Scene 11

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Butch hunts down Buster and pulls him aside, giving wary looks to Buster’s gang, in effect saying ‘back-off, this is none of your business’. Buster instinctively gives words to Butch’ non-verbal signals, “O.K. boys get busy finishing up the repairs, I’ll be back with you in a few.”

Buster knows the mood. Not a time to fuck with him. Especially after last night’s debacle with Agnes. Butch was always at his worst after a spat with whomever his chick happened to be. He’s kept Agnes around a lot longer than any of the others. I wonder if they’re going to get married or something? Sure hope not, Butch would really be impossible to live with then. He turns back to Butch and pensively queries, “What’s up Boss?”

Butch’s voice is lower than usual. He looks really haggard like he hadn’t gotten much sleep. “We got a big problem. Sure enough, they’ll be an investigation. An inspector will bound to be out in the next day or two.” Butch scans his immediate vicinity suspiciously, checking to make sure he cannot be overheard. “Maintenance records, or lack of ‘em will kill us. Agnes is working on that one.” He grimaces a bit, remembering their fight. “Well, I hope she is anyway.” “But when it comes down to it, that gear should have been replaced long time ago. Never should have been operating without the ‘lifeline’ either. Henry knew that.”

Buster looks puzzled. He should have reported the problem and replaced that gear a long time ago… clearly negligence. But then again, what can you expect from a drunk, right? Buster, clearly upset, objects “But Boss? They told us about it!” Butch stares intently with a cold meanness into Buster’s eyes instantly shutting him off. A moment of silence ensues during which Buster realizes the implication. Buster, with a humbler demeanor replies, “So what are we going to do? Henry is sure to tell ‘em the truth. People around here are going to suspect we’re just covering up shit… going to get real upset. They’re sure to ask questions.”

Butch confidently smirks, “The folks around here don’t want to stir up any trouble. They depend upon this fair to raise money for their city budget… too many important people greasing their pockets to let things get too out of hand.” Buster listens carefully. Butch continues, “Our real problem is the inspector, ‘cause he ain’t from around here… First off, Henry is overdue for a long rest. Maybe be best if he chose to retire.”

Buster isn’t convinced, “Henry ain’t never going to leave the Carnival. Geez, he’s been at it nigh to 40 years. Been in his family three generations! How you going to get him to retire? Then you still got Lobo to worry about… and the rest of the gang as well.”

The same arrogance regarding Lobo returns as when he was discussing the issue with Agnes. “Don’t worry, Lobo isn’t going to be a problem. I got a feeling about him. He’s running from something that he damn sure doesn’t want to catch up with him.” Henry has been a friend of my father’s and this Carnival for three decades. I’m sure he’ll do the right thing… when I explain it to him.” Buster sighs and shakes his head slowly, “I’m sure glad I don’t have to deliver the news.”

Butch reaches into his pocket and pulls out his wallet and fishes out a couple of twenties. He puts his hand on Buster’s shoulder, “I need you to take care of the rest of the gang. Put out any fires before they start. It’s a shame what happened and all, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. Make it plain we all got to stick together in this thing. Use your boys to keep things real tight.” Buster nods in agreement.

Butch somewhat apologetically mentions as if it were an after thought. “You know of course that we’ll be opening up as usual.” Buster totally surprised, “Huh?!” Buster repeats rhetorically, “The show must go on. We have to continue to conduct business as usual… anything else would be admitting blame, like it were our fault or something.” Buster worriedly wipes his hand across his forehead. “The gang is pretty upset by what’s happened… if we took a couple of days. Won’t people keep away on account of the accident, they’re sure to read…”

Butch impatiently replies, “I told you, folks… important folks around here want to make sure we have an a successful run. They’re depending upon it, and so are we (growing stern and abrupt). You just do your part, like I told you, hear?” Buster appropriately chastised, “Ye.. yea, sure Boss, anything you say.”  “Good.” Butch circles away to attend to other matters.

 

***

Lindsay is furious and hurt. He storms through the field and into the sanctuary of a nearby wood. Not finding a path, Lindsay hacks his way the best he can through the thick brush the borders the edge of the long line of trees. With minor scrapes on his arms and legs, he forces his way past. God, I wish I would have worn long pant and shirt, this hurts. The pain in somehow comforting as it distracts from the emotional upset and focuses his mental energies on the challenge at hand.

Finally through the thorny, scraggily shit and into the cool darkness and protection of the woods. It feels safe because it’s far away from people. People hurt you. Alone you are safe. Being in the woods is also Scarey though because of unknown dangers. Whatever they would be. Animals. Snakes. Some faceless monster. O.K. so the fears are irrational… never know what could be out here.  Lindsay cautiously creeps through the tall green. The light streams down in angular lines of light striking the forest floor. All the shades of green, simply amazing. He hears the gurgling sound of running water as he approaches the yet unseen river. A comforting sound.

Lindsay always has been fascinated by running water. Not that he gets to see it that often. It just seems like the woods, animals and rivers fill some aspect of the constant loneliness with something other than sharp dark things. Rather it redeems a little. Like a warm touch to a sick soul.

He zig-zags over to the edge of the raging stream. Takes his pack off his back and squats examining the various artifacts along the rocky shore. Lindsay enters a different realm. The angry, hurtful scenes temporarily fade as he begins to explore the wonders of his habitat. Glimmering light sparkling wet rocks. Birds chirping loudly, calling out to each other and responding in kind. Gentle wind occasionally whisking across his path.

Lindsay walks along the waters’ edge towards a distant bridge. He becomes a skillful explorer and tracker.

Flies, spiders and misqueitoes, Oh My. The problem with the woods is all the fucking bugs. Lindsay shoes the invaders from his face and quickens his pace. The terrain becomes more treacherous. He is forces to jump from rock to rock as any semblance of shore line disappears. He hops to a log several feet from the shore. The water has picked up speed considerably. White water literally surrounds him. Although he is afraid, he tentatively slides along the log out into the river, dragging his back pack behind. An element of his exploration is indeed the thrill of danger and the self destructive urge to push the edge of the envelope, too far.

He looses his grip and slips on a wet spot on the log well watered by the river spray and falls head long into the river. He lets out a muffled scream as he plunges into the cold river. It’s fairly deep. The river is considerable. Although he can touch the rocky river bottom with his feet, the current prevents him establishing a foothold or return along the log to the shore. He is too deep into the river to regain his position on the log. In addition, the log has been drenched from the water splashed on it from his fall. His angle is too low and his strength insufficient to extract himself by his won power from the river. Although he is in no imminent danger of drowning, their appears no immediate method out either. Lindsay tries several times unsuccessfully to remove himself.

“Damn”, He mutters angry at himself for his error in judgment and weakness.  “How am I going to get out of this? Nobody’s likely to come down here anytime soon.”

Lindsay looks up the steep bank, hearing a rustling in the woods. Wolf pops his face out of the edge of the trees looks down upon Lindsay trapped in the river below “Wolf!, God am I happy to see you.” Wolf barks a return greeting, wagging his tail leisurely. While Lindsay is still trying to figure out what to do next Lobo emerges from the woods behind Wolf.

Lindsay is embarrassed yet relieved.  Lobo seeing the predicament smiles at the scene. He stands on the bank with his hands on his hips. Lindsay is totally wet and getting perturbed. Lobo offers casually, “Need help?”

Lindsay just ignores Lobo and doubles his efforts to extract himself. Lobo and Wolf both take their seats on the edge of the bank and wait.

Lindsay is frustrated and weakening. He repeats to himself, “I don’t need your help. Just go away.”  Lindsay keeps trying to get back on the slippery Log. During one attempt he looses his cap.  Wolf stands up and barks accusingly at Lindsay. Lindsay looks up at his team of tormentors perched above him smiling and gawking and snaps, “Shut Up!”

Lindsay finally gives up and relaxes, while holding on to the log. “What are you waiting for? I said go away. I don’t need your help!” Lobo is truly humored by the situation. “It’s a free country. I’m just enjoying the view. Wolf sits back down. This is more fun than watching a football game for Lobo or chasing varmints for Wolf. Lindsay continues to struggle with his remaining strength. “Shit…Shit!” He yells as he looses his grip and his backpack floats away. It had his best stash of magazines and treasures in it.

With a last burst of energy, Lindsay struggles one last time to pull himself free… and fails. “DAMN!” He still can’t get out. Finally, he gives up the fight. Looks with resolve and surrender to Lobo. Without a word, Lobo gets up and makes his way down the steep slope. He carefully transverses the stump of the large log at it’s base. Grabbing an ample nearby limb, he reaches out with it in the direction of Lindsay. Lobo’s left leg is firmly planted on the log and his left hand wrapped around a protruding upright branch.

 

“Here, grab hold of it.” Lindsay reaches out and clutches the offered stick with one hand. “Go ahead, grab hold!” Lindsay, doubtful, releases his hold on the log and commits desperately to the limb. The current pulls his feet from out beneath him but he clings to the limb. Lobo quickly and sturdily pulls the limb in, then reaches out his hand to Lindsay. Lindsay scrambles to regain his footing while straining to reach out to Lobo. He almost looses his grip on the limb. Both stretch toward the other as they struggle to make connection. Finally Lobo’s tough, big hand embraces Lindsay’s. With a mighty, exerted tug Lobo lifts Lindsay to safety. They both make their way along the limb to the shore. Again, Lobo helps a very soggy Lindsay up the muddy embankment. Lindsay collapses on the overhang. Lobo joins him along with a happy Wolf who is licking at Lindsay’s face.

A magic moment. Lindsay is happy and relieved. Everyone knows something of the import of the event. There is a special feeling between them like people united through tragedy or disease have a special, unspoken bond between them. Lindsay hadn’t let himself contemplate the seriousness of his situation. He could have very well have drown. No one would have come looking for him and he couldn’t have lasted out there for much longer.

Lindsay pulls up his knees to his chest as he considers these things and stares at the river. “Lobo?” Lobo responds as he pets Wolf, “Yea, Kid.” “Thanks.” Lobo nods. A moments silence transpires. “No problem.” They all sit there for several minutes just staring wordlessly at the rushing river. Leaves and sticks are carried speedily down the river, lost to wherever they came from. Flowing, ever flowing the river moves on. What enters here, moves on, lost into the unknown future. What did this mean. This Lobo person who had entered his life? What did he want? Lindsay felt uncomfortable by his feelings of gratitude and also fear. Fear about the future and what this new friend would mean to his world. It was confusing.

Lindsays’ tee shirt is completely wet. He is shivering slightly from the chill. Lobo takes off his blue Jean jacket and offers it to Lindsay. “No thanks, I don’t want you jacket.” Lobo sighs, “Kid you can’t fight the world alone. Not everyone is against you.” Lobo reflects ‘most perhaps but certainly not all.’  Lindsay sarcastically, “Yea. What would you know?”

Lobo notices what seems to be his necklace dangling around Lindsay’s neck visible through the wet shirt. Doesn’t let on that he knows. Nods to himself. I suspected as much. Although he isn’t surprised, yet he’s disappointed. “Maybe you know the answer to that one already.” Hinting that Lindsay already knows.

Lindsay is jolted out of his “fuck you” demeanor by the statement. Lobo looks at Lindsay knowingly as Lindsay is trying to determine for himself just how much Lobo knows. Although while he is evaluating, he resolves to himself to maintain an attitude ‘get out of my face, you don’t give a shit.’ The problem is that he is wet, scared and vulnerable. “Yea, right”, he offers half heartedly.

A split second, as Lindsay briefly, silently looks into Lobo’s eyes… he knows.  He knows Lobo knows. Lindsay feels really embarrassed and really scared. If he had a wish, it would be to transport out of his body and this situation right now. Wish he was back in the river.

Lobo decides to be gracious, “Everyone needs friends, kid. No one’s tough enough to do it all alone. Big people or little people…” Lindsay objects and his anger flares, “I’m not little… You’re not my father… and you aren’t all that big either.

Lobo consents the last point. “Look, all I’m saying is that sometimes we all need a friend.  And that they have a way of turning up in the oddest places… and well, that God’s gift and we shouldn’t miss out. That’s all.” Lindsay continues to adamantly stare forward. Lobo gets up to leave. He throws his jacket over his shoulder as he heads back into the woods. Wolf remains at Lindsay’s side.

Lindsay is touched as Lobo gets ready to go. It’s safer to be more opened now that Lobo is leaving. He really doesn’t want Lobo to leave but is too proud or scared to ask him to stay. Lindsay’s persona softens. He pulls Wolf closer and pets him affectionately. “Lobo?” Lobo pauses at the edge of the woods. “Yea, kid?” He turns around. Lindsay looks at him uncomfortably, “Thanks again.” He pauses a beat then adds, “I mean for the other night as well.” Lobo smiles a bit. Maybe I can get through to this kid. “That’s O.K… really. “Like I said, friends turn up in the oddest places. When you least expect it.”

Lindsay turns back around to face the river again and continue to stroke Wolf. Lobo leaves. Both return to their solitude somewhat fuller. The river rushes on.

Lobo continues down the river, out of Lindsay’s sight. He searches the shoreline and limbs for something. He eventually discovers Lindsay’s knapsack caught on several branches extending out into the river. Lobo wades out several feet and retrieves the waterlogged bag. Dripping wet, he lifts the sack from the river. He unties the flap to let the water flow out and curiously reviews its contents. Interesting.  After cursory review, He stuffs the articles back into the sack and heads back to the Carnival.

Meanwhile, the Carnival is bustling (and bristling) with reluctant activity. Buster is riding everyone really hard. Like a huge freighter, once the momentum of the Carnies is halted it’s a slow, painful process getting everyone going again. Although it’s generally unmentioned, many members of the crew are still in shock from the trauma of the tragedy that took place in their midst less than 24 hours ago. Buster’s typical response to objection and resistance is to push that much harder until the obstacle is moved; i.e. until the person giving him shit or not moving fast enough to suit Buster’s liking yields. However, today Buster’s usual sway over folks is diluted. It’s the accident. It’s bothering him. He can’t seem to shake off the images of the blood and pain from his consciousness. Gee, he must be getting soft or something. Gotta push that much harder or people will sense his weakness. Buster’s “boy’s” feel the pinch and know something’s not quit right.

Animals like dogs and horse have a sense about people, like when they’re afraid or when there is danger. This sense is much more developed in animals than people, usually. However, Carnies have better intuition than most. They can tell by a quick look or at most within several minutes where a person is coming from, what their agenda is, weaknesses, etc. Perhaps this sixth sense has been developed more acutely in Carnival folk because most have had to be street smart… run-aways, ex-cons, wanderers, gypsies and the like. It could also come from working around “Town-marks” upon whom they derive their livelihood. Carnies make a game of sizing up, baiting and scoring on their marks.

For this reason Buster had to push all that harder to get things moving again, after the accident. He would not, could not allow himself the privilege of feeling sad or disturbed.

Butch dutifully makes his way to Henry’s rag-tag trailer. A little 18’ jobbie towed behind a pick-up… vintage late 40’s or early 50’s. A tiny refuge from the endless toil. Both the truck and the trailer were owned by B & J, but Henry, by reason of his seniority had used it exclusively for the last 18 years. It belonged to Henry as much as anything ever belonged to anyone. Butch regretted having to take that away from him as well. Things had to be done though and crying about them didn’t help any.

Several Carnies took notice of Butch knocking on and entering Henry’s trailer, since they had never seen the Boss go visiting before. If he ever did show up it was to yell through the tent or trailer walls about some problem or another. Mostly Buster took care of all that stuff anyway. Something must be up. Real serious.

About 45 minutes later. Henry and Butch emerged from the cramped cocoon. Butch looked grave. Henry looked absent, like he had been to a funeral or something. Comin’ down the steps, you could tell he’d been drinking. He staggered and almost fell off the last of the two steps that adjoined his (now previous)abode.  Henry’s shoulder’s drooped about as low as was possible, like he was carrying a heavy weight. He looked more detached than even a gallon of hard liquor would allow. What was even more curious was the fact that Henry was toting an old suitcase and wearing a heavy coat. It had to be 75 or 80 degrees outside, why is heaven’s name would anyone wear a winter coat? Henry definitely had his traveling clothes on.

They walked together the several paces over to the faded blue pick-up. Both silently opened the creaking doors and slid in. Butch wordlessly drove away toward town.  Henry sipped on the bottle of Tennessee thunder whiskey, Butch had so graciously given him… before he ripped his heart out of his chest.

Damn Chevy’s built to last forever. This one was almost 20 years old and had over 300,000 miles on the rebuilt engine. Faithful old truck had crisscrossed the country dozens of times, still held together. Sometimes machines seemed to hold up under the years of abuses and mishandling a lot better than people did. Most people, in fact would only last 2 or 3 years on the Carnival circuit then break down and leave. Wore them right out. Many didn’t even last a season.

Henry, however was tough. He was third generation Carny and proud of it. He had more stamina that ten kids. Had handled about anything the hard life of Carnival living had to throw him and retained a modicum of grace in the midst of it all. Well fuck. He could handle this too. He understood the need for his forced “retirement”. Felt better about it as he and Butch had talked and drank, reminiscing about old times, they way things used to be and all. Nevertheless, the part of his soul that could still feel, beneath the calluses and the alcohol registered the fact that he had just been assassinated… executed for a crime he didn’t commit.

Although it was politically expedient, it was fucked. He didn’t deserve this. Butch’s dad would never have allowed this. Then again Butch’s dad would have never let things disintegrate over the last 8 years like Butch had. Shame the father couldn’t have passed on to his son, some of the attributes that made him the success he was… both as a person and Carnival Mogul.  It was evident, Butch was not his father’s son. Taking up with every bitch and taking drugs and loose with the money and all. Sure, he had a drinking problem, for sure. It didn’t so much matter though because he wasn’t responsible for the Whole Carnival and all. Plus he never go that drunk anyway, never enough to get in the way of his work.

Anyway all that was in the past. Now he was headed for… what? Henry couldn’t even imagine life away from the Carnival. It was his life. It was in his blood. Butch had no right to steal it from him. Henry noticed he had just about completed the entire bottle as they pulled up to the Greyhound station. Butch got out. Henry struggled with the handle and finally opened the door, spilling out onto the ground in so doing. Butch helped him to his feet. Henry pulled himself away from Butch’s grasp almost falling down again in the process. Butch went to get the suitcase out of the back of the truck but Henry, who seemed to sober up consdierably for a few seconds, grabbed it from him glaring resentfully. Butch pulled a wad of bills from his pants pocket and made to give it to Henry. “Henry, I want to give you something special for all your…” Henry, loudly interrupted him, “ I don’t need your goddamned money. I’ll do just fine without anything you got.” Henry was having a hard time remaining erect. He lapsed into a more subdued mode for a few moments. People around him were starting to notice and were looking over.

Butch helped Henry into the Bus station and to an empty seat. He then went over to the ticket window and purchased a ticket. One way to Florida. Henry will do O.K. there, he thought. Lot of old Carnies down there. Who knows? All this could turn out to save Henry’s life in the long run. Don’t know how much longer he would have lasted in the business anyway. Yea, he’ll be better off. These thoughts seemed to hold at bay the horrible sense that he had betrayed and murdered his best, most loyal friend. He felt a tinge of regret, not for hurting Henry but for the loss of an ally and dependable employee. Still, better him than me. Survival of the fittest. “When’s the next bus scheduled to leave?” The obscure little man behind the fenced in ticket window grunted, “Like it says on the board above you, if you’d bother to look… next bus leaving at 3:00.

Butch gives the guy a dirty look and heads back to Henry who is barely conscious. Muttering to himself about something or another. Butch glances at his watch. He noticed a Liquor store across the street and makes his way over to buy a going away present for Henry. Back to the terminal, Butch stuffs the tight wrapped brown paper sack into Henry’s heavy coat. Henry is pretty out of it. Can’t stay here and baby sit for him for hours.

Two seats down Butch notices an old lady reading a well worn Bible. He had also noticed her glancing doubtfully at them previously. Butch puts on his best face and introduces himself, “Excuse me sister, are you by chance waiting for the 3:00 bus to Florida?” When the lady nods suspiciously he continues. This poor unfortunate man here is a friend of the family, suffering from a terrible cancer and isn’t long for this world. My dear wife and I are sending him down to his sister’s place in Florida. I took time off of work to bring him down here, but I have to return to work or I’ll get into a mess of trouble.” The lady warms up, staring mercifully over at Henry who is struggling to keep his head up.  “Would you mind rousing him at 3:00 for the bus…” The woman starts to object. “I’m sure the good Lord would be most pleased by this kindly gesture of mercy… Sister… (waiting for her name which she relinguishes, ‘Sarah’) Sister Sarah, as it says in the good book, ‘whereas you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.’ The lady surrenders to the argument and smiles. “Yes, my brother, I’d be glad to do the Lord a service.” She looks over at the drunken man and sighs deeply. Butch smiles at the lady and excuses himself, “Thank you so much for your kindness, sister. The Lord bless you.”

Butch walks over to Henry and says loudly enough to be heard throughout most of the bus station, “Henry, this gracious sister of ours has been so gracious as to volunteer to help you on the bus.” Henry squints at the lady as his head wobbles. Butch lowers his voice and speaks into Henry’s ear for the last time, “I’m sorry old friend that it had to be this way. Take care of youself.” Butch slips the wad of money into Henry’s inside jacket pocket, under the guise of straightening it out. Making sure no one noticed him planting the cash. The money is safely hidden in Henry’s pocket which hangs over the center of his chest. He pats Henry’s heart in an affectionate gesture.

As he was walking away, he had the eerie feeling that eyes were watching him from the crowd… like they were accusing him of something, like they all knew of his hypocrisy.  He exited the bus terminal without looking back. The sun was hot and glaring. It was painful to the eyes. City sounds seemed to be louder and more irritating than usual. Like his nerves were raw and exposed. The blaring honk-honk of a passing car. The angry barking at the corner dog. The city looked especially dirty as well. Butch comforted himself with the thought, It will be nice to get back to the Carnival again, back to his own people. Shit, he’s going to be late for opening. Oh well. Buster can handle things. I hope.

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