The following was performed live by Cassandra, a comedy collective that seamlessly weaves outrageous characters, storytelling, live lit, and music into one hilarious live show. Cassandra performs every last Tuesday of the month at Hopleaf in Chicago.

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NARRATOR:
As summer approaches its stifling end and school starts back up, I am always reminded of my first, and worst, summer job. Growing up in the Midwest in the 1990’s, having a terrible and illegal summer job was a rite of passage, after all. And at age 13, my friends Katie, Andra, and I coveted the chance to earn our own money and toil in the sun, free from the watchful eyes of parents. We thought that having a taste of adult responsibility would also grant us adultlike maturity and freedom. Also we wanted to find someone who’d sell us weed. So, we went to the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds at 7am on the day it was being set up, and pestered the first grown adult man we saw.

ERIKA:
Excuse me? Excuse me sir?

GONZO:
What are you kids doing here, what do you want?

NARRATOR:
That’s Gonzo. Gonzo was a red-headed, bushy-mustached traveling carnival worker with beady eyes and a slightly hooked nose. I can’t remember if his name was actually Gonzo or if he just liked people to call him that.

ANDRA:
We’re looking for jobs, sir.

KATIE:
We’ll do anything. Clean stuff, sell fried food, take tickets-

GONZO:
Hm, let’s see. We’re not quite ready here, still unloading the trucks. How old are you girls?

Erika:
We’re thirte-

Andra:
Fifteen. We’re fifteen.

Katie:
Well, I’m sixteen. But they’re fifteen.

Gonzo:
You girls had jobs before?

Katie:
Oh yeah, we’ve done babysitting and worked at garage sales…and…

Andra:
I’ve taught violin lessons.

NARRATOR:
At thirteen years old, Andra and Katie were a little bit more shrewd than me. And way more pushy. They were a good influence on me, in the sense that they were a bad influence. They smoked and taught me how to shoplift and one time we broke into a car in a Pier One parking lot.

Katie:
Please, sir, we’re good workers and we’re fine with getting paid under the table, please give us a chance.

Gonzo:
Alright, fuck it. You two, you’re in charge of the children’s play castle. It’s up the road next to the stage for chainsaw competition. Go get it opened up.

Andra:
What?

Katie:
Really?

Gonzo:
Yeah, here’s the keys. Unlock it. It’s one ticket for five minutes. Makes sure nobody gets hurt.

Andra:
Wait, we’re in charge?

Gonzo:
Yeah. Go on, get it set up.

Katie:
Thank you sir!

Gonzo:
Call me Gonzo. And girls?

Andra:
Yeah?

Gonzo:
Don’t let any adults in the play castle.

Andra:
Oh-okay…see you later, Erika

Erika:
Bye…

Gonzo:
Alright. What are we gonna do with you? You wanna work in the funhouse?

Erika:
Um, sure.

Gonzo:
Okay, follow me

Narrator:
Gonzo took me to a two-story funhouse dumped in a muddle spot of fairground. He introduced me to the ticket taker, a bleach-blonde woman who blew Newport smoke in my face, and then led me up the stairs to the spinning barrel that made up the exit of the funhouse.

Gonzo:
So this here’s the barrel. Spins around. People walk through it. But sometimes they try to do some cute shit like a handstand or somethin, and then go and fall over and’re liable to break their neck. You see this big red button?

Erika:
Yes sir.

Gonzo:
When somebody’s in that funhouse barrel tryna do a handstand or make out or some other mess, you hit this button right here and it’ll stop.

Erika:
Okay, and then what?

Gonzo:
I don’t know. Kick em out? Tell em not to do handstands. Whatever.

Erika:
Okay.

Gonzo:
Be here everyday from 8am until 11:30pm, okay?

Erika:
By myself?

Gonzo:
Yeah by yourself. Only takes one person to push a button and not have somebody break their neck don’t you think?

Erika:
Yeah, I guess so. Um, where do I, um, sign in?

Gonzo:
Huh? No, you just come here. First thing in the morning. Oh and when you get here flip this switch. That turns the barrel on. Make sure to turn it off when you leave at night.

Erika:
Okay-

Gonzo:
Because we don’t want somebody breaking into the park and spinning around and dying.

Erika:
Sure thing, sir.

NARRATOR:
So I stood by the spinning barrel. Watching people go through the funhouse. For FIFTEEN HOURS. Sometimes a kid would screw around and try to walk on their hands and do a flip, and I’d press the button

KID:
WHEEE! LOOK AT ME! I’m throwing my entire torso into the side of the barrel!

Erika:
(BEEP) Hey! Get out of there!

KID:
You can’t do that to me, I work here!

Erika:
You work here?

KID:
YEAH!

Gonzo:
Hey, what’s the problem here?

Erika:
This kid was roughhousing in the barrel.

Gonzo:
That’s Myrna’s kid. She’s fine.

KID:
NYAH!! Told you! I work here!

NARRATOR:
The worst part of the job, by far, was what we called the “Carnie Kids”, the completely unsupervised, barefoot, dirt-smeared children of the traveling carnival workers. They wandered around, climbed on equipment, jumped fences, brought food into the rides, and spent hours doing handstands in the spinning barrel.

KID:
Look at me! I can put my feet behind my head in here!

NARRATOR:
And we weren’t allowed to do anything about it. Most of the time, though, my job was very easy. Mind-numbingly easy. I just stood by the barrel of the funhouse, day after day, staring at the spinning barrel while standing under the blazing August sun. Nothing interesting happened until day five, when I finally met up with my friends again

Andra & Katie:
Erika!

Erika:
Andra, Katie! What are you doing here?

Andra:
We’re on break!

Katie:
Until they get all the blood out of the play castle!

Erika:
Wait, what?

Andra:
You didn’t hear! Some kid went into the ball pit and started having a seizure-

Katie:
Really bad, it was so scary, I thought he was gonna die!

Andra:
Yeah!

Katie:
It was way worse than when we had to save the kid with autism!

Erika:
You had to save a kid with autism?

Andra:
Yeah, on Tuesday. we didn’t tell you?

Narrator:
My friends had been running and maintaining the children’s play castle for the entire work week, with zero supervision. They stood outside of the castle all day long, taking tickets and shoving kids inside, then having to crawl in and pull children out of the play castle’s byzantine structure when one of them invariably had a freakout or a tantrum. One day, a child suffered an autism-related shutdown and froze in place, so Andra had to swim to the bottom of the ball pit and pull him out while he thrashed and screamed in her face. The kid’s mom was a little freaked out, but nothing happened.

Katie:
But this time was way worse.

Andra:
I though the kid was gonna choke on his tongue

Katie:
He cut his head open on the corner of the castle

Andra:
There was so much blood

Katie:
So much blood!

Narrator:
My friends, two thirteen year old girls, had to pull a bleeding, shaking, seizure-afflicted child out of a ball pit and deliver him to the fair’s first-aid tent. This is a real thing that happened. I saw the blood coating all the balls in the ball pit.

Erika:
So then what happened?

Andra:
Well, so Gonzo came over and he said:

Gonzo:
Ah, Jesus. What a fucking mess. All this blood mixed with all the hay and dirt. I can’t remember the last time we washed this damn ball pit.

Katie:
And he gave us some paper towels and a bottle of Lysol and told us to go in and clean it all up

Erika:
Gonzo told you to clean up all the blood yourselves?

Andra:
Yup. We’re the only employees who fit in the ball pit!

Erika:
Did he give you gloves?

Katie:
No.

KID:
WHEEE!

Andra:
Erika, some kid is doing a handstand in the barrel behind you

KID:
I work here!

Erika:
Yeah, he works here.

Katie:
I hate these Carnie Kids. Anyway, so Gonzo tried to get us to sign a paper saying we were responsible for the kid cutting his head open-

Andra:
But we didn’t sign it.

Katie:
Nope.

Andra:
And apparently now the play castle is a “bio hazard”

Katie:
So we get a few hours off!

Andra:
Yeah, we’re gonna just sit with Gonzo in the bumper car building.

Katie:
Which is good, because I need to get out of the sun. I’ve got these weird blisters on my hand.

Andra:
Yeah, I think it’s infected.

Erika:
Wow…you guys…that’s so…cool!

Andra&Katie:
I KNOW!

Andra:
It’s so cool.

Katie:
Gonzo said he might sell us some weed!

Andra:
Yeah! You want in?

Erika:
Sure, let me give you some cash. Guys, this is the best summer ever!

NARRATOR:
And so, we finished up our week at the Cuyahoga County Fair. Katie and Andra worked the bumper car booth for the next three days, and Gonzo sold them a stemmy, dry-ass dime bag of weed for $25. Katie did, in fact, have blisters on her hands from standing in the sun for fifteen hours every day, and had to go to the ER for sun poisoning by the time the week was out. Andra bummed several Newport cigarettes from the woman taking tickets at the funhouse, and developed an addiction that lasted until 12th grade. As for me, I just stood by that spinning barrel, watching the carnie kids try to break their necks for hours at a time. At the end of the last day, I was given $300 in cash, which meant I got paid about $3 an hour to roast in the sun with nothing to do.

When we signed up for the job, we were hoping to earn a little money and have our first brush with adulthood. And in a way, we did. We were thrust into exploitative, borderline dangerous jobs that vastly exceeded our maturity level; we worked our bodies to the point of sickness doing something of zero social value, we used drugs to escape the drudgery of our daily existence, and, the true mark of adulthood, we were forced to clean up the blood that resulted from some creepy middle-manager’s incompetence. So yeah, working at the fair wasn’t the best job, but a work experience can’t get any more coming-of-age than that.

END

Originally published at .

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