Discover more from Might As Well Go All the Way…
(New fiction. Continuing story. Currently under revision. This is the original version)
In one of the stalls on the outside of Grandpa’s giant warehouse-- where he parks each and every concession stand trailer that he’s ever built, from the frame up—-there’s just one that sits, undeservingly. It doesn’t belong there. It didn’t earn its way to be kept out of the elements, like all the other trailers. But, it’s parked there and it’s never hitting the road ever again with our family. Right next to the rides Grandpa built for his own children— that hold in their faded colors of shimmering silvers and sticky candle apple fiberglass the laughter and excitement of so many years. There are even mini motorcycles and metal airplanes, that neighborhood kids would wait in line to ride with utter joy. All there resting and rotting away.
Might As Well Go All the Way… is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The Bo-Bo— doesn’t hold that type of energy— this type was made wrong from the get go— it holds a different kind of thrill. A much darker one of sorts.
A deep, echoing metal tank the color of a children’s plastic swimming pool— all the way on the far end, near the wire fence covered in poison oak on our property. This one, Grandpa didn’t make and its beginnings are unknown—but what it’s done—what it’s done is unforgiveable. Heavily blocked in by other trailers that have hit the road and served their purpose—the “concession stand graveyard” we all called it.
Since the fence was open, and my Uncle’s were all busy prepping the yard and trailers for the cold season before leaving for Florida shows, I was able to sneak in, undetected. Walking deeper into the backyard to pay my respects to the rusted out bones of the Gyro trailer I spent time in with Grandpa handing him foils for tons and tons sandwiches dripping with taziki sauce. Next to it, a fiberglass onion-shaped trailer— the first to ever be seen on the midway of this type— even a green onion top. All painted by my Mom in streaks of oranges, yellows and browns to replicate the outside on an onion that we usually throw away in the trash. My uncles built it together. The very first fried veggie trailer of it’s kind, to ever hit the midway. “Always look for the bright yellow fried veggies— then you know you got the best!”
So many Summers I was made to chirp at potential customers luring them in with a big “o” of an onion ring at the end of my long silver tongs. Sometimes, just the clap clap clap of the tongs was enough to get people’s attention to come get a massive amount of fried veggies piled sky high in a white paper boat.
My parent’s yellow and royal blue box trailer— our first t-shirt trailer that went to drag races selling iron-on tees was there too. Mom airbrushing t-shirts outside with a silver clamp light illuminating the bright green of a ‘57 Chevy she was working on. My little brother and I would pass the time collecting as many bottle caps as we could under the bleachers in discarded drink cups. Eating so many hot dogs in foil pouches that made the buns mushy soft and hot dogs stay warm. Hoarded of fries in white paper cones sprayed with malt vinegar.
Down the row— all parked at an angle—about a dozen or more so that dazzled fair goers with golden fried delectables. Along another side of the yard was all the various campers that went on the back of the pick ups and duellies we would stay in at fairs that were farther away from our homes. Even if they weren’t that far— but week long fairs— it still saved us all from driving back and forth home so we could open up early to make a few extra bucks by selling to the fair folk before they started their day working the rides and games.
Standing here as an adult, decades later, paying a visit to my family’s history— in the middle of a field of tall grass. Queen Anne’s lace. Milkweed pods we’d pop open and pry out the fairy seeds. Surrounded by the lingering smell of old fryer oil still in plastic jugs sitting next to the trailers. Well-used flat tops and grills. Piles of old pop tanks against the fence with grass just as high as the pile. Remnants of a trailer the shape of a strawberry that Grandma and I sold fruit cups and chocolate-covered strawberries out of. Sun beaten white aluminum siding, with faded hand-lettered menu signs and decaying pears from the tree behind that scared the hell out of me when I’d mush one accidentally under foot--the end of the fair season smells. I really miss this version of my family— none of it seems that long ago.
Some of the trailers had even gotten themselves all smashed up by unhitching while going up steep hills due to too much weight being at the back of the trailer and no one remembering to put on the safety chains. Sometimes the hitch locks would pop open over a bump if no one put the r-clip in and after one more bump in the road— the trailer would jump off the hitch and end up dead in the middle of the road or rolling down a hill of to do further damage. It was always someone in the backseats job to watch the trailer all the way home— but occasionally — we lost one. A whole corner would just smash out and get shredded. The damaged trailer would limp back home to be parked, then gutted.
Just right then, my eyes land on it, giving me cause to jump a little. I can see the creamy white stretch marks in the bark of the virgina creeper vines thickly slithering this way and that over its lower tank and through the holes of the steel caging top of it—-as if to drag it back down into the earth it was forged from. Juvenile sumac trees almost seem to form bars like a jail cell. There it sits in a dark hole peering through them right at me. Still waiting all these years later, just frozen there like a Winter toad waiting for its Springtime thaw. Just waiting.
The target arm, that had hundreds of giant softballs with dirty red stiching thrown at it— wants to make the bell ring and drop the wooden seat back into the water, dunking the obnoxious, insult clown again.
He’d holler out at some random unsuspecting teenager, through his white megaphone, with the words—written out real large in black electrical tape, “BO-BO.” I’d watch him go fishing for a winner—“Hey KID! I bet you do more than kiss your mother with that mouth!!” Laughing with the confidence of one of the best school bullies to ever live.
Then, quickly moving the megaphone away, real sneaky like lollying his tongue in some sick pervy way I didn’t quite understand. But the shocked faces on women walking by was a sure sign it was something pretty bad. I was drawn to this phenomenon that had become all three uncles obsession for a whole Summer— watching so many people get offended, stop and look back in absolute horror by the things that came out of the clown’s mouth at an otherwise wholesome county fair.
Other concession stand owners would get so angry at my Uncles because of the crowds that would grow pretty large just to watch some lunk head try to drop Bo-Bo. On lookers would block midway traffic and customers supposedly, couldn’t get to their stands to eat. Sometimes, the owners would go to the fair board to complain— and wanted that tank GONE, but no one would do anything about it.
Standing in the field, daring myself to keep staring directly at it— I can still feel how much it misses the electricity. The air around it, cold— a deep aging metallic smell fills my nose as the autumn wind kicks up a bit.
Mikey and I were told to never go back there and play near it, ever. Especially, not after what had happened to make my Uncle Randy drop it’s hitch and park it for good. Hiding it from prying eyes that might wanna borrow or even buy it. It wasn’t for sale— this was its final resting spot at the end of the Summer of ‘81. It almost seemed like the Virginia creeper had appeared over night with its hellish tendrils that looked as if the damned thing was being held in place by the hands of multiple priests on the body of a child being exorcised of demons. Just the pale look on Uncle Randy’s face looking back at us after looking away from it and dropping its hitch off his van was he was a strong enough deterrent to keep us away.
But somehow, anytime we played ball in the concession trailer yard— our toys always made their way back by the Bo-Bo. Like it had some magnet for any toy that might take flight—wiffle balls, lawn darts, soccer balls, Frisbees—all went over to that last stall---we would just leave them there. Our fun was over. Then, we’d go running back scared to the brown farmhouse surrounded by fruit trees swatting our way through wasps draw to the rotting pears and apples. We knew better than to tell our parents we lost some more of our toys cause they would beat our asses for even being back there in the first place.
Grandpa brought the Bo-Bo home in early Spring, he was so proud of his latest purchase. This was the next way his sons were going to make money on the midway. My family was building a fleet of trailers— so we could become a hireable outfit that had everything a fair or festival might need to box out other concession folk. This was the next hot ticket money maker on the midway.
He bought it off of a carny on the way through a southern Florida somewhere. The fellah was in a wheelchair cause he had lost his legs in some freak accident he didn’t wanna bore Grandpa about. Just waving the story away like it was heavy cigar smoke hanging in the air. Grandpa said that the man was overly enthusiastic to sell it, couldn’t wait to get rid of it.
The weeble-wobble man, in a food stained—paper thin white shirt— sheer enough to show off his man titties and chest hair along with some sunken treasure— a gold medallion on a chain. He also had on a floppy denim railroad engineers hat with white pinstripes—his piss bucket hanging off the side of the wheelchair motorized with a lawnmower engine—-he explained to my grandpa how he could easily make a couple grand with just the right insult clown. “You get people mad enough— they’re gonna throw down 10-20— even FIFTY BIG ONES to dunk that fucking mouthy ass clown in the water.” Grandpa thought that was JUST the right way to go since the sausage sandwich business had cooled for some damn reason or another as he put it.
All my Uncles would cut up pretty hard. They always had all of us holding our sides, cramping—gasping for air whenever they came over to the house. Uncle Randy was my favorite, well him, Uncle Mike and my Dad— you get all three of them together over boxes of foraged mushrooms and every sexual innuendo you could think or or hadnt was being concocted in our kitchen when it was past my bedtime. I’d sit on the steps listening. Sliding down on my butt a few steps at a time to listen more— eventually, sitting at the bottom of the stairs giggling until I’d sneak over and join them. “Hey— what’s Keewee doing up?!” I’d just start laughing like Earnie from Sesame Street because I was so sneaky.
Since I was hanging around my Uncle’s and my Dad so much— and wanted to make people laugh like them— I started to memorize dirty jokes. My favorite Uncle also ended up being the one to turn me in for telling an off-color joke that’s punchline was “moo-moo buckaroo!” Dad ended up also washing my mouth out with dial soap after I was told to recite it. My Dad— his face hanging down towards the floor— his head full of brown curly waves jiggling with laughter and covering his mouth—but holding back the laugh in spurts. The same with Randy—- the two of them looking back and forth at one another smirking. I mean I had no idea what I was saying—- but to see the adults in the room paying close attention to me, then shaking their heads and stifling their laughter as not to encourage me— I wanted more of that. Whatever that feeling was—- I wanted more. Maybe, that’s why I was so drawn to the Bo-Bo stand and was over there all the time. My parents were always frantically looking for me. But, that’s where I was that whole week of Canfield Fair, I couldn’t stay away.
All three Uncle’s fought over the ownership of the Bo-Bo dunk tank. My Grandpa told them— whoever pays the rent for the spot at the Canfield Fair, had ownership. Uncle Randy, the youngest— won. He counted up and wrapped all the pennies he had stored in large blue Maxwell house coffee cans under his bunk bed from working the concession stand at Packard Park—- turned them all in at the bank, and presented his Dad with the rent money.
This drove a serious wedge between my competitive Uncles that would unfortunately, last a lifetime. The Bo-Bo was to blame for breaking up a lot of families. And these brothers were tight—- it just didn’t add up.
The Bo-Bo clown which my Uncle Randy hired that Summer at the Canfield fair was the mouthiest son of a bitch of all of them. At first, he had a megaphone he used to holler into at the crowd. Then, later when the megaphone somehow went missing— my uncles came up with an idea for a microphone dangling from the inner tent peak— hooked up to 2 speakers at the mouth of the tent. But Bo-Bo kept getting zapped pretty bad—- one time, after a good dunk, he went to grab the wire caging to hold himself up and got zapped to where it threw him against the back of the tank. He asked my uncles, standing in a towel with a terrified and worried look on his face—- he was visibly shaken—to get him another Megaphone. They all argued— Bo-Bo threatened to quit if they didn’t. “I’m not fucking going back into that tank with all this electricity going through this fucking tent! I ducking won’t you hear me?!? You guys fuckin’ tryin’ tah get me fried like your veggies?! What the hell man?!” Sometimes— you’d get shocked just walking in the wet grass from all the water that would splash out when Bo-Bo was dunked. It was kindah fun— I’d have this weird tingling charge in through my body like you had too much coffee and a metallic taste in my mouth. Even a few of Bo-Bo’s fingernails turned black, too.
But this Bo-Bo clown— nothing was off limits for him. Fat people were the easiest targets for him because their embarrassment got the best of them. All week you would watch as the fatties, with their mounds of food in hand, would go behind other concession stands just to avoid his hawkeyes. He didn’t miss shit. He’d still holler and fish for them. Making pig squeally sounds at them. “You can’t hid from me fatty— I see you— Bo-Bo sees you running away— suuuuueeeweeee!! Suuuuueweeee!” His voice was kindah like the guys that would ask you through the side of their mouths, in long trench coats if you wanna buy a watch with a bit of Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley, but the suaveness and sex appeal of Chuck Berry on “The Gong Show.” Not to mention he was hairy as hell— “Psssst— Hey— hey buddy, is that your kid or a monkey you bought at the fair? You better get that thing a banana fast before he gnaws off the rest of your wife’s ugly face— or it starts snacking on that nasty mole you’ve got.”
The best is when the jock football guys would walk by with their girlfriends— “Hey! Hey, Mr. America— once your girl finds out how small your pecker is from all the ‘roids your takin’— maybe, I can bounce her around on my lap and give her something really good to giggle about. Come on honey— I’m already wet— I won’t even notice how excited Bo-Bo’s getting yah under that skirt when you have a seat on Bo-Bo’s lap.” Then— his maniacal laughter— it was bold and gritty. The laugh was so much more insulting that it would immediately get the crowd to turn back and look at who Bo-Bo had just fished for. Relieved they had made it past undetected, but happy to laugh at whoever was caught on his line. That laugh always made it worse, like you stepped in horse shit and had a lengthy amount of toilet paper attached to your shoe along with having your fly down all at the same time kind of embarrassment.
Next thing you know, that jock was hulking out, peeling off his letterman jacket walking towards the laughing dick on a stick, heavily pointing his way, “I’m gonna end you— your ass is mine!”
“Hey Buddy— I’m a poontang hound—- I’m no switch hitter like you. I’m trying to get some ass from your little cutie over there—(his mouth goes away from the megaphone “hey hunny.” Wiggling his white gloves hand her way. ) I’m not trying to give you some of mine!!” Veins are popping out everywhere on this guy— my uncle’s Mike and Tommy have to guard the Bo-Bo with their bodies… they tell him, $10 bucks a ball to dunk him— Mr. All American flaps out his wallet in his hand smacking it down like a beat cop with his Billy club—- “Gimmie 2, that’s all it’s gonna take.” The whole time— Bo-Bo is just making the guy more angry. More insults.
“Hey Buddy— when you’re done loosing all your money— I’m gonnato take your chick out back and give her a real footlong corn dog! Or maybe, she might like a tube steak sammich with extra cheeeeeese!!”
There’s an audience that has formed all around the front opening of the makeshift blue tarpped 10 by 20 ft tent seeing if Mr. All-American really has the arm he thinks he does.
First ball. Fast throw— and a miss.
“Whew— hey buddy— you might wanna re-think that baseball scholarship and practice pushing a mop. (Then, all sing song sweet) Hey hunny— wanna see why clowns wear really…really big shoes?” More excruciating laughter coming from Bo-Bo and the crowd surround Mr. All-American who’s face is burning read from the insults and pressure of the crowd.
Mr. All-American grinds the baseball in his hands— hawks a lugee on it— “Hey buddy— you might wanna save that spit for when your allllllll alone cause your girlfriend liked pettin’ my furry monkey better! Awhhhh—- Nawh—- you look like a crier—- your gonnna use your tears for lube aincha? (Back to the girlfriend, but sweeter than pink and blue cotton candy) “Hey hunny— wanna see how far my monkey can spit? Maybe, later—- maybes we can play HIDE THE BANANA?”
Mr. all American throws his second and last ball— WOOSH—- nothing but canvas!
“High and dry!!!! Bo-Bo stays hiiiiiiiiiigh and dry!” WHO’s next to try and knock ‘ol Bo-Bo down for a drink?!
The crowd is laughing so hard— Mr. All American grabs his letterman coat off his girlfriend who the Bo-Bo- is winking at as he whispers away from the mega phone— “Hey hunny— I get off at midnight— I can show you exactly why I double as Jo-Jo the dog faced boy in the freak show—- aaaaaahhhwooooo!!!
“High and drrrrreeeey! Bo-Bo is Hiiiiiiiigh and dry!!!”
The crowd parts just enough to let Mr. All American out. He pulls his girlfriend by the hand like a babydoll being dragged by a toddler. She trips over her own feet a little looking back at the Bo-Bo—- “See yah honey! Hope you like baby gerkins—- I’m the real big DILL!” Laughter spilling out from his megaphone into the dispersing crowd.
As night begins to fall and the lights come on on all the rides and concession stands turning the day time fair into a whole ‘nother world in the dark. The rock music the ride jocks are playing goes louder—- the screams of those brave souls on the rides— the Scrambler, The Zipper— all even louder as they go faster backwards and forwards— change flying out at the crowd like shrapnel— bouncing off the roofs of concession stands. Hitting people in the side of their heads— knocking glasses of some people’s faces. Sometimes a flip flop goes flying in the air— it gets wild! But, eventually, by the end of the evening— some guy gets angry enough from insults earlier in the day— he comes back with a wad of cash and keeps throwing until one ball finally hits the target—- Bo-Bo takes his penance and plunges down, sometimes acting caught off-guard— usually it was part of the act to stay down there a bit to make people concerned, draw the crowd in a little tighter and closer— then he’d splash back up saying— “Man I was thirsty!” Then, quickly go fishing again— “Hey buddy, I was trying to find your wife’s dildo at the bottom of the tank. I threw it in for a good wash after I was done filling up all her holes. I see why they call those things THE INTRUDER!”
The husband— a tall thin cornstalk of a man in blue jean overalls and a baseball cap— yellow suede work boots, his skin red leather from working out in the fields— his wife a cherub-faced round woman— like a kewpie doll in a cute, child-like summer dress. He flapped out his limp leather wallet. “How much?!” he yells at my Uncles who were kindah hiding off in the shadows at this point— $10 bucks a ball someone said from deep inside— “Yeah the same price I paid your wife for her panties! See?! I still have them!!” He pulls out an exaggerated sized pair of sopping wet women’s underwear from his breast pocket and gives them a quick twirl above his head on his index finger before stuffing them back into his pocket quickly and wiggling his fingers hello at the blushing wifey. The ‘ol corn stalk is about ready to pop all his corn he’s so heated.
“It’s only gonna take 1 ball to dunk this peckerhead. Just the one.”
“Yeah that’s about as many of my balls your wife could fit in her mouth last night when she was in my camper.”
The crowd backs up some as ‘Ol Corny revs up the ball, picking up some pitcher leg action and with almost no sound at all— the ball flies by at super speed and hits the target. Down with a huge slosh of water all over the sides of the deep blue metal tank onto the summer grass that’s waterlogged— earth worms trying to escape their flooded homes— everything earthy— clover— mud— metal.
This time— Bo-Bo didn’t come back up—When the bullseye was hit and triggered the seat—- Bo-Bo falls into the tank— but some how the heavy wooden seat that was made out of an old see-saw— knocked him out good and wouldn’t let him out of the tank. It was holding him Down—- all that thought to be fake thrashing was actually him dying right in front of the crowd. No one knew. My two uncles that would guard Bo-Bo rushed to the front of the tent pulling back the tent curtains in front of the crowd. Shows over!—Uncle Randy ran towards the Red Cross building across the main midway—- the paramedics ran to the back of the tent—- pulling the drain plug since the seat wouldn’t move—- everyone seized in place waiting for the water to drain enough to try and get his limp body out and perform CPR. There he was— wet, pale—- quiet. Bo-Bo’s body was crumpled in the bottom of the tank in the fetal position— just the same way he came into this world— but no sound was coming out of him—maybe he was faking it—- his red Bozo wig still on his head in place. Grease makeup not even smeared. We were all thinking once he got mouth to mouth— he’d spring back with some really dirty joke or hold the paramedics head while he made out with them harder sticking his feet up in the air.
The tank took another one.
No one could move from their spots, their feet anchored by the shock of what they just saw— all their eyes following the gurney as his body was carted away to the ambulance.
A freak accident.
My uncle’s put up a cardboard sign the next day on the front of the tank, “Hiring Bo-Bo for Dunk Tank.” No takers. One of my Uncles would have to do it. In the meantime— before the fair would open— they worked frantically on the seat. Trying to figure out what happened. Filling the tank with water again— using my little brother to sit on the seat as a test subject. Our parents would be pissed if they knew Mikey was up there. So unsuspecting. Little Mikey— all of five years old sitting 10ft in the air— above all that chilly hose water. My uncles told him that the chair wouldn’t fall because they had the safety mechanism on. “See?” As they pushed on the bullseye with their hand. Nothing. But after they had pushed the bullseye— a few minutes later as they were standing farther away discussing mechanics—- the seat triggers on its own and my brother goes down. He can’t swim. He lied and said he could. My uncles grab a hook and try to fish Mikey out. Trying to grab him before he goes under— thrashing and trying to take gulps of air but getting only water in his little mouth. They finally fish Mikey out—- my little brother, in his denim overalls pale as a ghost, his lips blue and teeth chattering, “Zaaahzaaahzaaahzahh.”— Soaking wet. Freaked out— his eyes and heavy brown eyelashes soaked and lumped together. He still hasn’t had a reaction— he’s still in shock— then— he screams crying— I run in and hold him sitting him up— telling him he’s gonna be okay, circling his back with my hand over and over to soothe him a bit. Mikey and I walk back over to our bright yellow t-shirt trailer—- Mom and Dad aren’t around— so, I change my brother— towel him off with our shower towel— lay him down on the pool raft we would use as beds— pull over him his blue blankie with the soft satin edges he loves. Put some stuffed aminals around him and sit with him til he stops crying and finally falls asleep. Neither one of us went back over there the rest of the fair. That was enough to scare us away.
(Dear Reader: A revision is coming! Stay tuned and warm up your throwing arm— Bo-Bo has more in store for you.)
Might As Well Go All the Way… is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.