The jig was up. It was time to skip town. The smell of bacon had grown thick in the air surrounding us, and I could swear that I was starting to hear it sizzle, too.
Me and the boys had thought that a nice, low-key petting zoo gig would be the perfect opportunity to lay low for the summer after the wheels completely fell off during that rodeo gig in Cheyenne. We were lucky to escape that one with our lives and red noses. I told them it wasn’t a crank town, but did they listen to me? Naw, Cummerbund, we ain’t listening to you.
* * * * *
We’d rolled into the new set-up thinking that we could keep everything real cool and quiet. Assuming the best, we set up shop in the unused back corner of the goat shack, having told the boss that that’s where a couple of the crew really wanted to sleep. Country boys. They like the smell. He says OK then.
After the first few days, a miracle: I was giving myself permission to feel optimism for the first time in oh, hell, I don’t even know how long. The kids seemed to be laughing at our schtick, the parents seemed none the wiser, the boss was happy with the day’s receipts since we’d come on board, it was all chugging along so nicely.
Then Gummybear’s demons started coming off the leash. I somehow knew that the new recipe wasn’t quite right. Something about the reaction to that first batch seemed a little too tweaky, even for Gummybear, which was saying something.
A classic gag turns into an entirely different critter when the pies are aflame. Once was forgivable—Balderdash and I took Gummybear aside and told him look, we can’t push the envelope, not here, we’ve got to keep the edgy stuff under wraps. But he kept right on, even bumping up the dosage when none of us were looking, tossing the flaming pies, then moving on to shaving the goats and sending them into the pen dressed up in some unholy transvestite Viking outfits he’d somehow cobbled together. You have to hand it to Gummybear, though, the guy’s a wizard with a needle, and he can sniff out a yard sale even through the gin-soaked stench of his own bowtie.
So here we go, second verse, same as the first. The laughter stops. Then people start pointing, asking questions. And then they stop coming altogether. Box office take heads down the crapper, and for the bossman, well, there’s just no denying that there’s something about one or two of the crew that’s just not right. It’s a hard sell to blame the guy. I saw it coming when he called me into his trailer after the end of our third week.
And boy, could you tell he was nervous. The last thing he wanted to have happen was to be standing face to face with a freshly fired and seriously pissed off clown. His right hand was shaking as he wrote out what would be our final check, payment in full for services rendered. Taking out a wad of bills from his coat pocket, he fumbled with it, peeled a pair of Benjamins from the rest while mumbling something about a little something extra for your troubles, and sorry that it didn’t work out or some such. I grabbed the check and the bills, nodded to him as I gave the rubber bulb on my horn one last, honking squeeze of thanks, and made a beeline for the goat shack, leaving in my wake what sure sounded to me like the longest, loudest sigh of relief in the sordid annals of pants shitting.
* * * * *
“Listen up, assholes,” I bluster with authority, swinging open the door, “we’re out of here. Now. NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW. Get the lead out, or you’ll have a size 28 so far up your ass you’ll swear you’d just gargled with red leather. You there, Jollywood, you and Fiddlehead, go to the van, wake the rest of the boys up, and tell ‘em we’ve gotta make tracks. Collect your shit. Five minutes. Me and Heckles will stay here and get Gummybear cleaned up and we’ll gather up the lab equipment and we’ll meet you in the van.”
Heckles and I walk over to the back corner to find Gummybear out cold; no doubt the closest thing to sleep Gummybear’d had in three nights, but screw that clown. Heckles gives him a light couple of kicks to the ribcage. I reach down and grab my rubber chicken by the feet, cock my arm back way behind my head, and land a swinging blow to the back of his head. That gets his attention, and somehow, the son of a bitch knows precisely what the deal is. Of course the rat bastard knows. He’s the one whose bullshit got us run out of Cheyenne.
“Thanks a lot, dick, we’ve got to go, and we’re leaving now. Grab the lab gear,” I tell him as he sits up, rubbing the sting off the back of his head.
He grabs three or four tabs from the baggie and knocks them back with a fat chug from the warm flat bottle of YooHoo sitting next to him, and screams “I’m driving! Gimme the keys!”
And with that, he gets another go ‘round with the chicken. And another.
“You’re not driving, you’re lucky we don’t leave your junkie ass behind. Vaya.”
* * * * *
(A warm note of thanks to my co-worker Lisa who, thinking of me, snapped the above picture somewhere along or near San Jose avenue in SF en route to work. She couldn’t quite see what the deal was, nor what, if anything, was painted on the side panels, but she DID describe the above-pictured truck as driving a bit aggressively and weavy. Not knowing what the story behind this vehicle was, but wishing I did, I had to settle for conjuring up a moment in the lives of a troupe of meth-dealing circus clowns, once again forced to flee town as the heat turns up. It’s a feel-good kind of story. And, to be totally clear and fair, I have absolutely no reason to believe that the actual owners / operators of the van in question and pictured above are anything other than upstanding, law-abiding, charming, totally health-conscious, and neigborly members of our community. –dmb)