Prompt: This week you get to go back to the summer of ’69 as a carnie! Happy time travels!
“Carnie wanted to operate the Mansion of Horror midway ride for the summer of ’69 Playland traveling carnival. No experience needed. Apply within.”
Walking fast, Cutter Ward rushed toward the sign he and his buddies joked about last night from around the bonfire out in the Talley field. He needed to get this job before any of those guys beat him to it.
The sign was still up. “Help Wanted: The Mansion of Horror, No experience needed, Apply within.”
His stomach sank. He didn’t want to be a carnie, but he’d failed his college entrance exam to The University of Georgia. So, carnie or soldier?
His best friend Ray’s older brother David was drafted two years ago in 1967. The letters he sent back home sent chills down his spine. The nightly news reports didn’t help with listing all the killed and missing in action. To top it all off, the bereavement department visited Ray’s family last week.
Bam! A cart took out his legs. Cutter sat up once he got air back into his lungs. What had happed?
A little person rushed up to him, “Sorry, man.” He pulled Cutter up onto his feet.
Cutter brushed off the red dust. It had been a dry spring so far.
“What are you doing around here today? We’re packing to head up north for the summer.”
“Is. . .is. . . that job still available?”
The little person let out a deep belly laugh, “A green behind the ears kid like you?”
Cutter felt his face flush, “I’m eighteen.”
“You ever been away from home, boy?”
“Not much, Sir.”
“A good Southern boy, like you? The draft, uh?”
“Not yet, sir. Just found out I failed the college entrance exam.” Cutter could have kicked himself. Why not just admit what a baby he was
“I understand. I don’t want no trouble.” He held out his hand, “Shorty’s the name. Playland Traveling Carnival does travel to Canada.”
“These aren’t church going folks, son.”
“The rigors of war aren’t either, Sir.”
“Alright, see Moloski at The Mansion of Horror. Start learning how to tear down the ride. Be back here at seven tonight when we pull out or we’ll leave you behind.”
Cutter sat on the picnic table overlooking the midway tossing a snuffed cigarette butt. Tonight was their last night in New York before crossing into Canada. He was pretty sure in the last five weeks he’d aged five years.
Could he go back? This was so much harder than he had imagined. If he did this he could never go home. But three years? What if he never came home?
Working on the machines around the Carnival, he found out he was a decent mechanic. Could he use that to stay off the front line? Not completely out of danger, but . . .
The next morning he walked up the steps into Shorty’s “office” to get his pay. “Hey, Shorty, you still got that sign, I’m headed home.”