The Frogmarch

"I've got to pull up my stakes and roll, man." --Jean-Jacques Libris de Kerouac

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

They're Lining Up to Mad-dog Your Tilt-A-Whirl

Some years back, V. and I went to the NC State Fair along with her friend Tammy. Along the midway, among the funnel cake stands and ring-toss games, was a trailer housing a carny freakshow billed as "The Incredible Beastman", allegedly a half-man/half-beast found wandering dazedly in the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake. This being a 5-ticket show, and V. being as stingy (um, I mean "sensible") with fair tickets as with real money, Tammy went in alone to check it out and see if it was worthwhile.

She came out a few minutes later. "It was just a hairy redneck in a cage," she said, laughing. Then her face took on a strange cast. "You know, I think I went to high school with that guy." She wasn't joking. For the next little while, as we gawked at the Snake Lady and V. milked a cow in the 4H barn, Tammy seemed distracted, as if trying to get her head around a memory, maybe of a person and a place and time, and how life and choices can lead you somewhere you never thought you'd end up. Maybe I was imagining this, I dunno; doesn't matter.

A few days later, as a writing exercise, I wrote an imagined description of the inside of the Beastman's trailer. It came out fairly well, so eventually I built a story around it. The good folks at the Southern-Lit journal StorySouth were kind enough to publish it (as a "Featured Selection", no less), and you can read it on-line here.

While the story is sorta-vaguely based on an actual incident, none of the characters are based on actual people (and particularly not you, Tammy, so don't be mad) except for Tree... who I'm fairly certain will not be reading this.

There's a great photoset on Flickr.com of pictures of carnies and carnivals in Missouri; check it out. It captures in pictures some of the atmosphere I was trying to get at in words, if you're a visual-type person. Or you could listen to Tom Waits' "Who Are You This Time", off the Bone Machine album, which I was listening to a lot at the time.

Anyway, if you like the story, feel free to pass on the link to anyone you think might care (especially if your friends include literary agents and/or acquisitions editors at major publishing houses). If you don't like the story... keep it to yourself.

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