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       A Verse Narrative by Michael E. Mautner


    Mashing dirt, popcorn, cotton candy and hay
    underfoot, Eben marches down the midway.
    There was betting going on at the track.
    It was tempting, but he held back.
    There are more honest ways
    to make ends meet.  Ma's pastries
    lost to Em Gale's again -- says
    more, he thinks, about the judges' taste
    than Sarah's cooking -- and his whittlings
    never stood a chance.  Those little things
    make a good hobby, but no living.
    So much for contests.  Gov'ment's giving
    handouts at one booth.  He won't stoop
    to begging.  Even the horses lost.
    He'll have to sell them.  Won't recoup
    their real worth.  What did they cost?
    He forgets.
    At carnivals young men win
    prizes for their gals (dolls, mostly) in tests
    where, to ring a bell, one swings a mallet.
    There's a couple with a kewpie.  In jest
    the boy flexes, but his thinned wallet,
    Eben posits, is no joke.
    Sarah won't like being broke.
    They were that couple.  At twenty
    Eben won the anvil lift.  The money,
    since they'd been taught thrift, went to the farm.
    Should have bought her a gift.  What harm
    would that have done, in the long run?
    Fading day; melting midway.
    On the Plaza Stage, Alf Landon speaks.
    For a governor he is meek
    in his white suit, and no great wit.
    Folks like him, dry as he is.
    Not voting for him may prove a chore
    but, two years hence, they won't.  They adore
    F.D.R. and lean years will claim casualties.
    What's that behind Landon?  Eben sees
    the anvil and his thoughts cease.  Big Bill
    Dee mounts the platform when the speech
    is finished, announces John "the Bull" Laroque,
    who won last year and, all suppose, will now.
    Bill calls for comers anyhow.  "Bull" mocks
    potential lifters, tenses his red neck
    and flares thick nostrils.  Numbed but not cowed,
    Eben drifts on stage to humble him.  The crowd
    all laugh at the old man.  Let them.

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