This week I just wanted to share a short story I submitted to the Your Story contest at http://www.writersdigest.com. The prompt was a picture of a large, concrete clown head laying in a deserted lot amidst leaves and dust.
The Venturi Carnival Company
The Venturi Carnival Company rolled into Bentonville in the early hours of August 5 and left two weeks later in an overnight barrage of fire and destruction. The first day was spent erecting the many rides and sideshows that Venturi was famous for. By seven o’clock that evening, the fun was about to begin. A long line of townsfolk stretched from the ticket booth to the back reaches of the dirt parking lot. By all accounts, the first few days were enjoyed by all. Everyone seemed enamored with the circus-like atmosphere and very few complaints were heard from the patrons.
Then, four days after opening night, a metal beam on the Tilt-A-Whirl bent. Six visitors were thrown into the hot, autumn night. All suffered serious injuries. One remained in a coma for over a month. The ride was shut down temporarily, but by the weekend, it was rocking and rolling again.
Visitors were mugged on three separate occasions, two of them at gunpoint. One woman accused a carnival barker of sexually assaulting her behind the famed Haunted Mansion. Carnival security merely winked at the crimes. A belief began to grow among the townsfolk that they were actually behind the atrocities.
By the carnival’s second week, a manhunt was underway for Arturo Venturi, the great-grandson of the carnival’s founder and head of the current iteration of the gaming/ride spectacular. Rumors spread that he had been seen at several locations about town; most of them bars or brothels. A posse was established and the search began. He was quickly discovered half-drunk at a table in Jimmie’s, an establishment that prided itself on both booze and women. Venturi was captured but escaped the next morning. To this day he has yet to be found.
Frustrations came to a head on the night of August 19. Word got out that most of the midway games were not only rigged, but downright impossible to win. All told, the games had cheated the townsfolk out of several thousand dollars.
A mob formed in the woods near the back of the carnival. At the leader’s go, the group tore through the shabby fencing and made a bee-line for the assorted wagons and shacks used by the carnies. Torches lit up the night sky, pitchforks glistened in the moonlight. Anything made of wood was set afire. Several carnival workers were injured, one was killed when a hefty farm-boy drove a shovel through the man’s skull. The rest made it to their wagons and fled the town in terror.
The rides were torn to pieces. Many of the townsfolk made off with their parts, proudly displaying them for years to family and friends when they got together for cookouts. The only thing left behind was the giant clown head that once dominated the welcome sign.