July 1, 1936
The morning sun was already blazing, returning once again to bake the vast acres of dried and hardened farmland throughout Yazoo City, Mississippi. The carnival trailers parked off Old Highway 3 became large ovens simmering in the open space. When the wind was inclined to blow, miniature dust devils formed and twirled around the boundless lot that caused debris to tap against the tin trailers.
Inside one of the trailers, Zach Mullins slept. Through the side window of his trailer, sunlight crept toward his eyes. Beads of sweat formed on his forehead and under his nose as he tried to sleep a few minutes longer. He covered his eyes, but the brightness still woke him. He was in his late twenties, and had auburn hair and freckles on his pale skin. One could say he was average looking, except for the fact he was a dwarf.
He yawned before he rolled out of bed and began his morning routine. He found some clean clothes, got dressed, combed his hair and carefully placed his newsboy cap on his head before he left his trailer. Once outside on the fairgrounds, he had noticed that the roadies were almost finished setting up the big tent. He carefully maneuvered around them as he headed toward the chow area for breakfast.
The chow area was under a smaller tent. Its sides were rolled up and tied for cross ventilation, which was always welcome, especially now when the temperatures rose to nearly a hundred degrees. In the center of the tent were long rows of picnic tables where the performers that worked at the carnival gathered to eat and socialize. There was a cast-iron stove that Blanche Holiday used to cook meals for the performers—today’s breakfast was bacon and eggs.
Blanche was large with a red braided ponytail. She was witty and appeared to be a tough woman, but she was a sweetheart and Zach’s favorite. She was checking the fire under the stove when he appeared.
“Morning, Blanche,” Zach said.
“Morning Zach, how’d ya sleep?”
“Damn trailer’s hotter than a fox in a forest fire.”
“Gonna be another hot one,” she said. “Grab some coffee and take a seat, I’ll bring your eggs over.”
Zach poured himself some coffee and sat at the picnic table with the other performers.
Bruce was sitting at the end of the table. He was the largest of the bunch and was the strongman in the show. He could bend rebar with his bare hands and burst hot water bottles with nothing but raw lung power. He was burly with a bald head and a thick black mustache. He was also the loudest in the group and had a good sense of humor.
Salvatore, who also sat at the table, was in his mid-thirties. He was an average looking man with black hair and an Italian accent. He had a nasty temper and was extremely jealous when it came to his wife, Camille, who sat beside him. Together, they performed in a magic act.
Camille was in her early twenties. She was slender, very attractive and had voluptuous breasts. She wasn’t the brightest woman, but she was kind and naive, which made her vulnerable to people who tried to take advantage of her.
Then there was Ben, who was also a dwarf and very cynical. He and Zach were partners in their show. They performed funny stunts dressed in clown suits. He sat with Harold who stood at the height of eight feet, four inches—the second tallest man alive in America.
Across the table sat the Hobgarski family. They were acrobats who were exceptionally athletic and fit. Henryk, his wife, Izia, and their daughter, Ursula, sat and were speaking in Polish amongst each other.
“Dzien dobry,” Zach said in his best attempt to say, “Good morning” in Polish to them.
“Ah, good morning,” Henryk said.
“Good morning, Zach. Your Polish is getting good,” Izia said.
Zach gazed at Ursula for a moment. “Gee, you’re gettin’ taller by the day. I remember when you were my size. Now look at ya ... gettin’ prettier by the day too.” Ursula became embarrassed and giggled.
Blanche appeared and placed Zach’s eggs in front of him.“Here you go, Casanova,” she said to him with her hands on her hips.
“What, you jealous?”
“Yeah, right,” she said.
“Oh Blanche, you know if my arms were longer I’d wrap them around you and give you a big kiss.”
“So what you saying, I gotta fat ass or you got short arms?”
Zach avoided the question which made everyone laugh. He smiled at her and winked. “Anyone got the paper?”
Bruce handed him the stock market section. “Here you go Mr. Zach-er-feller.”
They all laughed as Zach opened the newspaper and turned to the stock market section. “Funny, keep laughing,” he said. “Y’all should learn to invest your money.”
“Why, so we can lose it all over again?” Ben said. “I don’t trust nobody with my money but me. Especially no damn bank.”
“Well, I feel we’ll be outta the depression soon,” Zach said.
“You’re talking crazy again,” Bruce said.
“Things are finally starting to change,” Zach said. “Y’all see.”
Later that evening, music filled the big tent while Zach and Ben performed their act in their usual clown suits. The crowd laughed and cheered as Zach and Ben skillfully juggled pins while riding their unicycles. They performed this act for many years together, changing their routine every few months to break up the monotony. However, it was mostly the same routine with just a few new tricks.
Zach sat before the mirror in his trailer. It was after the show and he was ready to remove his makeup. The mirror he was facing reflected a bright lightning flash as the storm began to blow its cool gusting breeze through the open window, chasing out the hot sticky air. At last a cold front and rain.
He placed a chair by the window, removed his shirt and stood on it allowing the crisp air to fan his naked chest. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back. He laughed as the swirling air tickled him. He liked the smell of the air before it rained; it smelled like dirt.
Drops of rain tapped overhead at first with an off-beat rhythm, then faster until it finally poured heavily. Another flash of lightning struck followed by thunder that shook the trailer.
Zach thought the chilly rain felt refreshing, but the inside of his trailer was getting wet and he still had work to do. He slid the glass panel of the window leaving it slightly opened, returned his chair to face the vanity table and sat down. He inspected everything that was needed before him: a jar of cold cream, a drinking glass, and most important, a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
He enjoyed sipping whiskey while listening to Enrico Caruso on his Victrola phonograph as he removed his makeup. It was a task he performed hundreds, if not thousands of times over the thirteen years he worked at the carnival. He leaned over and cranked the handle of his phonograph a few turns. As the music began to play, he proceeded to remove his makeup, pausing frequently to take sips of his drink.
Once satisfied his makeup was thoroughly removed, he opened a drawer and took out a note pad. He began to record his earnings for the week. He carefully counted to himself carry the one, that’s six and ... that son of a bitch shorted me again! That’s it, enough’s enough! He took another sip from his glass, grabbed his whiskey bottle and refilled his glass. He took another swig, this time downing it. Ain’t taking no more of his lousy crap! I’ll show him, the lousy crook! Then he poured himself another drink and chugged that one as well. Then he put on a shirt and went to give Sullivan a piece of his mind.
Mike Sullivan was a good-looking middle-aged man. In fact, he was a real ladies man. After each show, he usually picked up a beautiful young woman and would take her to his trailer to have his way with her. He often bragged how it was one of the perks of owning the carnival. However, this particular evening was going to be different—if Zach had any say in it.
Unsurprisingly, Sullivan was making love to another one of his conquests when they heard banging at the door. Sullivan and the woman became frightened and froze.
“What was that?” she said in a tense whisper.
“I don’t know, perhaps the storm.”
When the banging returned, they both sprang up into a seated position. The woman became frightened and covered her breasts with the sheet. Sullivan looked stupefied. “Husband?” he asked with a shrill in his voice.
“Not married,” she replied.
After a brief hesitation, the knocking returned, only harder and longer. They became terrified wondering who was banging so violently.
“Boyfriend?” Sullivan asked.
“Outta town, business.”
“Oh,” Sullivan said with relief.
The banging continued and became more annoying. Sullivan finally climbed out of the bed, slipped on his pants and adjusted his balls before he went to the door to see who it was. “Ya better have a god-damn good reason for this,” he yelled out, still nervous and unsure. When he opened the door, he was stunned to see Zach standing on his stoop covered in rain. “What the—?”
“You shorted me again Sullivan, you lousy bastard,” Zach shouted. He was swaying from side-to-side, obviously shit-faced. “You owe me a hundred and fifty dollars and seventy-five cents, to be exact!”
Sullivan’s eyes grew wide as he became enraged that this trivial issue had come between him and the voluptuous woman who lay naked in his bed, ready and waiting. “Get the hell outta here ya little, drunken, shit!”
“I want my money, and I want it now,” Zach shouted.
Sullivan’s face turned beet red. Then he raised his leg and with a hard thrust into Zach’s chest, he sent him sailing backwards over the steps and onto the ground.
Zach had bounced a few times before he wound up in a puddle. When he sat up, he wiped the mud from his face. He could see Sullivan standing in the doorway shaking his fist. “Maybe if ya was full sized you’d get your full pay ... to be exact,” Sullivan shouted through the rain. “Now get, and don’t bother me again ya little bastard, or next time I’ll kick your ass into next week!” Then Zach watched as he turned and slammed the door behind him.