I have never done this before and i don’t protest to be a writer, but i wrote a short story based on an actual carnie encounter i had at one of the fairs i worked at. Its a little rough, but i hope that its entertaining :) P.S. this story takes place on a fair midway, which is the area of the carnival that has the games and the rides, with many of the booths being covered by colorful canopies and tents. I just wanted you to have the visual. You’re Welcome
The midway is dead. The only life in the fair is found in those unfortunate enough to have to stick it out to the bitter end, and with this ride company, no one knows when that is. To kill time, the carnies join each other around their games and start to chat, smoke, and try to get whatever patrons are left to throw one more dart and take one final spin on the ferris wheel. The carnies are restless and begin complaining how there is no one here and that they don’t get payed enough to put up with stuff like this. They’re right.
Jared and I are sitting in our green chairs, pulling our jackets closer about us as we wait for the inevitable. He pulls out a book with the pale horse of the apocalypse on the cover and I ask him what the heck that book’s all about.
“Conspiracy theories,” he says. “This guy just filled this thing with real documents and added some of his own ideas to tie it all together.”
“How is it?” I ask as his bookmark flutters to the ground from the middle of the book.
“Pretty good so far, but I’m not that far into it so I can’t say for sure.”
“But isn’t that your bookmark?”
“Nah, just a piece of paper.”
I watch as he opens the book to what seems like some random page.
“huh” is about all I can muster as I turn my attentions back to the carnies mingling at the dart game. I was pretty tired of reading articles on my phone anyway, and people watching can easily pass as entertainment in a time crawling situation such as this.
Through the music and the din of voices, I can make out the muffled sound of a cell phone vibrating close by. I reach into my pocket and pull out my phone to find the screen blank. Slightly disappointed, I turn to Jared, who is fully involved with his book, and nudge his arm.
“Jared, I think you’re phone’s going off.”
“Shit,” he mutters as he reaches into his pocket just in time to answer the call.
“Yeah,” he yells followed by a long silence. A few grunts and uh huh’s later, the conversation ends with an “okay, I’ll be down.”
“Crap,” I mutter under my breath.
With Jared leaving the stand, this means one of two things will happen. The first being, I’ll be sitting here all by myself, pick up my book and continue reading Lord of Light undisturbed, or a less desirable second option which consists of all the previous things taking place except the undisturbed part. That’s the part I’m slightly concerned about.
Now, understand that I don’t think all carnies are big bags of hormones looking for the next piece of fresh tail. A carnival is not like a prison, where if i were to hypothetically drop the soap, there would be a dozen hounds at my backside in hopes of experiencing it. Many of them may be slightly off and considering their back stories it’s no wonder why, but that part can be easily overlooked by good conversation and a friendly joke here or there.
I pull out my book as Jared walks away, stick my nose in deep, and pray for nothing to happen. Sitting in my comfy green chair reading into a world of Gods and future tech, the second thing happened.
He had been walking around our stand a bit since the fair had lost its patrons. I didn’t think too much of it at the time since Jared was around, but I caught him looking at me several times in that way, by which I mean the way a boy in gym class would look at the cool girl on his volleyball team and the way he acted when she caught him. It was just like that.
This guy looked about in his twenties, balding, with puffy eyelids around eyes that sat on either sides of his face, cradling between them a crooked, pointy nose which itself sat on top of a nicely trimmed goatee. Timidly approaching the stand, his eyes darted from left to right, up and down, but never once at me, the person he supposedly wanted to be talking to. Confidence was a foreign idea to him, at least, it seems when girls are involved.
“So, uh, you draw?”
He can’t see it, but my shoulders droop a little bit.
Dear Lord, i thought. Is this really his opening line? He’s had a clear view of this booth, with me in it, drawing. I caught him looking at me drawing! So far, my interest in talking to this person has gone from ‘Okay, i’ll humor this’ to ‘Leave’ in one line.
“Yep!” I say with enthusiasm and clearly forced half smile. I intentionally meet his wandering gaze for a moment because I may not want to talk to him but I refuse to be completely rude about it.
He continued to stand there looking around and acting very nervous.
Something in the back of my head reminded me that I forgot to put my demo back on my drawing board, a situation that would have gotten me a good talking to with the last guy I worked with. Force of habit dictates that now, being aware of the bareness of my board, I have to rectify this immediately. It’s equivalent to an itch you can’t scratch or a pimple that just won’t pop. I’ll be bothered if I don’t fix it, which means i have to get up; and by standing, I might be able to look busy enough that maybe he’ll go back to his own business, because he obviously does not know how awkward he’s making this interaction by not leaving.
Making a dog ear page mark and shutting my book, I get up, find my demo, and clip it to my drawing board. In the process of placing the demo, my name tag falls out of my coat and hangs loosely from my neck. He takes this opportunity to grab it and look at. Trapped.
“Ali,” he stammers while letting go of my nametag. “Like Alley Cat, righ’?”
“Betcha you get called Alley Cat a lot. Like a nickname or somethin’.”
He’s got this hopeful look in his eye, like some new revelation about my name will somehow spur great discussion that will at least brings us into pal status. Not happening.
“Nope, not really,” I tell him in as nice a tone as I can muster.
” What kinda beer ya like?” He’s struggling to find some common ground.
“Oh, uh, I don’t really drink beer.”
“What! Don’t drink beer?” he says quite confused. What you must understand is that everyone out here drinks. Entire paychecks are spent in just one night at the bar.
“No. I don’t care for drinking too much. Not my kind of fun,” I tell him.
He looks baffled.
I look around the stand trying to come up with something else to look busy with. Walking behind the two chairs, I fiddle with the register key. Maybe if i think this thought loud enough, i thought, his brain will hear me and think it was his own idea. I close my eyes and concentrate. Please go away please go away please go…
“Ya know I yoosta be good at drawrin too.” It’s his last play and he knows it, but luckily for him, I’m always interested to hear how people think they are good at art. I have never heard that phrase used out here in conjunction with someone who can actually draw. He now has my attention and pre prepared internal giggles.
“Oh yeah? Why is that?” I say it quick enough that he doesn’t catch my slight condescension.
“I loved doin these cute cartoons in middle schoo’ art class. They was really good, but then I stopped cuz the middle schoo’ didn’t give me no more art classes. Stupid schedulin’ made me stop and I ain’t done it since.” I see some fire in his eye. He finally gets to talk about how the system screwed him over and that’s why he stopped doing this thing that I love to do. The system has kept us apart in the one thing we could bond over.
“That sucks, man” I tell him.
“I mean I still draw sometimes.”
“Really? Can I see something you’ve done?”
He’s clearly caught off guard by my request. To his credit, he fumbles around in his breast pocket and pulls out a small notepad and looks at me.
“Uhhh, can, can I borrow yo pen?”
Oh man, this is gonna be good! I choke back several giggles and quickly compose myself.
“Yeah! Sure.” It comes out as a half chuckle as I reach into my pocket, pull out a pen and hand it to him. He takes the pen with a shaking hand and leaves the stand; with my pen. I’ll miss the pen, but if it doesn’t come back, I’ll figure out some way to survive without it.
I nestle back into the green comfy chair and pull out my book opening it to a page I have had to reread about three times now. Looking down at a familiar paragraph, I see a figure passing in front of me. He enters the stand with gusto which immediately tells me this is not the guy coming back to fruitlessly try to win my attentions. To my relief, it’s Jared.
“So? They alright?” I ask.
“Oh yeah,” he exhales as he plops into the other chair. “They had some register problems.”
In the corner of my eye, i see him making his way back to the stand.
With hesitant steps, the guy comes around the front and holds out his notepad. On it is drawn what appears to be a police sketch outline of a man wearing a jumpsuit decorated in an intense flame design. His character is standing on a jagged line next to a pole with cotton stuck to the top of it, being poked by sticks protruding out of a circle that was drawn in the corner of the page. A veritable masterpiece.
“So, this is the cartoon guy I draw.”
“Interesting,” being the nicest word I can muster to describe what I saw scrawled before me. It’s my “go to” word for anything I don’t want to give my honest opinion on.
“Yeah, ya know, I practice ev’ry now and then, but that’s him righ’ thar.”
He pulls back the notebook and just looks at.
After another excruciatingly long pause, he looks up at me.
“Ya sure I can’t intrest you in at beer?”
And the crowd goes wild as the potential last out gets up to the plate and points his bat towards left field…
“I just got paid and, uh, a bunch of us is headin to the bar for a drink.”
. …The pitch is thrown, he makes contact and the ball goes up…
“Sorry,” I tell him,”my husband and I are going straight back to the hotel tonight. No boozin’ for us.”
“yeah, he’s at the other stand tonight.”
… And it’s caught by the first basemen in foul territory. This game is all over folks…
He takes a moment to recover from the ‘husband’ news.
His eyes dart from side to side “I’ll draw somethin’ else and show ya tomorra.” He looked around again and then headed back towards his ride.
“Um, okay then.”
Jared looks at me, confused as to what just happened.
” What was that all about?”
“You are NEVER allowed to leave me alone. Ever. Again.”
**Thank you for reading till the end. i really appreciate it!**
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