Scene 23

carny copy

Swirling carnival attractions. Throngs of people riding, playing and enjoying themselves. B & J Carnivals were back in business. Now they were the darlings of the media. The press always root for the underdog. With the robbery, Butch became the apparent victim instead of the potential perpetrator. Any suspected wrong doing was easily and happily deflected to the sinister oriental ex-con. People love strongly drawn heroes and villains. Now the newspapers could give them a real dramatic story. The Glitz and glamour of the carnival oozed out of every pore of the midway… still there was an eerie emptiness that seemed to linger.

Money was pouring in. Agnes & Butch were having difficulty counting it as fast as it was coming in. The increased media attention and controversy served in effect as free advertising. They were the front page headlines for the entire county. They even got substantial radio and television coverage. Butch interviewed about tragic recent events and their brave struggle to overcome them and hold together as a carnival family. He was a local celebrity overnight. This was turning out to be the most prosperous week for B & J in over 10 years… By far the best Butch had ever experienced in his tenor as Carnival Mogul.

Wolf kept pacing back and forth struggling against rope. He had never been leached before in his life. The blaring sound of the playful crowds and dazzling attractions called to him. But he couldn’t respond. At times he would bark incessantly hoping to draw the attention of some kind hearted passerby. Eventually though he would give up and sadly sink to the ground in defeat burying his head between his paws.

Lindsay spent much of the time alone in his room. He didn’t even like to go outside much any more. Life seemed useless and hopeless. Sometimes he would wander around the fringes of the midway in self imposed exile, when everyone was working or asleep. He enjoyed the challenge of kicking a fair sized rock as far as possible without loosing it. His worst fear was to encounter Buster’s friends. They would always talk behind Lindsay’s back when he was around… smirking, jeering and making jokes about him.

Agnes reaches their accountant and is able to persuade him to intercede for them with the bankers. She excitedly gives Butch two thumbs up. He has also successfully convinced the governing authorities that he and B & J Carnivals were completely free of all wrongdoing or responsibility with regards to the accident. Even the father of the injured girl called to apologize. It was printed in the papers. Great Western immediately extended an earnest payment of $50,000 to cover operating expenses.

They promised, pending completion of their required paper work, to reimburse Butch for the entire loss (minus the $5,000 deductible) within several weeks. Almost $200,000! Plus they had over $60,000 stashed away of presumably stolen money. They were rich! Agnes & Butch celebrated their good fortune with binges of drinking, chain smoking, and deep lusty kisses.

Buster takes over Henry’s old trailer. A new paint job and some redecorating soon erased the memory of Henry’s years of residence. His gang hung on his coat tails. (Even though he didn’t wear any) They gladly helped him put up the new sign that indicated his elevated position and job title. He was on top of the world. Butch rewarded him for his loyatly, cooperation and silence with a substantial increase in salary as well… over double of his previously meager pay.

Lobo’s graphic images of apocalyptic scenes remained his legacy. Unhappy sinners, glorious battles, sci-fi metaphors brilliantly adorned the midway. Angel, demons, ghosts and girls all colorfully illustrated. The pictures seemed to stand in sharp contrast to the carefree frolic of the children laughing and screaming on carnival attractions. They seemed heavy, meaningful, demanding of audience.

The police continued their pursuit of Lobo. The local authorities had solicited the assistance of neighboring counties and even got help from state troopers. An “APB – All Points Bulletin – had been sent out on Lobo. A rough sketch of him had appeared in newspapers as well as on television. Several officers were allocated to follow every lead in the case. Two teams of tracking dogs, accompanied by four officers a piece were sent into the woods within a 30 mile radius. They had several articles of Lobo’s clothes to go by. And the dogs were the best in the state. Several witness testified to seeing a man fitting Lobo’s description heading out toward the woods. The trail led them to the river, down by the railroad tracks, where they focused their pursuits.

Brian is busy day and night either taking tickets or keeping books. Now the heat is off and B & J are favored by one and all, the standard policy of cheating on the gate receipts is back in full force. He still feels guilty once in a while about stealing but the compliance has its rewards… He gets another $20 a week, a new calculator, and his own Television set to keep him company in the ticket booth. He still feels bad for squealing on Lobo and Lindsay. Discontent and restless, he shuts off the T.V. and lights up a cigarette. A newly acquired habit. Awkwardly he takes drag and coughs violently. He’s self-conscious of his naiveté. It’s still unnatural and repulsive. Good time to practice, with no one around to see.

The freak tent was buzzing as usual. A long line of curious gawkers waiting to catch a glimpse of the ½ girl – ½ boy, the 500 pound fat lady, or the pickled punk (a human baby fetus stored in a large pickle jar). Jackie lifelessly went through the motions of perform her routine. Lately it seemed to her more empty and degrading. The spark of vitality and spunk that typified her had vanished. She was like a corpse, a husk, a shell. She didn’t care anymore.

Lately, she’s become more bold than ever soliciting money on side to let the guys cop a feel of her tits or give them a quick hand job or some head. At 13 (almost 14) she looked broken, old and detached. Brian unwittingly barges in on her while she is performing her services. He is stunned and embarrassed. Jackie is hardened and indifferent. She just ignores him and persists. Brian stumbles backward out of the tent. She stares at Brian exiting with steely, cold uncaring eyes

Sweetie tidies up in the kitchen with Enid. Scrubbing the floor and cleaning. Her duties also included sorting, stacking and keeping track of the supplies that came in. It seemed like such a long time ago when her and Jackie hung out together. Now they hardly ever saw one another. Sweetie didn’t feel like a child anymore. She was an adult now. 11 years old. Sweetie was diligently mopping the back room, thinking about how awful Jackie looked lately. However, terrible she had it, Jackie had it worse. Sweetie sat down in the corner of the wet tile floor next to the mop bucket filled ½ full with dirty ammonia water. She was so very sad. She didn’t know how much longer she could take it. She folded up her knees underneath her and rocked back and forth weeping. The tears seemed to go on forever.

***

Lobo sits alone by the dying fire waiting for the light of dawn and thinking. He shivers slightly from the cold. His clothes are still damp. All the Hobos are conked out. His friend Mo crashed by a large tree several yards away. Resting on a flat rock with his hands behind his head. His cap shading his eyes from the moon, stars and fire flies. He wonders how Lindsay is doing. He grinds his teeth pondering his hatred of Butch and all he stands for. He looks forward to seeing Jackie again. She was a treasure. He wonders if this will be the last night he’ll have the freedom to stare up at the open, star lit sky. He still doesn’t have peace about his decision to return.

***

After a short outing, Lindsay returns to the isolating prison his room… alone again. There he lays on the bed and weeps uncontrollably. Such a hole inside of him that seems boundless. Like nothing has ever or will ever fill it. He wonders about Lobo. What has happened to him? He’s assured that he will never see him again. He continues to cry, fondling the cross/tao penant in his fingers.

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