One night he put his arm around me and said he was going to give me the big responsibility of guarding the gravel parking lot behind the carnival, where he and the carnies kept their cars and vans. I had never been there, and Shade must have seen my disappointment as I was shunted off to the carnival’s most prosaic job.
When I reached the parking lot my feet stopped in front of an old green Plymouth. There could be no doubt it was my father’s; the VacuLux suitcase lay in the back seat, but in the front seat was a pile of women’s clothing. His car was parked in a spot whose sign read “Reserved for Guests.”
My dreams of the previous weeks had been a prophesy of what I was about to do. As I ran and searched through the tents looking for my father, each interior looked familiar, and instead of rebuffs, I was received with hospitality. “Come on in, kid. You in a hurry tonight?”
The biggest tent was the carnival master’s, a lamplit labrynth of folds and flaps, of flickering silhouettes that suddenly loomed up and flew off the orange walls. Here I asked for my father and was pointed in the direction of the carnival master’s private quarters in the center of the tent complex.
I pulled away the flap and walked in. My father was seated at a small table, where, across from him, sat the professor.
“Meet Doctor Morel, son,” he said casually, as if expecting my arrival.
“What are you doing here, Dad?”
“I’m with the carnival, son.”
My heart sank into my chest like dead weight, then began beating again. “Oh,” I said, “I thought…”
I trailed off as I noticed that the professor had adjusted a rubber tube, now fully visible, which emerged from the bottom of my father’s pants and extended across the floor to a bed pan.
“Ergot. It’s the best, son. It’s the best.” He began applying dollops of make-up to his face.
“Dad, what is this for?”
“This is what I do now, son.”
“Some of these wandering cultures have been using the drug as a sacrament all along,” said Morel. “It’s part of their religion. You have to have a religion, my boy. If you don’t keep it alive, they take it away from you.”
“There’s another carnival coming through tomorrow,” said my father. “They’re mushroom eaters, so we have to clear out before they get too close.”
Morel shook his head with a grave expression, “It’s a whole different class of people.”
The carnival master walked in with Shade, who looked at my father, then at me, and back to my father.
“Don’t worry, Shade,” he said. “My son can drink with us.”
The professor took some glass vials out of a tin box and broke them open into some bourbon. Music started blaring out of the speakers, signalling that it was time for the geek to sacrifice another animal for the impatient crowd. Their yelling and clapping became louder just outside the tent.
"The sleep of reason
brings forth monsters."