One day, I noticed a big hustle and bustle going on somewhere at the other end of town, so I asked my friend Dave what was going on.
“The carnival’s in town!” said Dave.
“Wow!” I marveled. “What’s a ‘carnival’?”
“What’s a carnival?” Dave echoed. “It’s a thing with all sorts of stuff to do, like riding rides.”
“Wow!” I said, even more enthused. “What are ‘rides’?”
“What are rides?” Dave shot back incredulously. “Why, they’re fun things that you get on and they do all sorts of the darndest things you ever saw.”
“Wow! What’s ‘fun’?” I gushed, barely able to contain my growing excitement.
Dave just looked at me kind of funny this time. “What the hell’s the matter with you?” he said nervously, inching away from me like I had B.O. or something. “And furthermore, who the hell are you?”
Well, it turned out that I didn’t really know Dave after all. In fact, I’m not even sure his name was Dave. After getting kicked off the bus, I decided to head on over to this “carnival” that he’d been blabbing about non-stop and see what the big hubbub was.
My, was it ever crowded! There must’ve been two or three hundred people there. The first thing I noticed was this big round wheel made out of cages with people standing in them, and it was whirling round and round. A flashing sign read “Tilt-A-Whirl” as jolly music crackled and blared from a speaker. There was a man working some levers which seemed to be controlling the whole shebang, so I strolled up and engaged him in conversation.
“Hey mister, what the hell’s this damn thing?” I asked, using some cuss words so that I’d sound more sophisticated.
He spat something brown and chewed on his toothpick, eyeing me with either contempt or sheer admiration–I have trouble telling the two apart sometimes. “It’s a Tilt-A-Whirl, dumbass,” the man offered helpfully.
I nodded and smiled to indicate my comprehension. “What does this lever do?”
“DON’T TOUCH THAT!” the man shrieked, but it was too late because I’d already pulled the lever all the way down. There was a deafening roar and a terrific rending of metal, and suddenly that big old wheel snapped loose from its moorings and started rolling off down the midway. The people inside it screamed like there was no tomorrow as the giant wheel smashed and flattened a whole line of booths and tents, demolished several cars in the parking lot, and then turned the corner onto Main Street, where it picked up speed down Trolley Car Hill and rumbled like a bat out of hell into rush hour traffic.
I thought it best at that point to avoid any possible misunderstandings regarding the incident, so I ducked into the nearest tent. People were standing in front of a small, darkened stage where a fat guy in a straw hat drew aside a curtain and pointed to a cage with a wild-looking woman standing in it. “WATCH!” he bellowed into his microphone. “GAMORA THE WILD WOMAN WILL NOW TURN INTO…A GORILLA!”
I blinked my eyes in disbelief as, sure enough, Gamora the Wild Woman turned into a gorilla! Well, I had to find out what that was all about, so I hung around for a while and then snuck through the curtain and went backstage. It was dark, but I could just make out that big, hairy gorilla standing there in front of some funny mirrors or something. I’d never seen a gorilla close up before so I was pretty scared when it turned around and caught sight of me.
“Hey!” said the gorilla. It could talk! “What the hell are you doing back here?”
Boy, was I scared! Thinking fast, I stomped on the gorilla’s foot as hard as I could. “YEEE-OWWW!” it screamed in an almost human-like way, jumping up and down on the other foot and hopping off into the darkness. Before I could even contemplate my narrow escape, I heard the fat guy again. “WATCH!” came his muffled voice as the curtain opened. “GAMORA THE WILD WOMAN WILL NOW TURN INTO…A GORILLA!”
I couldn’t see what was going on, but from what I heard later it turned out that this time, instead of turning into a gorilla, Gamora the Wild Woman turned into me. I don’t really know the scientific explanation for it, but it sure seemed to frighten the dickens out of the people watching and there was a big stampede as they all shoved their way out of the tent as fast as they could. I got out of there myself before the fat guy and the gorilla and Gamora the Wild Woman could come after me.
While I was looking around for something else to do, I saw a sight which shocked and horrified me. It appeared to be a public execution, right out of some old medieval photograph. There, sitting in a makeshift wooden booth over a tank of water, was the condemned man awaiting his fate. People crowded around like vultures, laughing and jeering, and were even paying for the privilege of throwing baseballs at him!
I walked up to a man who was selling three balls for a dollar and tugged his sleeve. “What’d he do?” I asked, pointing at the guy in the booth.
“What’d he do to end up in there?”
“Oh. He sold the least amount of tickets for the big Jaycees turkey raffle.”
“Good lord!” I gasped. Boy, these Jaycees sure took their turkey raffles seriously! “But how is anybody supposed to knock him off the little board with all that chicken wire in the way?”
“Huh?” the man repeated, distracted. “No, no…you don’t knock him off. You hit the little target there, and he falls in.”
“And then he drowns?”
“Huh? No! Of course not!”
“So, is the water electrified or something?”
Well, the man must’ve been hard of hearing, because he didn’t answer my question. Since I didn’t have anything else to do, I figured I might as well have a go at hitting the target myself. I’d never actually executed anybody before, but this set-up appeared to be legal since there was a cop just standing there eating a corn dog and watching along with everyone else.
Stepping on deck, I solemnly saluted the poor, anguished soul in the booth, gave him a hearty “thumbs up”, and rared back. With a mighty heave, I let loose with the most powerful “Major League” fastball I could muster. It sailed right over the booth, crashed through the windshield of a passing semi, and knocked the driver out cold. The massive tractor-trailer rig veered crazily out of control and thundered straight for us, bashing through everything in its path like an enraged dinosaur as people scattered and ran for their lives. Then it jack-knifed and managed to wipe out almost the entire carnival in one enormous, catastrophic swipe before finally shuddering to a stop right in front of a kid with a balloon who was picking his nose.
Since the carnival seemed to be pretty much over by that point, I decided to go home–or, as the TV newspeople mistakenly put it later, “fled the scene”–so I walked down the street to the bus stop. And who do you think just happened to be the only other guy standing there? My friend Dave! “Hi, Dave!” I shouted, grabbing his shoulders. “I took your advice and went to the carnival!”
“Uh, I think you have me confused with someone else,” he said warily. “My name’s not–“
“Here’s the bus, Dave!” I said brightly, shoving him through the door and into the very first seat. I squeezed in beside him and talked and talked about the carnival all the way home, and all the fun adventures I’d had there, and how I’d helped the nice man run the Tilt-A-Whirl and how a wild woman had turned into me and how I’d helped execute a guy. Dave was a terrific listener, too, because he just sat there with kind of an intense glassy-eyed stare the whole time and didn’t interrupt me once!