67101edd53c0c03f19c948d0247695a7--amusement-parks-beautiful-picturesReaders of my ‘Townie’ post on Andre Dubus III will like this short story written by ‘Anon’ in the late ’70s on townies in the Williamstown area he either knew or was.

The Boys of Bennington

The carnival was set up on the high school sports field in Bennington. It was an old school kind of carnival that originated in the South and traveled through the North during the summer months. It still showcased the bearded lady, the snake woman, and the smallest man in the world, when such things could be seen in Vermont- back in 1978.
Stevie and Mark were drinking beers under the concealing overhangs of a big spruce tree in a stand of pines next to the carnival. The boys were small for thirteen; ninety pounds and five feet tall. Through the trees they watched the action and listened to the sounds of buzzers, grinding gears, bells, and vendors’ loud solicitations. The carnival lights danced in the shadows of the trees; flickering about the boys’ faces.
Stevie was a fair haired kid in a white T, a cute boy. Mark was more awkward. He had curly brown hair and freckles so deep they could even be seen in the flickers from the carnival. His new black T-shit had large crisp white letters that lit up with a strobe effect from the flashing lights- proclaiming “Disco Sucks.”
 when school was in session. It was a well-worn spot where the high school kids would smoke, drink, and get laid. A hidden sanctuary that stank of piss and booze. There were cigarette butts, broken bottles, a spent gallon of ripple, and a used condom here and there. The lower lying branches of the Big Spruce had been trimmed by high school kids over the years to create a large open space under the protective cover of the fan like needles. The massive trunk was carved with nasty degradations and statements of drug and alcohol use- HC and PT did it here in 1974. Captain Fantastic was skippin’ school and trippin’ the day away, 1976. For good head call 867-5309. It was perfect spot for this pair of youth to conceal their habits as they hung out watching the action.

The rickety roller coasters, spinning seats, piston driven lifts and swivel laden chains brought carnival goers the thrill of momentum, height, and disorientation. Riders felt the ecstasy of vertigo caused by sudden drops and spins. All of the cliché carnival fun was to be had. BB gun shooting stations, baseball throws and other important contests littered the sprawling makeshift festival. Players clutched their bloated aching bellies, full of cotton candy and chocolate covered deep fried bananas. Victory was a cheap stuffed animal prize.
Stoned greasy carnival workers from the South slapped the rides together and spoke in gibberish as they sat idly by their stations. They smoked cigarettes while eye-fucking young girls and boys; their soot laden forms becoming a part of the scenery. Like striped hyenas on the Sahara, the carnies were the predators that go unnoticed during the carnival’s migrations. They traveled north and south with the change of the season, avoiding the law and looking for fresh meat as well as used carcasses.

The beer started to get warm, so Mark and Stevie went and stashed their case of quarts in the cool river near a thicket of brambles next to the Big Spruce getaway. Then they went back to the pines, where they stood passing a quart of Genny back and forth under the Big Spruce- returning to watch the carnival.

Two boys and two girls ducked into the hidden sanctuary. They joined Stevie and Mark under the overhanging branches by the trunk of the Big Spruce. Stevie recognized the boys right away. They were older kids named Pat and Richie, rising juniors in high school on the Mount Anthony wrestling team. Stevie had seen them wrestle in the older divisions during the summer tournaments. Both of them were Vermont State-Champions.
The girls Richie and Pat were with were a little younger, probably soon to be sophomores. One was a blond and the other a brunette, both good looking in a small town way. They were clutching the hands of their dates. The blond with Richie was well developed for her age. She had a huge rack, which jutted through the thin fabric of her light blue T shirt, above her Daisy Dukes and a pair of worn sneakers.
Richie still had on his work clothes from summer labor with a construction company. He wore Dexter work boots, Levies, and an open checkered red and black flannel shirt.
“Say guys,” Stevie said as the four new arrivals broke through the overhang.
“You guys wanna beer?” Mark asked, looking at the two older teens’ dates with a tinge of curious and cautious envy.
“Yep,” the wrestlers replied in unison.
Stevie went into the brambles, carefully picking his way through to retrieve two quarts from the river, then returned and handed them to the older teens. The wrestlers popped the caps with their teeth and began passing the quarts back and forth with their girlfriends.
The four boys fell into small talk, the swaggered kind of talk when girls are present; making light humor. The girls laughed and clung, kissing their dates in-between the salvos of youth’s bravado and sips of beer. Richie started to talk about wrestling.
“Saw you at the tourney dog,” Richie said, tilting his beer toward Stevie. “Summer shit always sucks, so out of shape, with the smoking and drinkin’ and what not.”
“Yeah,” replied Stevie.
“Still dog, you did good. Took that kid out from Albany, and that kid is a good wrestler dog.”
“Yeah,” Stevie said.

A swing ride was the closest attraction, about twenty yards from the Big Spruce. It was a simple ride. Riders sat in schoolyard style swings; rubber seats with simple chain seatbelts. Those seats were attached by braded metal ropes to a flywheel at the top of a huge piston driven pole, allowing the riders to form a swing circle.
The teens watched from the shadows as the passengers were lifted and propelled in a circle about ten feet off of the ground. Then, as the swing ride spun, one of girls on the ride, judged by the boys to be about nine- puked. That puke flew and struck several of the other riders being propelled in formation behind that girl- right in the face.
“Ha, ha, ha,” Stevie doubled over with laughter as he thumped Mark’s shoulder.
“Jesus dog,” Patrick howled, squeezing his date. “What the fuck that girl been eatin’!”
“Candy corn, it appears,” Richie responded with humorous wince.
The teens fell out in laughter.
Needless to say, the line that had formed to get on the swing ride dispersed quickly with the sight of the vomit filled faces. Everyone began gagging. The girl who puked had started a bit of a chain reaction…
Stevie and the others took little notice of the carnies that shut the ride down to remove the passengers and clean it. They were too busy trying not to fall down in fits of laughter to notice much of anything, as they continued to guess the diet of the young girl and others who had blown chunks.
“Cotton candy.”
“No, dog, I am telling you, cherry ice.”
“No way dog, candy apples.”
“That had to be Cracker Jack.”
“With some chocolate covered bananas too.”
It was at this time when the two carnies that were now free from their duties running the swing ride broke into the sanctuary. The carnies came through the spruce bows into the boys’ space scratching their scraggly unshaven faces. The laughter stopped.
There was one man, in his 30s, a tall ogre with a big pot belly, and another skinny guy straddling a bicycle. Their fingernails were stained black with grease from the years’ set up and break down of the rides. They interrupted Stevie and the others with Southern accents; deep and rough, eying the teens with the confidence of size and age.
“You youngins got any extra beers?” The Ogre asked, his menacing form making a statement rather than a request.
Stevie went and fetched another pile, handed the men one, the wrestlers and their girlfriends two more, and opened one for himself and Mark. No sense in making any trouble, Stevie thought looking at the men.
The smaller man was bigger than any of the boys, and the giant ogre much bigger than that. Richie and Pat were lightweights, wrestling at 132 and 138, which made them about 150 pounds in the off season. The Ogre had to be six-foot-four, and over 300 pounds. He towered over the kids.
“Ya’ll want to come back to our tent for some fun?” The skinny carnie who straddled his undersized BMX bicycle questioned. “Our ride’s down for the night, and we got Jack Daniels.”
The boys did not reply. Richie and Pat’s dates got real close to them, and the conversation continued with the new awkward tension that comes when strangers invade your space.
“Anyhow dog, you come to the high school this year and we’ll show you how to scrap,” Richie said to Stevie, getting away from the puke conversation. He changed the subject back to wrestling almost as if he was warning to the two imposing strangers.
“Scrap?” The Ogre carnie interrupted. “Why you boys ain’ big ‘nuff to scrap.” His large distorted face with flat nose looked like that of a retard with a slight case of downs syndrome. His greasy black hair clung to his cheeks.
Then the Ogre moved close, over next to Richie’s girlfriend, and he put his arm around her. She shrugged her shoulders and tried to move away, but the fat man held her firm against his waste.
The skinny carnie stood straddling his bicycle while the fat man gripped the girl. His eyes were peering with glee. He began licking his lips, as he watched his southern ogre friend lean down and clutch one of the blond girl’s big tits.
Stevie and Mark stepped back a little, scared. These two younger kids were too small to play in this game, but playing whether they liked it or not. Stevie quaked as he and Mark watched the Ogre start to diddle Richie’s girlfriend.
Then Stevie saw the exchange, a quick glance between Pat and Richie. The two older teen wrestler’s eyes got big; then their eyes narrowed as they made their move…
Pat leapt straight into the smaller carnie straddling the bike. The man’s legs twisted in the bike’s frame as he fell to the ground. That skinny carnie’s sadistic leer changed to a look of shock as the young wrestler kept his balance and avoided the entanglement. Then the surprised look of the skinny carnie was replaced very quickly with Pat’s fists, as Pat began pounding the man while straddling his chest, above the feet now entangled in the bike’s frame. The man attempted to get free, but failed, as his feet flailed inside the bike’s spokes.
The diddling Ogre fared worse with Richie. His attention was on Richie’s girlfriend when the boys made their move… The Ogre showed Richie the side of his face as he bent to pull the girls breasts through the neckline of her thin blue T-shirt.
Richie nailed the Ogre right in the temple; a hard unobstructed right hand that stung with a loud “ptt.” Richie placed the unexpected blow perfectly, which caused the big fat carnie to release the girl and stagger. He was stunned by the sudden violence.
Richie then shot-in with the full force of a two time state champion wrestler: a double-leg takedown on the man’s large staggering body. Even with Richie’s skill, it was an awkward takedown because of the size difference. The big man kept his feet at first, but Richie clutched the man hard at both knees and drove his shoulders just below the carnie’s fat waste. The Ogre took two steps back as Richie drove forward, then he stumbled and fell like an oak into the brambles.
When the fat man tried to get up, Richie had already jumped to his feet. The stunned Ogre was on all fours now, shaking his head and blinking his eyes in the flickering shadows of the carnival lights. He was trying to get oriented when the sudden force of Richie’s steel-toe boot shocked him again.
“Dexter face-work mutherfucker!” Richie proclaimed as he punted the Ogre’s head with full force. The steel-toed boots popped the man’s face like a balloon hit with a dart at one of the carnival attractions- blood bursting from his nose and mouth as he dropped from all fours onto the ground with a thud. Richie then proceeded into stomping on the man, kicking him in his face and stomach, many times. The Ogre grunted and yelped like a beat dog as his body vibrated with each blow, almost as if pleading for mercy, if there had been time for him to do so.

The fat man was too beaten to take his feet as Richie and Pat broke contact, but the skinny guy on the bike managed to untangle himself after Pat got off of him. The skinny carnie got up spitting bits of his teeth through bloody profanities, while the wrestlers grabbed their girls to split the scene.
Pat made a move back toward his adversary again as he was leaving, but his girlfriend pulled his arm with force, yanking him through and out of the overhanging spruce branches of the sanctuary.
Mark and Stevie walked quickly through the pines and into the carnival as the assault ended. They looked back to see the two wrestlers with their dates moving down a sidewalk away from the carnival.
The fight had been enough to draw attention, and the police were arriving under the Big Spruce now, their flashlights clearly visible in the shadows of the pines as the younger boys walked by the Ferris Wheel and got lost in the crowd.
“We’ll go back tomorrow and get those beers,” Mark said.
“If the cops don’t take ‘em,” Stevie replied.
“Put the boots to him wicked.”
“Yeah.”

The two boys walked toward the rural highway in silence. The still scene of the rural Vermont town punctuated the previous action of the evening. Once on Route Seven they began to walk south and put their thumbs in the air. A beat up blue Chevrolet station wagon pulled over and gave the kids a ride. They were headed to a keg party further south in the woods near Pownal…

When the boys of Bennington arrived home late, no one cared. No anxious parents to confront them. Another night passed in 1978.

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