Truth and Consequences in Carnieville

Unless a Wenzlow says it, it isn’t true.

That’s the mantra around here, meaning never take anyone at their word unless it’s one of the three Wenzlow daughters who run the show. This hard lesson was learned yesterday when a rumor spread through our ‘hood that we had the entire day off. I even wrote yesterday about having the day off. And for most of the day this was the case.

The morning began as usual, with showers, coffee, everyone sitting outside their bunker smoking cigarettes, talking shop and waiting for their $20 draw. The usual suspects bartered goods and wares (two bottled waters for a Mountain Dew is a popular exchange). Later, we did laundry, for which an additional $5 was provided with that day’s draw, went grocery shopping and by early afternoon everyone had kind of dispersed. Some went looking for girls or for weed or to the bar. Something about extreme heat and intoxication doesn’t appeal to me, so I pulled a lawn chair into the shade and re-read Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation (a super fun book if anyone’s interested).

The day dragged on as such. Some of the newer guys (newer than me) – all of them broke – passed the time counting freight cars on the trains that chugged along the tracks.  One by one the other guys returned and we all kind of congregated in our little alley. Some began swapping jailhouse tales. One of the younger guys told us that he could draw naked women so well that, while in jail, his fellow inmates paid him for images to jerk off to. Another guy, one of the older bulls, recalled how last year a truck full of carnies got pulled over and all but him had warrants.

Naturally, this led to everyone advertising what warrants they have and in which counties.

Naturally, this leads me to another mantra: if it comes from a carnie, it probably isn’t true – at least most of it.

Like us having the entire day off for example.

Around 5 p.m., one of the Wenzlow girls came into our ‘hood to corral us Carnies for help putting the rides on location in the park across the street. By then, of course,  most everyone was high or drunk or both. “Why do you smell like alcohol?” she yelled and, looking at another, “Are you fucking stoned? Jesus Christ!”

Like scorned children, they lowered their heads, sat on the stoops outside their bunkers and lit cigarettes.

“I thought we had the day off?” they murmured, debated, wondered.

Turns out, all-day didn’t mean all evening, too.  A work call was scheduled then for us to help put the rides on location. No one was told they had the day off. It was implied – all day it was – but because a Wenzlow never said we had the day off, it wasn’t true. It shouldn’t have been assumed. Even the guy who has told me this golden, all-important rule of all rules a bazillion times broke it. Tell anyone anything and they’ll ask: did it come from a Wenzlow?

Except when it comes to days off, I guess.

About an hour later, the oldest daughter – the big boss – visited us. “You had all day yesterday to fuck around,” she screamed at no one in particular. “Those of you who are sober, come help. Anyone who’s been drinking or if you’re stoned, just stay the fuck here. Show up, you’ll be double-docked. Figure out what is your best decision.”

A couple of guys who had spent the day at the local pool had to explain that chlorine was the cause of their red eyes, not marijuana. After a lot of pleading the boss buys their story, and the four of us went to help, but end up standing around getting bit by mosquitoes. There wasn’t any work to do. Due to an event at a nearby expo center, the Wenzlow girls couldn’t get the rides out of the parking lot and over to the park. No one got docked pay and today all was forgotten.

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