Frank leaned back and took a toothpick out of his shirt pocket and went to work on his teeth as he studied the rooster sitting across from him. This one had fire in his belly; that was for sure.
“You know Alvin, I’ve met a lot of guys like you over the years and – “
“No Frank, you haven’t. I’m not like a lot of guys. I can do anything I put my mind to.”
“Well now, as I was about to say, I’ve met a lot of guys who thought they had what it takes to be a Carnie. You wanna guess what percentage turned out to be right?”
Alvin waved his hand in front of his face. “Whatever Frank. All I’m sayin’ is I’m damn good and I got nothing tying me to this place.” He took a sip of his coffee and looked out the window, a study in feigned indifference.
Frank continued with the toothpick and studied Alvin. He was lean and hungry. That was a good combination but he still wanted to know what Alvin was made of. He maintained his silence.
Alvin decided two could play this game and began looking Frank over in earnest. He sure did look like a Carnie. He thought back to the first time he’d gone to a carnival. It had been a blast. The rides, the food, the games of chance, the flashing lights, the hectic music, he had loved it all. He hadn’t realized until he saw the flyer that it could be his destiny.
He had the fever. Frank could feel it. “Look, Alvin, It’s just that I’ve been down this road before. Lots of young guys think it’s the life for them. Most of them are wrong. So here’s what I do these days when I meet somebody who wants it and that I think might be suitable. I ask them to put up a bond. Are you up for that?”
Alvin’s eyes narrowed. He hadn’t seen this coming. “What do you mean a bond? What’s that?”
“It’s a means of making sure you’ll stick around Alvin. I’ve put work into training guys in the past, housing them, feeding them, teaching them the tricks of the trade only to have them disappear on me. So I came up with the bond idea. You give me $300 and I teach you the life. After two weeks if you’re suitable and you still want the job I give you your money back and start paying you. What do you say?”
Alvin’s jaw dropped and Frank figured he’d lost him. It wouldn’t be the first time. He threw his toothpick in his coffee cup and smiled.
“Let me get this straight, I work for you but I have to pay you $300?”
“No Alvin, the $300 is a bond. It’s to make sure you don’t run out on me after I feed you and house you and train you, see? You get your money back and you get paid when I know you’re gonna stick around. I’ve wasted time on too many guys.”
Alvin thought it over. He wasn’t in the habit of giving money to other people. It liked it much better the other way around. He wanted out of the two-bit town that was holding him down but he wasn’t sure this was the way to go about it. He only had $500 to his name and this guy was asking for more than half of it. He needed to be sure.
“Look, Frank, all due respect but how do I know you’re not conning me here?”
Frank grinned. “Tell you what son, how about if I show you a little trick that you can use the rest of your life? It’s on me. You like it and you know I’m on the level then you get the money and join me in Mason County tonight.”
Alvin stared hard and swallowed. Maybe it was time.
Part 3 Tomorrow