Carnival, p.1Marty Roppelt
© 2011 by Martin M Roppelt
The characters in Carnival are fictional. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental.
Visit the author’s web site at https://www.martyroppelt.com
A dull rumble rolled through a hushed neighborhood. The bass hum wafted on the mid-summer air, across Cook Park’s open, manicured soccer field. It reached two teens as they strolled past the picnic pavilion at the far end of the park.
Dave Weller pointed toward the cause of the foreign sound. “Look.”
Dave’s girlfriend Jenny Hartman squinted.
“Main Street. Check it out.”
Tractor trailers appeared from around Main Street’s gentle bend. They spewed plumes of brown-black exhaust. Dave and Jenny gawked at the motley convoy.
The late morning arrivals swelled a small band of park employees laboring under the July sun. Three parks men hammered metal stakes into the heat-hardened earth. The rest uncoiled yards of orange plastic snow fence and tied it against the planted stakes.
“They’re blocking off the lot,” Jenny said. Excitement and anticipation energized her voice.
“Carnival,” Dave said. “Today’s Tuesday, right?”
“Okay, it should be up and running by Friday. Let’s go Friday night. My treat.”
The invading carnival trucks turned from narrow Main Street into the park’s gravel service drive a hundred yards ahead. The lead semi hauled a folded Ferris wheel on a flatbed. The clanking rig navigated the turn with excruciating care. A pale, bald, muscular man wearing jeans and a T-shirt guided the truck into an empty parking lot.
Jenny’s smile faded. “What’s up with the old trucks?”
“That’s not the same carnival as last year.”
Dave led Jenny to the sidewalk that ringed the park. He grew uneasy. These trucks and vans, painted a rust and sun-dulled sea green, looked twenty years older than the white and blue ones that usually came. They belched more diesel fumes and made more rattling and rumbling noises as well.
Jenny shared Dave’s discomfort. “You think the rides are as old as the trucks?” Her tone retained little of its earlier enthusiasm.
“I hope not. The rides don’t need to be that exciting.”
The Ferris wheel rig chugged to a stop in the parking lot. The next truck barreled up the gravel drive. The careless driver stomped on the brakes, bringing his vehicle to a jerking halt. Gallons of water sloshed over the tall trailer’s forward edge, pouring over the windshield and down the front of the cab.
That’s weird, Dave thought.
The bald carnie rushed up to the second driver’s door. He barked a stream of obscenities.
“Hey!” Dave shouted as they approached the near accident. “Do you mind?”
“Nope,” the man spat, his back to the couple.
Jenny joined in. “Well, we do. We live here.”
Dave balled his fists, steeling himself for a battle.
None came, though. The carnie turned to confront them. The ashen face was wrinkle-free except for deep crow’s feet at his eyes. The blue eyes lacked vibrancy, as if too much sun had sucked the color from them. The man glowered at Dave. His scowl softened into a sheepish blush, though, as he looked at Jenny.
She squared her shoulders. “Not everybody likes that kind of language, you know.”
The carnie bowed his head. “Sorry, miss.”
They passed between the carnival’s vehicles in silence. Dave gave the carnie a last glance. A cold stare bored back at him. The youth spun away, unnerved. He sensed the man’s gaze on him until they walked around the bend and out of view.
The teens entered the cabana at Bangs Lake’s beach five minutes later. The unpleasant encounter evaporated from their memories with a smile and a quick kiss. A few moments more and they left the cabana dressing rooms, joining a score of classmates on summer break and a few adults playing hooky from work. They frolicked and swam until their fingertips wrinkled.
Dave and Jenny rose from the water as the late afternoon shadows reached toward the beach. Wet sand stuck to Dave’s legs. He bent down to brush himself off, and jumped a little. Reddish-green kelp lapped at his ankles. The seaweed’s slimy touch surprised him. He peered into the surrounding waters. This was the only kelp in sight.
He picked the seaweed up. The slick, flaccid strands ran between his fingers like corrupted linguine escaping a colander. It shimmered in the sunlight despite its dark color. He stared down at it. He had no desire to look at anything else. He didn’t know why. “Weird color for eyes,” he mumbled to himself.
Weird color for eyes? I have no clue what that even means….
“Davey Waves! You okay there?”
Late arrivals Tyler Maxwell and his girlfriend Nichole – pert and pretty and the only brunette of the four – joined Jenny at a picnic table on the turf.
Tyler’s shout broke the bizarre spell. Dave flung the seaweed back into the water and joined his friends.
“Hey Waves, you and Jenny going to the carnival this weekend?”
“Friday night. You guys going?”
“Nah. My folks are out of town for the weekend. We’re thinking a little quieter, more one-on-one, you know?”
“We’re thinking about the carnival,” Nichole retorted.
Dave noted Nichole’s firm tone and Tyler’s puppy dog pout. He knew Ty had little chance of getting what he wanted. Not this weekend anyway.
Jenny wrapped her towel around her waist. “You might as well come out with us Friday night and have some kind of fun, Ty,” she tossed over her shoulder as she and Nichole headed for the cabana dressing room.
Dave watched tall, lissome Jenny all the way to the door.
Tyler administered a playful slap to the back of Dave’s head. “Dude, quit drooling or do the deed with her. One or the other.”
“When we get married.”
“Yeah? When’s that gonna be, Navy boy? Four years? Five?”
Dave shrugged. “I’ll do two or three years active service, maybe not even on a ship. Then it’s reserve duty after that.”
Tyler groaned. “Oh man, forget reserve duty. What are you gonna do your first Fleet Week? The Navy still do that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“A major port city full of single women, all those opportunities – man, I don’t know.”
Dave winced. “Get serious. I’m committed. I’ll sign my enlistment papers before I ask Mr. and Mrs. Hartman. So they know I’ve got a plan for the future.”
“Ask ‘em what?”
“For their blessing to marry Jenny.”
Tyler shook his head. “Dude, you’re eighteen next month, right?”
“And she’ll be eighteen in, what, November? And then you’ll already be legal in this state?”
“And you remember what millennium this is? Sure, you wanna graduate and all, but –”
“This is the rest of our lives, Ty,” Dave said, pulling his blue jeans over his damp swim trunks. “We’re not just gonna sneak off in the night. Not after graduation, and not ever.”
“You’re a dinosaur, my friend.”
Dave laughed. “So’s Jenny, I guess.”
Jenny and Nichole exited the cabana. Dave took in the sight of his girlfriend again, her scrubbed good looks, her wide natural smile and mane of curly light brown hair. A kind of warmth radiated from deep inside him, warmth that only she kindled. He anticipated spending his whole life with her.
Mr. and Mrs. Weller. Petty Officer and Mrs. Weller… why not?
Dave smiled. “I’ll wait. We’ll wait – ”
All eyes looked inland at once. Sudden, strange sounds from Cook Park – impossible sounds – grabbed their attention. The gang hustled from the beach to Main Street, where Dave slowed his step. The others followed suit. The noise made no sense to any of them. They froze at the sight that greeted them around Main Street’s bend. Dave scanned the area. Dozens of people stood gaping at the park in awe.
The carnival was already in full swing.
“Dude,” Tyler murmured, “look at this.”
Nichole’s brow creased, her head tilted. “They got this all up in a few hours?”
Dave put an arm around Jenny’s back. “You want to go tonight instead?” he asked her.
Jenny stared at the Ferris wheel, a flashing, sickly neon green disc turning slowly in the approaching twilight. “This doesn’t seem right,” she mumbled, doubt in her eyes.
“Sure it is,” Tyler said. “They’ve gotta have permits and licenses and stuff like that. It’s gotta be legal.”
"He’s right,” Dave said without much conviction.
“I know it’s legal,” Jenny said. “I’m not talking about that.”
Tyler’s growing eagerness bubbled over. “Let’s do it! I need to run home and get some cash first.” He grabbed Nichole’s arm. “Come on!” He and Nichole scampered off.
Dave and Jenny
Carnival by Marty Roppelt / Horror have rating 2.5 out of 5 / Based on37 votes