copyright 2011 Francis D. Walsh
“Sure, no problem officer.” “I don’t know what caused the fire, but I know what happened after I got there.” Even though Rick had already had experiences talking to the police, he didn’t have enough knowledge about psychology to know when to shut up. It was not on his mind at the moment anyways, for Frank it was the first thing on his mind.
The two stepped off the exit ramp and clambered up the mound of fresh earth that had been compacted by a few thousand feet at the back of the ride. This is where the lowest point of the ride meets the ground. As riders exited the Flying Bobs, a crowd would bunch up together and some would climb over the freshly dug hillside where the ride was set onto the side of the hill. You had to climb up to get to the hill farther up, and while Frank Brennan had to place a hand on his thigh to help push him up and over the mound. Rick easily scaled the sharp incline in one smooth step.
“So what can I tell you officer?” Rick was ready to take the lead if it meant the discussion was over sooner AND if he could direct the questions away from himself he would.
“I can tell you what I know.” “If that’s something.” Rick turned away from his interrogator and walked a little further up the hill. Now, as he looked up the hill, the Sky Diver was the only thing this far up. It was off to his left and as he scanned to tall ride with his eyes he could see Lester’s head and shoulders just above the edge of the trailer. Rick stopped looking over at the Dive and brought his attention back to Frank. Frank had been able to get his breath back and though he was waiting to see if the kid would continue talking on his own, he thought of his first question and asked it out loud as the thought entered his mind.
“Did you have a relationship with either of those girls Rick?” Frank asked the question and then stopped. He was looking at the boy as Rick turned to him and shared eye contact as Rick answered.
“No, I didn’t have that kind of relationship with either one.” “Kelly would come by to talk pretty much everyday but we…..” Rick cut the sentence short as his own mind raced forward, following the direction that the question left unanswered.
“But we what?” Frank needed to know about the people and not the fire. He was good at his job because he looked where the answers were and not where the evidence pointed. An accident can be easily explained, it’s when an accident is not an accident that people start messing up. The question put Rick on his heels and Frank was ready to knock this kid over if there was nothing there holding him up.
“But what Rick?” “You were going to say that you and Kelly were only friends?” “I get the feeling that maybe you and she were more than friends.” “And in that case, you may know more than you think you know.” Frank buzzed out his statements in succession like short jabs. Rick was left with a spinning head. He wanted to get the conversation back to the fire and off of him.
“We talked.” “I talk to a lot of people every day here.” “It’s the same people, but we talk about different things.” Rick turned away momentarily before turning back to look at the cop again as he spoke.
“I thought this was about the fire and not about the girl who died.” “I had to pull her sister out of that mess last night instead of her.” “Your guys could have gotten to her faster if they weren’t so worried about a boy like me, like you.” “but in your case your thinking you could find a better reason, just you’d be looking the wrong way thinking I wanted something like that to happen.” Rick turned again and continued to speak before he stopped talking about his relationship with Kelly. He hoped it would be enough that he told the truth and any good detective can recognize the truth.
“No…” “I’m just going to ask the questions I think are the ones that will answer the questions I have about last night.” “Just answer my questions honestly and you’ll be able to go about your business and I’ll be able to put this accident behind us.
“Now where were you when the fire started?” Frank spent the next twenty minutes walking Rick through the explosion and the time that followed up until he left Wayne and him at in the trailer park last night. From what Rick had told him, there was a sudden explosion a couple of hours after Rick and the deceased girl talked. Rick was in his room in the bunkhouse when it happened and he rushed over to the fire right away. The story continued much like it had been heard that night. The fire rescue crews were too enthusiastic with both their control and equipment on scene, and once the fire was out, he went back to sleep in the bunkhouse. Rick had added to the conversation the lack of sleep and the level of stress the whole show had been going through.
“Do you think the town will close us down because of the fire?” was one question that Frank knew little about. He answered as he would as if the events of the night before occurred or not. “If you are all good to go, there’s no reason no to let you open.”
Bennington had reason though to be concerned. Frank received a text message from the chief at four in the morning. The alert his phone produced was only loud enough to pull him out of REM sleep and cast him into an unproductive sleep pattern until he awoke an hour later. The chief wanted to find a cause so they could blame someone. Blaming someone brought a bad event to an end, and Bennington liked to have closed ends on any and all mysteries or accidents. Both were something Bennington believed to be “avoidable”.
‘What I do know is that after I finish my conversations with everyone, I’ll know more about this accident. If it is just that then we can all go back to the business of praying and healing around here.” “I’m sure all of you would like that more than anything else right now.” Frank was finished talking with Rick for now, but Instead of walking back through the Flying Bob’s Detective Brennan would walk around the circumference of the ride with Rick watching from behind.
“If you remember anything more, be sure to find me, I’ll be around.” He was already fifteen feet away and heading back down the hill. The detective wanted to find Marc before he left the hillside for the rest of the day. He would plan on coming back when the sun settled below the hill tops and the carnival was open for business.
It would be Frank who allowed the show to open tonight and tomorrow. He wanted the time to find out more about the people who worked for Marc and how they were able to keep it all together after something so horrible happens to one of there own.
After his talk with Marc was finished he realized something about these carnies he had not known before. He imagined himself on the road, in their shoes, alone. Alone even though you feel like there are many around you helping you, watching out for you, paying you, he realized that every man and woman on the road is still alone, separated by personal self reliance and preservation due to irreconcilable differences within each person or with the establishment.
Marc confirmed that he had no more or less feeling for any of the people he carried around under his arm. The money motivated him and kept him coming back for more. Frank learned a little about getting away too. What it meant for somebody like Rick he did not know, but he would discover Rick’s reason even if Rick didn’t know he was doing it.
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The life of a carny is good or it is bad depending on who was asking the question. The fact is, the the work was back-breaking and seemed to go on forever. Life continued to weave a way through the people of the road even while they worked for days and partied for months. This was the last few good years of carnival work. The employess that would erect the show were a collection of loners and travelers. Each one had an individual story to tell and a reason to be there. The industry was brought to its knees by federal tax collectors in the late 90's and eventually handed over to corporations who hired employess and made things right. CARNE VALE was the most revealing novel written by Francis D. Walsh; the similarities are ominous and the differences hardly noticeable as Rick Water lives a life much like the author's but different too. Why love and lust and freedom meant so much to one person may never be known, but the need to get away never seemed to die.