The Roads Are Calling, or It's A Carnie Life: Part 11

That Sunday night was a quiet one for all of us. I surprised mom and dad by making no protest when dad said I needed to be in bed. I'm not sure, but that may be due to the feelings Allison and I have been going through since that jerk Dawtrim tried to kidnap us Thursday night.

Anyhow I was in bed a few minutes later and soon asleep, that sleep broken by dreams several times. Most of the dreams, well, the ones that I could remember when I woke up, were about Dawtrim and had him successfully kidnapping and abusing us. Scary shit, oh, yeah!

By abusing us, I mean feeding us the barest minimum to keep us alive, beating us whenever he felt like it, and worst of all, raping us both.

I'm really, really glad that I only remembered very brief bits of those dreams and not explicit details. What I remembered was bad enough.

I was really surprised that those dreams didn't have me screaming as I woke up each time. I was scared and rather upset, yep, but perhaps I knew somehow that I was safe from any harm from that jerk? I couldn't tell you, but I was very glad I didn't wake mom and dad up all night.

When I finally woke up on Monday morning, it was just after 8:30 AM. Holy geez, I wondered why mom and dad let me sleep in that late?

Well, it didn't take me long to get into a simple outfit, jeans, a t-shirt, of course one with an oldies band on it, this one showing the Grateful Dead. It was just a picture of them, not a band tour t-shirt, but it was the first one that I found that morning that I actually felt like wearing.

Slipping on my runners after I had dressed myself, I slithered down the ladder to the main area of the RV and started getting some breakfast. I was hungry, but limited myself to putting two slices of whole wheat bread into a four slice toaster and prepped a bowl of Special K™.

While I waited for the toaster to finish, I also poured a glass of orange juice from the big jug in the fridge. That was interesting, I couldn't recall us getting jugs that size for juice before, we usually grabbed a one or two quart carton. Oh, well, that just means there will be more for later.


I had finished my toast and half of the cereal when the outer door of the RV opened and mom entered the vehicle.

"Heya, kid, we've been wondering when you would get up today. You okay?" she asked me.

"Sort of, mom, sort of not." That led to my telling her about the dreams and my waking up every hour or so through the night.

Mom shook her head, then walked closer and hugged me, planting a kiss on my forehead. I squirmed in her grasp until she let me go.

"Honestly, mom, I didn't bother you guys because when I woke up each time, I barely remembered what I had been dreaming," I told her. "If I couldn't remember anything clearly, what sense would it have made to wake you both up about it? Plus I wasn't awake for long at those times."

"Even if you don't think you need to bother us, remember, hon, we just want to make sure you are okay. That means all the time, hmm?"

I sighed and nodded, saying, "Yeah, mom. I'll try to remember that. What's been happening, how much stuff is still here?"

"Not a lot, kiddo, the only big thing left at the moment is the ferris wheel and they've almost finished tearing it down," she replied.

I nodded and returned to my breakfast, drinking about a quarter of the glass of orange juice as I continued eating.

"We were just coming in to check on you and let you know we'll be leaving soon. At least this won't be a long trip," mom laughed.

I nodded again and watched as mom opened the RV's door, looked out and yelled, "Bernard, we need to get going, move it!"

I swear, at times mom sounds like a drill instructor. I guess it's no surprise that dad came running to the RV just a brief moment later, hmm?


A bit less than ten minutes after that, we were exiting from the fairgrounds, heading back along I95 toward Pennsylvania.

I hadn't noticed it earlier, but apparently Tina, Ricki and Allison had stayed there with us, as I saw Tina's truck as we passed by Pawtucket.

Dad continued driving until we reached New Haven. We had enjoyed the meal at Anastasio's Boat House so much on our eastbound trip through there that we decided to have an early lunch there, and hopefully beat the lunch hour rush. It was another fantastic meal, of course.

We were back on the road just before 12:30 PM, with mom driving this time, then switching with Dad at a parking lot in Hope, Pennsylvania.

Once we had stopped, Mom muttered something about the glare from the sun starting to be a problem, and she'd misplaced her sunglasses. The rest of the drive to the Lycoming fairgrounds took roughly two more hours, with us arriving there just before 4:45 PM.

After we had met with the fairground's officials, we were allowed entry and wandered around for a bit before mom spotted one of our big tractor trailers unloading a bunch of ride pieces from the trailer, using a forklift. Dad found somewhere to park the RV and we were there.

I had no sooner put my feet on the ground than I was tearing off to help the guys with putting rides and booths together. Just as I reached the back end of that same rig that we'd seen a few minutes before, I was overtaken by Allison who had arrived on the site just behind us.

Allison and I spent a good part of that evening helping out, mostly by carrying lighter weight items or by directing the guys doing the unloading. By the time that Jack called a halt to the work, it was almost 10 PM and we had been working steadily for more than five hours.

Jack announced that he had called a local pizza place and had put in an order, then said the pizzas would get here in about thirty minutes. That gave Allison and I enough time to head to the RV and do a quick clean-up, not that we needed much more than a brief face and hand wash.

We were out of the RV and waiting for the pizzas barely ten minutes after Jack had announced it. What was amusing, honestly, was the fact that just about all of our folks that were already there were all standing around, waiting. I guess that says where our priorities were, heh?

The pizzas finally arrived, and everyone dug in, spending the next thirty minutes in the process of demolishing ten extra large pizzas.

One of the things we do, largely because we often don't know where we'll be eating, is that most of us carry a supply of paper plates. We had used those to parcel out portions of the ten pizzas we'd eaten, so it was a fairly easy task to dispose of the boxes and the used plates.

I'd managed to eat five slices from three different deluxe pizzas, so I was full and rather content as I wandered off to my bed in the RV.


I was up fairly early the next morning. I was soon joined by Allison, then we had a quick breakfast of toast, Shreddies™ and juice.

Once we had finished eating, we took turns in the RV's shower, Allison having brought some clothes along with her.

We were clean and ready to go out to continue helping put everything up for the fair by 8:15 AM.

As we exited the RV, we noticed a few of the guys, including Lane and his rig partner Billy, already starting to work.

We joined in, helping where we could, much like the day before, stopping only to have lunch, another of mom's "quick mix stews". This one had what looked like chunked sausages (about 1/2" slices), sweet potatoes, an onion or two, sweet peppers, all tossed into her big crock pot.

Let's just say that when mom makes one of those stews, the pot will be completely empty by the time everyone finishes eating. It seems mom has a bit of a reputation within Birchland's folks for her stews, and they'll come running to have some as soon as they can smell it.

You might want to give us grief for using paper plates and bowls, or plastic knives, forks, and spoons, but when you live a roving life like we do, not everyone can afford to carry a collection of cutlery, plates, bowls and other items along the way, so they make do with disposable stuff.

Besides, it's a damn sight easier to clean up after fifty people or even more at times like that by using the paper and plastic items. Would you want to have to stand around and hand wash fifty to a hundred sets of dishes after a big communal meal like that? I didn't think so.


After the meal, it was back to the work of setting up booths and rides. The last ride was finished just after 5:30 PM, the last booth by 7 PM.

I wandered back to our RV and entered, where I noticed mom sitting in the kitchen area looking at a site on dad's laptop computer. A quick glance showed the site was one about recipes for meals, the section mom was checking was about fish stews and chowders.

I scratched my head and wandered into the bathroom for a moment, taking care of business, then sat down across from mom.

She smiled and said that she was looking through items like that because she and dad know folks that run a commercial fishing business, and thus we would very likely be able to get the fish and other items for quite a bit less than it would cost to buy them at a grocery store.

"Pietro Costillo and his cousin Felipe run a fishing company out of a small inlet just north of Keyport. They tend to get decent hauls of tuna and cod, as well as flounder, haddock, halibut, bluefish, bonito, bass and mackerel. They also bring in lots of clams, crabs and shrimp.

"I'm looking at sites like this to see what I might want to order, this seafood chowder looks interesting. Hmm... not sure about monkfish, maybe we could change that to another type, maybe black sea bass or cod or halibut which are common in that area of the coast," she added.

Mom was pointing at this recipe:

"It might take a couple of hours to make it from start to finish, but I bet there will be nothing left with all the folks we have here," mom stated.

"Mom, you should know by know, you cook one of your stews, or something like this, heck, yeah, we'll scrape the pot clean!" I giggled.

She nodded, picked up her cell which had been lying on the table, scanned through her contacts, then hit call when she found it.

It took a moment for the call to be answered, which happened just as it was about to ring for the fourth time.

"Ciao, Costillo Fishing, how I help you?" We heard the voice of a slightly distraught female answering her call.

"Hi, Annabella, it's Esther Banfield. I'm wondering if we could get some fish from you, plus about two pounds each of shrimp and crabs?"

"Ohhh, hello, Esther, it has been long time since you or Bernard call us? Let me see what I can find, yes?"

Mom said that was fine, and we then heard Annabella yelling for someone named Salvatore to get the freshest shrimp and crabs. She then yelled out for someone else named Paulo to collect at least one or two freshly caught black sea bass, haddock or weakfish.

Annabella then returned to talking with mom as she waited for the boys to bring her the items she had demanded they find for her.

"So, Esther, which do you want? Black sea bass, haddock or weakfish? Weakfish look like trout but ocean fish," Annabella declared. She then continued, "To get decent amount, you might need two or three of any of those fish, they often not big, not like bluefin tuna."

Mom took a moment to think about it, then stated that she would take both bass and haddock and the two women hashed out the order.

When they were done, mom smiled and said she would send a payment to them shortly, could they deliver today or tomorrow?

"Where you be now?" Annabella asked, to which mom replied that we were at the Lycoming county fair in Hughesville, PA.

Annabella listened, then said, "You order be there by ten PM tonight at latest, I send Salvatore to deliver personal."

Mom replied, saying, "I'lll be sure to let the folks at the fairground's gates know, so one of us can meet him there. Thanks, Annabella!"

As soon as the call had been disconnected, mom was tapping the keys, entering the info for their website, then paying for the order.

A few minutes later, she received confirmation from the shop's site that the order had been placed and would soon be on its way.

I grinned at mom as I asked her, "So do we tell anyone that you plan to make a seafood chowder soon, or leave them unaware of it?"

Mom returned the grin, "Oh, I don't plan to tell anyone until it's just about done, by which point they'll all know!"

She then said that she would be waiting by the gate to the fairgrounds later that evening to meed Salvatore and collect the delivery.


Mom said that she would have a simple meal of burgers and fries waiting for us in about forty-five minutes before I wandered away.

I left the RV a short while later with a big smile on my face. I had given a promise to mom that I wouldn't mention it to anyone.

Allison soon found me, took a long look at me and asked me what the heck was happening, that I had a mile wide grin like that?

I laughed and said that I couldn't say anything, she'd have to wait and maybe she would find out some time over the next day or two.

I told Allison that mom was going to make burgers and fries, which started her whining about why she couldn't have some.

I giggled, pulled out my old cell, called mom and asked if there might be enough for Tina, Ricki and Allison, she replied in the affirmative.

"Well, Allison, I guess you got lucky, mom said there should be enough to feed you hogs," I said to her, then I was running for my life!

Allison chased me all around our area, back and forth around the vehicles, zigzagging around games booths, for almost twenty minutes. I'm not sure how I managed to stay ahead, but I did, although she came very close to catching me a few times before we both ran out of breath.

We finally stopped running, then noticed we were not far from the RV, and we could both tell that mom was cooking dinner.

We sat there in the grass near the RV, just winding down, talking quietly with each other until mom yelled the food was ready.

Allison made a quick call to Tina and we were all piling into the RV to eat.

I don't think anyone else noticed, but I saw mom heading for the gates to meed Salvatore about half an hour after we finished eating. Allison and I had gotten stuck doing the dishes. That didn't take very long, thankfully, and we decided to just relax for the rest of the evening.


I guess it was good that we had everything set up by early evening that Tuesday, as the fair would start the next afternoon.

Except for this Wednesday and Thursday, the fair would be opening the gates at 10 AM each day, The rides wouldn't be allowed to start until 5 PM on the weekdays, and 2 PM on the weekends. I inferred from this that we would need to focus on our shows during the daytime.

We were up around our usual time of about 7 AM on the first Wednesday here, even though the gates wouldn't open for another nine hours. That just mean that we could use the time to relax, except that Sgt. Mom had other ideas, such as making Allison and I do schoolwork.

Yep, the two of us were stuck in that RV studying from 8:30 that morning until about mid-afternoon, then mom finally decided to let us go.

We both ran off to change into a set of our costumes, then waited as the Valbists plus Peter and Jenny had first show in our tent.

We finally got our turn, and hustled up the ladders, then cartwheeled toward the middle of the tightrope from each end. As often happens, we lost ourselves somewhat in the rhythm of the movements, only returning fully as we finished the act to lots of very vocal applause.

Jackson Pelt was the next in line, and a few folks ran in to switch things around for his act.

We did two more performances each before the gates to the fairgrounds shut at 10 PM that night, and repeated it the next day.


With the gates opening at 10 AM from the first Friday onward, we changed our schedule so we each could perform five times a day.

Because the lions and the elephants were the only acts using the first big tent, they managed to do six shows each per day.

I can remember Allison and I watching mom and Terrence putting the lions through their paces while we were between shows that Friday. It had been a few months since Terrence had joined us, and it was already becoming evident that he was improving quite a bit. I suppose it was due to the fact that we knew Terrence for that long that made it possible for us to see the barest flinch now and then as the act progressed.

Compared to how he had been when he first joined us back in mid-April or so, it was definitely a major improvement.

Allison and I had a couple of wobbles up on the rope, times where we almost lost our balance, but were able to stay up there without falling.

I know Jack Birchland would have preferred to have the rides going all day, but they still brought in good money when they were running.


Mom made a chowder using the bass plus about half of the shrimp and crabs on the first Wednesday afternoon, which was, of course, soon finished with someone actually scouring the bottom to get the last of it. She laughed as I showed her the pot before I cleaned it.

She did it again using the haddock plus the rest of the shrimp and crabs on the first Saturday, with the same result, as expected.

Allison and I managed to catch parts of some of the various music shows on the stages around the fairgrounds, including artists like Kenzie McCarter, Kendall Phillips, Highway Sisters, October Rose, and a few others in between doing our own shows now and then.

Yep, country music, but what do you expect from a fair that's also doing various animal events, many of them farm type animals?

There were also a few derby shows, a tractor pull, etc., but those shows each cost $10 bucks, which meant we didn't bother to see any. We may not be dirt poor, but we really can't afford to be gallivanting around, spending that much that often, without getting something useful from it.

Jack was much happier with our being able to do all the shows each day. With the rides only going for the evenings mostly, except for the weekends, that meant that the majority of what we earned would be at the entry point of the big tents as each act took place.

We gave it our best effort every time we went up on the rope, and I would have to assume we did quite well due to the applause we received.


I think the scariest part of our time at the Lycoming fair was when I slipped and fell down to the net on the second Thursday evening. I'm not sure how it happened, honestly. I suppose I miscalculated my foot placement, as my foot slid off the rope, causing me to take a tumble.

I was just a bit too far away for Allison to catch me like I had done with her a while back. I heard her barely audible squeak as I fell.

As much as it might be nice to do the act without the net below us, I am very, very glad it was there this time.

I ended up with a bit of a bruise on my left shin from how I landed on the netting, but was otherwise fine. Well, if you call a bruise about 3" long by just over an inch wide a "bit" of one. It seems I hit a snap-tight connector piece on the edge between two of the net pieces.

I laughed it off, and was scurrying back up the ladder to rejoin Allison on the rope just a brief moment later, bruise or no bruise.

The fair wound down on the second Saturday evening, with the gates closing for the final time at 10 PM.

I didn't even make a fuss about heading back to the RV on that final evening of the fair, I simply went straight to bed, utterly exhausted.

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