Friday, September 22, 2006

The Last Sideshow? Part 4

You might want to read part 3 just to refresh yourself. And read all the parts if you are here for the first time, otherwise part 4 will not make any sense.

“Six tickets. Six tickets to see everything in this big tent. My friends, you give the man right there your tickets.”

Fair Tickets are the currency of the midway. Cash payment is not allowed. There are several centrally located ticket booths. The postage stamp-sized, blue tickets remind me a little like the green stamps my parents saved when I was a child. They cost as much as 75 cents, but buy a sheet of 50 for 30 dollars. At the least, (60 cents each) the cost of admission is $3.60. A small price for all those acts.

But first, there still is a little business of the escape and Poobah’s fire eating....

“Now, watch the little man eat the fire, but watch the escape first. One...Two...Three.”

The escape artist turns away from the audience and removes the chains that bound him for the past 10 minutes.

“He is out. And here goes Poobah, right down the hatch, without a scratch. Say, its good ‘til the last bite. The hottest man in town!”

So, let us rip six tickets off our sheets and hand them to the stern (and quite scary) man at the ticket booth. And, as we head inside, echoing behind us the bally continues...

“Showtime! Line up right over here. Say how many. Go right in. Everybody goes now. Only six tickets. Special reduced prices to everyone this afternoon...”

Special reduced prices? Six tickets reduced from...six tickets? Ward never says reduced from what. Because the posted price is six tickets, there really is no reduction. Which brings us to an immutable law of the bally: you can say anything; if it sounds exciting, it will move the tip and the tip will forget everything once inside.

“Only six coupons, now. Line right up, say how many, the show’s on the stage. When you go in there, stay until you see the same act twice, in order to know you’ve see it all because it is a continuous performance. Going on all the time. It is show time. You come in and see them now.

“They’re here. They’re alive, onstage, those straaaange people. Come in and shake hands with a woman who is live and apparently has no head. Come in and see that strange spider girl. Watch the human blockhead drive nails into his head with a hammer. You may dance with along with the four-legged dancing girl from San Jose, Costa Rica, Miss Vikki Condor. Here, today, you’re going to see the escape artist, the sword swallower, the lady fire-eater, they’re all here and they’re all alive; entertaining now. The magician with his tricks of magic and here you are going to see our magician cut the head off a live girl in a giant guillotine. And then, as the head floats across the stage it’ll sing a song to you. Come in and pay a visit. It’s show time. It’s going on. Now’s a good time to go.”

Behind the stage, behind the banner line is erected a large tent, striped in alternating colors of dark red and dark blue. From the ticket booth, it is about ten steps to enter the tent. A purposely low hung awing makes it impossible just to walk in; you bend low, almost to the waist to enter.

This awing prevents the lot lice (freeloading fair patrons) to see a free show. It doesn’t stop a few from trying. Some are just the merely curious, children and a few adults, who want to peek at what strangeness the dark tent holds. The ploy doesn’t work and only adds to the intrigue.

It is the twilight zone. A mysterious place, a forbidden place, unless you have six tickets, and then you cannot stay, but only visit this dark side of this light world.

Or some bullshit like that.

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