Tuesday, August 26, 2008

And no-one saw the carny go

With apologies to Nick Cave...This carny didn't leave behind a murder of crows to feast on the carcass of a horse named Sorrow, but it had it's own bleakness.

Our bodies are sticky with deet, and heat, and particles of spun sugar, and grease from innumerable cardboard baskets of fries, and fried dough, and fried onions, and corn dogs. The air is dense with the smell of sixty years of oil and sweat and peeling paint and rusting tracks. These were rides I rode as a child. The tilt a whirls and bumper cars and ferris wheels. The ancient duo of motorcycles that went around and around along with battered cars and trucks and things that went. A land of gauges, every ride with its own measuring stick. Do you measure up? Are you big enough?

The Impling was overwhelmed. Never before had we ventured into a midway. Specifically, in Presque Isle, the Northern Maine Agricultural Faire. First, there was the assault of the ancient midway...the carousel with the dancing horses that MUST be ridden. There were the games...fish for the ducks, or the guppies, be a strong man and make the bell ring, or be exposed for the wispy excuse for a man you are...crossbows and darts, horror houses and super slides reeking of turpentine. Tired looking attendents who looked like they would like to be almost anywhere else than where they are. Were they all holding their breath along with us...hoping against hope that the sixty year old rides would hold together for just one more ride and another...and another?

We walked past a kiddie ride that was so evidently out of order the management didn't bother to put up a "closed for repairs" sign. Possibly because the locomotive that looked strangely as though a group of teenagers had cow tipped it off its track was so obviously beyond redemption. Its future...an empty field somewhere, rusting into oblivion.

Beyond the creaky midway and the brightly painted food vendors was the field for the main attractions. Today it was monster trucks.

No, wait...







We walked along side the track to see old tractors from the dust bowl era, and the far buildings where the cows and sheep and goats and pigs and rabbits chilled out in 4H glory. We watched young earnest men and women walk their prize cows into a small corral for judgement. Damned if I know what they judged them on. They all looked like pretty swanky cows to me. They were polished and combed to satiny perfection. Their noses gleamed. Their hooves pranced. The owners elbowed them into position (you must be damn strong to elbow something 5 times your weight anywhere) and stroked them on their bellies with long sticks. It must have been to calm them. I know I like it when my belly is rubbed...and I hate being on display...

And so we watched those cows until the Impling began spending more time considering the distance from the top of the bench to the ground. Then we walked back through throngs of people...very young mothers with requisite tight jeans, flip flops and toe rings, schools of Harley Davidson t-shirts over cheap beer bellies, old tired faces and young weathered faces, angry faces and too friendly faces and oh...look, a place for your wee one to get a free face painting...if you don't mind the free bible story that accompanies it. I began to feel slightly nauseous and my skin began to itch.

We passed over the face painting as the MONSTER TRUCK show began and the cheerleader began his unenviable job of pumping up the crowd. He finally got the to the point of some half hearted cheers, then brought out the big guns. He led everyone in prayer for the brave soldiers fighting for our freedom far away. Before the young girl belted out the national anthem, she belted out a hymn. No one batted an eye.

Then back through the long lines of folks waiting for more baskets of fries...baskets big enough to feed five people. Back through the midway where the lights began to shine diabolically, where quick hands slipped vials of "happiness" into sweaty palms to pay for their ride...

My itch became a rash. "The Carny" began playing over and over in my mind. It was time to go. We bought the Impling a balloon and called it a day. Time to tear ourselves from the layers of the carny, a strata of rust and dirt and grim reality disguised behind neon colors and flickering lights, away from the resignation of exhaustion, the oversimplifications, the outright lies coated in spun sugar that tasted just as bitter as ever beneath.

We rode back through the twilight past Jupiter, and Saturn and Uranus...driving through a scale model of the universe, back down Route 1 to our road that led to our house. A house that now seemed, for the first time, a home and a haven.

The Impling had been having trouble getting to sleep for the past few nights, crying after I would leave her room. But tonight, as we sang our lullabyes, I felt a sense of relief from her. Relief that we were home, and that, as strange and foreboding as the world outside could be, she felt safe for the first time in her little bed, in her little room, her big pink dolphin balloon beside her as she fell asleep.

"I say it's funny how things go"


something else said...

Your post reads much like the beginning of a novel... Problem is, I'd like the novel and I like the characters, but I'd rather not have MY characters in THAT novel :-)

Yes, I am a freak.

Heidi said...

"I began to feel slightly nauseous and my skin began to itch."

lol - That's how I felt the whole time I lived in PQI. But strangely, looking at your pictures from the Hot Air Balloon festival, I felt a wee bit nostalgic. Not for the mindset you noticed at the fair, but the beauty. It is oh-so-beautiful!

I stumbled on your blog via another New England Mom's blog, and I'll have to add you to my reader!