The Whiz Bang (an excerpt)

Whiz Bang
E.A. Cook

The Whiz Bang landed hard during a starlit cloudless night. It was from somewhere so far away that when it landed, the concussion left a three-foot-deep and six foot wide crater right next to where a young Native American was hunkered down. He was hiding in some scrub brush, one hundred yards up the slope from an army of very large men, most of them with long braided yellow hair, long broad swords, bows and arrows, and leather shields. It glowed the kind of bluish white light that you only see in a flash of lightning. When the object landed, he completely forgot about the men that he was watching as he walked, mesmerized, toward the glowing oval.
All the men in the encampment saw it land, saw the scout come out of hiding to reach for it, and then an archer shot him. They ran past the dying man, up close to the bluish white object, talked excitedly about it, and they all agreed that this came as a warning from one of the Norse Gods. They broke camp and left at a jog, wanting nothing to do with the still glowing object on the slope.

The French soldier found the Whiz Bang in the hand bones of an Indian skeleton. He wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t been for the light reflecting off the crystal cover on what looked at first to be a locket. He was in the process of caching gunpowder for the French Army to use in the future and was just finishing up digging out a cave along the steep slope, when the sun glinted off the oval crystal cover and caught his eye. Bending down to pick it up he saw that it was in the palm, just the hand bones, really, of someone from a native tribe. All that remained of that person was the hand and forearm bones, which were still wrapped in a sleeve made of animal hide and embroidered with native symbols. The soldier grabbed the glowing object. He was kneeling there when the earth began to shake. An extreme earthquake was rocking the area and all he could do was lay flat and wait until it stopped. But the quake loosened hundreds of rocks from high up the slope, which came careening down the hillside and crushed the man right where he lay.

The boys found Whiz Bang because of the brass button. It was sewn onto the red cotton lapel of a 200-hundred-year-old French Army jacket that Skylar found while hiking by the Cache la Poudre river. The button caught the sunlight just right and glinted at Skylar as he was exploring the steep slope about 100 yards uphill from the river. When he knelt to look at it, the nine-year-old boy saw that the jacket was stuck under a pile of rocks. he pulled hard, heard the decayed material rip and stopped. Skylar’s older brothers; Bryce, Elijah and Dayne saw what he was doing and helped remove the rock pile. That’s when they found the bones of the long-dead soldier and the Whiz Bang. It was glowing. Skylar reached for it.

Dayne, the oldest brother, felt something bad was going to happen and quickly grabbed Skylar’s wrist just and inch away from the object and said,
“Don’t, Skylar! Don’t touch it.”
Skylar looked hurt and mad,
“Dayne! Really?! I found it!”
Elijah and Bryce felt it to. It was a cool looking thing, but they felt something bad about it.
“He’s right, Skylar, lets leave it.” They both said at the same time.
Skylar started to feel it too, he pulled away from Dayne, but he didn’t reach again for the luminous thing.
“But, it’s glowing! We can’t just leave it there…”



There are so many layers. Ripping the hide off, the hide that has been there way too long, exposing the raw untouched nerve, The nerve that was overdue to be exposed and made right. My god, the pain. Not that nerve. Not that one. I can hardly draw a breath now, or maybe ever again. I waited too long, I didn’t give enough. There was too much me. Now it is just me. And my raw nerve.
Draw another breath.
Then another.


“Yeah, you read my sign right, I’ll listen to your confession for a dollar, but just one. Man, really, I’ll listen to you if you just keep dropping ten dollar bills every few minutes. This is my corner, this is my gig. No one else does what I do.”
“Okay,” She said, ” I just left a man tied to a tree. I tried to beat him to death, but I’ve broken both of my hands on his face and he was still breathing when I left him. I kinda ran out of hate, too. It felt good.”

Up on The Range

Up on The Range is where we everything
Remember when the County Fair was in Hibbing?
Six of us went, the girls on our laps
T.J. Swan and Schnapps for them, we had Southern Comfort, Jack and Jim.
A little Columbian with some of the worst homegrown for backup
More friends met us there in Bubba Pender’s pick-up
We had mini-donuts and elephant ears and we made bad decisions behind the carnival trailers
Those two broke up and that one threw up and it went bad from there

Up on The Range is where we everything
Grandpas, Dads and Uncles working swings at the mine
We had our first time and did our first crime
Got our first cars and lied our way into that one bar
Some of us graduated, some dropped out, some died

Some grew roots, some of us couldn’t be held down
We moved or stayed, found our tribes and lived our lives

But we all have it in us, with us, in our being

Up on The Range is where we everything4a21c4b82b4e0fc151c33ed9f8eea843

Carny Rap

thNJD7ZLEF When you’re born into the life it’s like being raised by wolves. Growing up a carny kid prepares you for no part of the real world. Not one thing about it is common. Some families in the business go back generations, to the turn of the 20th Century, and have generations of traditions unique to show-people. Other show families came along in the last couple decades or even as recently as the last season. It gets in your blood. Not everyone is wired for the life, but there are those that were raised as citizens that found “the life”.
When I was a kid, my parents would take us off the lot to shop for clothing or whatever and usually I thought of those trips as trips into the real world and that when we returned it was to the midway- wherever it was that week. As I got older, I considered the show as the real world. It was where all my family, both immediate and Show Family- which were truly family, and lifelong friends were. Fuck the rest of the world. If they wanted my time, they would have to come to my world.
We come from generations of tradition and myths, lies and manipulations, and a sense of family that many of the carnies never experienced when they lived back in Bum-Fuck Minnesota or wherever they’re from. It’s a self – contained off the grid nomadic community that is unrivaled in today’s age. Street gangs and bikers are probably the closest in the dynamics of infrastructure within the group.
We bang the occasional town-mark, but more often each other, and try not to fuck a concessionaire’s wife or daughter, but a show-owner’s women are fair game.

The green help don’t know about the old days and ways. When a carny yelled “Hey Rube!” it meant he was in trouble. You stopped what you’re doing and come running and bring a hammer or a joint brace with a hinge on the end because shit is getting real on the Midway. Everyone knew they better be in some deep shit that involved blood and some town marks before they yelled those two words.
Ours is one of the last to have a Freak Show – Snake Girl, Two Headed Woman (slept with her. Boy howdy), Wolf Boy, Sword Swallower. The canvas was painted by one of the last few carnival artists in the world, trained by a master.

The show started with just a Ferris Wheel on one end, a Jenny on the other, and a rotating kiddy airplane ride in the middle. Jonny G had an Italian and Polish sausage grab joint, Big Connie spun floss out of a tornado of a joint. Billy had a Duck Pond, and Dirty Darrel had a Shoot out the Star.
The game joints are where the money is. There was a certain knot that you had to learn to stake a joint down. There are a lot of aluminum framed joints around now days, but back in the day they were all panted and carefully pin-stripped wood and canvas stick joints held together with hinges on two-by-fours, and Kotter keys, we call them R keys. You’ll see show folks wearing them as earrings, necklaces, and on their key chains. The rides were held together with them too. It’s a symbol.


Snap Shot – Minneapolis Back in the Day

Prince aand Husker Du and later – Tina and the B-Side rumbling through the coolest venues and Kid Johnny Lang playing everywhere. But it was more than that. Deeper. The music came from the vibe. The vibe came from the streets; the tribe of street people, the tourist restaurants, the drugs, high end clothing and shoe stores, gay bars, local bars, and seedy bars like The Speakeasy, adult book stores with 24 hour video arcades – the hunting ground for the chicken hawks. The labor pools and Catholic charities drop-in centers, Rifle Sport Pool Hall where the hustlers hustled the hustlers, and Tourist Education establishments like Moby Dicks where, in the back at the pool tables, some of the best acting, finessing and double-talking sharp shooters will rob you in a few games of straight-eight call your shot. Money was laying around, you just had to pick it up