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**Note: This is four pages long in Word, so if you're feeling like you want to waste ink I've found it better to print them out. I've done it for some of you so I'm not being selfish =)***


It was during my very first visit to the Redman’s Carnival that I was swept away by the beauty of sideshow freaks. It was a clammy night and the moon was ripe, but there was such a glamorous air inside the carnival which set itself apart from the rest of the parking lot by train cars. Streamers whipped by my face, cotton candy piled high above children’s hair whisked by me, bobbing up and down in gallops, lovers crossed fingers in line, lovers kissed on the Ferris wheel, the smell of baked sugar dough melted over my face as I purchased a lightly steaming portion of it, leaned up against a lamppost and took my teeth into it ever so gently and passionately tongued it around my mouth’s quick. I watched the people pass and stop, look up and down and all around the festiveness, chatter to each other and gawk at the rides that spun and raised and lowered and shimmied and tilted, their eyes catching bits and pieces of the rainbow-lights that danced along drying puddles and turned them into blinking watercolors and rubbed over jewelry.

In my most comfortable point of view was a sideshow, where the man held baseballs above his head and called out to the audience in a beckon, pivoting above his waist all the while. A child in a blue Yankees sport coat, no taller than my thigh, stopped his Father with a tug of the pants and pointed up to the big furry baseball bat that lay on the uppermost shelf. His Father stopped and they exchanged words, he picked up the tyke with one arm and cradled him there, paid the sideshow host and took one baseball in his hand.

Here as I ate my dough I looked and pondered on the chances of him actually felling the six bottles that seemed to sway like a mirage in the carnival light. He seemed to be thinking the same thing, a bit reluctant with his hand as he fingered the stitching with his thumb. He wound up as best he could with the child in his arm, and tossed the ball at the bottles. He knocked the top bottle off the two holding it up. The host set the bottles back up. Gotta get all in one shot, I could almost hear him say. The man set down his child this time, wound up with another baseball and threw with all his might at the bottles. All of them fell but one. The man scratched the back of his head and looked down at the boy.

It was about this time that I realized that in the unfolding escapade before me I had eaten all of my dough and lost interest in the Father and Son outing. I made way to a galvanized trashcan, still tonguing my gums and licking my lips, then my fingers, wiping away the powdered sugar like a child might after running his fingers through fresh snow. Ah, what it would be like to have such a field of powdered sugar! The thought alone sent my heart throbbing into my gullet and my eyes crinkle with a grin, which caused my face to turn cherry red at the position of grinning with no company. Why, people could think I was a scoundrel! Lurking in the carnival to take their children! Preposterous things it can be to smile so heedlessly alone in a field of strangers.

I approached the trashcan absently, and when my fingers left their hold over the paper plate, I stepped in a puddle. Flustered, I stepped back, missing the trashcan with the plate. My shoe, wet but still freshly polished, caught a deep red light, so deep that it happened to be that I could have easily confused my toe with crimson candle wax. I looked up to find the locus. I was directly below a gigantic glowing ‘W’. I backpedaled for an instant but caught sight of the thick paper plate swooning from side to side in the air, so I jutted myself forward, a bit too quick I will say, because my portliness dragged me deeper towards the ground than I had accounted for and nearly lost my balance, struck my palm to the steel trashcan (which fortunately had sufficient weight to keep it from keeling over), and recovered the plate, dipping my tie into the dirty water below which was black from my body’s shade. I wobbled back to my feet, disposed of the plate, rubbed my face and turned away from the sideshows not wanting to show my face, as red and round as a gumball as it were. I walked hurriedly into the building next to me but not without hearing snickers and some downright, etiquette-absent laughs.

In here it was cool. I told the attendant that I had not a ticket for the show, but I offered him a Hamilton if he would just let me go through- anything to let the audience pass and allow me some refuge for a bit. The curtains passed over me softly, cooling my blood with their gentle elegance as I walked between and under them. There was an isle before me, rather narrow and lit with the same red as the puddle outside from long halogens that ran parallel from each side of the ceiling. I hadn’t the faintest clue of where I was. There weren’t any people in sight, and that registered an exhale from my lungs. Calmer, I strode to the most immediate of purple curtains and brushed them aside, poking my head in. In the room’s wall facing the doorway was a cage and the first thing that I noticed about that cage was that it was phony: there wasn’t any kind of glisten from the dim lighting and they looked like they were paper towel tubes taped together and spray-painted black.
In the cell was a green light, with hay dyed green and tapestries with white shamrocks.

I lifted my nose a little, cocked my head, looked but couldn’t see, then came inside, my dress shoes tapping on the uncarpeted floor. Slowly, something stirred behind the spray-painted cardboard tubes. A midget dressed as a leprechaun was walking up the bars. I raised my brow at him, then stifled a laugh. His great big green hat wagged towards me as he stutter-stepped up to the bars, tiny black boots with a garish buckle making pitter-patter on the floor. He looked at me, sighed, and went and reached near the pile of hay where he was wresting, and dragged out a big plastic pot. ‘Want some candy, buddy? You look hungry.’ ‘Sure thing’ I said, and reached out my stubby fingers towards the bars, which, I saw, were not cardboard painted black but coils of black rope. The midget jerked both of his hands into the pot and brought back a lump of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. I thanked him heartily and munched on them, thoughtlessly asking if he wanted one. ‘No thanks bud, I’ve had enough of those things-one more and I’ll have the runs all tonight and into tomorrow,’ and he stretched out, reaching up to the ceiling. I asked him if he got paid well here and he said that it was an interesting job, that he already had a few small gigs in plays here and there that he got from the amateur producers coming to the show. From his coat he brought out a flask and took a swig, and I told him ‘That’s a good idea’ and laughed, thanked him for the chocolate and walked towards the purple curtain. I had just elbowed it away when I halted and asked him just what it was this sideshow was and he called back, ‘Freakshow,’ then went back to his little makeshift hovel in the hay. I paused at the word, then walked back into the hallway.

Deciding that the wait in seclusion was not needed anymore, and seeing for the first time a door at the other end of the way, I made plans to make for my car. It was upon the second curtain that a family of three- Mother, Father, Daughter, slipped from the fifth room and into the lasts. For a brief moment I thought they might be hunting for me, curious to see if I would perform another humorous faulting, reasoned with myself that they were far too far ahead of me to actually have seen my blunder. Traveling towards the exit my ear drums bulged and cringed at the sound of a shriek- a shriek so loud and that my eyes began to water, and from that sixth room came the Daughter of the family, bulbous eyes with her palms out, blowing away the curtain with her scream, running out the exit door. The parents collide with one another in pursuit, a mess of four flailing arms and leg, shouting ‘Samantha! Samantha!’ out the door and into the dankness outside.



Now I thought felt that I simply must see what was behind curtain number six, what it was that could so frighten a small girl so much as to run away from her parents in full sprint. I began to think, ‘perhaps there really IS a freak in this freak show, some kind of thing that really is frightening, something that would even give ME a chill. I was excited and my walk quickened, my hand swelled as I gripped the curtain, and I walked inside almost unerringly; I caught my toe with my heel at the last second and stumbled into the very ledge of the back wall’s stage. I was staring at a pair of long, creamy, sensuous legs clad in fishnet stockings. At first I thought to myself, ‘Are these legs attached? Or are they a maniacal display of dislocated real human legs on display? Am I in a nightmare? Am I having another night-terror?’ But these fears dispersed as a musical laugh from above hit me, then the smell of perfume and the clink of bracelets. I pushed away from the ledge and looked up at woman, a woman with a long, stringy beard. The hair ran down like a brown stagnant river between her girdled bosoms, and she pushed one finger against her lip to stop the giggling. ‘That was quite an entrance, handsome.’ She giggled again. Still awestruck, and perhaps even a little aroused, I apologized. ‘Don’t be sorry handsome. I thought it was cute.’ She did a little twirl, showed off her body, which was pale like that paper plate and dotted with freckles above her shoulders. ‘Behold,’ she said in a comical voice, ‘The Bearded Woman!’ and she thrusts her arms up like a ballerina. She looked at me until I caught myself, and said ‘Bravo’. She eyed me up and down. ‘Well, sir, as you can see we are short on employ-ees today and I don’t have an attendant to intro-duce me properly. Seems like a few of our guys came down with the flu yesterday.’



I said that I noticed that when I visited the leprechaun in the first room that there was no one there either. She smiled, ‘Oh, that little dahlin’ Weston wouldn’t even know if someone were there to into-duce him.’ I laughed, remembering the whiskey and the stutter-stepping, a real genuine laugh, one like I hadn’t had in a while. At my job, no one laughed and my apartment had no cable. My heart sang when her face flushed.





From the fifth booth I heard some sudden chatter. A family was making their way here next. ‘Well I should be going, Miss…?’ She eyed me again, the hint of a smile kicked the left of her lips. ‘Miss Cah-ter’ she said, and produced her hand with a limp wrist. ‘Mr. Stewart,’ I said, and without even knowing it was right down there on her middle knuckle with my lips pushed up against it, and I left with a big old smooching sound. She played her wonderful heart music- that laugh- she was flattered! Just then I heard footsteps in the hall right outside the curtain. I dropped her hand quickly and jumped to the side. A family of four entered, two sons. ‘Behold!’ I shouted, ‘The Bearded Woman!’ I waited for the family to get their kicks in, then ushered them along before they could stare too hard, saying how late it was and that the lady needs some privacy. One boy started in about how that wasn’t a lady and I gave him a good gentle shove out the door. When I looked back at her, she had her hands in little balls on her hips, and she was staring at me like I had done and bought her a brand new Corvette.

I stayed there the whole night from prime-time till closing, ushering people in and out and taking in little bits and pieces of conversation from Tiffany. I quit my telemarketing job the next day, told them to find some other sap. Redman’s hired me on the spot. When the day came for Redman’s Carnival to up and move, I took the keys to my car like I was starting up a jet plane and followed them to the next town over where I sold the piece of junk and moved into Tiffany’s car.



Now, me and Tiffany have a child, and he’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever laid eyes on. His eyes are brown like mine, and he’s already got a mat of hair. From what the doctors said, we already have a job all planned out for him: he’s going to be the next leprechaun.


------
"One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo's nest."



Comments

The following comments are for "Curtain Six"
by Jack

been a while, but
The running away with a bearded lady is a total mockery of the American Dream: to be rich with a good-looking spouse, 2 kids, a great house. However, you didn't read it right, for there is no "brand new car". He sells his old car and moves into the one that the bearded lady owns (and this is a train car, not a Honda). It's a story of beauty in the eye of the beholder of one that society has outcasted. Most people would frown on having a dwarf for a child; these two embrace it. It's an "ugly" romance. One that you don't won't see glamorized too often.

( Posted by: Jack [Member] On: February 3, 2004 )





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