Picture Perfect 61

Picture Perfect 61

“It wasn’t something I thought much about, especially after the Mounties stopped coming around. We never understood why they stopped. Or why they never came back when there were others.”

“Have you remembered much?”

“More and more since your show contacted me. Silly stuff. Like what I was wearing. Those cowboy costumes you and Timmy loved to play in. Mama had to sew them back together nearly every other day. We couldn’t make you kids understand they weren’t really clothes. They were as real as the toy guns. You would be climbing trees, jumping off porches in them. Timmy would sometimes sleep in his chaps. He said that how real cowboys slept. I told him real cowboys didn’t hang around with their bare butts where coyotes could get at them in their sleep. He wanted to get a job as a sharp shooter at that circus. The Hippo something.”

“You mean the Happy Hippo?”

“What a crappy circus that was. It used to be so … exciting when I was your age but as I got older, it stayed the same. All that brought me and your sister to it was to see the freaks and the fellas that ran the rides. They wanted us to call them carnies but they weren’t much older than us and working for the summer and planning to go into the army or back to university. I always kept an eye and ear out for those college boys. Here …” She took the photos from him and sorted through to a couple of them. “These are of me and Stoney. He was already studying some sort of engineering at Dalhousie. He kept the rides in good repair. He was a better catch than just the guy who sold you tickets or turned the switch on. Not that he didn’t do those things too but he also knew stuff.”

Dan stopped walking to look closely at the picture.

“Yeah, that’s me he’s got his arm draped around. I looks so cute in that halter-top.”

The young shirtless man in the picture was leaning against a fence, legs crossed at the ankles, one arm around Teresa. She was looking up at him with her hand on his bare stomach. He was gawking at her cleavage. He was enjoying the view as he had an obvious erection barely contained in his faded jeans. The face was familiar to Dan.

“It can’t be.” he said.

“Real? Yeah, he was, as they say, hung like horse.”

“Not that but I think I know him.”

“Stoney?” Teresa asked?

“Or maybe it’s his son.” He did the math in his head. “If this is who I think it is he was probably only about fourteen when this was taken.”

“Wouldn’t surprise me. Turns out he diddled lots of the younger ones too. Wait fourteen! Then all stuff about Dalhousie was a load of bs?” She gabbed the picture back from him. “Nah, he was twenty. That’s what he told us anyways. Who do you think he is?”

“I’d rather not say anything until I know more for sure. Did you tell the RCMP about his diddling young girls?”

“No. Never occurred to me. He couldn’t have anything to do with those kids disappearing. Timmy was a boy. Stoney was sure weren’t no fairy.”

“Who?” Cameron angled in for a close up of the picture.

“I’d rather not say.” Dan said covering the photo with his hand. “No need to implicate someone rashly. Baxter’s Bits doesn’t want to face a defamation law suit.”

“I’m not sure about that.” Cameron laughed. “It would go well with stories of his recent brush with death.”

“This other one.” Teresa brought the attention back to her. “Is of your sister with that Kevin guy your parents was so steamed up about. O’Neill. Kevin O’Neill. I only know because he took me out a few times.”

“The one she blamed for us moving.”

“Huh?”

“For years she said that was why we moved. To break them up.” He took the picture. “That’s my sister but that isn’t Kevin. I met him a few times when she was supposed to be minding me. He was a red head. This guy is certainly not a red head.”

“Redhead? You sure? I don’t recall any redheaded fellas in our gang that year.”

They arrived at the park.

She lit another cigarette as they sat on a bench.

“What do you think happened to Timmy?” He asked.

“Like I said we were sure he’d run off, again. Maybe to follow you guys to Ontario. When it turned more kids had gone missing no one knew what to think. Aliens?”

“Aliens?” Dan laughed.

“Look they were gone without a trace, you know. Like not even a shoe left behind. How is that possible? What do you think happened to them?”

Dan looked at Cameron. “You know, I’ve never really thought about that. We’re so focused on who and when. I doubt if any of them are alive now.”

Teresa began to cry. “I just hate thinking about what ever was done to these kids when they were … taken.”

“Teresa, I think we’ve got enough for one day.” Dan said. “What do you think Cameron.”

“Whatever you say. I know Steph will be happy with what we have.”

“You can always call me if you want to do more. I got lots of the super 8’s from then too. Not sure who took them.”

“I’ll take these pictures and go through them. We’ll get them back to you.” 

They left her at the park and went back to the rental car. Dan had Cameron drive so he could look through the pictures more carefully, separating the ones he was most interested in. He studied the one of Teresa and Stoney. It had to be Winston Chamberlain. Much younger but there was no mistaking him. It made some sense that the owner’s son would know about the rides and would want to keep his identity a secret.

“Who is it?” Cameron asked. “Your Dad?”

“No! But another suspect. If this is who I think it is, he was practically a child himself at the time.” That is if he was right about Winston’s age. 

“How does it feel being back here in Stellerton.”

“Odd. Same streets but different buildings.”

“You ever miss it.”

“Timmy was the only thing I missed. My Dad kept us so busy with his business because it was a good way to teach us values. I never had much of a chance to make friends. We moved around a lot in the summer. This was where we stayed the longest.”

“So what did he say when you moved like that?”

“Enough Cameron. Asking questions is my job. Or are you filming this too.”

“You know it. Baxter said not to waste a moment. That isn’t a GPS you know.” He pointed to the unit on the dash with his elbow. “Dashboard camera.”

“In all the cars?”

“When ever possible.”

“I guess it picked up my panic in the storm.”

“Oh, no. That had been Baxter’s car you were driving. He wasn’t interested in being filmed. We didn’t have a chance to make a switch out for the camera. Good thing too because we have his accident. Can’t fake footage like that.”

“Would it show someone tampering with the car?”

“Only if they were in the car. It wasn’t set to see outside the car. We got nothing that shows that.”

He parked the car. “Steph will send someone to pick me up. This one be your wheels for the rest of the shoot.”

“Where’s the real GPS?”

“It’s an app on your cellphone.”

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Picture Perfect 51

Picture Perfect 51

Dan could smell popcorn even before he had opened the front door of the Maritime Circus Museum. As he opened the door, calliope music announced his entry. Man, that must get irritating for the people who work here, he thought.

The inside lobby was a ceiling to floor front of a circus tent – a ticket booth in the middle, a partially opened tent flap, & two large canvas posters on either side of the ticket booth. They had to be at least twelve foot high. The ones on the left were for ‘Cora! Queen of the King Cobras’ – it showed a wide-eyed, smiling woman clad like a bellydancer, charming a king cobra by staring into its eyes. ‘Cora can charm the most dangerous of poisonous snakes. Think of what she can do with mortal man.’

Beside it was one for ‘Sharko – The Fish Man’  A thin man in bathing trunks was half twisting to show the fin on his back, his legs were covered with scales and there appeared to be gills under his jaw. ‘See his scales, his fin. Watch as he dives deep and stays underwater longer than humanly possible.’

On the other side were posters touting first, ‘Fireball.’ It showed a man putting a flaming touch into his mouth. He was wearing a flame painted costume with a what appeared to a lighting bolt of flame flashing from his crotch. Beside the ‘Fireball’ was one for ‘Madama Cabanalla’: a Gypsy woman staring out at him with a crystal ball floating over her palms. ‘Madama Cabanalla sees all! Tells all!’

A sign on the ticket booth invited him to ring for service. An arrow pointed to a rope that he followed with his eyes as it went through a series of pulleys to a fire-station type bell on the wall behind him. A group came in the door as he was about to pull the rope. Two adults and six children.

Dan pulled the bell rope. The alarm rang loudly for a minute and then res & yellow balloons shot up from the roof of the ticket booth with a loud bang. The children screamed and laughed. Dan shook his head in amazement.

A man dressed in a red blazer, with a striped yellow vest and black check pants stepped out from the tent entrance.

“Welcome! Welcome.” He reached his hand out to one of the adults. The adult was leery and squinted as if expecting a hand buzzer as they shook hands. Nothing happened.

“Welcome one and all to Chamberlain’s Maritime Circus Museum. I am Winston Chamberlain. The Happy Hippo Travelling Circus has been in my family for several generations since 1899 when Grant and Isabelle Hill started it. It toured the Eastern Provinces changing with the times over the years until it could no long keep up with the times.”

“You are free to explore the exhibits and the grounds as you want to for free, or you can take a guided tour with ME.” He pulled a bouquet of flowers out of his coat sleeve and presented it to one of the young girls in the family group. “The cost of the tour is your soul … just kidding. It’s a mere $10.00 each.”

“How long will that take?” One of the adult asked. “An hour.” Winston answered. “An hour you will never forget.”

“Can we Daddy?” one of the children asked. “Can we?”

“Is there a children’s rate?” The man asked.

“Only if their feet never touch the ground.” Winston answered. “And their hands don’t touch an exhibit, unless instructed to.”

Dan laughed at Winston’s spiel. He saw that it disarmed the parents of the children, who reluctantly paid the admission fee. 

“And you kind sire?” Winston asked Dan.

“I think I’ll explore a bit first. It might be quieter.”

“I hear you.” Winston nodded. “If you want the printed guide to the exhibits that’ll be $5. Which you can pay to my lovely assistant right though here.”

He lifted the tent flap wider and tied it back so they all could enter.

“That included with the tour Mac?” The dad asked.

“Nope.” Winston said. “But you each do get a free bag of popcorn.”

Dan went into the tent and bought the guide. The assistant was an automation pirate that dropped the booklet down a slot & out into his waiting hand. The museum was divided into several areas. One that dealt with the history of it, one that had a display of the various flyers, posters, costumes; another that devoted the various carnival games and food; in an out door area were rides dating back to the first years of the circus. Not all of them were functional and the ones that were would cost $10.00 each to ride or any three for $20.00.

“We’ll start with the Carnival Food Fair,” Winston said to the family, who were joined by several other people. 

Dan went in the opposite direction to the first of the exhibit rooms. The guide book gave a concise time line of the carnival, explained the difference between a carnival and a circus. A circus always had animals, lions, tigers; always had performs like clowns, trapeze or tumblers; rarely had rides. Whereas a carnival had more games of chance; rides; some would have freak sideshows such as The Fish Man; large ones might have simple animal acts like dogs or the occasional snake charmer like Cora. Animals always slowed down travel time and over the years were phased out as the rides became a bigger draw.

The exhibit hall Dan went into had a map of the Maritime provinces filling one wall. There were different coloured and sized circus flags representing the decades and places various carnivals had traveled to when they were on tour. The Happy Hippo was the only one based the wartime’s but a couple of the bigger ones, like the Conklin, sent touring midways to Halifax every summer. The larger the flag the more frequently it visited a particular town or city. 

Some would get an annual visit, others every two or three years. It would rarely stay longer than a week at any one place unless there some other festival or event going on at the same time. 

There where three Happy Hippo touring shows. Dan hadn’t realized this before. He’d always assumed that there was just the one he recalled from his childhood. Each of them had different rides, games of chance. The larger the town or city the larger the carnival would be, hence the three different shows. It also meant three of them could be on the road at the same time and participate in more than one local festival at a time.

There was a computer interface with the map where one could input year, month and see what locations which show was performing. It would also tell you what rides, sideshows and specials where appearing with it, how long it stayed. But not how much money it made.

Dan typed in the month they had left for Toronto. All three shows were on the road. The one nearest Stellerton was the smaller number 3. It played in Truro the week before and had moved on the day after his family left. He saw that a Madam Cabanalla was featured in all three shows. So there must have been more than one of her. Though perhaps her psychic power allowed her to appear in three places at the same time. He’d have to ask Glaucia if the was possible. The Truro special was Cora Queen of the King Cobras in the Court of King Tut. He took pictures of the various pages before they disappeared.

Was Cora why he was so disappointed in not getting to the circus that last weekend? He had been so into Tut that summer for some reason. Following links on the computer screen he found a flyer for that area’s carnival. It also said that the actual flyers could be found in Exhibit Hall two. He consulted he guide to see where that hall was.

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Suspicion in C

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Into the C’s of my cd collection with some stand alone’s: Ana Caram: Other Side of Jobim – I love Jobim and enjoy this simple set of his lesser known songs. Gentle guitar & subtle vocals from Ana, more jazzy than latin & very enjoyable. I bought this for the Jobim and & very happy with it – sexy & romantic.whitechair02

The Cardigans: Life/ first band on the moon. A band that was almost the rage at one time with songs appearing in movies then they sort of vanished. Quirky pop, low key vocals – sort of a prelude to Feist (what became of her?). Both of these were picked up 2nd-hand for about $5 each. Well worth that price. Love Fool is great fun.whitechair03

Caribbean Carnival Soca Party Vol 2 – every collection needs some soca – not to be confused with reggae, or calypso, or dance hall – so many Caribbean dance styles to keep up with. This is propulsive, hip driving music – lots of percussion & songs about ‘get up and dance’ & hetero-normative sexual bonding with hot gals in the sand. Also picked up on the cheap – maybe a buck – so I was willing to invest in some adding some diversity to my collection.whitecabinet04

sampleTaste of Suspicion

I brushed my teeth. Carefully. I had to get rid of the bad meat taste my cavities flooded my mouth with over night. Carefully. I wanted to avoid the raw nerves. The mint covered the taste a while.

‘David. Have you see my keys?’ My Mom asked.

‘Not this morning. Where did you put them last?’ I called back. A trail of blood swirled with the soapy foam I spit out.

‘If I could remember that I wouldn’t be asking now would I?’

I could tell she was in one of those morning moods. I already suspected that from the over powering musky mist she had walked through several times. The mist that flavoured my cereal. Milky lilac corn flakes.

‘Do you remember when you had them last?’ I hoped to be helpful without too much spite in my voice.

‘Yes dear. I had them in the car. I remember parking it in the lot downstairs and … ‘

I wiped my mouth off and came into the living room. ‘And what …’

‘Ha ha. They are right here in my hand.’

‘Problem solved.’ At least she remembered she has hands.

‘Is my purse in the living-room?’

‘Could be,’

‘Could you check for me while I finish getting ready.’ She walked through another quick spray of of the same overpowering musk.

It was a lilac lemon smell that made my eyes water. Even with my mouth clamped shut I could taste it in the air. She used it after a particularly hard night. She had come staggering in at around 1 a.m. just as I was finishing my homework. Staggered in, gave me a beer-and-fried-chicken kiss and went directly to bed.

‘Hard day at work today,’ she explained. ‘Gotta feel fresh.’

‘I see,’ I dabbed at my eyes.

‘Can I give you a lift to school?’

‘No, that’s alright. I’ll be meeting Trevor and we’ll bike there together.’ I knew that more time in the lilac mist would close my sinuses and make impossible for me to breathe till lunch.

‘Trevor? He’s the boy from Trinidad?’

‘Very good Mom,’

‘You two spend a lot of time together.’

‘Yeah, I suppose. We’re both trying out for the basketball team this week. We’ve been practising together a lot.’

‘Good.’ she dropped her keys into her purse, they  clinked against a bottle. She kissed my mouth. ‘I hope that’s all you boys are doing.’ She snapped her purse shut and glared at him.

My tongue darted to those cavities and tooth rot filled my mouth to smother the flowery imprint of my mother’s lipstick.

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