Keep the circus going inside you, keep it going, don’t take anything
too seriously, it’ll all work out in the end.
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER NINE: PART TWENTY-FOUR: THE MAYOR OF HELL
Meanwhile, I was living in dread of running into Smash Conklin, particularly since Cool Slopp the pawnbroker had told me he was in a most foul temper owing to a string of bad misfortunes. All, apparently, of his own doing. “Get a load of this, Yob. The big hambone went to one of them gyp circuses as they have down on Mistake Island. He was dressed in his finest. White straw boater, spit curl, green and orange checked suit jacket, white gabardine trousers, and–get this–hob-nailed boots, because old habits die hard. I imagine he fancied he looked as if he had just stepped out of a band box. It was a get-up custom-made to give a white man the yips. He must of looked ridiculous, him with his bruised face and cauliflower ears, all dressed like a Reuben on holiday.
Anyway, he caused a heap big ruckus, which he has kind of a tendency
to do wherever he lights. I heerd all about it first hand from the Fat
Lady at the Red and Black Carnival. First off, the talker challenges him
to the pyramid game–you know, knock the bottles down, win a prize.
‘Course, as any fool knows–as even you know, I’ll warrant–
in that game the bottom row of bottles have all been
gaffed, with lead weights at the bottom, and the ball is made mostly
of cork, and the whole thing is propped up behind the curtain, and no
matter how hard you throw it don’t matter. The harder you throw the
more you sweat, that’s all, because it’s impossible for anyone to win.
No stuffed bear for Smash!
Next, Uglyface tries his hand at the ring toss, with much the same results.
And then Smash decides he’s hungry, and he spends twenty-five cents on hot dogs
and pickles and deviled eggs and cotton candy and bellywash–he’s just
a big kid in his addled head–he might of known all that junk would
come back to haunt him on the other end.
Then he gets wheedled into playing the Over and Under–
with predictable results. The carny in charge of that one
has a gaffed wheel and is an expert in luring a sucker by letting him
win a few–then taking him for his whole pile. You could see the
big ape start to do a slow burn every time he bet on the over and the
under came up–seven times in a row, and he lost quite a bit of his
Well, somehow Smash manages to tear himself away from
the rigged wheel and stumbles into the freak show tent. He takes one
look at the pickled punk, lets out a shout, and just about pukes out his guts.
He takes a long snap at his hip flask and gets even more roaring drunk
then when he started out.
To top it all off, he lets himself be roped into wrasslin’ the chimp.
There’s one Carny attraction that ain’t never gaffed, nor needs to be.
The chimp is strong enough to tear the average man apart,
and even though Conklin is a big fat brute, he wudn’t in no
way strong enough to last five minutes with the chimp, though he bet a
considerable sum that said he could. Enough so that the Barker, who owned
the beast, said “If he licks my ape I’ll go nutty.”
He need never of feared. The monkey was all over him in an instant,
as though he was wearin’ him some banana cologne
instead of his usual stinkum. The monk was
successively scratching and biting and hooting and retreating to his
corner of the ring and throwing shit and then, just as he was trained
to, after about two minutes had elapsed he caught Conklin in a half
nelson and pinned old Uglyface, whose stupid-looking pan was by then a welter
of bruises. Conklin was roaring and ranting and baring his teeth, but
he couldn’t escape the clutches of the monk no matter what. After the
bell rang about four minutes in, the chimp let him go, though he
required considerable coaxing, all the while Smash was stupidly
yelling “He made me bleed! Get ‘im offa me! Get him offa me!” and
threatening to commit bloody homicide. He looked like he had been through the mill, and what’s worse, his good clothes was all ruined and was infested with fleas
to boot. Plus, he lost a bundle betting on himself to win.
Now, if Conklin had been packing a pistol I have no doubt at all he would have
shot the chimp clean through the heart. The Chimp, by the way, went by
the name of King Congo, and he was very fond of drinking beer. King
Congo also had a pet dog as used to follow him around and sort of act
as his second. I disremember his name; I think it was Circus Boy. It
was a white poodle, somewhat scruffy looking, though the chimp took
great care to pluck all the fleas from off’n the brute’s coat. While
this wrasslin’ match was going on, Circus Boy got him a bone and was
just a gnawin’ away at it in a corner of the ring, just as contented
as could be.
Anyway, Smash Conklin goes roaring into the Manager’s tent, where he
meets the floor man, and allows himself to be swindled as easy a
knocking a sick baby off the piss pot, by none other than the brains
of the operation, a sideshow midget who everybody called Colonel Germ,
though he went by the stage name of General Ridley. The
little guy with his derby and monocle and spats looked for all the
world like an featherweight aristocrat–like a windy fart could knock
him flat–but he had the heart of a tiger and the strength of a wild lion.
So then, the midge says he feels bad and all, about Smash
being beat up by old King Congo, but even though the
Boys Upstairs would scream bloody murder, they ain’t around, so maybe
Smash might care to lay down a little wager–the Midge vs. Smash in an
arm-wrasslin’ contest. Best of three. It wasn’t a good thing for Ridley to do.
Trouble with these carnies is that they don’t know no restraint. They
always want to completely clean a sucker out, instead of giving him a
face-saving way of making back some pennies on the dollar for the
carfare home. Smash figgers it for an easy score and puts nearly all
his remaining dosh down in the barrelhead. He grabs the midge and
figures he’ll beat him with no sweat, but Smash is tuckered out and the midge has the strength of a bear and beats him Bam Bam Bam, three out of three, and quite handy, too.
Finally–finally!–Smash figures out how he’s been swindled and
gets sore. So he picks up the midget and tries to throw him across the room. The
midge goes nutty and claws at his face, some, and even gets a
bite-hold on his nose. Smash is roaring, the midget is growling, the
whole place is in an uproar, and the midge finally gets thrown to the
floor and before you know it the just about the whole crew attacks
Conklin, including the Human Skeleton and the Fat Lady–and that must
have been a sight–while Jo-Jo the Dog Face Boy cowered off in the
corner, half chuckling and half yelping, while the Bearded Lady
strokes her face fur and laughs–and during the whole dust-up, the Fat
Lady picks his pocket.
BILL DEAL AND THE RHONDELS
FIVE WORST STATES FOR BUSINESS IN THE US
16 HILARIOUS ATTEMPTS TO MAKE HORRIFYING FOOD LOOK FANCY
LENNY’S CLAM BAR AD WITH FRANK SINATRA JR.
FRANK SINATRA JR.
LOVE FOR SALE
5*AVATAR OF THE ZEITGEIST
DON ADAMS, JOEY BISHOP, AND THE STEVE ALLEN SCANDAL
6* DAILY UTILITY
ANATOMY OF SONGS
LAW AND ORDER
HOW CONSPIRACY NUTS ARE DUPING WELL-MEANING LIBERALS
WITH MY FACE ON THE FLOOR
SOMEBODY MADE FOR ME
FRESH AS A DAISY
TIME WILL SHOW THE WISER
11* DEVIATIONS FROM THE PREPARED TEXT: A REVIEW OF OTHER MEDIA
Why Deborah Solomon’s Norman Rockwell Biography Is (Still) A Disaster
CONTROVERSIES IN POPULAR CULTURE.
756. THE MINI-COMICS
“I detest what I call the mini-comics who have not grown, but have
merely been inflicted upon us. When I see them on the television
screen–who would ever pay money to watch them?–I loathe their slick
superficiality, the horrible ruffles of their vile dress shirts, the
coruscating vulgarity of their dinner jackets, the foul, ingratiating
smirks with which they tell us they want to be loved….in these
bloated oafs of the Northern Club circuit, porcine panderers to the
worst prejudices of the audience, the cruelty is not redeemed by
humour. Savagery becomes an end in itself….The Medium is the
Moloch….Since the Grand Panjandrams of television could put whomever
they wanted on the screen…there was no longer any need for comics to
strive and suffer in obscurity. Any half-presentable oaf, prepared to
have his hair styled, his teeth capped, [and] wear the revolting
regalia of his new kind, could be stuck on the screen to mouth his
anodyne patter. His reward, if he could stay there long enough, was to
be made the fawning presenter of his own ‘show,’ so that he could
invite onto it people more gifted and entertaining than
himself….simpering, jabbering, dolled-up mini-comics [may]
completely take over a profession which once had pride.”–Brian
Glanville, from the 1982 book “Pieces of Hate”