His face was beet red and bloated. His whiskers and sideburns had some grey in them. I watched him while he talked on his cell phone in the bus station. He told his friend he’d spent the season working with Smokey’s Greater Shows. Oh good, I thought, a carnie! He was on his way back home; in the middle of a five hour layover. I overheard what he was saying a bit more intently. He’d had a good season and he was doing “real good”.
There was something in his voice that led me to believe curiosity was covered by worn basketball shoes and greasy jeans. I was convinced that his eyes, glassy from the previous night’s excess, observed things hidden from my line of vision. He seemed like a “what the hell” kinda guy. He had to be, right? Why run away with the carnival in mid-life if not for an adventure, to have an experience, to catalogue an alternative path?
He wasn’t handsome at all but the inflection of his speech broadcast smart. I want to know what smart knows. I want to hear what it says, in all its abrasion and discomfort. I watched him pace and chain smoke cigarettes outside. I went out there too.
He was an affable guy. He’d worked with Smokey’s Greater Shows twenty years ago. He went back this year because there was no work in his hometown. He had to get thehelloutathere. The season was over and he figured he’d do odd jobs until the spring when Smokey’s had asked him to come back. He was proud that he’d been offered a job the following season. He felt better than he had in a long time, lost 30 lbs. while he was working.
We spoke briefly. I had to suggest that perhaps he could write about his experience over the winter, contrast his past experience to his recent adventure. He was confused. I did not elaborate on my vision for his future.