“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.”
― Seán O’Casey
“Drama, drama, drama, that’s all we get ’round here,” hot-headed Franklin yelled on the midway to nobody in particular and to everyone.
Alone in his baggy black pants, carnival shirt and hat pulled low, the carousel foreman wore his signature black glasses shouting out Saturday’s foreshadowing.
Franklin didn’t know then that the midway in front of the carousel was the stage and the new guy, Studs, would be his antagonist.
In the morning, Franklin was angry about all the “disrespecting” going on the night before between him, The Rabbit and their common enemies in ‘the office,” a trailer where administrators work.
Franklin thought an office person might have hinted that he was stealing. The Rabbit was angry because he got into a separate F-bomb argument with an office woman.
Both The Rabbit and Franklin talked angrily and loudly on the midway so nearby carnies could hear how they had been wronged by the office people. Both have long prison records so ears perk up when words like “busting caps” and quitting are heard.
Threats of violence have come on several occasions in recent weeks, particularly from Franklin and The Rabbit.
The Rabbit got into an F-bomb argument with a customer. Franklin got into it with the foreman of another ride over a single piece of thin plywood, used to level rides.
Franklin is 39 years old, heavy and more than six feet tall. The foreman he was threatening to “mess up” is a Mexican gentleman, 59 years old, thin and about five feet tall.
Because I too have been threatened by Franklin, I thought, “he would pick on the smallest, oldest carny over a piece of wood.”
Adding to Franklin’s temper are his efforts to quit pot (maybe other drugs too) before testing begins in a week or two. Mickey’s Malt Liquor has taken their place.
However, the new guy hired a week ago in the last town is still abusing drugs and alcohol.
Studs walks with a wide gait, as if boxing or just keeping his footing in a spinning world. He looks a little like Rocky Marciano, slightly shorter but with a boxer’s nose and face.
I nicknamed him Studs because I think a young Studs Lonigan, from James T. Farrell’s trilogy, might have been like him.
Once, while taking down the five-foot bags that hang on The Shrek (a maze with slides and ladders) Studs noticed they looked like boxing body bags and he began hitting one like a first-class amateur.
Sticking, jabbing, circling, Studs saved his best stuff for an upper right hook.
That hook, I thought at the time, is designed for hitting bigger guys. It was the favorite punch of one Studs Lonigan.
Franklin found that out yesterday afternoon.
Franklin was busy berating Studs for “not paying attention” to his carousel riders when Studs had enough.
Out came the upper right hook to Franklin’s right eye, knocking Franklin backward into the tin fences around the carousel.
People there said Franklin flew back like a pro-wrestler over the ropes.
Studs continued the fight by wrestling and punching in the uncut, high grass along the parking lot midway.
Studs couldn’t win a wrestling match and both drug abusers couldn’t last long.
They got separated and Studs rode off on his bicycle, only to return later to collect his week’s wages and go home on the BART.
Afterward, the once boasting, boisterous Franklin stood there stunned with a black eye that swelled to the size of a bruised Easter egg.
I missed the fight by seconds but watched as Franklin bent over to pick up the fallen fences.
“There’s puss coming in my eye,” he told me, his good eye full of self-pity.
“I hope nobody sees it. (A boss) told me to just keep my glasses on.”
Franklin has been crowing that “I’m still street,” since I’ve known him.
Studs was the smaller guy, as he is in the trilogy. And as in the books, he’s living on the financial edge of a hard-scrabble economy. It’s not the Great Depression but Studs makes his living with his hands and he probably broke one on Franklin’s face.
Studs is nearly broke. He says his family is struggling too. The cigarettes, booze and drugs catch up with most people. An antihero who prided himself on his fists, Studs Lonigan didn’t end his days in glory.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t going to be kick-ass moments of victory along the way.
I wondered if Studs was tasting sweet revenge. Decking the boss. Collecting his pay. Then riding away from the mad carnival – uphill.
I wish I’d seen that upper right hook.
Disclaimer: All names are aliases or carny names. These blogs are based on true stories but some include unconfirmed facts. I’m currently traveling in a traditional traveling carnival in the San Francisco metropolitan area. Next stop, who knows?