Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Overread at Table 1: from Mad Carnival, "Showdown at Horace's General Store"

Years later, Tommy will recall this episode as “The Showdown at Horace’s General Store”

Sheriff Latham walks into Horace’s General Store to see two of the carnies standing in front of the counter, upon which are several sacks filled with groceries, and Horace, red-faced and puffing like a mad hen, a look that the Sheriff is all-too familiar with seeing, as Horace is well known around Luddington for being easily offended and even more easily angered.

The carnies, one man and one woman, on the other hand, are what the Sheriff would call, “unknown commodities,” and he approached them with the caution that he uses for all new situations, which is generally to consider them as unpredictable as a rabid Great Dane until he was assured otherwise.

He starts with his name.  “Good afternoon.  I’m Sheriff Latham, and this is my Deputy, Franklin Cook.  How can we be of assistance?”

“You can be of assistance, Sheriff, by having them go get me some REAL money?” Horace interjects.

“That IS real money, you foolish little man!” says the female.

“And what is your name, miss?” asks the Sheriff.

“Simone.  And this is Sebastien …”  she waves a hand in his direction, and Sebastien tips his hat.  Sebastien is smiling the smile of a man who is content to watch the penny theatre unfold before him.   Or, the Sheriff correctly assumes, Sebastien already knows better than to get in the way of Simone when she is angry, which is clear by the way her hands wave through the air as though her fingernails are rapiers in an fencing match.

“… and they are trying to pass off this phony carny money!” Horace spits, apparently not understanding that he is almost to the point of receiving a high outside.

“It’s NOT phony carny money!” says Simone.  “It’s REAL currency of the United States of America!”

The bills are spread out on the counter in front of Horace, like cards dealt from a deck.   He holds one up and hands it to the Sheriff for inspection.    “Look at it!  It doesn’t look like a real dollar bill!  It’s says ‘ONE DOLLAR’ where it isn’t supposed to be, and the back is all wrong!”

“These are real bills,” says Sebastien.  “We got them in Philadelphia.”

“Oooh!” says Horace, mockingly.  “All the way from PhilaDELPHia!”

“Or Chicago,” Sebastien shrugs.

“Sheriff,” says Simone, “I don’t know why this son of a … hound with full paps ... is giving us the royal runaround, but we have good money, and we want to use that good money to buy these provisions for our company.”

“Excuse me, ma’am,” says Deputy Frankie, “but surely these can’t be the only bills you got.  Can’t you use any of your other bills?”

“It’s an hour back to where we are setting up the carnival … and then an hour back here … and then an hour back,” she says.   “We need to feed our carnies and help get the carnival set up.”

“I thought all you gypsy-types made your own food,” says Horace.

“All people occasionally like to eat something that hasn’t come straight out of the stew pot!” she snaps back.

“OK, OK,” says the Sheriff.  “Horace, why don’t we have Tommy here run over to the bank and ask Bill about whether these are real?”

“Bill’s spending the week with his wife and her folk over in Windsor County.”

The Sheriff pauses.  He looks around for the spittoon, which, for some reason, has been moved from its usual place.  When he finds it, he spits into it, and then says, “Here’s what I’ll do … I take your dollar bills that you got in Philadelphia or Chicago, and Horace, I’ll give you my five one-dollar bills that look like the dollar bills you’re used to seeing, and then these nice folks can take their provisions back to their crew so that the … show may go on.”

Sebastien grins.  “Good one, Sheriff!”

Horace sputters.  Then he fumes.  Then he says, “But!  They’re buying ALL my licorice!”

“Now you’re just being small, Horace,” says the Sheriff.

“And our biggest workers, they love licorice!” says Simone.

“But I won’t have any for the kids!” Horace says.  “Look at Tommy there!  He’s so sad that all the licorice will be gone.”

Suddenly all eyes turn on Tommy.  When recounting the story as an adult, he will say that it was the first time that adults had ever asked his opinion on anything, and he realized at that moment that there are times when a person must weigh their words carefully, because they can change the course of a situation.

“Well,” says Tommy, “I mean, if it will make the Carnival workers happy, and since they are here to put on a show for the whole town, I don’t mind waiting until you get more licorice next week.”

And thus the matter is settled.  The Sheriff takes the bills minted by the United States Treasury in 1935 and hands over bills from his own pocket.  Simone and Sebastien pick up the bags and make their way toward the door.

As Simone passes by Tommy, she says, “Thanks, kid.  You got a good heart.”  She hands him one long stick of black licorice.   Then she looks back at the Sheriff, “And you … I don’t know about you yet.  You might have a good heart.”

The Sheriff spits again into the spittoon.

Horace, as everyone sidles out of his store, looks down at his corpulent girth, and then he squishes his puffy pectorals, and mumbles, “Hound with full paps?”

No comments:

Post a Comment