Will Someone Please Shut This Kid Up?


It was chilly for an August night; there was a noticeable breeze fluttering about. The cool air was both bracing and unwanted for that time of year.  And as I walked to work that night, I caught myself thinking “maybe I’ll just quit when I get there?”

I was recently hired to sit atop a 500-gallon dunk tank.  The Greenville, Darke County Fair was in full swing, and I needed the money.  Hell, I always ‘needed’ more money.  The job paid well and that’s the only reason I took it.

As I strolled through a side gate (the one next to Jim’s Drive-in – home of the world’s best hotdog) and past the Cow Palace, with its omnipresent scent of cow dung, I started rehearsing my resignation speech.

Alan – “I’m very sorry to report that my mom took ill and was rushed to the hospital.  I just stopped by to quit. I’m on my way to see her now.”  Yeah, I thought to myself – that’s what I’ll say when I get there.  I went over my lie a few more times in my head just to make sure I had it down.

Boss – “Clark, where’ve you been?  You’re 15 minutes late.  Get changed into your shorts and get up there.  Come on man, time is money.”

My boss was a big round grumpy tattooed guy.  And he was obviously in a foul mood that night, so I thought better about quitting, at that precise moment. I went around back, changed into my dunking clothes and climbed atop the seat, situated four feet above the coldest water on Earth.

As I ventured out onto the middle of my dangling seat, I dipped one of my tennis shoes into the arctic waters below.  OMG – it was really cold that night.  The first dunk into the vat of unfriendly H2O waiting below me was always the worst.  Prior to the first dunk of the night, was the only time I was dry during my shift.  After my first dunk, I pretty much stayed cold for the rest of the evening.

My boss really liked me because I had a big mouth.  I baited customers to dunk me and often made fun of them if they couldn’t.  This way they would buy more balls.  So why should this night be any different? Right?

My first two or three customers consisted of kids who were wild pitchers.  None of them even came close to the bullseye.  If the thrower hits the bullseye, a trap seat trigger was tripped and down went Alan into the frigid waters below.

Roughly 15 minutes or so into my shift, two late twenty-somethings and their girlfriends showed up and started talking amongst themselves and pointing at the bullseye.  This was my cue to get started.

Alan – “What are you guys talking about?  I know it can’t be about me.  There is no way either one of you can hit the bullseye.  It’s too small for you. Maybe you should let your girlfriends try instead” I said with a clear loud voice.  And I aimed my feigned disrespect at the bigger of the two men.

If I could somehow annoy the customer, it normally led to several errant shots, which meant they had to buy more balls and so on.  Fifty cents bought you three balls.

The man trying to dunk me that night, if for no other reason, probably wanted to dunk me just to shut me up as much as he wanted to soak me to the bone.  He missed his first three attempts.

Alan – “Are you kidding me?  Is that the best you got?  Like I said earlier, give your balls to your girlfriend and let her try.”  It was a well-placed double entendre even though I didn’t at the time know what a double entendre consisted of.

He bought three more balls and this time he tried to concentrate before hurling.  But he still missed all three times.  He was pissed and was throwing as hard as possible.

He missed three more times before begrudgingly letting his buddy throw.  As soon as I watched the second guy throw, I knew I was toast, just waiting to burn or freeze my ass off, in my case.  I pitched in little league for five years and I knew a pitcher’s motion when I saw one, and this guy had one.

I went down on his second pitch.  The water startled me into a whole new level of alertness.  Swear words were going off like bottle rockets inside my skull.

As I type these last few words to the tale above, I started thinking about getting my old job back.  Because I still have what it takes, I believe, to make a customer miss.  My big mouth, it seems, only became more pronounced with age.

So, if you find yourself wandering aimlessly around the fairgrounds with nothing in particular to do, stop by the dunk tank (if they still feature that game).  I might try and get my old job back!  But be warned in advance, if you throw and miss the target, I will make fun of you.

See you at the fair! I plan on attending.