Carney Barker

Carney Barker

As mentioned in Moon Landing, we’d been tasked with setting up a carney across thirty parking spaces on the top deck of a garage.

That morning, since I was in charge of set-up, I was out on the deck at 6am, chalking down the markers for where all the events would be. Worked at it until 7am, came in and napped at the desk for a bit (I hadn’t slept well – worrying). And then at 8am, I was back topside, helping to arrange things.

Of course, the table people couldn’t get their truck up the garage so fourteen tables had be be cross-loaded to a pickup and driven upstairs. And of course, I was pulled away at a critical moment, so for all the plans and maps and chalk, they dropped the tables at the opposite end of the garage. But a lot of employees helped and we got the tables, chairs and umbrellas shifted over and set up. Meanwhile, my org got its act together. The decorators descended on each table as it went up. Fortunately I had garden slabs with me so the critical items were locked down. Six tents facing the wind and sun, crackling. Had to run down just before 11am to get two teams up to man their booths. And then I put on my elastic strap bowtie, my black top hat, my cheap cane, and it was Showtime!

I’d thought about barking, about what to say. I had a couple of runs, “Games of chance, dime a dance”, and “You’ll win a cup, a chalice, a tankard, a grail! Come and play, come and play!” And thus I turns into the rising sun, raised my cane and began to hector, to berate, to dare the crowd.

I went on and on. 11am. 11:30am. Noon. 12:30PM. Talk talk talk. I’d say anything. I’d point my cane and call directly to people I knew. I caught a couple of directors that way, badgering, hectoring. I’d tell people this was better than a five star award, better than promotion. I’d ramble about how I was going to go on and on until I melted. People at the booths had a bet how long I could last and I shattered the wagers. My voice started to go. My skin turned red (even with the cream). And on and on.

The wind was the only thing that saved me as I prattled. At one point a tent blew over the parapet and fell to the ramp. “It’s no longer a game a chance! Its a game of death! So come and show your courage! Come and show your will! Come play! Come play!” The tent behind me buckled in the wind and we taped it back up. And on and on I went. This was my idea, this concrete carnival midway, and I was riding it like a madman.

Sometime during all this, my director took over and sent me to lunch. Got some beans, some chicken, some chilled water (glug glug glug). Got back to into position ten minutes later and the director said, “You gotta do that magic. It’s not the same.”

Put on my hat, took back the cane, straitened my tie. I thought of Dillhopher in Great Waldo Pepper. I thought of Mordici Jones in Flim Flam Man. I thought of every carney barker I’d seen in those 40’s moves. I licked my lips.

“Come one! Come all! Games of chance! Dime a dance!”