Curtain Call no image

Published on May 31st, 2012 | by RLn Staff

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Driver Ed turned up the music (continued)

By Matt Sharar

Pacing the wharf, Ed thought on his current choice of profession.  Being stoned, however, he digressed. Digressions were good, as long as he didn’t turn a blind corner into the Lair of His Premonition Demon, as Occula had called it in her reading profile.

Instead Ed thought of the stable of animals the troupe carted with them on tour: horses and goats, and only one lion, as Circus Venus, though the third biggest of the circus companies, fell at the bottom of the totem pole (next to Barnum & Bailey’s and that modern French conglomerate that sold thousand dollar items in an anteroom).  (Circus Venus also sold items in an adjoining tent, though nothing breeched the fifty dollar range.)  Even further down the evolutionary scale, dwelled Venus’ concession stand, bursting with clouds of cotton candy, which fetched thirteen dollars at the French Fantasmagoria.

Digressing further, Ed thought of rock n’ roll, driving that ramshackle band through the Midwest in the eighties: hearing their stories, drinking out on the train tracks, on one of the many byways of the fabled Crossroads: and then, out of a billow of smoke, the old blues singer walking up with a bottle of moonshine and a droopy cowboy hat and Ed and the band saying, nervously in the face of the legend, are you Lightning Hopkins? and Hopkins saying who else but Lightning Hopkins would be wearing a brim like this?

And the band, wrecking the bus in a fury, before someone had told them that it was their bus, that the record label had bought it, before they devolved into…

Rock n’ roll animals: untamed, unlike the animals on the Circusvenus.com tour.  These Carnie animals were not born to be wild, but bred to be tamed; and that’s what Ed liked about them.  There were never any accidents with these beasts.  The humans had them contained…

Unlike Ed’s demon, slinking around his periphery, and nipping at the corners of his baked and fried and paranoid consciousness.

                                                                               ***
As he walked along the wood-planked wharf, Ed sidestepped random pieces of bird shit: droppings, Madame Occula would have called them.

Just past the corner where Utro’s stood–more leaned–he saw a family of three at the wharf’s edge.  The father manned a camcorder.  He pointed it down steadily, keeping it trained on some hidden subject.  What was this big of a deal at the edge of an old wharf? Ed wondered.

The mother and son, also crouching, had their eyes trained on whatever it was that was going on down there as much as the father did.  This concentrated fulcrum of family bred an instant slap of jealousy within Ed: so much that he wanted to tip the three of them over into the water, if just to wash the memory of them away.

After wondering if the boy was an only child, like he had been, Ed thought about Fisherman Dave, hoping he was back, and had something stronger than an eighth of weed.

No more than a half dozen fishermen worked the wharf.  Two fisherman, smoking cigars, threw ropes over deck and tugged on pulleys.  It was definitely Sunday Light, as his mom had called it, or The Day of Rest.  Past a few more schooners, an Italian man wearing a beanie explained something to an Asian lady.  He sat forward on the bench, pointing wildly to the swinging intestines of pulleys, as if showing her how it all went down.

Past a few more ships and the sun was going down, casting shadows on the water’s surface, transforming its glisten from light to dark.  The tarps to Ed’s right started moving, undulating.  Was it the wind, Ed thought, rustling them?–or was it the monster, waiting to pop out from below and take him to his Final Resting Place–that’s what he called it, for he could never rest, and had to keep moving to keep the demon away; had to keep driving; had to keep on the road, or the demon’s red-webbed feet and lurching stretch would catch up with him.

He thought about his job’s primary fault, when it came to the demon: He had to stop at each town for a twenty day stay, remaining rooted.  Sooner or later, the demon would catch up to him, would jump out from under the tarp, the water, the slim sheath slipped over his brain.

One of the tarps slipped away, slowly sliding on the floor, like the tablecloth in the magic trick he’d seen a million times from Greek George.

Was the demon finally here again, after so many years of chasing him?  The demon always made Ed second guess, so he couldn’t be sure.  A fisherman also fell away, behind the red tarp, and down off the wharf’s edge where the family of three were still recording, as if he’d dropped off the face of the earth, dropped off in fear, for the monster was near, breathing and huffing and…

Ed wheeled away, wincing, for he didn’t want to see as the last of the tarp lifted.  He started running back to the circus, the broken fences, the secret Family Grounds.  He prayed that he returned before the sun went down; and that Fisherman Dave returned tomorrow–not only for the company but for the ship axe he’d shown him as they drank and smoked and pilled the night away.

Tomorrow was the last day of the San pedro stop, and Ed was either going to keep running to the next town or kill the damn thing in its tracks.

                                                                              ***

Ed turned off the music.

Big Ed’s Downtime was over.

A boom of applause rallied from the Big Top; rallied for the performers, for life, whereas Ed was rallying for death.  The death of the demon.  His demon.

Fisherman Dave, among other names, had called himself The Man With The Axe In His Hand.  The only problem was that Dave’s boat was at least forty boats, and even triple the amount of tarps down the line: tarps from which the demon could spring from under and steal Ed away.

Ed couldn’t take the Red Car to Dave’s: At a switch-point many tarps before Dave’s boat, the trolley stopped, and rerouted backwards.  Anyway, that would be evading, running, and there would be no more running tonight.  Only walking straight into the fear and facing and fighting…

Each tarp wavered and undulated as Ed walked past, the long walk of shame, it would prove to be, if he couldn’t kill the beast.

When he reached Fisherman Dave’s boat, he saw a light on, pulsing through the mist.  Dave stepped out and yelled “Ed!” as he waved him in.  Ed wondered how many drugs Dave would have to take before he believed Ed’s story, handed him the axe, and joined him in his hunt for the demon.

On the first joint, Ed was thinking of the carnival favorite Whack-A-Mole–which had been expelled from the Circus Venus program for over ten years, like all the Carnie games.  Ed imagined he and Dave walking past each and every tarp and chopping and whacking until they woke the sleeping demon.

Whack-A-Demon was better, Ed thought.  That way I don’t have to see it, under the tarp…

On the second joint–and second bottle of whiskey–Ed told Dave about the demon.  Dave, strangely excited by the prospect, said they’d do it the old way: just call the fucker out.

On the third joint, Ed was talking about going to a local dive to put it on someone and Dave was walking Ed into an idea.

And it had everything to do with Ed’s choice of profession.

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