Three generations of brick layers and all Gus Van Dabble could dream of was becoming a carnival barker and this was no cotton candy in the armory parking lot whim. Gus longed for trailer parks and dusty roads, Tulsa, Baton Rouge, and go go go.
His father Frank bought him an aquarium and would have driven him all the way to Timbuktu, anything to woo his boy back to the bricklaying fold and Kenosha baseball, but it was no use. Gus loved voices and would walk an extra mile to hear a barker or a train conductor, construction foreman, poet, disc jockey or Muslim call to prayer. Voices.
“Into the Milky Way I wander,” Gus sang to his father. “for the crunch of a cowboy boot, the cloppity clop of a hottie`s high heel stiletto, the electric chirp of crickets. Sounds and more sounds. Voices and sounds, The Uni-fied-Verse.”
Frank looked up at the ceiling and remembered the days of unraveling a baseball with his boy, strand by strand. They would then wrap the yarn around the family Christmas tree, round and round until Gus tired and Frank would read from the only book he ever read to his boy-Baseball’s Zaniest Stars. Sleeping pill for little Gussie.
The Northwoods League arrived to Kenosha in 2014 and Frank liked to sit on a bench outside Simmons Field, listen to the Kenosha Kingfish crowd, but when he returned home, the only sounds were Gus performing vocal cord stretches and alliteration tongue runs. His voice flew up and down the Doh Reh Mee, and the gusto felt like a slap in Frank`s face, a wake up call reminder; that parenting was nothing but eggs and sperm and similar shaped fingernails. A kid’s dreams were different. They came from somewhere else.
“Step right up boys and girls,” Gus sang. “Test your luck against the miraculous Miranda Mermaid and one of her seven swinging tentacles.”
Frank liked the giddy up in his son’s voice and felt an urgency to be with him before he took off for the Milky Way and what better place than Lake Andrea. The Van Dabble’s cabin existed for four generations and Gus never turned down a week in the woods with mosquitoes, not since he was a boy anyway.
Frank wanted to share his excitement about baseball being back in Kenosha during the drive, but he knew better, didn’t want to cause his son the other kind of fever so Frank thought quietly about Satchel Paige and Warren Spahn playing at Simmons Field, the Kenosha Girl Comets too. He wondered if the Kingfish players of today knew about the wood grandstands burning down way back when?
Gus lowered himself slowly into Lake Andrea that first morning. The algae was longer than previous years. Slimier too. Felt like mummy strands wrapping around Gus`s legs. Lake monsters flashed through his mind. He splashed his way out of the water, too scared to care if anyone was watching and raced inside. He was still wet when he slid under blankets and hid like a dog during fourth of July fireworks.
Frank knew the moment was right and when he looked over at his son and saw a face staring back at him with a beggar’s will for anything, Frank jumped into action.
“How about we take a drive,“ he suggested.“ And so Frank became the tour guide he once was to his boy and they drove back to town, parked the car, and walked around Simmons Field. Gus never said a word. He was simply relieved to have the lake monsters out of his head.
Kenosha was hosting the Madison Mallards. Frank bought two tickets and when Gus showed no signs of resistance, they slipped through the turnstiles, into a dream for Frank. He was at the ball game with his boy and when beer vendors let loose their beautiful bellows, the dream came to Gus as well. His ears twitched and eyes opened wide. Gus mumbled quietly during the remainder of the game and all that night, integrating new sounds into his internal barker data base. Frank felt the window of opportunity opening wide. The next morning he presented his son a blue beverage hawker and lowered it over his neck. Gus felt like a king being crowned.
The grandstands of Simmons Field filled that summer. They came to see a Jason Scholl home run and to hear Gus sing his serenade to a beer cup or haiku rap for the baseball pill moonlight. Every day a different beer vendor bark. Kids dropped their mitts and impersonated Gus`s voice and the older crowd spoke in softer whispers, “Did you hear Gus today? “Felt like a carnival the way he hit those up and down notes.“