Summer 1969 – A Short Walk After a Long Sleep


Merlin Petersen tapped his cane on the hard, dry earth. He said, “My father bought that thing when I was just a kid. I must have been about ten years old. I figured that it was just another gaff. We had tent full of them. A feegee mermaid, a two-headed snake, a shrunken head, a cow with five legs, things like that. None of it was special. Only the snake and the cow were real. It came in this locked iron box with big thick glass windows on the front and side so you could get a good look at the thing. One night, after we’d had the thing for about a year, Benny Wicker, one of the other regular carny kids, dared me to let him touch it. So we waited until everyone had turned in or was too drunk to be paying attention and we snuck into the tent. Picking the lock was easy. He said he just wanted to touch it but the stupid little prick lied to me. He stabbed it in the hand with his pocketknife.”

Petersen was quiet for almost a minute. “There’s no big finish to this story. It took a deep breath and opened its eyes. For just a second or two. It barely moved. But we knew it saw us and we were sure that it would know us again if it ever decided to start walking around. I slammed that door shut so damned fast. Benny never went near the freak tent again. The next night I snuck back in and filled the lock with airplane glue.”