the tent flap and emerged to blinding sun. Only the memory remains of a heart shaped locket strung on cheap gilded beads fallen in the dirt.