Hell hath no Fury…

 

A true story of a recent season…BY PROF. LASZLO

 

So here I am, just over a half-century-old and from one day to the next I’m homeless…

 

I mean shopping cart homeless…

 

If they locked me in jail my standard of living would improve…

 

See, it all started with my Wife deciding I was a bum…

 

And that decided it…

 

I pretty well became one…

 

Just like that. Period. Not a damn thing to say about it. I was a bum…

 

Worse still, a Carnie bum…

 

She kicked me out of my house, told me I was a lousy provider, and said “ Hit the road, send money, and don’t let me see you again”…

 

What the hell…

 

I tuned up the old Chevy truck, fixed the tires on the old Snake Show trailer, went to the zoo, where I grabbed some animals who had nothing to say about it  ( the giant snake did put up a struggle ), and headed North...

 

 I wound up on a nice little family owned carnival playing fairly decent little spots and paying my bills on time with a few dollars left over to send to my beloved for the care of our little Circus Performers.

 

Plus, I was a safe distance from the war…

 

I mean there are limits to her evil powers…

 

All was well but for one noteworthy exception…

 

I was living like an animal…

 

I mean in squalor…

 

Third World underdeveloped poverty stricken war-torn ghetto no sanitation rampant typhoid nameless dread disease and louse infested squalor…

 

If you ask her, it’s too good for me…

 

If you ask me, it beats palatial splendor shared with her…

 

See, I’m just one old guy, and I’ve managed to move three big State Fair quality attractions on one little old pickup, and I have no reliable help, so I’m only able to drive one vehicle, and it’s crammed slap full of show gear. I mean to the doors. Full. Period. When I empty all that out, set it up, and wash the animal crap out, it’s my home…

 

I live in the back of a rat-infested truck…

 

I mean it’s just one rat, but a good sized one…

 

And better company than some. No flying crockery. No criticism of every damn thing I’ve ever done or have even been rumored to have done…

 

A non-judgmental rat…

 

Except for the animal crap, not bad company…

 

So periodically, I call home to talk to the kids…

 

This time, instead of the usual pleasant and heartbreaking conversation with my children, my ancient nemesis commandeers the phone and informs me that I am under orders to return to base immediately…

 

 Why?… I inquire…

 

 “Because I’ve booked three dates for the circus and we leave next week.” She informs me…

 

 “Wait a minute,” I protest, “ when and where are these dates, and what kind of money is involved, I mean I’m way up here in northern Tennessee and I’m getting into fair season, plus I’ve made a deal here and I ought a stick to it, I mean I can’t just blow…”

 

 

 

So she tells me that the dates are in Vermont, Connecticut, and Huntsville Alabama, and that we have about a week to get ready…

 

Then, the kicker, she tells me the money part and I have to ask her to repeat the amount because I thought I had misheard and couldn’t believe it when she told me again. So I repeat the amounts she had told me and asked if that was correct and she verifies the figures…

 

So I’m screwed…

 

Evidently, the people she was dealing with had never purchased entertainment before, and had no idea that you could probably frame a circus for this kind of money or perhaps they were under the impression that they were getting Big Bertha[1] or something. It was the kind of money that you hear about and figure whoever is telling about it is lying because you never ever see it in this business…

 

So I ask, “Is this ink on paper?” She fires back, “Signed contracts for each date.” I’m screwed. No choice. Heading South…

 

Back to the lair of the beast…

 

Reluctantly… 

Nonetheless…

 

So I make my good-byes, beg off the obligation, alibi, explain, shuffle and two step…

 

My friend Randy, the G.M. of the carnival, asks me, “Why do you have to go?” “Boss’s orders” I tell him. “You can’t decline?” So I tell him the money… “You better get going!” he says…

 

 

I work a long day on the final Saturday, operate all day ( no help, just me ) , tear down, load up, and as the sun rises I head for hell. Drive to Central Florida, stopping only for fuel etc. and arrive dead tired in the heat of day. Hadn’t slept, hadn’t showered, hadn’t…well you know…I think it may have been  Monday afternoon. I hug the kids, bow to Her Imperial Majesty, and go look over the show…

 

 It was discouraging…

 

The grass had been growing under the trucks for at least six months. There were flat tires to deal with, trucks that had dead batteries, equipment in disarray, and there had been no preparations made…

 

I have a son, a teenage son, nineteen at this juncture, who works at a shop that builds formula race cars from the ground up. These cars win races. He works assembling engines in a sophisticated machine shop. His boss speaks well of his abilities. Yet with all this, he seems to be unable to change the oil in a show truck…

 

I mean he hadn’t done so at this point…

 

Even though it obviously needed doing…

 

He does several acts in the show, all of them quite well, and likes the good money from the show…

 

However, he fails to see the need for the show to arrive on time in order for him to get paid…

 

Oh well…

 

So I corral the animals, drive to the zoo, dump them off, grab some parts, change the oil on three trucks, grease the chassis, replace some belts, install some parts, charge the batteries, air the tires, hitch them up, check over the props, grab my wardrobe, load what’s needed, and off we go.

 

Headed north again, only this time with controversy…

 

Lots of controversy…

 

Now if you check the Atlas, you can’t help but notice that Florida is down near the bottom, and that Vermont is way up at the very tippity top. And Barton, where the show was to play, was so close to the top, that if you blew the exit, you would find yourself getting directions from Canadian customs officials…

 

Now this could be a fun trip if you had plenty of time to make it, which I didn’t, and with pleasant company, which she wasn’t…

 

As it was, I was making the trip with people who didn’t think that fueling trucks and checking them over was a very big deal, so the typical stop consisted of me running around fueling, checking air pressure, oil, coolant, and brake fluid levels, fixing lights, and dealing with all that, while the cast of Circus Fun would enjoy a leisurely repast at the Waffle House, after which they would emerge picking their teeth…

 

When  I would ask, “did you get me a coffee?” the answer would be something like “Well you didn’t say” …

 

Simply exhausting…

 

So after cleverly routing and timing the trip so as to hit rush hour at every major population center on the Eastern Seaboard, ( she used some damn online triptik scam and probably never cracked an Atlas or gave it a moments thought) ,we arrive at the Barton fairgrounds…

 

The fair manager shows me the site and setup begins immediately...

 

And seems to take an eternity…

 

There is bickering, confusion, controversy, missing components, anarchy, revolution, chaos, rebellion, insurrection, complaining, but only marginal progress…

 

Several hours later, after breaking up a fistfight between the teens, sending my number one critic on a pointless errand, ( to get some breathing room ), and working my ass off, the three youngest and I got the show in the air…

 

I am by now very tired and it appears to be ShowTime…

 

Into a costume and into the ring…

 

 

 

“Ladeeez and gentlemen…boys and girls…Iiiitttsss… CIRCUS TIME…

 

And that’s all the lines that I was able to remember…

 

So I ad libbed some lame crap and away we went…

 

One disaster right after another…

 

They hadn’t worked in about a half a year, and practice was a foreign concept to these prima god-dam-donnas so of course it was a train wreck…

 

The Great Butterfingers dropped everything including his gold medal …

 

The rolling globe was unridable and the fifty hula hoops made it about one revolution…

 

None…not a single one…none of my comedy gags worked, the music was all screwed up, and while the disaster is unfolding in the ring, I’m backstage where my three year old little girl is right on time and ready to go, but in the wrong costume…

 

Not a disaster, but she thinks it is, and I’m explaining… “Listen, Sweetie, you are The Feature, the others are only chorus, of course you have a different costume, that’s so the audience will know that you are the Star…now go out there and murder ‘em”…and she did…

 

She was the only one in the whole show who did her part perfectly…

 

Then the trampoline damn near killed the worst offenders, and we had made it to the last act…

 

 

The SideShow portion…

 

Which is where it all fell completely apart...

 

You see… this is where my Wife and I have to engage in teamwork… And this is where she almost finished me… 

 

Sad…

 

I’ve successfully blocked these memories from my head…

 

I recovered, I hit my stride, I bounced back…

 

My youngest son did his escape gag with flawless precision. I was so relieved to be in the home stretch that I let my guard down...

 

The sideshow pitch is something that is embedded in my DNA. I was almost home. I felt sure that I could bring this baby in for a landing. A good finish is all you need. All that fumbling would be forgotten with a bang-up finish…

 

You see, the blade box pitch never misses, when I lay it down correctly that is...

 

I laid it on thick as axle grease…

 

She looked like a Pagan Goddess…

 

The G worked flawlessly…

 

That was the big finish and the crowd had liked the show, they were applauding and cheering…

 

They had no idea that anything had gone wrong…

 

They had seen costumes, action, stunts, comedy, and heard music and impressive announcements.  They were prepared to accept that they had seen a circus. And they were lining up with dollars in hand to see how “She twists, turns, and contorts her body into more shapes than I can even begin to describe, dodging in and out, over and under, around and through, wrapped in a forest of razor sharp swords, sabers, and bayonets, impaled through the box within fractions of an inch of the most delicate parts of her body…”

 

That was it… We had brought this thing in for a landing…

 

Furthermore, without any casualties, and after a few days and a number of performances it was back on track and running like clockwork…

 

I was recovering from exhaustion. It was at this point that I casually mentioned that it was going to be an easy run from here and that the trip to Connecticut should be a breeze…

 

She let me have it with both barrels…

 

Execution style, like Ruby gunning down Oswald…

 

Cold blooded murder in broad daylight…

 

She says, “No, that’s incorrect, from here we go to Huntsville Alabama, then we come back up to Hebron, Connecticut…”

 

I was stunned…

 

I had been played, this wasn’t humanly possible, she was trying to kill me, she was gonna succeed at it. I didn’t stand a chance…

 

Down the entire continent we went, to Huntsville Alabama, where I was expected to entertain rocket scientists after a trip that was going like the flight of Apollo thirteen…

 

Then right back up to Connecticut as if miles didn’t exist…

 

By the time the show was set up in Hebron, I had come to resemble one of those guys in the old black and white documentary films who were wearing striped pajamas as they were staggering out of Auschwitz or Buchenwald…

 

I couldn’t wait for this ordeal to come to an end…

 

It was here that I realized that the checks from these fairs, which they had been paying us with, were made out to her…

 

I had been bankrolling this whole operation from my earnings with the Menagerie Shows and I was damn near broke…

 

About this time she informs me… “You will be pleased to know that I’ve booked something for next week that’s not too far from here.”  I regard her with an understandable amount of suspicion for a moment or two, and ask her, “Where is this place?” “We’re booked to a fair just this side of Harrisburg, it’s the Bloomsburg fair...”

 

I do some mental gymnastics and come to the conclusion that it can’t possibly be over three hundred miles of  mountain driving, still, it’s not a cross continent ordeal. Somewhat relieved, I inquire, “How much are they paying us?” “No,” she calmly informs me. “We have no further bookings for the circus, this is a booking for three grind shows and the ladder game, We have to drop the circus equipment off at winter quarters, load up the midway operation and be at the fairgrounds in Bloom by next Wednesday.”

 

It worked like clockwork…

 

Another cross country marathon…

 

Thursday it all opened and started doing land office business…

 

She said, “You’ve been working pretty hard. Take the kids and show them the Midway and the exhibits, I’ll run the bullshit factory, you need to take a couple of weeks and relax, you can tear down, I don’t mind”…

 

What a considerate gesture… 

 

I had a great time with my kids at the fair…

 

Memories I shall forever treasure…

 

Next I was standing on a deserted fairgrounds…

 

With three big shows to tear down and load…

 

By myself…

 

In the drizzling rain…

 

With no money…

 

She and the kids were gone…

 

With all the money…


[1] “Big Bertha” The Ringling Brothers - Barnum &Bailey Combined Shows back before the Hartford fire when it was still under canvas and truly gigantic was often called by this name by folks traveling with lesser shows.

 

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