…so Eddie isn’t the most talkative person I’ve ever met. Ordinarily, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing—me not being a Chatty Annie doll either—but Eddie’s starting to creep me out. I’m getting one word answers to my questions, mostly yes, no and shrugs. I think he’s dealing with issues he’s not prepared to share yet. I’ll give him time. In the meantime, he seems to enjoy sitting in front of the TV. His favorite shows, General Hospital and Hoarders.
Neighbor Bill inquires about my new house guest. What do I tell him? Not so much to tell other than Eddie is a loner and somewhat eccentric, seems reluctant to talk about his past or the people in it, and that leads to speculation and a strange explanation of possibilities from neighbor Bill.
He says, ”Seems the Eddie Syndrome explains a lot of eccentric loner guys, the kind who keep pickled heads of the young men they have murdered on a shelf, for company, and stop their cars on an obscure bridge at midnight, roaring off after a splash echoes under the bridge, only arrive home to an even emptier house, look at their watch and see that the bars will be open for a couple of more hours and go off to buy someone a few friendly drinks.”
I never thought of that. I’m not getting that vibe from Eddie. Granted, he could be the type to cover it well, depending on how long he’d practiced, but he doesn’t seem malicious. Maybe a little lost.
Neighbor Bill points a finger at me and says, “What if Eddie gets weird(er) and begins cross-dressing and spelling his name Eydie? What if a retired school bus proprietored by a retired carnie stops by and Eddie is offered regular lessons at a place of his own choosing in juggling, sticking (sanitized) hat pins out through his cheeks so he can be a sort of porcupinesque exhibition as a creature captured in the Himalayas. AND it turns out it is all a scam to cover up smuggling goods stolen from the county warehouse of seized drugs back across the border to Juarez, Mexico. The mass of jutting hat pins, many over six inches long, to take the place of weaponry and perhaps could be as potent as Capone’s Scarface among the ignorant wetbacks over there. And this starts pounding in Eddie’s head, along with schemes to do the gig and relieve the carnie of life’s vexations. BUT the carnie, Mark Solo, a name taken after he was fired as a teacher in an upmarket private elementary school of spoiled rich kids for failing almost all of them in his class, soon has another scheme involving: fire balloon terrorism! It seems that the payoff would come when Eddie shows up with the steel prickly porcupine cheeks to save the suburbanites from the cloud of luminous fire balloons igniting the parched greenery. He’s to leap from the bus and start cheeking the balloons, which pop with evanescent firework incandescence attracting national media!
After which his mentor works on a scheme which would have Eddie putting his head, bristly cheeks and all, in a lion’s mouth (one better than the old lion trainer bit) and don’t worry, the lion will be pre-placated by a lot of left-over soporifics from the ravaged county drug lockup. At which point, Eddie sees a mock-up of a follow up ad for lookalike harmless pins set replicating the appearance of Eddie’s but made of something not yet figured out but don’t worry. AND guess who would get to be star playground vendor with a pet—a small dog made up to look like a lion cub! Genius! In the interim, they live in a trailer park for carnies, current and ex, and Eddie without his cheeks prickly begins to look at the lady that can be electrocuted five times a day. Hand her a piece of tissue paper and it bursts into flames. Shake hands and get the shock of your life—a high voltage carnival beauty. But he doesn’t know how to approach her. He tried to start a chat with her once, but she told him where to stick it, and his cheeks would not bend back and low enough to do the sticking in those cheeks. Women! But it sets Eddie to thinking of his mother, and eyes rolling, his face turns bloodless. Hasn’t thought of her in along time. He says, ‘Whoooo!’”
That’s a bit of a stretch. I’m thinking if it gets to that point, we’re looking at a baker act. Self-mutilation would qualify. Doesn’t look like he has many friends. Serial killers usually don’t though, do they?
I haven’t seen the circus since I was seven. Hated the smell. Carney’s are a different story—once a year at the county fair, still ripe with prison stench and bad breath. “Come here little girl, I’ll show you a trick!”
Bill looks up thoughtfully and says, ”Honestly, when Ringling Brothers B and B circus tented around the country in my primordial world—this was about 1943—I was took to the newly laid tract on a Dakota hay field where the elephants, trunks twisted around ropes, were pulling the Bigtop aloft after the parade down main street. Parents took little Billy to the matinee. Side shows. Barkers (one ACTUALLY responded to my awed attentiveness by snarling, ‘Go away, kid, ya bodda me.’)
“Touring with the Greatest Show, in its menagerie, where the cages were simply the barred coaches pulled by tasseled white ponies in the parade, now lined up and behind a rope line along a straw-strewn path. Gargantua, the biggest ape in the world, was the somewhat truculent star of that stroll. IMPRESSIVE. Not just a big stout man in a fur suit with a hell of lifelike mask. That face responded to the passersby with annoyance, gritted teeth, rolled eyes. Many scooted past on the far side of the path. Before I got abreast of the cage a gent with hat and a cigar was throwing clumps of Dakota clay at the big monkey. VERY BIG MONKEY! Gargantua. Where was Fay Wray when…aw shucks, you younguns now never saw the original movie King Kong, big monkey that carried Fay around the tropical island jungle like a somewhat limp rag doll that screamed non-stop.
“As I got nearer, parents properly detached themselves from the somewhat vulgar surroundings, and Gargantua roared and threw something back at the man with the bowler hat. His cigar. The gent relit the cigar and tossed it aflame into the cage, then looked proudly around at us all and at the big monkey. The cage was a good six feet back from the rope line. Easily.
“What the heck happened to beasts’ fear of fire? The roar extinguished the flaming cigar, and then…then… an hairy arm AT LEAST six feet long shot out between the bars, and a giant hand grabbed Mr Cigar’s fancy bowler hat right off his head and gave him a swat with it as Gargantua withdrew his arm back behind the bars, then he sat down and shredded the hat like a Kleenex. That arm was REALLY LONG, really like seven feet, all hairy but not work-out bulgy like Charles Atlas’. The man clapped one hand on his head (a bit bald) and yelled something at Gangantua. The ape had very red eyes, and there was a big old truck tire in the cage for him to tear apart for leisure exercise.
“Gargantgua was not a monkey to mug and show his teeth… but his small eyes were very intelligent. And naive little Billy could see that he was thoroughly amused as he settled back and tore off a few pieces of six ply truck tire and flicked them at the vanishing form of the hatless tormentor. And little Billy was so scared he wanted to climb up his daddy’s back and peek out under his clerical collar. And he wanted Gargantua for a bodyguard against those third grade bullies.
This event made no news, and I read everything available when Gangantua died. Sadly remembered. R.I.P.”
Maybe Eddie just needs a hobby.
(Bill excerpts courtesy of Bill Donnelly)