Saturday, May 23, 2009

A trip to the fair

It's been a pretty uneventful coupla weeks down at the ol' Body Shop, Refurbished Car Emporium and Donut Eatery. The squimonk've just been lallygaggin around tryin to get the giant slugs to tell them where McClawenstein is. The slugs themselves have been too preoccupied with their new thumbs to say anything. Plus, they was all addled on the drugs when they last saw the guy. All they've really said so far is that he was in a room somewhere with a guy wearin a shirt. There was also a black-light Pink Floyd poster there and another poster with a unicorn on it. Needless to say, that was less than helpful.

So, for the past coupla weeks, we pretty much just been sittin around. Me, I been watchin what happens when a bunch of slugs get thumbs. Turns out, what happens is a lot of thumb wrestlin. Them boys was novices two weeks ago that I coulda beat with one thumb tied behind my back. In fact, I did that on the first day. Here's a little know Pat O'Neil fact: I've got incredibly stretchy and flexible thumbs. The local newspaper once likened my thumbs to a Stretch Armstrong doll, only, and I'm quoting them here, "vomitously disturbing."

Back when I was a boy, there were a couple times having a thumb that could stretch and bend like Silly Putty came in handy. I remember going to the junior rodeo when I was eight. It was a big opportunity for us 4-H kids to get together, talk about animal husbandry, see the latest in denim overall fashions, and sell the young animals we'd been raising with love and care for a year to a nice, loving slaughterhouse. We'd set aside enough to reinvest our money in next years big-eyed, delicious lamb, and then we'd blow the rest on giant pickles, funnel cakes and tilt-a-whirl rides. Most rodeos would end for us when they threw us out after we refused to mop up our sweet, briny vomit. But this rodeo was a little different.

I'd been feeding my sheep her final bottle that morning and she mistook my thumb for the nipple, sucking it to a length of about two feet before wising up to the fact that there was no milk forthcoming. My parents were pretty poor at the time, so we didn't have a car. All we had was a drawing of a car. My pa used to sit behind that drawing for hours and make "vroom-vroom" noises. He drank a lot, my dad. He once got a DUI in that car, but that's a different story for a different time. Since we only had a drawing of a car, I had to hitch a ride to the fair grounds if I was gonna sell my sheep.

I stood on the side of that road for two hours with my distended thumb tryin to get a ride. Every time a car would drive by, I would flail my thumb wildly, surely lookin like an epileptic spaghetti maker. Not shockingly, no one stopped. Well, that is, until that one guy stopped. He pulled up in a dusty blue International pickup; the old kind with the bubbled hood that looks like the engine sneezed. He leaned out his window, cheek bulging with tobacco, spit casually on the ground and asked me, "Where you headed, son?"

"I'm headed for the fairgrounds, sir, to sell my sheep," I told him in my child-like way.

"Well, I'm headed there too," he told me, "so you might as well hop on in. You can put your sheep in the back."

After I'd settled in, he took off down the road and we got to chattin. "What's yer name, son?"

"Patrick," I said, "Patrick O'Neil, sir."

"Well Pat," he drawled, "my name's Will, Will Frankfurt. But you can call me Sam."

To this day, that still doesn't make any sense to me, but I was young, so I told him, "Yessir."

During the half hour ride to the fairgrounds, we spoke about all sortsa stuff. He told me he used to be a farmer around here, but he left that for a life of excitement and adventure. He was on his way to see his last rodeo before going on the biggest adventure of them all; he was goin to the moon. He was plannin on launchin his rocket, which he'd stored under the fairground, just as soon as us 4-H kids were done with our fair.

"I imagine it could get mighty lonely in space, mister," I theorized.

He nodded slowly, "Well, that may be true, Pat, that may be true. You wanna come with me?"

"I would," I explained, "but I got a big math test next week, and if I skip it, my mom's gonna kill me."

"That's too bad, you may have learned somethin more than math up there. Maybe when you get older."

We were both satisfied with this.

When we got to the fairgrounds, Sam wandered off and I took my sheep to get it registered for the auction. I got up to the counter where a bored old lady with her glasses on a pearl string told me, "Sheep auction's at 2. You're number's 37 and OH MY GOD, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR THUMBS!?!"

I tried to play it off with a little humor, floppin 'em over and sayin, "Ayyyyyyy" in what I now realize was a grotesque parody of a beloved hero; Arthur Fonzerelli, the Fonz. I think she threw up a little in her mouth, either that or she picked that moment to work on her bullfrog impression. Regardless, I was hustled away quickly and given unlimited ride and game tickets so I would not come back to the auction tent, "until absolutely necessary."

There's nothing like bein eight years old at a fair with a pocket full of tickets. The midway was a garish, flashing paradise smelling like fried food and corn farmers. Wandering around, I ran into Douggy and we made big plans for my unlimited tickets. We rode a couple rides, had ourselves a good old fashioned corn-dog-fried-in-funnel-cake-batter eating contest, then an old fashioned who-can-throw-up-the-farthest contest and finally, when the spinning, flashing, powdered sugar coated day was over, we found ourselves at the top of the Ferris wheel just as a kid fell out of his seat.

Everyone was running around panicked. There were screams from the ground, from the Ferris wheel and especially from the kid. He was hanging on by one hand and that was slipping fast.

I turned to Douggy. "Pull my thumbs," I told him.

"This is no time for fart jokes," he explained with a wisdom most eight year olds don't show.

"Just do it!" And he did. He pulled and pulled until my thumbs were long enough to reach the boy. I flung my rubbery digits down to him. "Grab on!" I yelled. He didn't want to at first. It's not easy to pull away in revulsion when you're hanging onto a Ferris wheel by one hand, but he managed. The act, though, caused his had to slip off entirely. In his wild flailing, he did catch my thumb, which extended like taffy on a hot day, lowering him safely to the ground.

Everyone gathered around and cheered as the Ferris wheel was brought around to let everyone off. They all patted me on the back and offered to buy me corn dogs, an offer I had to refuse. The rest of the day was magical. I was a minor celebrity. People would walk by and give me a thumbs up. My sheep sold for the highest price ever recorded at the 4-H. Later, I found out Sam had bought it. I s'pose it gets cold in space, too, so he may need it for the wool.

I left the fair that day feelin 10 feet tall. I didn't even realize until I was half way home that my thumbs had gotten entangled in the Ferris wheel axle. They got it all fixed and, after a week, my thumbs were back to their normal length.

I guess the long and short of the story is that I dominated those slugs at thumb wrestling. They're gettin better, though. I hope the squimonk find McClawenstein soon so that we can distract the slugs and I can remain champion.