This is an extract from Carnival Cop, the opening story of Borderlines…new book I’ve just published on Kindle
The carnival came to town in mid-August, just as the days began to shorten and school was set to reopen. They pitched in Arthur’s Field at the top of Church Street and in two days, they had merry-go rounds ready to spin. And dodgems, swinging boats and chair-o-planes too, all set to rock in a splash of gay colors. Over the entrance to the field, a big arched sign read ‘O’Driscoll’s Fantastic Carnival.’ At night it would light in red, white and blue neon.
On opening day Todd O’Driscoll fixed a loudspeaker to the roof of his jeep with bungee cords and rigged an amplifier to the onboard cassette player. He pushed a tape in the player and crept up the volume as the jeep crawled down the town. Helter-skelter céili music woke the streets and people came outside. The recorded voice of Todd announced,
“Céad Míle Fáilte, fair people of this beautiful land. It is with joy and pleasure that O’Driscoll’s Fantastic Carnival has come to town again. We have thrills and rides to tickle your fancy and swing seats that go so high you can catch a glimpse of heaven. And dear friends, our bumper and dodgem cars are the latest in Chicago gangasta style, and this year we have the spectacular Jules Verne chair-o-planes, direct from Peking’s Tong Hing Park. And if that is not enough, we have a shooting gallery with nightly prizes of great value and The Gold Coast Pongo Tent where you can win jackpots of enormous size. For your entertainment we have sword swallowers and knife throwers, fortunetellers and board players. And while you’re at the carnival, enjoy Todd’s delicious popcorn and organic ice cream. So come early and avoid disappointment. The Carnival opens at 6.30 this evening and the fun just goes on and on till late.”
The music played again and Todd tweaked the volume. Children began to follow the slow jeep, echoing his announcement in gibberish. He watched them in the rearview mirror and notched up the volume again. An urchin stood on the tow bar and Todd speeded up, then braked. The urchin thumped the back window and hopped off. A few kids ran beside the vehicle, but scattered when he did a mean ‘S’ swerve.
To his surprise, a police constable stood at the bottom of Church Street, hand raised, indicating that he stop. “Shit,” he muttered, coming to a halt. He rolled down the window and was taken aback: he had never seen a policewoman here before. She was short, skinny and officious and he read her badge as she approached: Constable Stella Blute.
“Beautiful day, how can I help you?” Todd smiled.
“Turn off that sound. Did you ever hear of noise pollution?”
“I beg your pardon?”
She didn’t respond, and he stopped the racket, watching her examine the tax, insurance and other official certificates on the jeep windscreen.
“I don’t see a Public Announcement certificate displayed,” she said, “and your tax is out of date.”
The jeep was heating up and he began to sweat. An urchin urged the cop to arrest him and she ordered the kid to leave the road and go home.
“I thought everything was in order,” Todd told her, “I mean…I don’t understand it.”
“Your tax expired last December. May I have your name please?”
“Well…Thaddeus O’Driscoll. Better known as Todd.”
He smiled but she was writing and made no eye contact. She said, “Your driver’s license please.”
He took a wallet from his trousers pocket and flicked through the contents, humming as he scanned business cards, credit cards, debit cards, prayer cards, nude cards, medical cards and memorial cards, marihuana club cards.
“Gosh, constable, I don’t seem to have it with me and I could have sworn that I saw it recently.”
“No fixed abode.”
“No fixed abode?”
“None. I travel from place to place. Week here, week there.”
“Where are you residing now?”
“Mr. Arthur’s field at the top of Church Street. I’m the owner of O’Driscoll’s Fantastic Carnival and I’d be delighted if you could come along…all the rides are on me…you can ride all night for free…we’re opening tonight…that’s why I’m…you know, announcing.”
“Announcing without a permit. You need to put your house in order, sir. Please produce a current driver’s license, insurance and public address permits at the barracks within the next 72 hours. Failure to do so will result in prosecution and court appearance.”
Todd winced and looked at her with hurt eyes. “Thank you officer,” he groveled, “and please do come to the carnival…the fun is on me.”
He turned the jeep in the Square and drove back up Church Street in silence. Outside doors, people gathered in knots, speculating on what had gone down between Todd and Constable Stella Blute. She was still writing in her black notebook, standing in the middle of the road.
The carnival people lived in caravans at the back of the field, near a happy stream of fresh water. Some of the caravans were modest, others looked run-down, and a few were big and old fashioned. Todd’s was sleek: powder blue with a red lightening bolt screaming from back to front. What a fuckin’ disaster, he muttered, opening the door. His sleeping partner Izzy Swartz was making coffee. She wore a black robe with a golden dragon printed on the back.
“Hi sweetie,” she greeted, “wanna cuppa?”
“I want a drink,” he said striding to the cupboard beside the fridge.
“What’s up honey? You look upset.”
“I am upset. A cop pulled me for tax, insurance, certs, the works…”
“Oh honey! That’s horrible.”
“A lady cop if you don’t mind…a tiny little midge.”
“What’re you gonna do honey?”
Todd shook his head, poured a tumbler of cheap whiskey and drank it neat.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do. Yet. She wants me to produce everything at the barracks within 3 days. She really glammed on to me, like a fucking terrier. Stopped me from announcing. A cop like her could fuck up my whole life.”
“She didn’t ask about the Hagerstown affair? Did she?”
“Don’t mention the Hagerstown business. Please. And don’t mention the shit in Dundalk either. I’ve enough on my plate.”
“What can I do to make it better for you? A little massage?”
Todd drained his glass and filled it again.
Borderlines is 3 long stories by Eddie Stack — Carnival Cop; Bonzo; One for the Rover. The stories are set in the West of Ireland. Kindle edition costs $0.99. Download here
Books by Eddie Stack on Amazon