I ride-jockeyed. I flashed the shys in the mornings—meaning I restocked them with prizes—and ran some of them in the afternoons. I untangled Devil Wagons by the dozen, learned how to fry dough without burning my fingers off, and worked on my pitch for the Carolina Spin. I danced and sang with the other greenies on the Wiggle-Waggle Village’s Story Stage. Several times Fred Dean sent me to scratch the midway, a true sign of trust because it meant picking up the noon or five PM take from the various concessions. I made runs to Heaven’s Bay or Wilmington when some piece of machinery broke down and stayed late on Wednesday nights—usually along with Tom, George Preston, and Ronnie Houston—to lube the Whirly Cups and a vicious, neck-snapping ride called the Zipper. Both of those babies drank oil the way camels drink water when they get to the next oasis. And, of course, I wore the fur.
In spite of all this, I wasn’t sleeping for shit. Sometimes I’d lie on my bed, clap my elderly, taped-up headphones over my ears, and listen to my Doors records. (I was particularly partial to such cheerful tunes as “Cars Hiss By My Window,” “Riders on the Storm,” and—of course—“The End.”) When Jim Morrison’s voice and Ray Manzarek’s mystic, chiming organ weren’t enough to sedate me, I’d creep down the outside staircase and walk on the beach. Once or twice I slept on the beach. At least there were no bad dreams when I did manage to get under for a little while. I don’t remember dreaming that summer at all.
I could see bags under my eyes when I shaved in the morning, and sometimes I’d feel lightheaded after a particularly strenuous turn as Howie (birthday parties in the overheated bedlam of Howdy House were the worst), but that was normal; Mr. Easterbrook had told me so. A little rest in the boneyard always put me right again. On the whole, I thought I was representing, as they say nowadays. I learned different on the first Monday in July, two days before the Glorious Fourth.
Excerpted from Joyland by Stephen King, published by Hard Case Crime. Copyright © 2013 by Stephen King.
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