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Outside The Tent
Uncle Sam walks by on stilts wearing a torn tattered and patched outfit left over from the nineteen forties. He is a symbol that the fair and the I.R.S want your money. The strong man threads through the thousands of people, he is headed for the donniker. His name is Fred and he is gay, but only when no one is looking. However strong he may be, he cannot hold his water until the show is over. He will use the donniker and then return to his small tent where he will shock and amaze hundreds, by lifting large Styrofoam balls painted black.
Thousands of marks move through the midway, elbowing and jostling each other headed for god knows where to see god knows what. Everything that touches the midway must be bright, shiny, colorful and new. The marks carry hotdogs, corn dogs, sausages, steak sandwiches, popcorn, corn on the cob and cotton candy, bought from the hundreds of grease and floss joints scattered across the show. Somehow the night air, the excitement of it all and dubious cooking methods makes food taste so much better.
They carry cheap stuffed animals called rags or rags in a bag and referred to as garbage. These are made so badly that they appear to have been made by the more mentally challenged among us. In fact, in many cases they are actually manufactured by mental patients. Most have been won in games that are impossible to win. They will never know that the jointies, flatties and trailer babies have quotas that must be met each night. Will never know that winning is more about these quotas than any skill they possess and mostly will never know that at some joints you win every time you play. In winning you trade three dollars for a one dollar prize and everyone is happy. If the jointie is skilled you will continue to play, trading up quickly until you have paid three hundred dollars for a twenty dollar stuffed animal. Other than this, the only other winners of such animals, called flash or spoofers, are either shills, members of the show paid to win in a spectacularly public way or one of the local politicians who has been paid off by the advance man or members of such politician’s families. Every time one of these stuffed animals joins the crowd, it crosses the counter in the most public and extravagant way possible and always seems to make the trip when the most people are near enough to witness its journey.
Children dart through and around their parents, their faces carry perpetual smiles and their eyes are wide with wonder. They wear a mask that is a mixture of mustard and a film that is a mixture of cotton candy and candied apples, on their faces. Their hands are grimy with the filth and grease of the fair grounds.
There is loud rock-n-roll blasting from a dozen rides all at once as the talkers compete for their place in the fray. Underlying all this there is the sound of hundreds of laughing children and a few dozen spoiled ones who are crying.
Older kids roam the midway, their eyes darting to and fro, attempting to evade their parents and find a little trouble to get into at the same time. The boys drool over the young carnies whom are slightly older and seem worldly. In fact, most are as dumb as stones. Most have long beautiful hair which is straight and shiny. A condition caused by it being dirty, but this gives them the impression of being attractive hippies. Most female carnies don’t sleep with townies, but if one of the young men were to get extremely lucky, he would likely be treated to something that was quite gamey, might give him something to remember the occasion for several months and might find himself with a lot less money than he’d had when the smelly encounter had begun.
The young girls are dreaming right along with the young men. They will find and fantasize about one carnie as long as the fair is in town. The braver will make a date with one and show up after the show has closed. She might get offended and leave within minutes of arriving or become totally uninhibited and lose her virginity in any number of imaginative ways. Once bitten, she will continue to come back each night.
Ticket sellers and members of the goon squad thread through the crowd carrying tens of thousands of dollars. This money is wrapped in a variety of things, all designed to appear like nothing anyone would want. The goon walks just ten feet behind the ticket sellers, waiting for and indeed hoping for a little trouble to make their night more exciting.
Out of the noise and confusion of the midway a booming baritone voice suddenly pushes itself from a megaphone and exerts force until it shoves back and overpowers the cacophony of other sounds. The ticket seller and talker has placed the chain across the entrance to the cattle chute and after ascending the stairs he stands on a three feet wide by twenty foot long stage protruding out into the midway, called the bally stage. Behind him is the twenty-five foot tall wall of banners that hide the tent and advertise the show. Each banner is a canvas twenty foot tall and eight feet wide. They have been painted colorfully, by exceptional artists at considerable expense and create a fifty foot wall of the most beautiful art work imaginable.
The center piece is a twenty foot tall painting of Zamborra, the gorilla girl. She is dressed in an outfit that might embarrass Wilma Flintstone. Her skimpy dress is made of leopard skin and appears to being working with great enthusiasm to cover the most important parts of her anatomy. Just where the eyes meet the imagination a small triangle of white is evident. Well, not evident, it is so natural a thing and gives the viewer the impression that it was an accident. The small piece of exposed panties will cause no complaints from the ladies, but will sell many tickets to the men. He now begins the ballyhoo.
The talker is a short round man who gives a pretty good impression of the stay puff marshmallow man. He is wearing tan shorts, knee high black socks and black leather boot which are impeccable shined. A simple Tee shirt is wrapped in a jacket with long tails almost reaching the floor. He is topped with a tall black, top hat. There is a megaphone in one hand and a cane in the other. He starts to speak, slowly stretching his words and varying the tone and volume of his dissertation to create drama and emotion.
“Lookie, lookie, lookie here, lookie what I’m gonna, do. I’m getting ready to bring out Zamborra. That’s right, right here on this stage. We’re gonna’ have a free show a freak show, that’s right I said a free show right here on this stage. Ladies and gentlemen Zamborra was captured off the coast of Nairobi South Africa fifty miles from land, fifty miles from sea. She has been traveling all over Europe for twenty years and is now under contract to Ripley’s Believe it or not. She is in your town for the first, yes possibly the only time. Don’t miss your chance to see Zamborra. She’s what your friends are talking about, you’ve read about her in the local newspapers. She is believed to be the result of a very bizarre and inhumane scientific experiment. Look through the doorway she’s coming out now.”
Suddenly on the right a tent flap bulges and then bursts open, spilling the tents four hundred fifty occupants out into the crowded midway. The spearhead of the over four hundred are the ignorant. Only the ignorant can believe such a thing as a gorilla girl in the first place. As the ignorant rush from the tent onto the crowded midway, they are screaming and flailing their arms.
One is screaming, “the Gorilla is out, run”, as she mows down several marks before disappearing into the crowd. These marks mow down several others creating what appears to be a shock wave. Others are running in circles and screaming things best not screamed or repeated. Most of the over four hundred people rush headlong into the crowd of marks. In the confusion the masses on the midway have no clue what is happening, but act as if someone has yelled fire in a crowded building and surge out in a semicircle to get away from what is clearly a dangerous situation. Dozens more continue to go down in the onslaught.
Many others inside the tent seeing the door blocked, op to go under the side walls in places not meant as exits. These will be cloths lined by tent support ropes and suffer stakebites. Stakebites are ankle high cuts caused by the exposed tent stakes that surround the tent and have been beaten and mushroomed over their years of installations. These are nasty cuts that will most certainly become infected. Others will simply run headlong into trailers or trucks and a few will knock themselves unconscious.
The more intelligent rush from the tent slightly behind the others, caught up in the mass hysteria. Teenagers bounce from the door jumping and giggling and running, attempting to be scared and to not look scared at the same time. As the hundreds spill into the crowd and eventually are swallowed up by it, the most intelligent or possibly the more reserved walk from the aftermath. Some are laughing, others are mad. At least two will demand their money back as there are always a few too intelligent to get the show at all.
Some of the evacuee’s will not stop running until they reach the office of the fairgrounds or the little booth set up by the local sheriff’s department. They will breathlessly attempt to report the escape of the gorilla and wonder why their reports are met with laughter. Others will not stop until they are safely in their cars.
At least one will run in circles in the midway screaming, “my babies in der, the gorilla gots my baby.
The braver of the crowd will quickly get in line to see the show again and may spend the entire night going back into the tent over and over again. Once the midway overcomes the initial shock of the bomb going off, many will rush to pay their dollar to find out what caused such a ruckus in the first place.
Into the aftermath of the shows ending, with everyone on the midway paying close attention, the light and sound man will come from the still shaking tent door pulling on a chain. Attached to the other end of that chain will be a very uncooperative Zamborra. The chain is loosely wrapped around her wrists, but she is holding it tightly in her hands. The crowd gasps and backs away from the bally stage as she and the man on the other end of the chain play an exaggerated game of tug-a-war that will eventually place her on the stage in its center.
She looks wild, her hair is soaked and in disarray. Her leopard shinned dress is wet and almost transparent. She alternates between growling and attempting to reach the crowd or swaying back and forth as a caged animal might. Her dress is so short that those near the stage can see her underwear or if she is a committed performer, they can see what her underwear are supposed to be covering up. Generally gorilla girls are turned on by this show, their nipples and their cootchies are showing and their animalistic sexuality does much to intensify the tip.
Now its time for the talker to turn the tip, so he begins again.
“Once inside you will witness an amazing transformation. You will watch in amazement not embarrassment as this same beautiful young girl you see on this stage, is locked and chained in a solid steel cage. Ladies and gentlemen you are safe inside at all times. You will watch as hair grows out of her skin, her fingernails and toenails will turn into claws, her teeth will turn into fangs her clothing will appear to fall away from her body as this beautiful young girl turns into a three hundred and fifty pound female gorilla. Take her to the back and lock her up the shows about to start. Now, my boss just came by and told me that for the next show and the next show only, everybody gets in for half price that’s right; this show is normally two dollars for adults and one dollar for children. But for the next show everybody gets in for the price of a child, so step right up the shows about to start.”
The show was a dollar all the time, but the marks don’t know that. Any men who were on the fence would join the line as soon as the phrase, clothing will appear to fall away, was uttered. The line will bulge, the tent will fill and in about ten minutes the tent bomb will explode and once again the midway will become pandemonium.
The two E.M.T.’s stationed nearby will spend the night dressing wounds, reviving those who faint and picking up the trampled. So goes a night at any fair worth its salt. Welcome to the backend.