Scene 12

carny copy

Inside the kids tent Jackie, Sweetie and Brian are talking. Jackie is repeating as a gloomy liturgy, “Things are getting worse around here. It won’t be long. We’ll have to take care of ourselves.” Brian tries to be consoling, “You’re just upset because of the accident. We all are. It will take time…” Jackie is unusually sober and serious, “It’s not just that. I have this terrible feeling… Things are falling apart. It’s all only a matter of time.” Brian and Sweetie look worried. Jackie is supposed to the the cheerful, optimistic one. Brian is beginning to look afraid, “You don’t know what you’re saying, Jackie. Things are getting better… business is picking up. Lobo is really improving the look of the place.

Sweetie ignores Brians objections and moves closer to Jackie, “What is it Jackie? What do you think is happening?” Jackie sits on the edge of her bed staring out into space, “I don’t know exactly what it’s about… The secrets I know about. They’re like a terrible unseen disease that is about to explode or something…” Brian and Sweetie exchange puzzled looks, Brian reluctantly confesses, “I know there’s stuff that happens around here that isn’t particularly right. Buster sometimes gets after you… Jackie slowly hakes her head from side to side, “it’s not about the money, the meanness or even the accident.”

Brian is surprised, “How did you know about the money thing?” Jackie says contemptuously, You’d have to be blind and deaf to NOT know.” Brian guilty looks down at the ground.

Jackie returns to her train of thought, “Sometimes when I look at Lobo’s paintings; the scenes of angels and monsters fighting each other… I know it sounds crazy, but I think it’s about us, here at the Carnival. Brian smirks. Sweetie is just listens purposefully, “I think she’s right.” Brian offhandedly, “Yea, right like we’re all monsters and angels fighting each other. I think she’s just disturbed by the accident. One thing I do know, we have to be at our posts in less than 30 minutes. And you Jackie, better start getting ready or Buster is going to have your ass!” Brian gets up to initiate them moving on.

Jackie refuses to get up. “ I just can’t do it. All those kids just got hurt yesterday. One died. More in the hospital. Maybe dead by now. Nobody seems to give a shit.”

Brian objects, “I care. We all care. But like Buster says, we can’t do anything about it now… The show must go on.” Jackie responds bitterly, “Then just take your show, and go on.” Brian shakes his head and huffs out of the tent. Sweetie gently touches Jackie’s hand, “Maybe he’s right about one thing. You’re sure to get into trouble when the show opens you’re not ready.  Buster will have a fit!”

Jackie reluctantly begins preparing herself with Sweetie’s aid. The show opens on time at 11:00. To everyone’s amazement there are plenty of customers flowing in. Not as much as a week-end night, but sizable for a day crowd. Seems like rumors about the accident brought as many curious thrill seekers as normal carnival-goers.  Many flock to the sight of the Gravitron to investigate the rumors. Although it was pieced back together, the gate is closed and a sign hangs in front of it proclaiming, ‘CLOSED FOR REPAIRS’.

Buster makes his usual rounds checking up on everybody, making sure everything is running smoothly and that no trouble is brewing anywhere.

Gotta be especially vigilant today. They don’t need anything else to go wrong. Not now. Butch isn’t back yet and it’s up to me to make sure things run right. Buster’s attention is snagged by a group of people gathering, apparently complaining in front of the freak show tent. God, we’ve just been opened for a half an hour and already there’s trouble. He breaks into the crowd as a heavy set man is demanding, “What a rip off. I want my money back. The sign says there a ½ woman, ½ man! I don’t see any ½ & ½ anything, except ½ a show!” Several members of the swarm confirm his complaint. The barker looks to Buster who nods indicating to give the people back their tickets.  He heads over to the tent to see what’s up, under a full head of steam.

Brian had been warned of impending trouble by Tommy and headed back to talk with Jackie ahead of Buster. He handed off his duties temporarily to Tommy, who rather hesitantly agreed. It was after all relatively slow.

Jackie is sitting in the corner. Although she appears to be fully made up, she won’t budge. Sweetie sits on the bed resolutely. Brian implores Jackie to return to the show. “Be logical. How will this help? You’ll just make more problems for us all. There’s nothing you can do. Don’t cause more trouble.” Jackie is mute. Brian demands of Sweetie. “Why won’t you talk to her?” Sweetie just shrugs her shoulders in a gesture of helplessness.

Buster bursts in reprimanding Brian, “What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be at the ticket window.” Brians begins, “I was just…” Brians attempts to explain are run over by Buster’s tirade as he commands, “Get your ass back to the booth! NOW!” Brian starts to explain again. Buster raises his voice several decibels and shouts, “NOW!” Brian scampers out. Brian shoots a dirty look at Sweetie who looks uncomfortable but resolute. Buster addresses her sharply, “What’s going on here?” Sweetie squeaks out quietly, “She’s been through a lot, why don’t you just give her a little time?” Buster brushes off what he does catch of Sweeties’ murmuring.

He prances over to the corner and starts man-handling Jackie in attempts to force Jackie to her feet. Jackie refuses. She is on the brink of tears or near rage or both. “Get out of here. Leave me alone!”  Buster continues to pull her up. She continues to resist. Sweetie worriedly rises but keeps her distance. They wrestle. Buster is clearly Jackie’s physical superior. He succeeds in getting her to her feet and ½ way to the door.

She swings wildly and soundly slaps Buster. He reels from the sting and squarely punches her in the face.  She goes down hard. Screaming, crying and bleeding profusely from her nose. Sweetie draws back shocked. Then she rushes to Jackie’s side grabbing a nearby towel from beside the bed. “Now see what you’ve gone and done.” Jackie is whimpering, holding her nose.

Brian backs off remorsefully. “She asked for it.” Sweetie glares at Buster. He looks guilty for a second but then rebounds, “Now come on. You have to get to the tent! People are complaining and demanding their money back. They insist they paid to see the ½ boy-1/2 girl show. They paid to see you. You have to go.” Sweetie intercedes, “She can’t go now, not in this condition. You took care of that.” He warns Sweetie, “You better just stay out of the way if you know what’s good for you.”

Jackie recovers from the shock of Buster’s punch. The threat to her friend was more than she could stand. Jackie jumps up and screams at Buster, “Fuck you, you ½ brain little prick. You want a ½ boy, ½ girl show? Then why don’t you pull down your pants and show them that little dick of yours. It never gets much bigger than a girl’s anyway.” Buster’ face immediately reddens. Jackie knows she’s got him. She smells blood. (her own perhaps). He drew ‘first blood’ after all.

She taunts him, “You think I don’t know?” Sweetie looks aghast. Buster momentarily stunned but mutters, “What are you talking about?” The other girls told me how you can never get it up. That you’re afraid of it. How you’re little dick just lays there, helpless.” She mocks him. “So is that why you hang out with ‘the boys’ all the time. You like boys, I know you do.” She laughs snidely and taunts him further. He is boiling and Sweetie is afraid. “You and those buddies of yours probably sit around and jerk each other off. Give each other head? Play cho-cho with each other…” With each accusation, Jackie takes a step closer until she is almost into his face with the last flurry.

Finally, he snapped. Maybe because she got “too close to home.” Maybe he just couldn’t stand her getting the best of him. Or just the pressures building from the accident. At any rate, Buster grabs at her neck. Before he can connect, Jackie’s instinctual reflexes unconsciously alert her and she deflect his attack, countering with an attack of her own. Sweetie gasps and cries out loud.

Jackie and Buster are interlocked in a vicious, if uncoordinated sprawl. The clash throws both of them unto the ground. Jackie is swinging, clawing, biting, kicking, screaming like a mad woman. Buster is trying to ward off her attacks while trying to gain advantage with his strength and weight. He grabs her one arm and uses his weight to pin her underneath him. Sweetie runs over to the door and screams at the top of her lungs, “Help. Help!”

Wolf arrives almost simultaneously and lunges at Buster. Snapping at his free hand, thus protecting Jackie from a punch. Buster throws him off. Wolf repeats his avoid and parry routine. Interspersed with constant barking, Wolf maintains his lurching attacks.  Bite, bark bark , growwwl. Bite, bark bark, growwwl.  The dynamic duo of Jackie and Wolf presents too much for Buster to tangle with, “Goddamned dog!”

He pushes Jackie aside and leaps from her to attend to the offending animal. Wolf stays on him, leading him away from Jackie toward the door of the tent. Buster grabs a broom and takes a wild swing at Wolf, which he easily avoids. Wolf backs away out the door, taunting Buster with his mocking yelps. Buster chases Wolf out into the midway with a broom upraise above his head mumbling something like, “I’m going to show that fucking mutt, once and for all.

Having successfully deflected Buster’s anger away from Jackie, Wolf considers the chase a fun game. He leaps and ducks and runs throughout the midway followed by a furious Buster, who is oblivious to the spectacle he is creating. He crashes into things and people as he desperately pursues his adversary.  His cursing and yelling serving only to draw more attention to his folly. Wolf, preoccupied by the thrill of the chase, grows more playful. He runs in circles around Buster and teases him with his constant friendly banter. All attempts to apprehend him fail miserably. Wolf won hands down.

Finally, Buster exhausted by the chase, slips and falls head long into a large patch of mud. By this time a considerable crowd has gathered on the sideline to cheer the victorious canine. The crowd jeers and laughs. It finally dawns upon Buster what a laughing stock he has become. Wolf is panting and smiling from the sidelines. Butch just pulled up and was drawn to the commotion. He arrives at the event just in time to witness Buster making a final plunge toward Wolf and slip into the mud. So much for leaving the Carnival in good hands. Buster catches Butch’s disapproving glance as he is sprawled out in the mud. Butch just waggles his head from side to side and walks silently away.

Buster slowly picks himself up, tries to shake and scrape the bigger clumps of muck off his body and clothes. Everyone, including Buster’s gang is cheering for Wolf.  And jeering at Buster.  He ignores the crowd to swear vengeance upon his nemesis in the hearing of all. “I’ll get you dog! I swear, you’re dead.”

He looks at his previously loyal followers and threatens, “O.K., the shows over. You all had your laugh. Now get back to work or I’ll bust your heads… go on now, go!” People make wise cracks as they disperse. His buddies help him out of the puddle and follow at a distance as he storms away. Wolf looks on as they go, still panting happily from the chase.

Jackie walks up beside him and pats his head, “Thanks Wolf!” Sweetie and Jackie exit the scene holding hands with a perky Wolf trotting along side.

Lobo, upon his return from the river, drops off Lindsay’s sack at his bunk, and is also drawn to the hubbub. As the multitude scatter, Lobo searches the crowd for his friend Henry. Unable to locate him, he asks a couple of nearby Carnies, “ where Henry is?”

The most vocal of the bunch suggests, “They fired him for fucking up… rumor has it that he was drunk and negligent… could be he even caused the accident.  Someone had to take the heat, guess it had to be Henry… him being ride boss and head maintenance person and all.”

Lobo flares, “That’s crazy! What a crock of shit! We told them plainly about the stripped gears and all… How it could be dangerous. If anyone’s to blame, it would be those fucking morons.” The leader warns, “If I were you, I’d watch what you have to say about Butch and Buster, if you value your health.”  Lobo is unaffected, “‘Yea, right everyone’s real good about covering their own asses around here.” The other two guys take off, obviously uncomfortable hearing Lobo’s criticism.

Lobo, gathers his thoughts, “So what happened to him? Where’s Henry now? The leader answers by reiterating the events as he witnessed them earlier: Butch going into Henry’s trailer. Henry coming out with his traveling clothes on. The two of them presumably heading to town. Butch returning alone. “I hear Butch took him to the Greyhound station… shipped him off to Florida. I shouldn’t be telling you all this. I could get myself into a truckload of shit for it too. It’s just that me and Henry go back lots of years. He was a good man. Don’t agree with me what’s been done…” He pauses for reflection, “Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not here to rock the boat. You want to make a federal case of it, you’ll be on you own around here.”

Lobo looks into the wrinkled, pained eyes of the old Carny and pitied him. He didn’t think bad of him. Being in prison for those 13 years he understood the score and the price to be paid for standing up. Sometimes it cost a man his life. Then again, to live in fear everyday… well some might consider that worse then death. Everyone has to choose their own course and their was pain to pay either way. One was more immediate and obvious. The other slower and less visible. The gradual disintegration of the heart of a man. Eroded by little compromises along the way. Lobo understood far too well. As the man turned to return to his life after untimely intimacy, Lobo touched the man briefly on the shoulder to offer a departing blessing or forgiveness of sorts. “Thanks for your help… really.”

In the end it wasn’t the man’s fault he was a coward. Or for that matter any of us who choose the more convenient, less painful path. It was damn difficult to do otherwise. Whether it was yielding to a bully, or being afraid to speak ones truth, or simply to choose the ‘safe’ career without risk… we all made our compromises and we had to live with them. Lobo had chosen to stand-up and confront the establishment in times past, and where had it gotten him? Here we go again. Lobo considered the trouble he was about to get himself into for his “ideals”. Was it worth it? In the end, who really gives a shit? We all just turn to dust anyway. Oh well, this is my path, my destiny… to be a pain in the ass. It was his gift. His special talent.

Off to confront Butch. Goddamned prick just can’t go around “offing” guys like Henry and nobody say nothing.

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