The Flaming White Trash Stunt Spectacular, fiction by Seth Cherniak

 

Junior sat on the wob­bly met­al steps of the baby roller coast­er. In his left hand was a swift­ly melt­ing, tox­ic look­ing blue snow cone which had stained his dirty t-shirt, mouth, teeth and tongue. In his right hand he clutched a sticky pink swirl of cot­ton can­dy perched on a flim­sy, white paper tube smudged with gray, car­ni­val dirt fin­ger­prints. His dad­dy had giv­en him ten dol­lars to ride rides at the Pecan Fes­ti­val but Junior was spend­ing it on food. It last­ed longer than a ride on a creaky Scram­bler.

His dad­dy real­ly didn’t care how he spent the ten dol­lars. It kept Junior occu­pied while he walked around with Shan­na and her kids. Junior’s dad­dy worked with Shan­na at Lum­ber Sup­ply. She had got­ten rid of her hus­band or he had gone to jail or some­thing. Junior’s mom had gone away for a while. He real­ly wasn’t sure where she was. He didn’t like to think about it too much. But he and his dad­dy did okay. It was just the two of them. Dad­dy could cook and Junior knew how to make cere­al and frozen piz­za. His grand­moth­er, his daddy’s mam­ma, looked after them some and Junior would stay with her when Shan­na was com­ing over to vis­it his dad­dy.

Hey Mrs. Kopec­ki!” Junior shout­ed between bites of snow cone and cot­ton can­dy. A pret­ty lady with dark hair walked over. Mrs. Kopec­ki had been his first grade teacher. The Pecan Fes­ti­val car­ni­val was in the field behind the school. She had two boys with her that were a lit­tle old­er than Junior. He could tell they didn’t go to his school. “Well hey, Junior” she said. “How’re you?”

Good” Junior replied.

How’s sec­ond grade?”

Good.”

You have Mrs. Chip this year?”

Yes ma’am.”

She told me you’re doing great. Keep it up and come see me okay?”

Yes ma’am.” She leaned in and pat­ted Junior’s back like he remem­bered his mam­ma doing when she had been around. He liked Mrs. Kopec­ki and did pret­ty good in her class. Nev­er got on red and was hard­ly ever on yel­low.

Dee­Bo Scott fid­dled on his dirt bike with a sock­et wrench. It was almost show time.

He was the mechan­ic for all of the rides that the trav­eled with the car­ni­val. He could fix any­thing. He could also ride the shit out of a motor­cy­cle. He learned how to jump short­ly after he learned how to ride at the age of four­teen.

So, on the last night the car­ni­val was in a town, Dee­Bo would jump two flam­ing junk cars. South­ern Attrac­tions, the car­ni­val com­pa­ny, paid him an extra hun­dred and twen­ty five dol­lars a week­end and gave him his own camper. Most of the trav­el­ling crew had to dou­ble and triple up.

The stunt always drew a big­ger crowd than reg­u­lar nights.  Boss­man would call the near­est junk­yard wher­ev­er they were and spend two or three hun­dred bucks on a cou­ple of wrecks. When it was time, Ray, the guy that helped Dee­Bo, would light a few strate­gi­cal­ly locat­ed wads of Vase­line soaked toi­let paper. Dee­Bo would rev the motor, pop a wheel­ie and jump the “flam­ing death”.

Dee­Bo hocked up a loo­gie, spit it on the ground, and adjust­ed his crotch, notice­ably packed into his dirty blue jeans. Strad­dling the dirt bike, he put on his hel­met, jumped and cranked the motor and revved it mak­ing the high pitched, “ rrrunn neg­ga neg­ga” of a beat up Japan­ese dirt bike.

Through the low, rat­tling mur­mur of the car­ni­val, Junior could hear the metal­lic whine of the dirt bike. He periscoped his neck and looked around.  He had heard about the stunt­man at school and his dad­dy had men­tioned it specif­i­cal­ly. That’s why they decid­ed to go on that par­tic­u­lar night.

Most peo­ple came to see Dee­Bo jump the “flam­ing” cars with the secret (or not so much) hope that he would fail. A cou­ple of times he screwed up the land­ing. Came in at the wrong angle where the bike lost its foot­ing and slid out from under him on the ramp. He got a lit­tle banged up but noth­ing seri­ous.

Usu­al­ly there wasn’t an ambu­lance on hand. Dee­Bo was pret­ty good at what he did and as far as Boss­man was con­cerned, ambu­lances cost mon­ey. But on this night, there was an ambu­lance on hand. The day the Pecan Fes­ti­val opened, an Elvis imper­son­ator who was per­form­ing passed out on stage. Whether it was a stroke, heat exhaus­tion, or just that he was too drunk to prop­er­ly pay homage to the King had yet to be deter­mined. How­ev­er, after the inci­dent and 911 had been called, Mrs. Boss­man, she had trav­eled with Boss­man since five years ago, whis­pered in Bossman’s ear that it might be a good idea if the ambu­lance stuck around through the week­end. You know, lia­bil­i­ty and all. Boss­man grudg­ing­ly oblig­ed.

Dee­Bo took off from the trac­tor trail­er he had turned into a trav­el­ling motor­cy­cle garage and tore assed to the edge of the car­ni­val. Through the crowd he could see that Ray had put the ramps in place (pulled them with a four wheel­er) and was now light­ing the “fire” in the wrecks with a long, bar-b-q lighter shaped like an AK-47 assault rifle. Dee­Bo could see the almost invis­i­ble heat waves ris­ing with just a lit­tle flame at their base. He gunned the motor and peeled around the edge of the crowd to the clear­ing made for his take off zone. He stopped, the front wheel of his bike per­fect­ly aimed at the mid­dle of the ramp.

From seem­ing­ly nowhere, a tin­ny voice tried it’s best to boom over a crack­ly, car­ni­val loud­speak­er. “Ladies and gen­tle­man! It’s the moment you’ve all been wait­ing for!” On cue the crowd cheered and backed up a safe dis­tance from the jump area marked by four orange traf­fic cones. Boss­man knew he should have ropes. But like ambu­lances, ropes cost mon­ey.

It was also DeeBo’s cue to get ready. He revved the motor and bal­anced the bike. He looked to his left and saw Amber, the scrawny blonde who ran the “Throw the Dart-Pop a Bal­loon” booth. He caught her eye and gave her a jaun­ty salute before flip­ping down the visor of his motor­cy­cle hel­met. Amber made a face like some­one was hold­ing a hand­ful of dogshit beneath her nose. She instant­ly shot him the bird with empha­sis on the cocked, bony fin­gers on either side of the actu­al “bird”.

The oth­er night, she and Dee­Bo got high on her break and rode the small, wob­bly Fer­ris wheel. The cars were enclosed, cage like, so Dee­Bo talked her into it, the weed helped, by promis­ing he wouldn’t fin­ish in her mouth which he did any way. That prob­a­bly had some­thing to do with her shoot­ing him the bird, Dee­Bo thought.

To his right, Chas­si­ty, the girl who helped Kel­ly, the guy that ran the air­brushed t-shirt trail­er, waved at him enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly. She was a young brunette with big boobs stuffed into an air­brushed t-shirt that said “Pootie”.  She rolled with Kel­ly but typ­i­cal­ly, he would start drink­ing a few hours before the show closed each night and the com­bi­na­tion of the Busch Light twelve pack and the paint fumes ensured he that he would pass out cold by ten o’clock. More often than not, Chas­si­ty would sneak over to DeeBo’s trail­er to par­ty and sneak back home before sun­rise.

Kel­ly, when lucid, could be a hot­head. There was a sto­ry about him beat­ing the shit out of some­one at a hunt­ing camp in McIn­tosh because the guy joked that the buck Kel­ly had killed and was clean­ing had fun­ny look­ing balls. Dee­Bo wasn’t too wor­ried though. Kel­ly had a pret­ty bad limp and was rarely sober.

Junior heard the loose growl of the motor­cy­cle and stood up on the steps, cran­ing his neck to get a bet­ter look. He thought he could smell the fire from the burn­ing, wrecked cars and wished he could get clos­er. But his dad­dy told him to stay right there dur­ing the jump and he’d be right over after­wards.

The loud­speak­er voice con­tin­ued, “Let’s make some noise for Low­er Alabama’s very own…” the voice got loud­er, dis­tort­ed  “NNNNNNNDAREDEVIL!!!MMMMDEEBOW!!!  SCOOOOOOTT!!!” The crowd roared as Dee­Bo let go of the brake and accel­er­at­ed around the flam­ing, jump area. He popped a cou­ple wheel­ies as he sped past the crowd, pump­ing his fist in the air and revving the motor.

After a cou­ple of orbits he stopped at his exact start­ing point, his wheel per­fect­ly cen­tered on the cen­ter of the take off ramp. The dirt bike mur­mured with an occa­sion­al pop or skip due to a dirty car­bu­re­tor and years of high revving use. Junior stood on his tip­toes ner­vous­ly rub­bing his sticky, blue stained fin­gers togeth­er.

Dee­Bo bal­anced the bike with one boot on the ground and one foot on the bike. He gripped the brake tight­ly and turned the throt­tle hard, get­ting the RPM’s up to where he could get the speed he would need. Runnnnnnnn neg­ga negga….runnnnnnn neg­ga. The bike was almost scream­ing now as a thin fog of blue smoke came from the exhaust.

Junior tight­ened his body and held his breath as Dee­Bo took off, the yel­low dirt bike hol­ler­ing towards the ramp, up and over, land­ing back tire first then front with a thud on the oppo­site ramp. The crowd roared again as the dis­tort­ed tin­ny loud­speak­er voice tried to cut through. “MMM­M­M­M­M­M­MDee­Bowwwwwwwwwww SCOOOOOOOTTT!!!!”  Dee­Bo cir­cled the ramps and cars again wav­ing to the crowd and pop­ping wheel­ies as Ray appeared out of the crowd with a fire extin­guish­er. The red met­al, nozzeled tube whooshed putting out the flam­ing death.

The whistling and cheer­ing died down as secret dis­ap­point­ment set in that no one was injured. As the crowd start­ed to fade, Dee­Bo wheeled the dirt bike towards the air­brush trail­er. Junior exhaled and relaxed his body. He felt dizzy. His ears buzzed and his vision blurred. It wasn’t a bad feel­ing and he sort of liked it.

His dad­dy appeared out of the now almost non-exis­tent crowd. He and Shan­na had their arms around each other’s waist, the wrap­ping hand insert­ed in the back pock­et of the other’s blue jeans. With them walked a stub­by, heavy­ish girl with a high fore­head who looked to be about Junior’s age. He rec­og­nized her. Her name was Kay­la and she had been in his class last year. She was weird and not very smart and Junior remem­bered her telling a sto­ry about the time her dad killed, cooked and ate her dog. Junior didn’t believe it but it made her even weird­er.

Hey Junior!! That was BADASS, wasn’t it?” his dad­dy said. “Yes, sir.” Junior replied.

Hey, this is Kay­la. Miss Shan­na says y’all know each oth­er from school?”

Yeah.”, Junior said flat­ly. Shan­na shoved Kayla’s shoul­der push­ing her towards Junior. “Great! We’re all gonna hang around for a lit­tle bit. Maybe go get some­thin’ to eat after­wards?” His dad­dy said. “Kay,” Junior said.

You got any ride tick­ets?” Kay­la asked. “I used all mine.”  Junior shook his head. “Sor­ry,” he said.  “Where’s your broth­er?” Junior asked. Kay­la had an old­er broth­er named Aidri­an. He spent more time in the Principal’s office than the class room. Kay­la shrugged. “I dun­no. I think he gone to his friend’s house.” It was just as well that Aidri­an wasn’t there, Junior thought.

Shan­na and Junior’s dad­dy walked ahead of the kids. His Dad­dy turned around and looked at Junior. “It’s kin­da like a dou­ble date, ain’t it?” his dad­dy said with a wink. Junior didn’t say any­thing. Inside he felt like you did if you acci­den­tal­ly chewed on a piece of tin­foil.

He looked over toward the air­brush trail­er and saw Dee­Bo bal­anc­ing the motor­cy­cle with both feet on the ground as he talked to Chas­si­ty. Kel­ly had already dis­ap­peared. As they walked toward the park­ing lot, Junior’s dad­dy and Shan­na men­tioned some­thing about going to Son­ic. Kay­la squealed and said some­thing about how much she loved the tater tots. Junior real­ly didn’t hear what she said. He was too busy watch­ing Mrs. Kopec­ki and her boys from a dis­tance. A man who was prob­a­bly her hus­band was with them. He could tell that he was her boys’ father just by the way they act­ed togeth­er. They were at the bal­loon dart throw booth and they all laughed togeth­er as they threw the darts and tried to pop the bal­loons.

Look­ing at his dad­dy and Shan­na with their hands in each other’s back pock­ets, he thought that he could care less about Son­ic. He wasn’t hun­gry. Espe­cial­ly now. He won­dered what they were laugh­ing about and wished he was over there with them instead of the peo­ple he was walk­ing with. Like Dee­Bo, jump­ing over the flam­ing wreck and mak­ing a per­fect land­ing.

 

cherniakA native and life­time res­i­dent of Mobile, Alaba­ma (unless you count the four years he was held pris­on­er of war at Auburn Uni­ver­si­ty), Seth Cherniak’s long descent into writ­ing was enabled by his sixth-grade Eng­lish teacher and his mom’s mus­tard-yel­low, Smith Coro­na type­writer. As a finan­cial advisor/portfolio man­ag­er by day, Seth has pub­lished reg­u­lar­ly over the last decade to a nation­al read­er­ship on finan­cial web­sites. This is his first for­ay into fic­tion in quite a while.

Seth's nev­er con­sid­ered liv­ing any­where else. In his final wish­es, he has instruct­ed his two sons to scat­ter half of his ash­es across the Mobile-Ten­saw Delta. His wife can do what­ev­er she wants with the oth­er half, as she is not in sup­port of his being fed to the alli­ga­tors.

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