Scene 5

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Carnival “Town Meeting”. Buster finishes a side conversation with three sizable “enforcers”, his buddies, who crowd covertly around him. He inconspicuously gives them each a few twenties. Buster, returns to address the assembled carnival gang, a rag-tag assortment of kids and adults.

The carnival universe is the one truly integrated microcosm. White, black, Hispanic, Asian… gypsy, whore, thief, drug addict… Carnival is an equal opportunity employer. Generally, whatever a person’ past life was about didn’t matter. Whatever a person was running away from or searching for was O.K.

What did matter, more than anything else was that everyone subscribed to the “code”. Loyalty to each other. Hard work. Not stealing from each other. Respect for one other’s privacy and space. Not trusting outsiders. Never, ever squealing on someone in the group, or gang. More than anything, the cardinal virtue was absolute, unquestioning obedience and loyalty to Butch. Anything he said was law. His emissaries, primarily Buster, were to be given total attention when they were speaking on behalf of the “king”.

Everyone was pensive as they awaited the word of the Regent delivered by his underling. They were suspect because this ordinarily such meetings were not scheduled until later in the week. Closer to the opening. There also had been rumors that things weren’t going so great financially. People were worried.

Buster stood in the center, surrounded by his cronies. “I know there has been a lot of rumors floating around out there. I’m here to set things straight.” Nods of affirmation. “Well, frankly, things are a little tight right now… They’re going to get worse before they get better. (general murmur) But if we stick together, work our asses off, we’ll get through it and do O.K.” One voice questions, “So what does that mean to us?” Buster continues, “For one thing, we won’t be taking on any extras for a while.” This comment meets with a louder rumble of disapproval. One guy speaks up from the back, “How are we supposed to do it all, with only 25 people?… Set-up, work the show, tear down, drive to a new gig, set-up again… Buster breaks in, “Work for a change.” (Harshly and belligerently)

“Ride supervisors and drivers will have to pitch in too”. Lots of complaints. “How about our advances. When are we going to be… Buster interrupts again, “there won’t be none! Period!” Looks of dismay storm across many faces. “Listen, it’s our fault. We’ve been fucking up… Last season. The rides were going too long. Too many give-aways at the game tables. All of us were too loose. Everyone’s got too lazy. We all had a lot of fun. But now the financial guys are tightening the screws on all of us. So we got to get our shit together.”

Same guy starts to protest. “Hey, wait a minute. I object! You’re accusing us?! We didn’t do anything!” Buster immediately dispatches his 3 guys. “It’s just not fair! “It’s not our fault that the Carnival is loosing money.” Seeing the guys heading to him he intensifies his voice, angry now. “If some people around here weren’t so goddamned interested in…” The three enforcers pick him up and throw him over rail. He screams and lands with a painful thud. He quickly gathers himself up and dashes away. The enforcers chase him with their threatening stares, then return to check out the crowd. Buster smirks, “Objection, overruled. Any other complaints?” Quiet murmurs of compliance. “You better get this through your thick heads, it’s my way or the Highway! Now, everybody get back to work.”

The crowd disperses. However, several of the ride supervisors linger to respectfully present their questions, “What about the parts we needed to fix the rides? They’re just not safe any more.” Butch chimes optimistically “You’ll make do! You just worry too much.” The look at one another with a mixture of rear and dismay. Buster can tell he’s loosing the confidence and command of his troops. “O.K., O.K., I’ll check it out with the Boss.”

Lobo looks on, taking it all in. Buster introduces Lobo to the supervisors. “Here’s part of your solution. Lobo here says he can fix just about anything… so you guys put him to it…” He finishes up by commenting, “Yea, and he’s an Artist too. (sarcastically) not only goin’ to help fix shit but going to paint shit too. Going to take ten years off this old whore. Make her look like a spring virgin.” Gets a few laughs from the guys. Lobo plays along. Good humor. “We’ll see.”

Supervisors don’t like him. They grumble to each other as they leave, “How is it we can hire some chink artist fellow, but don’t have enough money for our advances or to hire set-up workers. It’s just more money out of our pockets, that what it is!” Lobo overhears and looks concerned as he is universally spurned. Oh well, just like when he first got to the pen. It takes a while to make a way. He’ll just have to be patient and not overreact. Things will work out. Yea, sure. The remaining clusters disband to attend to their endless chores.

Brian, Jackie & Sweetie go back to their tent. Brian is worried. Jackie and Sweetie are holding hands. Wolf trails along. Jackie lights up a smoke in the tent. Brian objects, “You’re not supposed to smoke in here!” Jackie ignores him. She acts sexy and provocative (in an adolescent way, like kids copying adults, playing dress-up). Dismissing and teasing Brian, “Poh Poh on you.” Tommy, the fat kid, offers. “I saw a guy with a dark suit come out of Butch’ trailer with a handful of legal looking papers. Butch and Agnes looked real worried too. Do you think the Carnival is having real bad money problems?” Sweetie looks scared. Brian concerned.

Tommy suddenly gets hyper paranoid and fires more rhetorical questions into the air, “What if it does? Do you think it will close down? Then, what would happen to us? Brian is becoming visibly disturbed but nervously defends, “Everything will be O.K.” I think business is bound to get lots better this year.” Makes excuses, “It was just a lot of bad weather and bad luck…”  He sounds unconvincing. The others can tell he’s shaken.

Sweetie continues to look concerned, “What if the Carnival is shutting down… What will become of us? She looks to Jackie with large, puppy dog eyes. Jackie asserts with confidence, “Then we’ll just make do” Laughs & makes a joke, “We’ll, thumb our way to California (miming a sexy hitchhiker), become movie stars or something.” Jackie starts putting on airs like a Hollywood movie star sophisticate. She is a perpetual free spirit. Brian more to comfort himself, “Everything is O.K. anyway.” So why even talk about it anymore?” Offers a logical reason why it’s O.K., “If there was really a problem, Butch would tell us. This carnival has been in his family for three generations.  I’m sure one or two bad years isn’t enough to really hurt anything.”

Buster stomps in. He is perturbed seeing Jackie smoking. Brian insists, “I told her not to! I tried to stop her.” Buster grabs the cig out of her mouth and pushes her back onto her cot. She smacks her arm against the rail and grimaces. “How many times have you been told? Last year the Fire Marshall almost shut us down! And they’re supposed to inspects us any day. Are you an idiot or something?” Although she’s a little hurt, she makes light of it, not wanting to let Buster get to her. “You’re such a prick. Nobody saw me. You just like Bullying people. Buster gives her a mean look. Jackie spitefully feeling her inured elbow, “You want to hurt me? Are you sure, you don’t want to do something else to me instead?

She taunts him. “I see the way you stare at me.” Always trying to grab a peek.” This clearly irritates him. Buster looks disgusted but also quite disturbed. Jackie uses her sexual wiles differently, much less skillfully than does Agnes. Agnes’ sexual persona is inviting, sensuous and powerful… Jackie’ maneuvers are more like blunt, haphazard mockery. Her undeveloped wiles do however succeed in temporarily deflecting Buster’ anger. He grabs the fat kid instead. “You’re supposed to be helping set-up. Pushes him toward the door. Tommy stumbles and falls to the ground. Buster meanly kicks him in the ass. He starts to cry. Wolf lurches forward, barking and biting at Buster’ foot. He tries unsuccessfully to shake him off. Brian, “I told Tommy we should be going, didn’t I?” Looks around for agreement. Jackie gives Brian a dirty look then shouts sarcastically at Buster as he’s driving Tommy, “You’re such a shit face.” (not afraid of him) “Why don’t you just go kiss your boss’ ass. You’re so good at it.” Fat kid runs off, sniveling as he goes. Buster shepherding him out.

Buster temporarily ignores Jackie, takes Brian aside outside the tent. “This is between us, got it? Brian enthusiastically agrees, honored for the special confidence. Buster is a little uncomfortable. “The Boss says we have to skim the tickets. Report two for one. Pocket the change when you can.” Brian objects. It bothers him. “Cheat people, even the Kids!?” Buster answer is serious, “Anyone! Everyone! The little brats will just get more cash from their parents anyway.” Brian complies but it really bothers him. “How about the records?” We have to turn them in every month.” Buster responds, “Mark two for one and keep track in your head. We’ll collect the cash every ½ hour or so like before and divide it up in the trailer…. Just don’t tell anyone, got it? Not your sister, not Jackie, not anyone! O.K.? (Buster reiterates his command threateningly as he glances over to Jackie.) Brian sullenly nods. Buster gives him an awkward, light slap on the back and takes off in a nervous huff.

Jackie and Sweetie are standing together waiting at the door for Brian when he returns. Jackie queries, “What’s he want? What did he say? Brian guardedly responds, “Nothing. It’s not important.” Jackie and Sweetie are puzzled. Jackie insists, “Come on, Brian tell us!” “Yea!” taunts his sister. Brian angrily retorts, “Listen, It’s none of your damn business… Just leave me alone, O.K.?” He goes over to his bed and sits down staring blankly at the wall. They reluctantly accept it and move on. Brian isn’t known for his anger. It’s very rare.

Jackie interjects as an after thought, “By the way, you little chicken shit, thanks for squealing. (said in adolescent ridicule) Brian defending, “ I told you not to smoke, it’s your fault. Jackie, to Sweetie; “I don’t see how you guys got related? How did your brother get to be such an ass hole? Sweetie smiles, then busts out laughing. Jackie joins in. Brian throws his pillow at them. Jackie and Sweetie return fire. Jackie’s tactic breaks the heavy tension though. They proceed to have a major pillow fight with each other… laughing together in forgetful merriment. Childhood frolic.

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