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I wonder how many readers are old enough to recall the time when the warm (a relative term similar to near and distant in cousin) weather in the northern states was also carnival/circus time. What you experienced would have depended on where you lived, but at one time neighborhood, parish, or town carnivals were common events. Back then even from miles away you couldn’t miss them. Unless a person was effectively sightless, an arc light or two left over from WWII stabbing the night sky was brilliantly effective mass advertising. The light was a flashy lure for a variety of attractions, from wholesome family fun to adult titillation. When I was eight, these were equally boring. The thrill of a carny was scurrying about exploring this underbelly of humanity, one not hinted at in Sunday parables of Samaritans and fishermen. At a certain age (and likely aided by a particular personality type) a young person can be exposed to human temptations and (except for puzzled curiosity) do so in complete and convincing innocence of the “clueless” model.
For one carnival (I must have been around ten to push the window as far as I did) I worked, for free of course, on the pony rides helping with anything requested and feeling quite grown and important doing so. In a home where being late for dinner was an executable offense, a very tardy appearance (resulting in bath before dinner to get the filth off me) could only be justified with good excuses. “Working” and “helping” were as good as I was capable of those days, but were not enough to spare me the steamy purge of pony sweat and the lengthy lecture about concerns that would not make sense for some years. A boy of ten is a blank page on which ink refuses to stick or falls off with the first shrug or appearance of chocolate ice cream. My priorities were narrow and precise. In fact, it strikes me as notable (as does strong recollection of the experience) that working for free was something I’d even do, so in addition to the satisfactions of milky chocolate, I must have enjoyed a first taste of independence and activity outside the family scene that promptly flung me in the tub to wash away whatever it was I thought I’d done or they feared I’d been exposed to.
The family-friendly ponies (cowboy/cowgirl costume and a photo were extra options) and small-scale rides were stock entertainments for smaller kids, with shooting and throwing galleries a step up in age. Our parish, fearing heathen influences, forbade the carnival use of their Gypsy fortune teller. As a result she lurked undercover and may well have done better in secret than on the open market. Being clandestine is a powerful attractant. The priests doing periodic patrol to ensure high moral virtue were easily diverted from notice of the furtive goings-on a ten-year-old would discover in ten seconds. Not that I cared or understood, but I did know and knew enough to keep mouth shut about it.
The same was true of the “freaks” and “secrets” wagon supposedly shut and off limits while the carny was in our parish. All you needed was to know how to get in followed by a nickel for an entire universe of forbidden secrets to be spread before you (the “best” behind a curtain that whisked open before your time ran out and you had to move to the next). I pretty much got the fat lady and the stuffed two-headed calf, but a lot of the rest was all mystery. You’d look at your friend (always best to transgress with a partner so if caught the guilt was distributed) to see if he knew what that was. Seeing as he was looking at you for the same, any following whispered conversation was bound to keep the fat lady’s jolly flesh shuddering with mirth as we reviewed a scene for which we’d paid in cold cash allowance money. We agreed on the shrunken head, but the Siamese baby and Indian mummy were tough calls. The baby was disgustingly ugly and quite dead, as was the mummy, which was mostly dirty bandages. My friend found the mummy most awful for being “a boy our age.” How he determined the gender of that mess was beyond me, but I agreed based on the wagon being too cramped for an adult mummy. A dead kid took up less space, which was at a premium with the fat lady taking up more than her share.
You knew at the start that for the sedate and proper Reader audience I’d never go boldly into details of erotic pleasure. A person should not talk about what they do not know any more than they should try to come back from a place they’ve never been. I have nothing to contribute—well, nothing useful, anyway. My additions would be necessarily quirky. It is better I stay away from topics where I do not shine. In truth I’m more one who blows out the candle than lights it.
Pleasure—not necessarily erotic, though that is a reliable come-on—is obtainable by titillating others. This has been fun, hasn’t it? One-sided, but I’m told by good authority that this is often the case if not the rule for pleasure of the tittled sort. If one party had fun, then that qualifies as a qualified success. (The previous sentence is explained by saying I was raised Catholic, from which there is—both happily and deservedly in my case—no escape.) In a broad scope, the ideal of shared accord or mutual enjoyment might actually be experienced days, months, or years apart. It doesn’t have to be now. I’d guess that more success would result with less fuss over timing. It’s not that timing doesn’t matter. It can, as was the case when I was almost twelve and the priests decided the boys needed a talking to after the most recent carnival. A warning should come before, not after. Being told DANGER after crossing the bridge is no more than well intentioned.