“Hey mister… You Stink!”
That is what the day had become; hurling insults at carnies.
As a child, I wasn’t a rude kid. My parents’ only offspring, the product of two hippies which kinda came out of the blue after many failed attempts at procreation. I spent many hours conversing with adults at various get togethers, thus giving me the ability to hone my conversation skills at an early age. I enjoyed being a good kid. I also enjoyed messing with people who had too much to drink long after the sun went down. Dark humor forms early in youth.
This day however, was a bit different. I was with my idol. My cousin Todd.
Todd was the epitome of cool for me. Quite a bit older, and he lived in the big city of Lancaster, which by the way had a shopping mall. It was a completely different world than the farm, and everything about him was awesome. He also had a thing for fireworks.
This day, we both were staying with our Grandmother, and had decided to walk to the local 4th of July Festival. We were making our rounds through the main pass of games of skill; toss a ring here, darts to a ballon there, shoot out the star with a BB gun too. No permit required. This main street of fun ended with the always enjoyable fun house. If you have ever been to a small town festival, it’s the usual sort that’s pulled on a trailer, about two stories high, and really isn’t too fun at all.
After checking out the entire area, all conveniently packed into the High School parking lot, we started walking back down the main drag.
“HEY GUYS! Step right up and win a prize!” Clever carnies casually call from their trailer paychecks.
“Three darts for a dollar! Bet you can’t bust the ballon!” Each carnie has their own game to sell.
“Tell that guy he’s stupid.” My cousin whispers as we are walking, which completely catches me off guard. Again, I was a good kid. I can’t say that…
“Seriously, tell him he’s stupid.” Peer pressure is a bitch, especially when it comes from your idol.
Quietly out of my ten year old mouth, “You’re stupid.”
It was quiet, but the look on the carnie’s face told me instantly that he heard what I said. We kept moving, but no retort came at all. My cousin was laughing. I MADE MY IDOL LAUGH! At this point, it felt good. We made a second pass.
“Step right up… Oh, it’s you guys again.” The game master seems annoyed.
“Shut up.” With each pass I get bolder and bolder, and my cousin is coaching my every word. I felt ten feet tall. After a few passes, the insults reach a tipping point.
“Hey mister, you stink! You dirty carnie!” The first part was my suggested insult, the second part was all me, as I just learned about the word “carnie.” I was starting to like this bad kid thing.
“Fuck you kid, you little shit.” He now looks seriously pissed. Somehow, this crossed the line, and in our young ways we got the hell out of there. I go back to feeling like a good kid, no longer ten feet tall, and seriously worried someone is going to tell my parents.
Before we made our exit to our Grandmother’s, my cousin pull a smoke bomb out of his pocket.
“Hey cousin, check this out.” And with a swift motion lights and tosses the smoke bomb on top of the fun house, much to my amazement and horror alike. We hastily leave the area, but stick around to see the smoke start billowing from the roof of the trailer fun house. Fingers start pointing down the row of games. Our carnie friend shouts “FIRE!” Slowly, the three kids inside are asked to leave the fun house, having no idea what is happening. A crowd of festival goers starts to form, now waiting for the emergency personnel. This was small town high drama unfolding in the era before social media and smart phone recordings.
As the sirens are getting closer from the local volunteer department, the smoke starts to cycle through the colors of the rainbow.
In my eyes, my cousin is now ten feet tall, with a pocket full of fireworks no less.