They worked the freaks like Georgia mules. Don't get me wrong, they worked me just as hard, but you see, I was fueled with spit and spite. When the cops are after you, the best place to be was the sideshow. After all, when you're sluggin' a broom around, you tend to blend. No one looks at the measly janitor when there are swallowed swords to be seen. It was perks aplenty. I got to travel the States and live rent free in a crummy trailer on the fairgrounds with two other shadows that didn't talk. All for twenty bucks a week. So the months passed and I settled into my job cleaning cages. Not the ones for the animals. The human ones.
# # #In the middle ages, carnival originally meant a "time of merrymaking before Lent." As I sweep up crushed popcorn boxes and cotton candy cylinders I wonder how it morphed into a platform where the sick and handicapped are mocked, cheated and in some cases, abused. I saw all sorts of different folk on my carny tour. The most normal of the oddities were the hairy sorts. They were just like you and me but just... hairier. You had to watch out for the clowns, however, who I believe are all insane. Never cross a clown. That's all I'm gonna say. More on that another time. The acrobats were like royalty and wouldn't dare dream of consorting with any other carny workers other than the boss. When a high wire snapped in a "freak accident" one night, I almost didn't mind. We blamed the clowns. I know the truth though.
# # #Pip and Flip were special to me. They were pinheads. Well, the doctor term was Microcephalia. It's when your noggin fails to grow and the body doesn't. Some pinheads - the ones the carny bosses said were from Peru - were pretty much dwarfed. Nevertheless, they were all usually a tad touched in the head and hyper as a jack rabbit. So they locked up Pip and Flip. Not because they were dangerous but because they would wander off the first chance they got. Combined, they had the mentality of a first grader and every now and again, I would sneak them roasted peanuts in a brown paper bag. They were adorable. Carny bosses said the pair were twins that came from the Yucatan of Mexico. I knew that was a bunch of baloney, though. I got the skinny from the human skeleton one night. He said that they were actually born in New York and their real names were Elvira and Jenny Lee Snow and worked the Coney Island sideshow before being sold to this swampland pit of despair.
# # #It was 1933, I think, when the man in the big black trenchcoat ushered the two girls out of the cage and into a large car on the outskirts of the fairground. I followed him because it didn't seem right. "Hey, where you takin' them, bub?" I shouted. After he ushered Pip and Flip into the back seat, he strolled towards me and said. "I'm Tod Browning. Gonna put them in my movie." "Movie?" "Yeah..." he said patting me on my shoulder. "They'll be in good hands. Metro-Golwyn Mayer owns them now. Lock, stock and barrel. Don't worry." Oh, sure, I saw the movie. The whole carny went on our night off. The two gals made it. Apart from their small part in the movie, though, I never saw Pip and Flip again. It's as if they vanished. No one knows what happened to them.
Subscribe to my newsletter for upcoming book news, pop culture goodies, noir delights and all things gin-soaked. Never spam - just utter coolness from time to time.