by Vern Fein

No one told me you could get paid for fun.
No one told me 11 year-old-boys could get exploited.
No one told me the 19 silver dollars the old lady boss paid me
was a rip off for the three twelve hour shifts I worked.
I just knew it was all right to not care about those things
to bark from sunup till dark,
exult in the glory of the neighborhood carnival.
A shy boy, an alter ego
flew out of my mouth
as I transformed to a carnie,
this diminutive kid loudly accosting
passersby to play, take a shot,
hurl a baseball at the Kewpie dolls,
knock down their ugly faces like the boogie men
who didn’t exist in my room any more.
The old woman who hired me paid the silver dollars,
kept in a rainbow striped sock.
It slept in my drawer for years
until I had a son and deposited them in his name.
Maybe one day he will live
my carnival magic.

PHOTO: Kewpie Doll–Boogie Man.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Don’t have a picture of me back then, but graphically remember this job because I was so thrilled to work in at an exciting venue. Not included in the poem is that fact that I was hit in the shoulder by one of the baseballs and was told the man who threw it had had a tryout with the Cincinnati Reds. I was lucky that I lived through that experience. Also, silver dollars no longer exist, the ones I deposited for my son, who is now 40, were some of the last. But I remember taking the shiny coins from that sock and clinking them together a lot because I loved the sound and the way they flashed in the light. Finally, the picture I chose was of the kind of scary Kewpie doll that the people had to knock over to win.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vern Fein has published one poem in *82 Review, two poems in The Literary Nest, two poems in Silver Birch Press, a poem in Rat’s Ass Review, two poems in Bindweed Magazine, another in Gyroscope Review, a haiku, one in Spillwords, several in VerseWrights, a poem in VietNam War Poetry, another in 1947 Journal, another in Ibis Head Review, and has a short story in the the online magazine Duende from Goddard College.