At the east end of the encampment, a series of small tents had been removed.
In design, they were like the bathhouse, the changing tents which Nigel had seen from postcards of Bristol. At the beach they were fashioned for changing into swim attire and striped with white and blue. At the fair, however, these were the loo. Nigel had always avoided this area of the ground due to the incredible stench.
Where every individual tent had previously stood, there was a hole, approximately eight feet deep and two feet around. There was a square three foot imprint where the base of the “pots” had been. So, a row of twelve holes, half filled with excrement and urine. Behind them there was another of twelve and another, six rows deep. In between the holes, there was a trench that connected the six rows of twelve.
During the carnival there was a boardwalk which had been fitted over this area. Nigel had always assumed it was to keep people’s feet dry and prevent the area from not becoming a mud pit in the weather with trampling by those feet. The boardwalk was covering a myriad of holes near brimming with waste that were apparently covered with earth after they were mostly full.
Fortunately, there were only two rows that sat uncovered by soil. There were wheel barrows available which made the four hour task bearable, but his body felt as if it would crumble by the end. This was definitely a priority task in Nigel’s mind. He needed to engineer a way to never experience this again. The rest of the day was all site clean up.
The old man was not just his employer but was, in fact, in charge of the entire production. Suddenly, the image of the man on the tank made sense, despite his apparent physical frailty. He was not Nigel’s boss. He was everyone’s boss, resolute and commanding. Suddenly everyone who had ignored the old man, was now taking orders from him at every turn. It was in fact, his show, that’s why they avoided him.
Everyone feared him. The social isolation of the Major was not a lack of respect but, in actuality, supreme respect. The entire troupe lived in fear of the authority of the ticket seller. Nigel felt like a fool. The man collecting the cash was, in fact, the man running the show. He trusted no one and demanded everything with just the brush of a look. It had been the same for Nigel and he had not realized it until this moment. It was the golden rule and, he with the gold rules.
Nigel found a moment to capture the Major’s attention and ask for a task list with more humility than ever. Without ever being aware, his quick found relationship with the ultimate outcast of the pecking order had made Nigel the right hand of the boss.
Suddenly, he recognized why he had felt the oddness and the disdain of the group from the outset. It wasn’t that he was the lowest guy on the totem pole, he was the eyes and ears of the boss. He was not, in fact, the ultimate outsider. By pure luck he was the consummate insider.
The task list was simple. All cleaning and clearing. Picking up and packing. At the end of the day a request came that proved to Nigel had been accidentally achieved a new level.
The Major walked Nigel back to his caravan as he barked orders from one person to another. He did not look at Nigel when he finished his list. “Last item. I am going to London. I want you to ride in my caravan and watch it until I return. Do you understand?”
Nigel was caught off-guard, “Certainly, I can do that.”
The Major pressed, “No one goes in it but you, period. No one.”
Nigel stood up straight, “I can do that, I promise.”
The Major became more serious. “ You poke through nothing. If one thing is out of place, one cupboard or drawer opened, I will know.”
Nigel smiled confidently. “Absolutely, I am your man.”
“Your bag…”, the Major started.
“ I hid it under the…” Nigel interrupted.
The Major pressed, again. “I moved it with your food. It’s in my caravan.”
By this time they had reached the caravan which was, now, hooked to a small pick-up truck overloaded with gear and covered tightly and neatly by a canvas fabric. The Major unlocked the caravan door and motioned Nigel in. Sure enough there was his duffel and his canvas bag of rations. His canteen sat on the duffle.
“I filled your canteen.”
The Major, standing outside, picked up the small wooden stair and slid it into the caravan. “I’ll see you tomorrow night.” He threw Nigel a key and slammed the door.
“Lock it!” The voice from outside shouted.
Nigel made his way to the door and turned the deadbolt latch. He sat on the cushioned bench feeling a bit of a prisoner. He looked at his pile of goods with the canteen sitting atop, realizing his bags had been searched. The old man was much more than his first appearance had indicated.
Nigel sat quietly. Nothing happened. Just, outside noise. People were carousing and yelling. the grey air turned to blackness. It was scary. “Perhaps, this is what a person who spends a night in jail feels.” He wondered.
He rustled through his bag, afraid to open the sardines and unleash the smell associated in the caravan. He settled on some salami and a bit of cheese and crackers. He ate much less than he wanted but, felt he needed to conserve his food although he was sure he could easily eat it all in one setting. He washed the dry provisions down with water.
He sat back thinking about the enduring endeavor of covering all of the holes, one shovel at a time. He wondered if this was not the biggest mistake of his life. There was a sense of being trapped. After all his home was just a short run away from where he was. He laughed for a moment thinking people run away to the circus. However, in one short day, he was already considering running from it. What an act of cowardice that would be? He longed for his mother. Drunk or sober, she was his mother. He missed her.
He fell back, tears soaked the duffel he was using for a pillow. It was cold. He pulled up a wool blanket that had been neatly folded at one end of the bench.
Night time was longer than ever. Nigel couldn’t tell if his sleep was light or non-existent. There were no crickets, no birds…just silence with the occasional yell or laugh of the carnies. Did these people ever sleep?
After a number of hours, Nigel fully awoke in a rush. His bladder was calling a very un-welcomed call. Certainly with no light present he could not see what to do. He tried to force himself back to sleep but, after a half-hour, he felt as if he would burst. He made it to the door and fumbled for the lock. It wouldn’t give. He felt a little liquid escape. His belly button tingled as he gasped in and out trying to hold it. The deep breaths were not going to do it. He dove for his provision bag and pulled out his tin cup. In the darkness, he fumbled about and positioned the cup appropriately and began to relieve himself. The cup was filling fast.
12) People will test you for trust, before giving you more authority. They should. The Major didn’t really have anything to hide in his caravan but wanted to see if he could trust Nigel overnight.
13) People will dig through your personal effects and past. Make sure there is nothing to find. Be good on a go forward basis. If someone finds a skeleton and it’s true. Admit to it, tell what you learned from that mistake, ask them if they’ve ever had something in the past that creeped up and if they learned.
14) Plan for the obvious. Do not delay a plan because things always “work out” Those people pee on themselves out of not planning.