(page 2 of 6)
“Hey y’all. Melo needs a cigarette.”
The microphone attached to the lapel of his lime green and silver clown suit amplified his voice across the asphalt expanse. Everyone within ear shot, meaning every goddam soul at the fair, acted like they’d never heard of cigarettes before. Even the carnies gripped their Marlboros tighter and looked away.
There may not have been a proliferation of cancer sticks, but chewing tobacco was in abundance, every cheek of every man, woman and child, hyper-extended with golfball sized gobs of Skoal long cut. The fairgrounds was streaked with a thousand streams of brown spittle. He’d ask for a pinch if he had somewhere to spit other than the vertical bathtub worth of stagnant water below him.
A three-toothed marvel stepped forward and offered a Marlboro to Donna operating the dunk tank booth. She stuck it in her mouth, made a show of throwing back her shock of black hair hanging down to the crack of her ass, and allowed the fella to light the smoke with his Zippo. From where he perched on the five inch wide metal ledge within the cage, Melo could see the blazing 3 adorning the Zippo. In Alabama, if Elvis had driven stock cars, he’d have been Dale Ernhardt.
Donna slipped the cigarette between the iron bars. Her eyes were gray today. They held each other’s gaze a moment too long and she smiled the sort of smile that could mean anything, but mostly meant she wanted to give at least the appearance of being happy. He noticed the filter carried her shade of lipstick matching the red greasepaint ringing his mouth.
With another flick of her hair she resumed her station at the dunk tank booth counter, offering three throws for two bucks.
“Melo needs a ballplayyyyeeerrrr,” he drew out the last word in as annoying a manner as possible. “Water. Water.”
The unwashed southern rabble milled about, no different than the denizens of any other southern town during the carnival’s tour of the Bible belt. These were the area’s starving class, the middle class dwindling toward poverty, people who couldn’t afford to take their families to legitimate amusement parks like Great America or Southland Adventure. Economically, these places were as far away as Disneyland. God knows, the fifteen dollar wristband for unlimited rides on the rickety contraptions that looked like metallic sculptures feng shuiied by a hurricane in this Foodland parking lot ate a hole through many a families food budget large enough to drive a bread truck through. Now, the task that Melo bent his will toward was separating the marks from their tobacco money by means of insults and a little fairground psychology.
“Hey, Scarecrow Joe, it’s too bad that muscle shirt didn’t come with muscles.”
The scrawny guy wearing the sleeveless shirt looked bewildered as though he’d never been sassed by a dunk tank clown. He glanced around, apparently checking for another skinny fella showing off his guns, until his equally goofy buddies clued him in. Then he got pissed.
“You ain’t no bigger than I am,” he hollered.
“I ain’t the one dressed like Flex Armstrong, buddy.”
Melo figured the logical retort for Muscle Shirt would have been to point out that at least he wasn’t dressed like Bozo, in which case Melo would have responded “but you are”. A battle of wits in this white trash coliseum was sorta like bringing a chessboard into a halfway house for the retarded. Muscle Shirt was too angry to stretch toward cleverness, however.
With folks snickering around him, Muscle Shirt laid two dollars on Donna’s palm and collected three baseballs.
“Now your daddy taught you how to throw a baseball, right?”
Muscle Shirt reared back and threw the baseball with all his strength, missing the target high by about a yard.
“Daddy didn’t raise no athlete.”
The second ball bounced two feet short of the bulls eye and careened throughout the enclosure.
“It’s accuracy not velocity, dummy. Water. Water.”
It’s a sad fact, men who wear muscle shirts learn life lessons eighty percent slower than most sensibly dressed folks. The last throw may have been launched in the target’s general direction, but had no more chance of hitting the bulls eye than if he’d turned a 180 degrees and thrown it toward the Octopus ride.
Observations of a Dumb Polack #2 continues...