School had been in session for one week and had it ever been hot in the classrooms! Billy Bump and his buddy Carl had been looking forward, with anxious anticipation, for the Friday night opening of the fair. There was customarily a parade just before the gates were unlocked to the fair grounds. In the parade throng there were local celebrities, such as Minnesota Fats who lived just down the road, and as many politicians that could squeeze in. The Governor was marching along with the first lady and he was smiling from ear to ear and passing out candy to the children and kissing every baby that was offered to him. He waved with the back of his hand…much as Billy B. had seen Queen Elizabeth of England do in the news.
Leading the parade was a jockey riding a horse drawn chariot signifying the world renown harness race that was held during the DuQuoin State Fair…The Hambletonian! Really what the jockey was riding on was a cut-back chariot to say the least. There was a very small wooden seat that he never sat upon and a flimsy looking frame of metal with two large wheels. The horse reared its great head and tossed and turned as if it was looking into the mouth of hell! The jockey seemed nervous…but then again…jockeys always appear nervous.
Brining up the rear of the great train of jubilant people were the carnies and the special show performers. There were clowns with large white teeth that were affixed in a maniacal grin! There were wizards and magicians and gypsies and soothsayers. At the very end of the procession came an organ grinder and his monkey assistant. The monkey would run from child to child, with his toothy smile, and offer a lolly pop and a mischievous wink!
As the boys proceeded to walk through the gates to the fair there stood a giraffe who was slowly chewing and staring at them. He doffed his top hat and greeted them by name and admonished them to have fun but be careful…as there was a strange wind blowing out of the north. He also admonished them enjoy the taffy…as it was a state fair speciality!
Billy was determined to visit the Soothsayer Tent and he ran there posthaste! Carl arrived shortly thereafter as he had a policy of not running when you can walk and not standing when you can sit. The prognosticator of the future was named Merlin and he smelled of incense and gin. After they each paid a quarter they were ushered into a back room that was semi-lit and had a small round table in the middle of it with a crystal ball in the center of the table. When Merlin entered his pointed wizard’s hat was separated from his head by the tent fabric at the top of the door. Merlin began to explain who he was and what was about to transpire.
He noted that he was very old and that if he told Billy and Carl, how old he really was, that they would not believe him. He went on to explain that the story of king Arthur and the knights of the roundtable was a true story and that he was the Merlin in the narrative. He noted that it had taken him sometime to complete wizardry school and much of the lengthy portion of his life in hiding or masquerading as someone else. He said that he had loved his life as Billy the Kid in New Mexico and his rendition of Boris Karloff had been a blast!
Merlin asked Bill and Carl if they wanted to peer into the crystal ball? They both began to stare intently! There was Jane and Demetrius eating corn dogs at the fair. Then…they noticed the image had changed and there were two very large buildings being struck by large jets…and they fell to the earth. Suddenly, there were images of people weeping and children in cages and the Statue of Liberty…with its torch missing…and a President with orange hair!