The fairground was deserted, except for the lone figure strolling through it, swinging a cane with a curved handle. This man, who for some years now had gone by the name John Hathaway, whistled as he threw his large feet out to the sides and out. His walk was strange, everyone said so, like the rolling gait of a man who knows the swaying deck of a ship more than dry land. He peeked into the empty tents as he passed them, making sure that all the carnival workers were in the roped off area where their tents were set up. He’d heard about the sort of thing that went on after hours at other men’s carnivals, but he wasn’t going to let such indecorous and rude behavior go on in his.
He’d bought the traveling carnival from its previous owner, a Mr. Glencock, for pittance. It was true that the elephant was rather old and feeble, the tightrope walker was in her forties, and the ringmaster was losing his voice, but Mr. Hathaway had decided not to let humdrum facts get in the way of making a fortune. He’d hired the poster-makers to put gold-paint on all the advertisements and he’d dropped the ticket price quite a bit, so the crowds came in droves. If they left disappointed – well, they’d bought cotton-candy, kettle-corn and a few rounds of pie-throwing first. Fair’s fair, Mr. Hathaway thought, he wasn’t promising anything that wasn’t in the carnival. He chuckled at his pun – “Fair’s fair,” he muttered under his breath again – and poked his cane into the last tent. Empty too.
He started to stroll back towards the camp. Merry fires had sprung up in between the canvas shelters, and someone had taken up the fiddle and was playing some country melody that sounded familiar. Mr. Hathaway bounced a little bit in time to the rhythm and hummed rather tunelessly. Tomorrow he and his carnival would be opening for the third and last night in the small intersection here between three towns, and he’d be glad to get going. Already, rumors were beginning to spread about the poor maintenance of the paint in the main ring and the blind, toothless old lion that was supposed to “ROAR AND SCARE THE BRAVE OF HEART!” according to the poster. Well, Mr. Hathaway saw himself saying to the complainers, the lion may be blind and toothless, but poke him with a stick and he roared, alright. Still, he thought, better to get moving and go to somewhere new.