Scene 17

carny copy

Heavy pounding on trailer door, early morning. 6:23 am. Hammer, hammer, hammer. “Wake-up! Boss, wake-up!” Buster chants urgently. Hammer, hammer. Slowly Butch and Agnes are pried from their short nocturnal slumber. Butch drags himself from the bed, fairly hung over from the previous nights’ drunken stupor. Agnes stays glued to the bed. Butch staggers to the door, pissed off. “What the fuck do you want?” He yells.  Quiter grumbling, “Goddamn it. Never can get a good nights’ sleep anymore.” Pounding continues. “All right, all right, I’m coming… Jesus!” Half clothed and half awake, Butch cracks open the door and peers out.

Buster is panting, out of breath from running. “Boss! We got problems, big problems!” Without additional comment, Buster comes bursting in. Butch frowns, “What’s so goddamn important, anyway?” Buster throws the local morning paper down on table. The California County Signal.  Butch looks on with irritation, “So now you’re the newspaper delivery boy.” Buster demands with exasperation, “Read it, Boss! Look at the headlines.” Butch reluctantly complies.

Headlines extend across the page. “Carnival Scandal” Summary scan of the sub-head and lead lines disclose more. “Murder on the Midway… Gross negligence leading to 3 deaths and 17 injuries… Behind the scenes story about rampant corruption as told by a Carnival insider… B & J Carnivals also accused of sexual abuse, tax fraud and consumer scam… The whole story inside!”

Buster looks on quietly while Butch gravely reads the lengthy article. Unlike his usual volatile self, Butchs’ reaction is strangely muted. For several minutes the only words he whispers as he reads through the story is, “Fuck! and “Oh, fuck!”

Agnes over hears the commotion. She comes strolling out from behind the curtain dressed only in a thin faded fluffy pink robe. Unconcerned about her appearance, her disheveled hair tells the tale of the late night and minimal sleep. Her tiny red bikini panties and unsheathed tits are conspicuously exposed, as the robe trails behind as she speeds to the scene of concern. Buster is noticeably distracted. Agnes gives him a little wink. Then she returns her attention Butch. “What’s the problem, Hon?” Butch shoves the newspaper in her face, “This!” He paces back and forth through the kitchen/dining room while trying to calculate his next move, “Those goddamned barracudas!”

           Agnes begins to review the article. She slowly closes her robe and ties it shut. Somberly, she drops to a chair to finish the story. Buster interjects, “It’s the morning edition… all over the county by now, I expect… George’s girlfriend, works at the donut shop down the road, brought it by…”   Before Agnes reads ½ way through, she mutters somberly, “We’re fucked!” Butch consternation is unparalleled. “Goddamned pricks… where did they get this! Who told them this crock of shit?”

           Agnes reads aloud. “Sheriff Taylor from Beale County almost lost his 9 year old daughter in the recent accident at B & J Carnivals has refused to give up despite attempts by local authorities to squelch the incident. ‘Someone should make them pay for their negligence… Except for the valiant efforts of the Regional Children’s center, my little girl would have been another victim of their carelessness and greed’. Although recent investigations into the unfortunate accident that claimed the lives of 3 carnival goers gave B & J a clean bill of health, a state board of inquiry has established to reopen the case.

           Further investigation into B & J revealed severe mismanagement and financial trouble. Bank officials from San Antonio Savings and Loan, who hold several sizable loans extended in previous years to finance equipment and operations, reported on Friday that B & J has had severe money problems some time. Furthermore, officials indicated that B & J was currently in the process of foreclosure. Liens on placed on B & J assets are schedule to go into receivership by the end of the month.

           Recently, an anonymous call was received from an key insider at B & J’s. Although this witness chooses to remain undisclosed at the present, they give testimony to a long standing history of financial misdealing including tax consumer fraud stemming from extensive alcoholism and drug use. Further reports from this unidentified spokesperson implicate Carnival administration in sexual abuse of minors, physical violence and frequent assemblages involving illegal drugs and prostitution.

           Butch explodes, “Who is this fucking rat? Somebody around here is trying to set us up. They couldn’t know all this shit unless someone’s squealing! They wouldn’t have the balls to print that crap unless they had help…”

Buster volunteers, “How about Lobo… I never trusted him. With Henry and the fight and all, He might be trying to get revenge or something!” Butch dismisses the idea, “Lobo hasn’t been around that long. He doesn’t know all that much… Has to be someone closer.” Butch still pacing. Everyone is restless and irritated. Butch stops and looks angrily down the hall in the direction of Lindsay’s habitat. He questions urgently in whispered tones, “What about Lindsay? He’s been hanging around with Lobo a lot. Plus he’s been acting weird lately.” Agnes protests strongly, “Lindsay would never say those things about us. Why would he try to sink the ship he’s sitting in? Lindsay would never betray us to outsiders!” Butch retorts, “Someone did. Maybe not Lindsay. But somebody we all trust. One of our family… some fucking Judas has sold us out. Now they’re trying to crucify us in front of the whole goddamned world.”

Agnes looks up a worried expression and wrinkled forehead, “What are we going to do? If all the other fair boards get wind of this, we won’t be able to play any county in the U.S. They’ll cancel out and we’ll be sunk for sure.”

Butch is at his best in crisis, at least short term. Long term problems eat away at him and he folds.  Doesn’t have fortitude to endure. Butch assumes command easily of the situation and dispenses immediate duties. “Agnes, you get a hold of that little cock sucker of an inspector and see what he knows about the board of inquiry and what he can do about it… tell him his family life is at stake, so he better come up with some answers.

Then call that weasel accountant of ours and have him delay the banks. He can tell them anything… that we found some rich foreign investors, got an inheritance, robbed a bank -I don’t give a shit what… Just tell him to buy us a couple of more months. How ever he has to do it. Tell him if he doesn’t , I’ll personally come back and rip out his testicles and cram them down his wimpy little throat.

Buster, “You go and gather the troops… I mean everyone… for a meeting. Everyone comes, no excuses. 8:00 sharp. They either show up on time or they’re history. That will give us an hour or so to get a hold of everyone first.  We’re going to lay down the law around here and smoke out the fucking rat. Also ask around among your buddies and people you trust and see if you can find out anything. See if they’ve seen anything suspicious lately… any of our crew hanging out with strangers or going to town in the last few days.”

“I’ll make sure those cock suckers at the paper print a retraction by tomorrow… or I’ll slap a libel suit on them so fast their heads will swim… I’ll have my friends in the county government dig up some shit on the sheriff and the newspaper owner. Put some pressure on them. Everyone’s got skeletons they don’t want hung out in the sunshine. They find something to make these fuckers back off.

I’m also going to find out what I can about this anonymous caller…” Butch waxes bitter and vengeful. “I just want to know who in our family’s been trying to fuck us… That person, I want to deal with personally… They’re going to wish they’d never been born, when I get through with them.

Town meeting at the bumper car arena. Art deco vintage 1950’s. 7:58am. Everyone files in grunting and groaning. Pulling themselves together to come to this unprecedented early morning staff meeting . Usually they there was only one such meeting a week, when they first got into town and was always much later—mid afternoons on their set-up day. 30 or 40 people were assembled. A couple of the late comers grumble to Buster, “What’s up? We’re not scheduled to be at our posts for over 2 hours yet!” Buster’s stoned faced reply is a simple “Shut up. You’ll see.”

Butch storms in royally pissed off. People continue their complaining and yacking oblivious to his brewing rage. Buster yells for them to quiet down. As they register Butch’s sinister persona, complete silence falls across the arena.  Agnes is and Buster stand on either side. Buster’s enforcers for his rear guard. The crowd of Carnies look at each other pensively.  Brian, Jackie and Sweetie cloister together. Jackie appears frightened and evasive. She stares solemnly at the floor. Lindsay leans against the rail in a far corner by himself. Tommy stands in the shelter of his grand parents, Clyde and Enid.

Butch holds up a copy of the newspaper far above his head in plain view. His booming angry voice amplified by the acoustics of the metal floor and ceiling. “If you all haven’t seen this, you will.” Butch throws the news paper on the floor in front of him. There is a general murmur of confused curiosity. “Some cock sucker at the paper got a hard-on for fucking with us… Probably in cahoots with that sheriff whose kid got hurt a while back… They have a lot of negative things to say about us. Most of which is a complete pile of bull shit. At any rate, I’ll be dealing with those fuckers, you can be sure of that.”

“What disturbs me today isn’t those vultures… those barracudas swimming out there trying to get a bite of us… What disturbs be today and PISSES ME OFF (Butch shouts so loud people instinctively back up) is that someone… one of our own family is feeding this shit to them.” People look around in dismay. Angry murmur of disbelief ripples throughout the crowd. Butch continues his discourse, “I’m not talking about outsiders. We’ve always had to put up with bullshit from the newspapers… some hot shot reporter trying to play investigator and win an award by digging up some dirt on an easy target… the Carnies.” General agreement.

I’m talking about one of our brothers and sisters… right here, right now standing with us… has betrayed us… stabbed us in the BACK!” Butchs’ last comment sparks angry remarks bubbling up among them; “Who!” “Get the bastard” We’ll find ‘em.” Butch waits for the clatter to die down.  “I want that person. I will find that person.” A couple of Buster’s crew speaks up, “We’ll find ‘em and bring you their tongue.” Other of the fray begin disputing who could have done it, why and how to find them. Butch motions for their quiet compliance. “You all know, I put up with a lot around here. But this disloyalty to me, to our family, to our way of life… cuts me to the bone. Lies told by strangers are like slaps across the face. But this treason, this treachery perpetrated by one of our own…” Butch turns away from them apparently overcome by strong emotion.  He regains his composure and continues to address them. He walks through the crowd looking into the eyes of each on of them. His voice grows low, bitter and threatening. “Whoever you are… you Judas, fucking Christ… I will find you.” He lingers in front of Lobo for a moment staring deeply into his eyes. Lobo stares back trying to maintain his calm demeanor. He had had a lot of experience with bullies in prison. Best to keep quiet but stand your ground. “And when I do, I promise you on my own mother’s grave…” He scans the lot of them with during his final statement. “I’m going to nail your ass to the tree… you’re going to wish you’d never been born!”

Lindsay is terrified. He knows what Butch is capable of. He wishes he could just run away. If he did, everyone would suspect him for sure. He tunes out Butchs’ furious threats for a few seconds while he ponders the freshly painted scenes adorning the “House of Horror”. Scenes from the Apocalypse. The end of the world. Christ. Judgment. Devils and angles fighting for final supremacy. He had read about that. He shudders as he remembers Enids’ disturbing denouncements.

Butch lets the impact of his promised wrath settle. “I have to put my complete energies toward dealing with these matters. While I do, I’m putting Buster in complete around charge here. He has power to bust heads and do whatever is necessary. His word is law. Hear that folks! Law! You fuck with him and you fuck with me. Got it? A rumble of submission satisfies him that he has been adequately understood.

Sweetie holds Jackies hand tightly. Brian recedes slightly behind Jackies shoulder. He whispers to Sweetie while Butch is roving among the far side of the amusement. “I’ve never seen Butch this angry before!” Fat lady Enid just shakes head in amazement. Tommy hides behind her thick body.

Butch completes his oration and exits without further comment. Agnes evaluates the crowd, also searching their eyes for clues, then follows several paces behind. There is a sense of relief now that Butch has exits but also a sense of foreboding left in the wake of his revelations.

Buster’s turn to take the podium. It’s up to him to apply the particulars. Put the theory into practice. His rubber was going to hit their road. Buster waves their attention. “O.K. people, listen up!” There’s going to be some serious changes around here beginning immediately.” Suspicious murmuring runs through the assemblage. “Until things are cleared up, it’s going to get pretty hot around here. We’ll all be under a microscope. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t tell nothing to no none. The perpetrator of these lies is making life hard on us all.” A general uneasiness and angst permeates.

Buster pulls out a clip board with some guidelines he and Butch outlined. “First of all… No more wrap parties until further notice. We don’t want cops havin’ an excuse to bust us. They’ll be watching our every move. That also means no drugs or alcohol period! Anytime. Anywhere. With anyone.” Protestations bubble in several spots. “My boys here will bust the heads of anyone found high or packing. No second chances, no excuses.”

“Second thing… The sex thing.” A couple guys hoot and whistle. Buster raises his hand to quell them. “No fucking with town folk. Or anyone who you aren’t absolutely sure is over 18. If you have doubts, check their drivers license.” The guys guffaw, “Yea sure… Ah miss excuse me, may I see your drivers license… and your tits!” More laughter. Buster yells, “Hey, settle down. I mean it. I catch anyone breaking the rules and you’re out… period. I’m not kidding around. We’re not going to jeopordize this Carnival over a piece of ass.” People sober a bit. We have enough heat comin’ down on our heads without some irate father causing trouble… bottom line, when in doubt keep your zipper zipped… and your lips zipped too. Got that Jackie?”

People bust up laughing. Even Buster cracks a smile at that one. Cat calls abound. Jackie blushes beat red (a first for her) She’s totally embarrassed and immensely pissed. Buster, looking over at Peter who still looks pretty busted up from his encounter with Jackie and is whooping and hollering to beat all, admonishes strongly, “That means you too. I catch you fucking around with any young thing… in or out of the Carnival.” Peter objects, “She came on to me!” Jackie screams, “You fucking liar. I should’ve killed you.” Buster reasserts his command. “Shut up! Both of you. What I’m saying to you, I’m saying to all.”

Buster waits ‘till things quiet down a bit. “Next thing is money. No skimming. No cheats or scams or switches. Watch your tickets. Play it real straight. Never know when the fuzz with try a sting. We’re playing it totally legit until this all blows over.” A couple of guys, Brian included look puzzled. “Yea, I know what I told you before. Now I’m telling you different. From now on, Brians’ in charge of counting the cash and tallying the tickets. It all goes through him. Nothing on the side. No “tips” or “side bets”. You got questions, ask Brian.” All this is a surprise and honor to Brian. Can’t help but be visibly pleased, grinning from ear to ear.

Buster moves on to the fourth item. “Assignments… as you all know, money’s real tight right now. And it’s going to get tighter.” Some groans of disappointment and discontentment. “Until further notice, there will be no more hiring of “green help.” One ride super demands, ‘How is god’s name can we…” Buster doesn’t give him the opportunity to continue. “Hey, this isn’t a fucking democracy. I wasn’t asking your permission. This is the way it’s going to be. We’re all going to have to pull together… double up if we have to.” Super glares at him but shuts up.


Buster reads from his list. “These assignments are in stone until you hear from me and are not subject to change or negotiation. All ride supers will be doubling up as drivers. Enid and Clyde will be handling food and supplies.” Sour look from both. “Sweetie is permanently reassigned to assist. Sweetie quietly begins to cry. This means being torn from her closest friend and confidant. Buster looks a little guilty but goes on. Jackie is shocked and angry. “Jackie, Hank and Spider are on permanent clean-up detail. Jackie starts cursing. “Why do I have shit detail!” Peter insists with a sarcastic smile, “Watch you mouth, Jackie… you heard the man.” Jackie storms off. A couple of Busters’ enforcers try to stop her verbally but she just ignores them and proceeds.

“Lobo is back-up for tear down and set-up. That includes cleaning them up for each play date. Basically you’re on until every ride and game is packed up or unpacked and ready to go… in and out. A nearby carny complains on his behalf, “When is he supposed to sleep?” Lobo motions for the guy to back off. Buster waits for Lobo to object so that he can make an example of him but Lobo doesn’t respond. Buster’s gang just smirks.

Buster puts down his clip board and reaches behind him to receive a leash from one of his enforcers. He lead of a very forlorn puppy. “Wolf here, our beloved mascot has bitten one too many people. From now on he will be leached and muzzled.” A few sympathetic, “aaahs” resound from the feminine gallery. “If he gets loose and fucks up again, he’s off to the pound for a trip to the short trip to the ovens…”  Buster takes a minute to gloat over the victory of his nemesis. “or a long, one way walk in the woods with me and my rifle.” Peter scowls at Wolf, “It serves you right, mutt.” Wolf just lays down defeated and groans lowly.

The natives are getting restless. This has been a lot to digest before morning coffee and they’re anxious to leave. “One more thing. It’s in all of our best interests to find this mole, this rat fink. If anybody has any information that would help us get him, we’d be more than obliged… there might even be a bonus!” He rubs his fingers together indicating that money would be palmed. “You just come to me, I’ll take it from there.” Buster smiles. “I promise, it will be anonymous… remember, you don’t do anybody any favors by keeping this a secret or hiding this person. You don’t owe them anything. They’re putting us all in jeopardy. Making life hard for us all. So, they’re no friend to you or any of us.”

Buster holds up his empty hands. “So that’s about it… unless any of you wise guys got any questions.” The group starts to disband. One of the old time ride supers George, pipes up. “Yea, I got a question.” Buster looks impatient. “This here paper says that the San Antonio bank officials are going to close us down in 30 days.” Buster brushes him off, “You believe everything you read in the papers George?” A few people giggle., but George’s buddy reiterates, “Well, what about it?” Buster puts his hands on his hips, “Listen I don’t know about all the financial affairs of this Carnival. Hell I can hardly make change… but one thing I do know. There ain’t know in Hell that Butch is goin’ to let them close this Carnival down… after being in his family for three generations and all… and God protect the man who tries!”

Everyone seems pretty please by the response. Buster sneers, “So if you’re worried about your job security… wagering whether or not we’re going to be around next season… I’d say Butch is a pretty safe bet.” Buster appears fairly smug until Clyde timidly questions, “What happened to Henry?” Buster is ruffled by the question and makes to brush it off except that it rekindled a latent concern shared by all. “Yea, Henry was a good man. He never did anybody wrong.”

Buster raises his hands for quiet. “We all liked Henry but truth be told… Henry was a drunk whose negligence not only cost him his job, may have cost several people their lives and has also rained a lot of shit down on us as well.” Lobo shoots Buster a ‘bull shit’ look of astonishment. Carnies don’t want to believe bad about Henry.

Lobo still can’t believe they’d set Henry up to take the fall for them. Then again, he could. Just like prison. Life wasn’t fair. Never was. Never will be. That’s just the way it is. The rich get richer from exploiting the poorer. The strong bully the weak. The smart lord it over the stupid. People use every advantage they can to wrest resources from their fellow.

“So you’ all won’t keep on concocting rumors forever… The way I hear it went down is that Butch gave Henry a generous retirement and sent him on down to his sister in Florida. As you know Henry had with the family a long time. Despite what he may have done or become, Butch wanted to take care of him. He told me one time, almost in tears, that Henry was almost like a brother to him. So he gave him every chance he could.”

Buster is feeling especially magnanimous. He’s on a roll. He never knew previous to this date that he was capable of generating such elegant bull shit. Yea, responsibility was making him quite an orator. “Around here we believe everyone deserves a chance… whatever their past may have been.” Motioning in Lobo’s direction. “Take Lobo here for instance. We know he’s an ex-con, done hard time in the pen… for God knows what… we’ve yet to find out.” People giggle. Lobo just looks on emotionless. “But we all appreciate his art work. And as long as he mind’s his own business and does what he’s told… we’re going to give him the benefit of the doubt, until proven other wise… I guess you’d say we’re a fucking welfare organization!” People laugh out loud.

Buster enjoys being the center of attention and humor. This time it’s because he’s in a position of authority. They better take him seriously or else. If he can use Lobo to get a few laughs and establish his title as top dog, all the better. “Granted, maybe I wouldn’t leave my wallet in plain view…” chuckle chuckle “And it’s for damn sure we’re not going to put up with any B.S… Buster grins mischievously, As you know, we have our own special way of dealing with Bull Shit…” They glance over at Lobo, whose face still bears the subtle remnants of his violent encounter with Buster and his boys. “Now, if there’s no more questions…” Buster makes a sign with his fists that there better be no more questions. “Let’s get to work!”

Back at the trailer. The import and implication of the possible consequences bother Agnes. Unable reach their accountant, she is running scared. “What about the receivership? Is it true that they have the power to call the loans and close us down that fast? In 30 days?”

Butch responds with a mean edge to his voice. Understandable after what was printed in the papers. “No cock sucker is going to close this Carnival down. You think I’d let that happen? They can kiss my ass.”

He rises, brushes the hair back on his head and chimes in rhetorically as he searches the refrigerator for a morning beer, “My family been in the Carnival business for 3 generations… just because some hot shot reporter…” Having heard Butchs’ bravado and historical credential ad nauseum, She regresses, “I should’ve known you would squandered the money… instead of making the loan payments. I can’t believe you bought those fucking stocks to begin with!”  Butch felt a twinge of guilt, “I’ll take care of it.”

Agnes gets up as well, looking for a cig. “How? You can’t just invent the money. With all this going on, how in the world are you…” Butch snaps back at her like a wounded beast, “I’m told you, I’ll take care of it.” Agnes buries her head in her hands and acts like she’s about to break, “I just can’t stand it any more. It’s like we’re surrounded and everything is closing in…” Her hands are trembling significantly as Agnes tries to steady them enough to light a new cigarette… although one is sitting in the ash tray already lit, only ½ spent. Butch explodes. If it’s one thing he doen’t need right now is a needy, dependent whining woman to dog his tracks. “So what do expect me to do about that now! If you can’t stand the heat… then you can just split… you and that little shit of yours.” Agnes peeps at him with numbed resentment, “That’s not fair! I’m not saying… Butch is tired of the banter as well, “Listen, I don’t have time for this…”

They both endure an uncomfortable silence during which time they both come to the same conclusion to proceed on a more conciliatory note and drop the money thing. Been around that mountain before.

On a different matter, Agnes carefully prods, “What about what the newspapers say about the sex stuff?” Butch pauses trying to read her. Sensing no threat or accusation in her voice he replies candidly, “Way I figure it, This is a free country. A man can do anything he wants to in his own bedroom or wherever. The constitution guarantees every man the right to pursue happiness… however it’s found.” He gives her one of those naughty smiles. She laughs mildly. “And you do pursue it with gusto you do.

Agnes decides to play along for now although she has some lingering concerns about Butchs’ response. How long before she is replaced by a newer sexier version… especially if Butch really does have a taste for young flesh. She decides to postpone her analysis until later.

One additional piece of the puzzle that she still can’t fathom initiates a final question, “What about Lobo? Seems like keeping him around could be a mistake. He could cause trouble for us down the road.” Butch maintains his attitude of arrogance, “Actually, my dear… he just might end up being our salvation… you just wait and see. He’s like my ace in the hole… My trump card.”

In unison Butch takes a swig on his beer and Agnes take a drag off her cig as their gazes remained locked. “If it really heat’s up too much around here, I’ll just pull it out and play it. Yep, having Lobo around is like having a get out of jail free card.” He smiles smugly at the irony of his statement.  Agnes shakes her head in dismay. “So you still won’t tell me what you’re up to, huh?” Butch continues to conceal his thoughts from her. He’s playing this one close to his chest for some reason. “God, Butch your such a devious person… I like that in a man.” Agnes teases coyly, “So, when are you going to let me in on your little secret?” Butch responds, “All in good time my dear, all in good time.” Downing the last of his drink, Butch changes focus, “Anyway never mind right now, I gotta get going. See if I can light a fire under the asses of those mother fuckers at the newspaper.” He grabs his keys off the sink and slams the door behind him as he strides off to town. A man with a mission. Agnes returns to her pursuits of tracking down their accountant and getting things in order.

Lindsay apprehensively lingers in the hallway behind the curtain overhearing Butchs’ plot to use Lobo for some yet unidentified but sinister ends. He is very distressed by their deliberations and senses imminent danger. For himself as well as for Lobo. Slowly he slips away from curtain and back into his room… for now, until he can figure out what he should do next.

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