So I was sitting in a bar a few weeks ago, minding my own business and waiting for some hot wings. You see, the wife and I frequently order wings from one of the local pubs and get them as takeout. We eat them while watching television, after the little zombies have gone to bed.
After eight years of marriage, this is considered quality time. Really
Anyway, so I’m sitting there and this dirty, disheveled guy sits next to me. He is in his fifties with a mullet and several days’ worth of stubble on his gaunt, malnourished cheeks. He smiles, and, when he does so, I see that he’s missing more teeth than he’s got. When I look down, I notice that he’s wearing a dirty, stained Tasmanian Devil sweatshirt, workpants, and Velcro tennis shoes that were obviously purchased at K-Mart initially; but came to him by way of the local Salvation Army. I should add that we had, at that time, about two and a half feet of snow and his shoes and cuffs were wet and stained with road salt. My first thought, in my characteristically uncharitable fashion, was ‘Uh oh. Must be a carny. Shields up!’
Well, dude sidles up and starts talking to me. Why people persist in doing this, I don’t know. I try very hard to cultivate a sense of danger; tempering said air with plenty of brooding looks and antisocial body language. And yet they always pick me to start up a conversation with. Needless to say – I’m a nutjob magnet.
This is how our initial conversation goes:
Carny looking guy: Hey, what’s up.
Carny: Buy me a beer and I’ll show you a cool trick.
Me: Not really interested. I’m just waiting on a take out order.
Carny: Seriously, you won’t believe it.
Me(Hoping he’ll leave me alone if I buy him a beer): Sigh. Fine. Bartender? Give me another Guinness and give this guy whatever he wants.
Carny: I’ll take a Budweiser draft.
The bartender brings him his beer and the carny smiles.
Carny: Ready for ma trick?
Me: Sure. Wow me.
The carny then proceeds to take out his eye and plop it into his beer.Yes, you read that right – he takes out his fucking glass eye. I kid you not. He then slams his beer, gulping and swallowing it like a drowning toddler. As he does so, he also sucks the fake eye into his mouth. After emptying the glass of all of its contents; he leans back his head and spits his eye into the air, where it sails in a nice little arc to land with a loud clink into his empty glass. While this is going on I look to see who else has seen this wondrous act of human depravity. At the barstool next to me is a gorgeous young girl in a slutty top with some dumb pretty boy hanging on every bitchy word that comes out of her mouth. She gasps when she sees this and starts making little sounds of protestation at being subjected to such an unnatural and grotesque spectacle. I ignore her.
Me(in awe): Bartender! Get this man another beer!
So I wound up talking to the guy for another twenty minutes or so while the kitchen cooked up my order of hot wings and loaded cheesy fries. It turns out that the carny had been in the pub the night before and had gotten himself absolutely skonched performing this little stunt.
Carny: It was great. I got like twenty beers. I got so drunk that I wound up missing the glass and crawling around on the floor looking for my eye two or three times.
Me: Had to clean it, huh?
Carny: Nope. I just pop it back in my mouth, suck it clean, and screw it back into my eyehole.
How could I not talk to this guy? He was ripe with little quirks like this. Turns out, this guy really was a carny. Who’d have thunk it? In the short twenty or so minutes I talked to him, I got several other gems about his life.
Me: Can I ask? How did you lose your eye?
Carny: I got it shot out.
Carny: Naw. I weren’t in ‘Nam. I just got shot by my brother when I was 17. I was sleeping with his girlfriend when I was living with him and her in North Carolina. I was sitting in a lawn chair outside the trailer when he walks up and shoots me with a .22. Bam. Just like that. He don't say nothin’, just starts shootin'!
Me: That had to hurt.
Carny: Naw. Just stung is all. It was after, while I was holding my eye in my hand and bleeding like a stuck pig - when I hit him with the lawn chair - that I got hurt. Broke my hand.
Me: Talked to him since?
Carny: Sure. He drove me to the hospital. It weren’t nothing. Brothers fight, you know…
Eventually my food came and I had to leave. I, of course, went out to my Jeep and wrote every thing I could remember down, knowing that no one would believe me for a minute. The thing is, one couldn’t make this sort of shit up…