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Carnival Day For Ethan


Preston Bishop

The smell of popcorn and cotton candy initiated a memorable appreciation within him even before Ethan Perry got to the carnival in that old field on old route 17 that seemed to attract every orphaned event destined for Barton County. He had waited with impatient eagerness ever sense the colorful flyers announcing its arrival suddenly appeared on every available post in town two weeks ago. Colton Parish had few attractions amending its conventional daily subsistence, and any issuance, which offered something out of the ordinary, was bound to create some degree of excitement for everyone.

Having opened its gates an hour earlier at 10 o'clock in the morning on the warmest Saturday in June, the best day yet this year, half the town's population already filled the carnival's grounds with merriment. After all, why wait 'til the last minute, right? Something like this only happened every few years in Colton so why waste a second of the thrill it offered.

Ethan's only agenda for the day was to turn himself loose and experience everything there was, ride every ride, see everything they had to show, just to exhaust every bit of passion that was stockpiled within him.

The first attraction through the gate was a candied apple stand followed by a cotton candy and a soft drink booth. They always appeal to the new arrival's culinary compulsion right off, and Ethan would not be the rare exception. The bright red and shinny candied apple was sweet and delightful until it worked its way up the little pointed stick and toppled off and hit the ground, rolling away like a kitten that didn't want to play anymore. A good portion of his available funds lay there swathed in a mass of dirt. He wouldn't let that dampen his spirits; after all, he hadn't come here to eat, he could do that at home.

Most of the riding attractions, however, didn't embrace much appeal for him, but that teacup ride with all its twisting and turning motions looked like fun. It was great, Ethan discovered, but it also left him with a queasy stomach. Perhaps it was best that he hadn't been able to finish that apple, after all.

He spent the next few minutes just walking around marveling the sights and listening to the sounds of energized amusement of the other visitors, mostly kids. Perhaps he would not risk another thrill ride for the time being and see what those tents with the elaborately dressed men out front calling for attention were all about.

The one that attracted Ethan was a red and white striped canvas shelter where adults and children alike began to gather.

"...found in the jungles of deep dark Africa," Ethan heard the man say in an astonished voice as he pushed into the gathering crowd. "Inside the tent for your astonishment - you won't believe it until you see it - the snake boy of the jungle. One dollar will get you inside to see a freak of nature that you will simply not believe.

Well, he couldn't miss this for anything, Ethan knew. He paid his dollar and went inside the moldy smelling tent. Other people, those who just couldn't miss this either, filed in behind him. He was being pushed further and further to the front where a small stage jutted out from the back of the tent. After a few tense moments the same man from out front stepped up on the raised platform and held up hands his to make an announcement.

"Now, folks," he said in a staid tone, "I want to remind you that taking photographs inside the tent is prohibited. Please, no pictures."

With the preliminary necessities completed and disposed of, the man stepped aside and a man of twenty-five years or older, Ethan estimated, came through the curtain. He was undressed to the waist, exposing a scaly torso. Even his arms and most of his face were covered with the same repulsive looking scales. It looked more like an unfortunate disease than it did a snake's body.

The man was most certainly a boy at one time, but Ethan doubted that he had ever seen a jungle much less lived in one, other than the jungle of his imagination. Ethan continued to gaze at the spectacle but he felt indefensibly cheated. This little hoodwink had depleted the substance of his total funds. So far, the day was not turning out to be the one which had been playing out in his mind for the past two weeks.

As he exited the tent, Ethan heard the man start his excited speech again, or should it be pitch. He walked away feeling dismally cynical about the whole thing and afraid to try any of the other sideshows.

A teenage boy and girl holding hands, laughing and having a good time ran by, knocking against Ethan.

The boy whirled around and yelled half-hearted apologies but didn't stop. Crowded, yes, that's what was happening. The place was just getting too crowded. What a disappointment this day was turning out to be.

For the next two and a half hours, Ethan walked around the carnival trying to find some satisfaction in it and to salvage something - anything - of this demoralizing day, but mostly he just watched others in perplexity at their apparent enjoyment when he could not find any.

From motivation originating in his stomach, Ethan decided to spend his last two dollars at the hotdog stand. He waited a long dispirited time in the line, and when finally he got to the front, he laid his money on the counter and asked if he could have extra mustard on his hotdog, please.

"That's not enough," the woman said, rolling her eyes impatiently. She spread the bills apart on the ledge. "You need fifty cents, more. Hotdogs are two fifty."

"Two-fifty?" Ethan asked in wonderment. That was incredibly a high price for a hotdog. "I only have two dollars."

"Yes you do," she said without a doubt. "Don't you have another fifty cents?"

"No. I spent it all on stuff, here. I don't have any more money."

"Well, I'm sorry but that's nothing to me and I can't help you if you don't have enough money," she said, not doing a very good job of pretending to care. "Can I help the next person in line?"

Ethan left the carnival to wait for the bus, which had transported him and others here earlier, to return. He was not the only one to come out and wait for the bus; others were beginning to gather into a sizable group. Most had smiles on their faces having enjoyed themselves, but some did not. Ethan was one of those disillusioned ones.

Finally, and with merciful promptness, the bus came and parked close to the entrance. This was the prearranged time for the bus to return and it was not late. A woman climbed down from the bus. She was Sophie Jamison. Sophie was not just in charge of the bus, but she was the coordinator of the home where Ethan lived.

"Come along, now, quickly," she said clapping her hands together, "we don't want to linger too long here at the entrance and cause problems. Get on the bus as quickly as possible."

The group of people, including Ethan, dutifully complied the best they could, but aging people rarely moved swiftly by anyone's standard. Still, the task was completed reasonably quick.

Ethan sat looking through moist eyes at the carnival and the young people who remained there as the bus pulled away. Maybe they found more there than he had. At any rate, he was exhausted and eager to get back to the familiar surroundings and his comforting room.

Ethan reclined his head and closed his tired eyes. The day wasn't all bad, he decided at length, at least it held more adventure than he had known in a great long time. He would have to do it again the next chance he got.


NOTE: When you go to a carnival, fair, amusement park, museum or anywhere else people go to enjoy themselves, to get away from the labors of life, look around, Ethan will be there. You will know him when you see him.

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