ysabetwordsmith: Victor Frankenstein in his fancy clothes (Frankenstein)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Based on an audience poll, this is the free epic for the January 6, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl making its $200 goal. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] janetmiles. It fills the "voyeurism" square on my 6-11-14 card for the [community profile] fanbingo fest. This poem belongs to the series Frankenstein's Family.

WARNING: This poem deals with some unusual people and creatures, which is stressful for Igor, along with some other carnival-typical shenanigans. If these are touchy topics for you too, please consider your headspace before clicking through.


"Carnival Candy"


When the carnival came to town
in the middle of September,
Victor and Igor took Adam to see it.

Igor wanted to see the souvenir shops
while Adam was eager for the food and games,
so Victor took the toddler on his hip
while Igor went shopping.

There was a man making cider while you watched --
just apple juice, really, but it was rather good
and he'd sell a cup of it for a penny.

Adam had trouble handling the cup
because he was just learning to drink from one,
but Victor gave him an extra hand,
so they managed with a minimum of spillage.

The cork catch was the big hit
among the village children, easy enough
that even the babies could play it --
all you had to do was grab a cork
floating in a barrel of water,
and the color on the bottom
showed what prize you got.

So far they'd all been carnival candy,
exactly the same as what Adam caught,
colorful boxes filled with caramels
and sugared nuts and cookies
shaped like exotic animals.

Victor waited for a lull in the crowd,
then tapped the carny on the shoulder.
"I'm the mazil of this village," he said.
"I'll be seeing the color of your corks."

"I run a fair game," the carny said,
jerking his chin up. "There's a hundred corks.
One has a gold bottom for the big bear."
He waved a hand at the stuffed animal.
"Nine have red for the little horses."
Those were carved and painted wood.
"The rest are green for the candy."

Quickly, so as not to hold up the game,
Victor scooped out the corks and
sorted them by color -- and found
that the count was correct.

"For your time," Victor said,
handing the carny another coin
and scooping all the corks
back into their barrel.

The ball-and-basket game
was just plain rigged, though.
The carny tossed his ball in
softly from beside the basket,
so it stayed in, and that made
the customer's ball stay in too --
but when the customer threw
two balls into an empty basket
from behind the haybales,
both always bounced out.

Victor took the carny by the elbow
and said, "Let's see you make
the same toss from the line."

He couldn't do it either, of course.

"Pack up your booth," Victor ordered.
"I'll not have anyone fleecing my people."

"But --" the carny protested.

"Unless you'd like me to ban
the entire carnival, and make sure
that everyone knows why?" Victor said.

Hastily the man packed up his booth.

The ring toss proved more interesting.
Victor watched carefully while they
waited in line for their turn.
Some people got their rings over
the wine bottles with no trouble,
while others bounced away.

"Small, medium, or large?"
asked the lady running the game.

"What's the difference?" Victor asked.

"The larger the ring, the easier it is to score.
Large rings earn one point, medium rings five,
and small rings ten," she said, waving a hand
at the display of prizes. "Count up your points,
and you can choose a prize from the rack."

"Large, please," said Victor, and handed
the wide straw rings to Adam. "Why on Earth
would anyone ask for the small rings?
Do those even go over the necks?
They had better fit."

"Oh, they fit," said the carny, demonstrating,
"just barely. Young men like to show off
for their lady-loves. If your aim is good enough,
you can win more points that way."

The low prizes included bracelets of dyed thread
and more carnival candy, while higher up there were
copper chains, glass beads, and china shards
turned into lovely buttons or pendants.

"So the fix is all in the customer's ego?"
Victor said with a chuckle. "Carry on."

Adam managed to get two
of his five rings over different bottles.

It took three more trips through
the line before he added up
all five points he needed to win
the coveted bracelet of blue yarn
that the smiling carny handed him.

By then Igor had caught up with them,
carrying a paper card of buttons
made from foreign coins and
another set of green glass ones.

"They have a freak show," Igor said,
and he didn't sound happy about it. "There's
a tattooed man, and a snake charmer
working with a two-headed snake, and
a woman with four breasts -- real ones."

"Oh, really?" said Victor. "I've seen
a bicephalic snake before, but never alive."

Igor swatted him on the shoulder.
"Never mind about the snake, Victor,
what about the people?" Igor said.
"They shouldn't be stared at for money."

"All right, I'll talk to them," Victor said,
passing Adam over to Igor.
"If anyone is hurting the performers,
I'll shut down the show."

But the tattooed man was happy with his job,
which entailed posing in a rabbit fur loincloth and
making savage sounds, so Victor left him alone.

The snake charmer was also a contortionist
who let Victor pet the snake (which tried
to crawl up the sleeve of his shirt) and
showed off its big terrarium and asked
which of the village boys might be
bribed to catch mice for the snake.
She didn't want to quit either.

The Lady of Exceptional Endowments
wore two bikinis and a pair of panties,
all of which evidently came off in the back tent
if you paid extra to see the blowoff show.

"All I have to do is trot around the stage
for the women and children, then
show my titties to the men afterwards,"
she said. "They don't get to touch me,
which is better than when I was whorin' in town."

"I just wanted to make sure that
you weren't being coerced --" Victor said.

"I have the strongman to take care of that,"
she snapped, shoving her hands against his chest.
"How I make a livin' is none of your fookin' business!"

She looked at her hands, then at Victor's chest.

Victor sighed. "I would appreciate it
if you could be discreet about your observations."

"You got a corset and titties under a man's vest,"
she said. "Does that ... work for you? It is safe?"

"Safe enough, though few people know
what's under my clothes, and I should
like to keep it that way," Victor said.
"As for your show, I'm sure my partner
overheard your assertions of job satisfaction."

Half the village must have heard her last line.

"Deal," she agreed.

When Victor came out of the front tent,
Igor was blushing furiously.

The strongman patted Igor on the shoulder.
"Yvette's a feisty one," he said. "Best not to upset her.
Show business isn't for everyone -- " he nodded
at the prominent hump on Igor's back --
"but for some of us, it's the only life we want."

Igor grumbled but stopped threatening the show.

Then Csilla showed up. "What's this I hear
about you and Yvette quarreling?"
she said to Igor.

"Oh, well, it's not really a quarrel,"
he hedged. "I just don't like freak shows,
so I wanted Victor to make them stop."

Yvette came flying out of the tent
to pounce on Csilla, wrapping her long legs
around the other woman's waist.

"Csilla! You survived!" said Yvette.
"When I heard about the fire, I thought
for sure I'd never see you again."

Victor cleared his throat. "Ladies,"
he said firmly, "this isn't a show
that belongs out in the street."

Giggling, they disappeared into the tent.

"I'll just shift the next show half an hour later,"
said the strongman as he juggled
the numbered wooden blocks
that advertised the time.

"You couldn't tell that Yvette
was one of Csilla's ... special friends?"
Victor murmured to Igor as they strolled away.

"I suppose I was looking at
what I expected to see, rather than
what was right in front of me," Igor admitted.

"Observer bias has ruined many good experiments,"
Victor said. "Come on, a carnival is supposed to be fun.
There's a target game that I think has fair darts.
Let's see if I can win us some candy apples."

"By all means," Igor said as he leaned
against Victor, "but I think that
you're the sweetest thing at the carnival."

"Candy!" Adam squealed, kicking his heels
against Igor's hips as they went.

* * *

Notes:

"Carnival candy" is any mix of edible treats dressed up in a fancy box for use as a prize or souvenir. Saltwater taffy, caramels, animal crackers, candy apples, and many other festival foods may also be made at home.

A mazil is a minor noble in central to eastern Europe; in this setting, often the overlord of a village or other small holding.

At 14 months, Adam can drink from a cup.

Carnival games include some that are often "fixed" such as ring toss, ball bounce, and the duck pond. There are tips on how to beat them.

Knotted bracelets come in many styles, like this blue one. Cheap and easy to make, this craft is something that carnies can do while traveling or waiting between shows.

Broken china may be upcycled into pendants, buttons, or many other items. You can also make your own glass buttons. Coin buttons come in various styles, like this rounded design. Again, these are cheap and easy to make, but they are fascinating as prizes or souvenirs.

A freak show consists of displaying human, animal, or other oddities. These "very special people" were sometimes abused and exploited, but other times respected as valuable performers, depending on the quality of the carnival. This one is pretty good, but you can guess what kind poor Igor worked for. The accessory breast may appear in several variations. In this video, you can watch a bicephalic snake eat a baby mouse.

OOPS

Date: 2015-01-15 05:47 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
This was so wonderfully done. The carnies are by and large, just putting on a show, or a fair game, and counting on human nature to add to the spectacle. (Victor running off the crooked carnie was wonderful!)

It did, however, make me wonder what the other villagers thought of Victor and Igor's interest in the carnival, both in the attractions and in the "OSHA" check. Someday, I'd like a sequel to this. DEFINITELY.

Because I've got a niggling WORRY about whetehr Csilla's friend will be able to keep Victor's secret. Just a tiny whisper.

Just enough to keep me curious about what MIGHT happen next.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-01-15 05:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhodielady-47.livejournal.com
I enjoyed reading the poem.
I like the way you were able to mix in material to make people THINK as well as to entertain them.
The NOTES you included are wonderful too!
I've been wondering off and on for years how to go about drilling glass and other ceramic materials!
I think I'll definitely give making them a try!
:^}

Thank you!

Date: 2015-01-15 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
>> I enjoyed reading the poem. <<

Yay!

>> I like the way you were able to mix in material to make people THINK as well as to entertain them. <<

That always makes me happy.

>> The NOTES you included are wonderful too!
I've been wondering off and on for years how to go about drilling glass and other ceramic materials!
I think I'll definitely give making them a try! <<

Oh, you should do that. Beautiful things can be made. I was amazed by that one page with all the china stuff -- armor and picture frames and boxes.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-09-22 05:02 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
This reminds me of a real-life carnival side show that got investigated, one of the men working there laughed and told the authorities that he and the others "make more money than you do". They were the highest paid performers, with the most perks.

I really do love seeing Victor in action as mazil, he really shines.

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