An excerpt from my novel. It follows the story of a young boy living with a carnival.
|No one in the carnival ever used their real names. They had names that described them in some way. Pee Wee was the leader of the carnival Danny lived in. He was called that because he was anything but small. He stood 6 ft. 4 inches tall. He was a broad shouldered man who slumped slightly. He was tall and thin, but not too skinny. His skin was leathery from all the days in the sun.
Pee Wee had been with the carnival since he was a teenager. He began as an apprentice to a guy who ran the Ferris wheel and worked his way through the carnival for the past couple of decades and had been the leader of this outfit for the past ten years. Pee Wee was rough around the edges but also had a soft spot for Danny Boy. He looked at him and saw the innocence he hadn't really known most of his life, an innocence he longed for and missed dearly.
James was young and innocent when he first met up with the carnival family. When he first met his friend Buster, he thought his name sounded "too big" for someone so small and fragile. He told James "You look more like a Danny Boy" and Danny's new name was born. From that moment forward, James' name would be forgotten. Even his mother would call him Danny Boy, later shortened to Danny. But as Danny would learn, there was a really good reason for Danny to forget his real name. But that would be a few years away.
The carnivals traveled from city to city, week after week through the long season, which lasted about six months a year. Danny loved being on the road. The traveling was okay, and the first day of the carnival was always his favorite. But Danny really loved the times when the carnival would arrive in a city for a State Fair. State Fairs usually used two, three or even four carnivals, depending on the size of the state. Texas, for example, used four carnivals for its state fair. It's the biggest one in the country. Chicago and St. Louis both used three carnivals for their state fairs. They were both also really big fairs.
Danny loved to explore state fairs. There was so much more than just the usual carnival stuff that he saw every week. He would go to the tents, see the shows, check out the midways of the other carnivals and just enjoy all the people and things that were new.
It was during one of these state fairs that Danny met someone that would change the whole landscape of his youth. In one of the other carnivals lived a girl, about the same age as Danny, with flowing strawberry hair, green eyes and pouty pink lips. He didn't remember ever noticing anyone's lips before, but hers seemed to hold some mystery that he felt he needed to unlock. He thought her mouth was a beautiful cross between a nicely chewed piece of bubble gum and shimmering cotton candy freshly whipped. He wanted to taste them.
He saw her from across the midway the first time he saw her. He was
infatuated with the way she looked, her strawberry hair glistening in the sunshine, her lips with the slightest hint of a smile as their eyes met for the first time. He wanted to go over and say "hi" but found that his feet were stuck to the pavement like he'd stepped in a big pile of caramel. He couldn't move at all. People walking by broke their gaze and he lost sight of her for a moment. When the people cleared, she was gone. He looked for her, but she had disappeared.
Danny looked all over the carnival trying to find her again, but she was no where to be found. Thinking that she was just a regular fair-goer, he never expected to see her again. But the next day, as he was headed over to the car show to check out all the coolest machines, which was one of his favorite parts of the fairs, there she was. She was standing in front of a brand new Ford Mustang that was on display with a hefty engine, supposedly the fasted Mustang ever. She was looking at it with her head slightly cocked to one side, as if she were dreaming of driving down a long highway in a car that could get from zero to 60 in 22 seconds and keep going faster and faster away from here. As if she were dreaming of a life...
Danny just stood there for a long moment, watching eyes as they visualized her fantasy. He was frozen in the moment with her. She was lost in her dream and he was trying to see what she was seeing. He wanted so much to be in her dream with her. He had never felt this way about anyone ever before. He was mezmerized by her and didn't really know why. He couldn't take his eyes off of her. She was beautiful. To him, she was like all the best stories about magical nymphs and angels he'd ever heard. She was a dream.
She broke from her dream and noticed Danny staring at her. She looked deeply into his eyes, then she gave him a hint of a smile, like the one she gave him yesterday. And Danny started, realizing that she'd caught him in his stare. He blushed and felt hot around his shirt collar. He turned away, not sure what to do. He felt so embarassed. Should he just leave?
The hand that touched his shoulder was warm and inviting. He turned around quickly to see her within inches from him, her arm outstretched and hand on his shoulder. "Hello" she said. Danny's mouth suddenly felt like sandpaper, dry and scratchy. "H..hi" he managed to squeak out. "My name is Darla...what's your name?" she asked. "My name is Danny."
Danny and Darla sat down in the car tent together and began to exchange their stories. Darla was from the other carnival company that was here. They were based somewhere in Ohio, he didn't know for sure where. She had been in the carnival for the past four years with her dad. Her dad ran the shooting game most of the time, but sometimes ran the strong man hammer game, too. He had been married for a long time, but his wife, Darla's mom, had died. He started to drink a lot and the next thing she knew, she was living in the carnival.
Danny told her his story, that his carnival was from Gibsonton, FL and that's where they always spent the off-season. He liked it there a lot. He told her about his mom, that she makes jewelry and sells it at the carnival, but that she also helps out with some of the midway attractions. She sometimes did the guess your weight booth, but that he thought that was a scam. He thought his mom thought that way, too, but that she did it to help out Pee Wee.
Danny also told Darla about his mom and Pee Wee spending time together. He told her that they used to sleep in a tent or in their car, but that the past few years they had been mostly staying in Pee Wee's RV. Danny had a small area where he could close off a partition; he was on a bunk with no one else on top. His mom and Pee Wee were on the opposite end of the RV in a bedroom so he was spared most of the particulars of what there were doing in there. Thank goodness.
Danny didn't know why he was telling Darla so much about his life and why it all sounded so much more sad than he ever thought. He never thought his life was bad. He used to think it was an adventure. But now, hearing it come out of his mouth, it didn't sound so much like an adventure any more. It sounded like a sad life. He wasn't even sure what made it sound sad. Maybe all of it. All he knew is that once it was out there, out of his mouth and in the world, it wasn't as fun or exciting as he had, apparently, made himself believe. He was starting to think his mom had some things she needed to clear up for him. He was beginning to think he wasn't too excited about this life anymore. What was going on with him?
Danny and Darla decided to go ride some rides together - the Ferris wheel, the bumper cars, the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Scrambler. They were a lot of fun, but all that crazy swinging, swaying and flipping around all that time made Danny feel like an empty cavern. He was ready for some grub. He and Darla went back over to the food carts and got corn dogs. State fair corn dogs are the very best tasting corn dogs that anyone can ever have. That's just a fact. And the two of them enjoyed their fair fare and found a nice spot on some grass to sit and rest their tired feet while they ate.
The sun was starting to go down past the tops of the trees. Danny knew that his mother would be wondering about him soon, but didn't want this day to end just yet. He asked Darla if she would come with him to meet his mom and let her know he was ok. But Darla said she had to go and that maybe they could meet up again tomorrow. Danny reluctantly agreed and said his goodnight to Darla. He watched her as she walked away, hoping she would turn around and smile at him one last time. He was afraid to look away. He was afraid this might be the last time he ever saw her. He didn't want this moment to end. Today was the perfect day, spent with the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. And she was lovely to talk with and do things with. She was his angel. And she was walking away...
The next day, he looked for Darla, but it was the last day of the fair. He couldn't find her and didn't know what he could do. He went over to where the other carnival had been set up, but they had already packed up and were hitting the road. He had missed her. He didn't know how to get in touch with her, write to her, telephone her - nothing. He didn't get any of that information before they parted ways last night.
Danny suddenly felt his heart begin to sag in his chest. It had never felt this heavy before. He felt a tear well up in his eye, but fought to keep it back. He didn't want anyone from the carnival to see his weakness. He just wanted to hide and let the tears fall at will, but he didn't do that. He held them back and swallowed his pain. He had never been heartbroken before and didn't like how horrible he felt now. It was a despair that he wasn't familiar with and certainly didn't want to feel again. The pain was overwhelming. He wasn't sure how he was going to get past this feeling. He did know one thing....no one would ever know about his feelings. It was definitely a secret.