Sauntering through the door of Effie’s Café, his hands jammed into the pockets of his greasy, faded jeans Alvin’s eyes darted from side to side seeking any opportunities that might be on offer for quick financial gain. Seeing nothing he continued to the counter.
“Hey Alvin, what’ll you have sweetie?”
“Hey Rosie. Just a cup of coffee to go.”
“Sure thing sugar.”
He took his right hand out of his pocket and fished around in his leather vest and brought out some coins. Taking a sip of his coffee as he headed for the door he saw his old man on the sidewalk looking around. Shit. He turned toward the back door but it was too late.
“Hey boy. Don’t you even think about dodging me.”
He could smell the heady mixture of whisky and vomit behind him as he turned with reluctance and faced his father.
“Don’t hey Dad me. Gimme some money boy, I’m broke.”
“Ain’t got nothin’. Just spent it on a cup of coffee.”
The old man, weaving from side to side stared bleary eyed at his son and then wiped his mouth with the back of a filthy hand. He grabbed a handful of Alvin’s Led Zeppelin tee shirt and pulled him close.
“What did I tell you about lying boy?”
He slapped the coffee out of Alvin’s hand as an audible gasp made the rounds of the room. Everyone pretended to be busy.
“Goddamn it Dad, I ain’t got no money. Leave me the fuck alone!”
The old many took a lame swing at him and missed then spit on the floor and staggered out the door.
Alvin mouthed sorry to Rosie and sank down in a chair. He didn’t dare go outside till he was sure the old man was gone. Rosie brought him another coffee and patted his shoulder, then got the mop. He looked up and saw a stranger sitting a couple of tables away staring at him intently.
The man wore a loud checked sport coat and a bowtie. He sported a black fedora sitting on his head at a rakish angle and he cracked a smile as he locked eyes with Alvin. He had a flyer sitting at his elbow. Alvin could just make out the words World’s Greatest Carnival across the top.
“Your father’s a real piece of work.”
Alvin grunted and sipped his coffee. He wasn’t in the mood for conversation but the flyer interested him. He feigned indifference but every time he looked the man was smiling at him. What the hell he thought. He got up and walked over to his table.
“Sit down son. You look like you could use a sympathetic ear.”
“I don’t put my business in the street mister.”
“Fine. My name’s Frank.”
“Alvin. You with a carnival?”
“I own a carnival. Greatest in the world as a matter of fact.”
Alvin eyed the flyer over another sip of coffee. “That’s cool. I’ve always figured I’d make a real good Carnie.”
The man leaned forward and cocked his head. “And why might that be?”
Alvin shrugged and hoped he was exuding cool. “You might say I’m good with my hands.” He winked and then looked away.
“I see. Not above doing whatever needs be then, eh?”
“You could say that. So, where’s this carnival of yours?”
“Over in Mason County at the moment. We’re heading this way next week.”
“Uh huh. Don’t suppose you’ve got any positions open.”
Frank drummed his fingers on the table and held Alvin’s eyes with a steady gaze.
“Not just anybody can be a Carnie son.”
Part 2 Tomorrow