The ’84 Somerset Carnival – A Short Story

Kwik Stop.

Kwik Stop.

By: Jay

[A short story I’ve played with as chapter one in a longer tale. -Jay]

(c) copyright

“It’s bad Juju man, seriously,” Krik warned.

“Bad Juju? What the hell are you talking about? Is that what your mom told you after she heated-up the family a quaint American microwave gumbo special?” Mark laughed.

“Nah man, I saw this documentary on TV one night, all late and shit. These blacks were dancing around with their tits bouncing. Something about how you can get possessed in a voodoo thing. This shaman came out and danced, and it was crazy man. They said a night with a moon like this is bad JuJu,” Krik folded his arms and cocked is head back with a look of self-satisfaction.

“Bro that is utterly ridiculous. A moon like this? You mean how the moon is partly full most of the month? You’re an idiot. We’re killing time at this retard carnival until the party, and that’s it. You got the keys, and we’re on the road, now play some tunes and please stop saying stupid shit,” Mark replied.
“You’re on your man-period tonight, I see. Like, I don’t know what’s going down tonight. Is Tiff coming? I heard Laura is!” Krik said with a subtle gibe.

“Ugh, great. Tiff is ok, I mean she has a nice face and all, but I’m in a weird mood, man. Maybe you’re right–the moon and shit, as dumb as that sounds. Did you get the beer?”
“Nah man, I couldn’t find my hookup. My brother is out of town, so you know…” Krik said dismissively.

“No, I don’t know. We were counting on beer tonight,” Mark replied as he considered the numerous instances of Krik’s incompetence. “I knew I should have asked some bum outside the liquor store.”
“Dude, we’re going to a field party. Half the high school will be there, as well as half the high school’s tail. Don’t worry about beer, We’ll get whatever we need. I know Gart,” Krik assured.

“Who the hell is Gart? That can’t be a real dude,” Mark said, patience wearing thin.

Ford rulz

Ford rulz

“He’s the art teacher, man. His door frickin’ says ‘Gart’, man. Geez, you’ve got a rod up yours tonight. If you don’t chill and just rock out tonight you’re gonna disturb my vibe,” came the retort.
“That’s ‘G’ building, and then ‘Art.’ His name isn’t ‘Gart.’ I swear, man, you’re a ‘tard. He’s not going to get you beer. And why the hell did you bring Laura up? You know I wanted to forget that mess,” Mark said with a feigned finality. “My plan is to just get some beer and reflect. I could care less about these chicks. They’re the only things in this town dumber than you. The only thing I know is we’re never getting any chicks in your meemaw’s Ford Fairlane.”
“That’s bad JuJu, man,” said Krik.

The Ford Fairlane sped down the country road at a less than breakneck speed, being careful to heed all requisite traffic regulations, including even the most minor infractions. Somerset was the ham capitol of the South (with its “Ham Factory”), priding itself in it ts gluttonous orgy of ham, fries and other nameless fried horrors that seemed to emerge from the woods once a year for the Somerset Carnival. This year was no different… absolutely, no different. In fact, some prominent midget from some movie was the guest of honor, which naturally evoked a host of inane jokes from almost the entire town, with the adult populace’s commentary only slightly less witty than the average high-schooler. Somerset’s end of summer (I think Labor Day or Fall Equinox works better than “end of the summer”) carnival seemed the average small town’s average carnival to the outsider: a hot, fat mess of grease, garbage and freaks. On top of all that, some stripper named “Tits McGee” usually showed up drunk to make the second page of the Somerset Ledger, which Mark amusingly cut out for his “Collage of the Weird” that hung in his closet.

The sputtering Fairlane lurched into the Kwik Stop just as the neon open sign began to flicker. Mark began to get a strange feeling, but attributed it to the Tab he gulped before leaving. Krik sat frozen with a blank stare gazing at the sign.
“Do you think they’re closed?” He asked monotone.

“No, I think they turn off their sign when they see a piece of shit Ford Fairlane. Of course they’re closed. It’s the Kwik Stop and it’s 8,” Mark replied with a huff.
“Damn dude, I wanted one of those hot burritos with the black meat in it that makes your stomach feel like burnt hell,” Krik exclaimed.
“Relax, Eric Estrada, you can fill up on funnel cake and corn dog and ham at the ‘tardival. Somerset meat awaits your tortured gut with equal affinity, I’m sure,” said Mark wryly.

“Dude, we don’t have enough gas. Plus my meemaw’s Fairlane needs sea water,” Krik said.

“Man, I swear. If you make this night any dumber, I’m going to get out and hitchhike until a semi stops and some killer faggot truck driver picks me up. I’ll take the Pork Chop Express over this stupidity,” said Mark exasperated. “I don’t want to ask, but I can’t resist. Sea water?”
“Yeah man, meemaw read in National Geographic that sea water will be the fuel of the future. Hydro some shit. Anyway, man, meemaw got the idea you could go ahead and put sea water in the Fairlane’s various orifices, and now, it only seems to work when you add sea water and gas,” Krik said confidently.
“Man, that was one for the record books,” said Mark.

“You’re talking Guinness Records, and here we are ten miles from the carnival, twenty miles from the party, and I need gas. You need to use that brain for something other than being a wise ass. Get out and ask Jimbo if he can open up real quick so we can fuel up,” pleaded Krik.

“Jimbo? You know the guy that works here?” asked Mark.

“Yeah, he was at that Van Halen concert we snuck into with Tiff. I think he was after that Lacey chick cuz she’s a slut and puts out. Anyway, he’s friends with my brother, they were recruits together but Jimbo didn’t make the cut,” replied Krik.

“As in he wasn’t smart enough?” asked Mark.

“Nah man, as in he weighs 400 lbs. He could do all the push-ups and shit, but when they asked him to climb that wall he ran smack into it thinking, I don’t know, that he could run through it like Wylie Coyote or something. Anyway, he ran smack into it and fractured his skull so now he just reads comics and talks real slow,” explained Krik.

“Hot damn, this is the best night all year. This can’t get any funnier. You’re shitting me. A 400 lb. guy tried to hit on Lacey? Did he succeed? Oh man, I can’t stop laughing,” cackled Mark.

“Well he wasn’t 400 lbs when he went after Lacey. And yes, he did make out with her, but they were both drunk. Anyway man, go get us some damn gas or we’re spending the night on foot,” said Krik.

“Wait, so Jimbo did make out with Lacey, but he was skinny then?” asked Mark.

“No, I didn’t say he was skinny, I said he wasn’t 400 lbs. He was like 350 then,” replied Krik after some reflection.

“Remind me to write down everything you say, because anyone who doesn’t know you won’t believe it, and this sounds like some serious comedy. Alright, I’m going in,” stated Mark.

Kwik Stop.

Kwik Stop.

The hinge on the Fairlane yelled as Mark forced it open, as he struggled to unfoil the seatbelt from catching on his jean jacket. The dank air around the Kwik Stop smelled of old oil and rotten food, and Mark noticed the lot was empty. Not even a trooper was around, and they usually sat in the lot doing who knows what all night. This night was different he felt, and the empty lot gave him a small sense of dread as a host of moths and mosquitos swirled in a vortex around the sole night security light above the entrance. All the lights were out in the Kwik Stop, except for the bathroom.
Mark beat on the door several times, but no answer. Well, I guess I can just open it and see if he’s back there, he thought. He had been to this Kwik Mart a few times, but since it was on the outskirts of town it was out of his way. It was never a place to pay attention to, since it was out past the worst side of town, past the ghetto and near the old pig farm where they had that that still stank of the chemical spill from years before

Mark tried the glass door, but it was locked. Man what a night. This is already crazy, I might as well check the back. Remember to make a note of all this – it’s too funny. Maybe I’ll write one day. I bet writers take silly shit like this and try to make a story out of it. Probably not. I doubt there’s a story here.

As Mark made his way around the side of the building he noticed a faint, odd smell, like burnt hair, but he wasn’t sure. His pace slowed and a faint wheezing could be made out under the sound of crickets. There was a sound in the building he could hear, but it was faint too, like a laugh, but not a funny laugh. Slowing his pace, he could see the women’s bathroom door was cracked open and a single beam of bright fluorescent ray streamed into the darkness like an eerie lighthouse. Mark backed away into the woods behind the dumpster finding a vantage to see inside the restroom.

His eyes adjusted to the light and widened.

“Mama Wynd gonna fix it all pussycakes. We gone fix it good. You been talking to me for a year and been my best friend, but I seen the future in your eyes and it ain’t good. You my shade, and you done turnt to the other side. Time for you to go in me and make me what I need to be, pussycakes.”
Mark couldn’t understand what he saw next. Jimbo sat on the women’s toilet in his underwear with coke-bottle glasses and stared directly at an alley cat he held in his arms, lifting it up and down, as if it were a ritual movement. Wheezing, and coughing, the large mass of flesh seemed in a trance. It was truly a disgusting sight, but Mark couldn’t turn away, afraid of what might happen next.

At that moment he could not believe his eyes – Jimbo took a huge bite out of the feline’s neck, as it squirmed in his hands, pawing and scratching until gradually it stopped moving. Jimbo doubled over and almost threw up, as some bile made its way out of his bulbous frame. Holding it in, he began to sweat as his heartbeat quickened. Wiping his eyes, he looked back and Jimbo managed to lift himself from the toilet, and looked directly in Mark’s direction.

“I know truth and truth is truth looking at me!” Jimbo yelled in his slow southern drawl. “You think the reality you see is what you knows, but there more, friend. There’s more. I have a riddle: ‘It’s in the wind’, like Solomon says. ‘You keep inside the gates and the wind won’t blow.’ You like riddles, friend? Ha ha huh huh,” laughed Jimbo with a guttural bellow. At that moment, Jimbo’s eyes rolled back in his head and his legs went out from under him, as he began to quake, foam and blood dripping from his mouth. Jimbo collapsed with a thud, a massive pile of skin, blood and sweat, next to the carcass of the cat.

Mark slowly made his way back to the car.

“What happened?”

“Nothing, Krik. Let’s go to the carnival.”

3 Comments on The ’84 Somerset Carnival – A Short Story

  1. Good stuff. This kind of thing reminds me of my own inner Southerner, my own psychic Bubba Hendershot, who does not “give a ladybug.”

  2. “Flannery O’Connor meets David Lynch” is the exact impression I got.

    A suggestion on the dialogue: you have such a good ear for it that most of the modifiers–‘warned,’ ‘replied,’ ‘asked,’ ‘cackled,’ ‘said dismissively,’ etc.–are extraneous. I find it works best to stick to ‘said’ (and sometimes, when it’s too clunky to eschew them, ‘whispered’ and ‘shouted’) as it works just for attribution and thereby allows the characters to speak for themselves. Elmore Leonard is a good example (probably the best example) of how well this works.

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