The Fresno Kid -- by Jane Nightshade
Thirteen-year-old Sandy is stuck with taking spoiled, bratty David to the annual County Fair. David, of course, wants to see the sideshow attractions— the Alligator woman, the Two-Headed Man, and others. But a strange sideshow manager named Mr. Magicola wants to show Sandy and David another, SPECIAL sideshow...
The Fresno Kid
an excerpt from the book The Drowning Game by Jane Nightshade
The Sutton County Fair arrived each year at the very end of June, with the Fourth of July hard on its heels. In mid-June, my little brother Todd and I sat on the front porch of our house and made plans for the glorious arrival of the Fair, and for all the fireworks we would buy for the Fourth. I was thirteen; it had been a year since the beginning of the previous summer, the terrible Summer of The Drowning Game. It wasn’t as hot this year as last, I told myself; there was no reason to find a pool. The rotating lawn sprinklers were good enough.
In between making plans for the Fair and the Fourth, Todd kept telling me stories about the Fresno Kid. The Fresno Kid was famous around our part of the world; whenever anyone wanted to do something that was the least bit forbidden or naughty or exciting, someone always told a story about a kid from Fresno who had come to a bad end by doing that exact thing. These stories were always taken as the gospel truth by children in towns all along the valley, from Modesto to Modoc, from Sacramento to Sutton.
“There was a kid from Fresno once who tried to climb the Sutton Buttes alone when it was rattlesnake season . . .” began Todd again, when my mother interrupted, and called us in to tell us about David Amodeo, a boy she’d agreed to sit that summer while his mother worked odd hours as a motel clerk in Bertha’s Town.
“I’ll probably need you guys to help me with David,” my mother began. “He can be quite a handful, his mother told me.”
Todd rolled his eyes and made a face; he knew David from school. “I’ve got my paper boy job, you know. Not sure how often I’ll be around this summer. Sandy can entertain David.”
Thanks, Todd, I mouthed sarcastically. Well, at least it’s something to keep my mind off the terrible anniversary, I reflected, nodding along with my mother’s words. I didn’t know David, but how much trouble could an eleven-year-old be, anyway? Todd was eleven and he was easy to control if you knew what buttons to push.
I always looked forward to both the County Fair and the Fourth of July; they were the high point of our childhood summers. They broke up the usual monotonous summer routines of sneaking into drive-in movie lots, fishing and picnicking beside the twin rivers in Sutton County, and tromping along the baking sidewalks with a mob of other kids to buy a Slurpee at the corner market, arguing all the way whether cherry-flavored was better than cola-flavored, or vice versa.
On the evening of the Fourth, there would be a big fireworks display over the man-made lake at the Sutton County Fair Grounds, administered by the Sutton County Volunteer Fire Department. Afterward, most families would go home and set off their own private boxes of home fireworks in their driveways, purchased at the temporary stands that would begin setting up in Sutton County in the last three weeks of June.
These stands were usually run by the local Lions’ Club, the Boy Scouts, or the Dad’s Club of a local school or church. They would sell you an assorted package of fireworks; but they also sold individual pieces for ten to fifty cents each, depending on the type. Sparklers, glow-worms, Roman Candles, Catherine Wheels, and conical creations called “fountains” that spurted gold, silver, red and green sparks—all were displayed in brilliantly colored heaps and rows on a wide front counter screened off about half-way with chicken-wire. They had irresistible names in addition to the lurid packaging: Dragon’s Breath, Silver Cascade, or Pirate’s Gold, or patriotic names like Battle of Ticonderoga or Star-Spangled Salute.
One of the most popular types of fireworks, at least among kids, was a tall tower called the Shrieky Pete. It was shaped like a long, thick cigar, with a cheap wooden base at the bottom, and the words “SHRIEKY PETE” printed vertically in block capital letters down the front of its paper wrapping. When the fuse was lit, the Shrieky Pete made a high-pitched shrieking sound that would be answered by a cacophony of the neighborhood’s dogs, while golden sparks flew out of the top.
It was well known among all the kids in our part of California that if you pinched the “Y” in the word “SHRIEKY” with a pliers, the Shrieky Pete would explode like a bomb, when the fuse burned down to the pinched part.
There was a Fresno Kid story about a Shrieky Pete, I remembered, as my brother and I later hiked to the fireworks stand that had just opened up in the parking lot of our local church. Our Dad had given us money to buy an assortment—with instructions to choose carefully for the best deal.
Todd knew that particular Shrieky Pete story well, of course.
“The Fresno Kid pinched his Shrieky Pete way too hard,” he said. “It blew up before he expected it, and his arm came clean off. Then he died, and his ghost sometimes haunts fireworks stands up and down the Central Valley, looking for its missing arm.”
Todd reminded me of other well-worn Fresno Kid stories: the one, for example, about the Fresno Kid who supposedly had stood up in one of the cars of the Bobsled carnival ride just as it sped very fast through a tunnel, and had his head taken off as a result. And another one about a Fresno Kid who supposedly choked to death while stuffing hot dogs down his throat during a carnival hot-dog-eating contest—and one who gotten his face eaten off by a German Shepherd or some other animal, after poking it excessively with a stick.
“Let’s get a Pirate’s Chest assortment,” I said, after Todd and I had lingered long and lovingly over every glow-worm and fountain on display at the fireworks stand. The Pirate’s Chest was not the cheapest box of fireworks, nor the most expensive; it was somewhere in the middle. I respected my Dad for springing for the mid-priced package instead of the super-cheapie one, although every year I would sigh covetously over the 1776 Extravaganza, the top-of-the-line assortment that cost a small fortune.
The Pirate’s Chest came with several boxes of sparklers, a Roman Candle, a Catherine Wheel, five boxes of glow-worms, three cones, two large cascading towers, and two Shrieky Petes.
“We always get the Pirate’s Chest,” complained Todd. “Let’s buy the cheapest one this time, and spend the leftovers on extra Shrieky Petes . . .’’
“It’s the best buy,” I said sternly. ‘And we promised Dad we’d be prudent.”
Todd shrugged, and I bought the Pirate’s Chest assortment, and then we hurried home to pinch the “Y” on each Shrieky Pete with a pliers, taking care to do it exactly right, so that we would avoid the gruesome fate of the stupid and careless kid from Fresno who’d gotten his arm blown off. When finished, we put the Shrieky Petes back in the Pirate Chest box, and left it on the coffee table in the living room, a place of pride, where it would sit until the Glorious Fourth.
* * *
I woke up in the very early hours of the next morning to the sound of a pterodactyl screeching into a steamy jungle mist. Then I realized there was no pterodactyl and certainly no steamy mist. It was a truck—an enormous one at that, I thought, to have such a loud, screechy horn attached to it. What’s more, the truck seemed to be working its way down our street. I could hear weighty rumbling and the occasional squeak of heavy, out-sized axles.
I threw off my covers and ran to the bedroom window, the one that faced the street. I parted the curtains and looked out into the street and saw not just one enormous truck, but several, slowly moving down our street, while a few men with flags tried to direct them. I glanced briefly at the Hollenbeck house, where my friend Paddy who had been lost last Summer to The Drowning Game had lived, and felt the familiar stab of pain. Thankfully, his family had gone on a long vacation trip to the Grand Canyon and their house was dark.
I turned my attention back to the unusual sight of the trucks crawling down our street. Some of the trailers they were hauling had glittery, shiny writing and figures painted on them, and then I realized: “It’s the Fair! The Fair is here!”
I tossed a look at my sister Karen, huddled up under the frilly pink coverlet she’d purchased with her babysitting money, sleeping like a tombstone. Karen wasn’t going to wake up for anything at this hour, I knew. Then I padded down the hall to Todd’s room, pushed the door open, and woke him up: “Come see! The Fair is here!”
Together we sat huddled on the front porch step in our pajamas, watching the trucks crawl on the street pavement like a giant centipede, bumper to bumper.
“Why are they here so early?” yawned Todd. “It’s not even four o’clock in the morning!”
“Carny people,” I shrugged. “They keep all sorts of strange hours. I don’t know why they are coming down our street—maybe there’s a detour somewhere.”
“Look there’s one of the freak show trucks!” Todd said, pointing to a trailer which was painted with a figure of a woman who looked to be half-alligator and one of a man with two heads.
“Don’t call them freaks—Mama doesn’t like it,” I said automatically.
“Whatever,” shrugged Todd. “They sure look bigger and better and newer this year. It’s gonna be a heckuva time at the Fair Grounds when everything gets set up!”
* * *
Our first day minding David Amodeo followed soon after the Fair arrived. I’d already gotten a handle on his character after only a day of exposure: he acted prissy and angelic in front of adults, but would often turn sly, sneaky and troublesome when they weren’t around. I didn’t like him at all, but I felt I should help my mother out by hanging out with him and keeping him occupied. There were cut-backs at the Del Monte cannery where she usually worked part-time, and we needed the few dollars that the babysitting job brought in. I stuck around home to entertain David all through that summer, except for the few days a week when I worked as a volunteer for the Sutton County Historical Society Museum downtown, in the Stagecoach Plaza Shopping Center.
David was impressed with our Pirate’s Chest package of fireworks when he saw it on the coffee table.
He opened the lid, and his eyes lit upon the two Shrieky Petes.
“You didn’t pinch those Shrieky Petes hard enough,” he said. “Those pinches are hardly enough to make any kind of explosion.”
David was an inveterate trouble-maker. Not that I had anything on him in that department, but the trouble I made was usually in the pursuit of some wrong-headed adventure I considered noble, not because I wanted to make things difficult for other people.
David, on the other hand, seemed to enjoy creating trouble just for the heck of it, in order to make other people angry or upset.
“The Shrieky Petes are fine,” I snapped back. “I don’t want to get my arm blown off by pinching them harder.”
“Oh, that lame story about the Fresno Kid,” he snickered. “You actually believe it, Miss Sandy?”
David wouldn’t stay quiet about the Shrieky Petes. He eventually threatened to tell his mother that we were being horrible to him if I didn’t go along with his plan to pinch them more than Todd and I had already done.
“She’ll get another babysitter and your mom will lose the income,” he boasted. “If I tell her I don’t like it here.”
I figured my mother couldn’t afford to lose even the few dollars she made from David’s mother, so I finally gave in. I found a set of pliers in my dad’s toolbox in the garage and watched while David used it to crimp the Shrieky Petes, so hard that the dent at the “Y” became a very definite gash, tearing the covering paper and looking fierce as heck.
“Bombs away, Sandy!” David laughed, a demonic look on his trouble-making face. I wanted to punch him, but restrained myself at the last moment. “When can we set them off? Now?”
“No, I said,” I said, and this time I was adamant. “They don’t go until the Fourth.”
David smirked. “We’ll see about it later,” he said.
I got stuck with taking him to the Fair, of course. Todd went with a kid from his school and his friend’s Mom; Karen went with one of her high school friends who had a car. My mother, who couldn’t drive, got a neighbor lady to take us all over to the fairgrounds, which was located on the outskirts of Bertha’s Town, across the river from downtown Sutton.
We arrived in the morning, only about a half-hour after the gates opened up, when there were hardly any fair-goers about, and some of the carnies were still setting up their attractions. In addition to the Midway, where the games of chance and thrill rides were always set up, the fairgrounds included a vast expanse of green lawns, livestock pens, exhibit halls, a big center stage where singing acts performed at night, and even a full-sized rodeo ring with bleachers.
My mother and her friend went over to the Home Economics building to look at the hand-sewn quilts and sample the prize-winning jars of homemade jam, while David and I headed for the livestock barns and pens. We planned to look at the horses, pigs, sheep, and cows until the Midway opened up at noon.
“Don’t go on any of the really scary rides,” my mother had called after us, as David and I split apart from the two adults. “David’s mother says he has a very weak stomach.”
“Oh, don’t worry, we won’t,” David had called back, oh-so-sweetly.
“Fat chance, Mom,” I thought grumpily. I knew that David would head for the scariest and most dangerous rides at the first opportunity he got, and that he would insist that I go with him too, even though I didn’t really like those kinds of rides.
I dreaded taking David to the Midway, so I stalled as long as I could, insisting that we investigate every single prize-winning animal in the livestock barns and pens, and stopping especially long to pet all the horses.
David whined that the livestock exhibits smelled bad and complained that I was taking too much time with the horses. At one point, he even picked up a long, nasty-looking stick from somewhere and used it to poke through the slats in one of livestock pens and torment a prize-winning, Saddleback sow.
“Stop it!” I yelled, grabbing the stick away from him.
“Spoil sport,” he snapped back. “It’s just a big, stupid pig.”
Just then, the big clock above the center stage chimed loudly, and David cried out triumphantly and started to run toward the Midway, practically pushing people out of his way in his haste: “Noon! The Midway’s open! Gang way! Gang way!” he screamed.
I followed behind as quickly as I could, apologizing for his rudeness to passers-by at every step of the way.
My heart leaped when we hit the center aisle of the Midway; I had to admit, it was a most exciting and wonderful place to be, especially for a kid: the noise, the smells, the color, the rides.
It was the true heart of the Fair: the ubiquitous hurdy-gurdy music of the various carnival rides; the thousands of colored and flashing lights; the ride-takers squealing or screaming when the pace of the Bobsled train quickened or the Tilt-a-Whirl car took a particularly unexpected spin. And the luscious intermingled smells of human sweat, fresh cotton candy, stale Crackerjacks, sun-softened taffy, and the factory-chemical scent of the rows of new stuffed animals and dolls that hung as prizes at the coin toss and all the other games of chance.
David and I rode the Tilt-a-Whirl, the Hammerhead, and the Bobsleds in quick succession. At the Bobsleds, he tried to stand up in his car, even though he had been warned not to do so by a huge sign on a fence in front of the ride.
“Sit down,” I yelled, as our car hurled through the Bobsled tunnel, grabbing the bottom of his shirt and yanking him down into his seat as hard as I could. “Don’t you remember the story about the kid who got decapitated that way?”
“Oh, that old wives’ tale,” sneered David. “You believe that?” I had to hold onto him throughout the rest of the ride, to make sure he stayed in his seat.
We rode many other rides as we worked our way down the Midway; and then, eventually, we came to the stretch that was full of the tents and trailers making up the side show attractions.
“Freaks!” yelled David delightedly. “Let’s get in line!”
I had mixed feelings about the side show “attractions.” Every Fair season, ever since I was old enough to roam the Midway without an adult, I had wanted to see the side shows. Many times, I had stood outside of the garishly illustrated tents and trailers, with their alluring depictions of the Dog-Faced Boy, the Alligator Girl, the Fat Lady, the Human Pincushion, and the Bearded Woman, my twenty-five cents clutched in my sweaty fist, debating whether or not to go in. And always, always walking away after standing there and staring for ten or fifteen minutes.
My mother had lectured often that it was wrong to gawk at people who were handicapped or “different” in some way, and I had to admit, no matter how much I really, really wanted to see the Human Pincushion, that I agreed with her, deep down where it counted. A small voice inside of me, which whispered no, no, it’s wrong, always won out in the end.
But this time, things were different. I wouldn’t be going in to see the freak shows because I wanted to, but only because David was kind of my charge, and I would be going along to look after him. Even my mother probably would have agreed to the difference, but just to be sure of a clean conscience, I tried to talk David out of it first.
“It’s not nice,” I said. “How would you feel if you were one of them, and had strange people coming in all day to stare at you and call you a freak?”
“They make money off of it,” replied David, with his customary smirk. “We’d be helping them make a living!”
I didn’t have an answer to that, so in the end, I gave in and stood in line with David to buy tickets.
I handed over our fifty cents to a swarthy-faced man in a Gypsy costume, standing in a gaily painted kiosk that was labeled, “Mr. Magicola,” in fancy gold lettering.
“I wonder if Mr. Magicola is a real Gypsy,” I whispered to David, as we walked into the largest of the tents.
“Of course not,” he sneered. “I bet he’s just some redneck in brown make-up and a fake golden earring! Probably comes from Fresno.”
We sat on a row of wooden bleachers with a few other people, facing a small, dark, temporary stage. I felt a pang of conscience as the lights came up.
“I shouldn’t be here,” I thought guiltily, as the lights went down. “Mom would die if she knew about it.”
Music started playing over a public address system in the tent; it was a jaunty Southern banjo tune.
When the lights came back up and the music faded away, we saw the Alligator Girl sitting on a stool in the middle of the stage. She was wearing a green two-piece swimsuit. The rest of her body was uncovered, showing mottled green and black skin everywhere. A few members of the audience gasped as she came into full view.
“I was born in Louisiana with an unfortunate, rare disease,” she began, in a soft Southern accent, with the practiced air of someone who had recited a particular story hundreds, perhaps thousands of times before. “This disease was caused by my mother being bitten by an alligator just before I was born. Scientists and doctors believe that the alligator came from a bayou where the government was testing atomic bombs!”
I took a sideways look at David to see how he was taking it all in. To my surprise, he looked angry and upset, rather than impressed. He was craning his neck as far as he could to get a better look.
“She’s wearing circus tights all over!” he whispered loudly. “Circus tights that have been painted to look like an alligator’s skin! It’s a fake.”
“Shhhhh!” I whispered back. “You’ll get us thrown out.”
The Alligator Girl finished her tale of woe, and the lights went down again, while the PA system played a new song called Two For the Road.
When the lights came back up again, this time the stool on the stage was occupied by the Two-Headed Man.
“I was born with a large, thick lump of skin on my shoulder. After I was bitten by a radioactive spider, the lump of skin began to grow into the shape of a head. I have been examined by leading doctors all over the country, and in Europe, also. I have even provided a private viewing to the crowned heads of England, Sweden, and France.”
“It’s a dummy!” hissed David loudly, shaking his head. “It’s a dummy’s head strapped to the guy’s shoulder. And somebody should tell him that France doesn’t have a king anymore!”
“Maybe the next one will be better!” I hissed back. Some of the other audience members were glaring at us with open hostility. One man behind us leaned in and snapped, “Be quiet young man!”
“The Human Pincushion is up next,” I whispered softly to David. “Surely there is no way to fake a human pincushion?”
The PA system started to play a tune called Pins and Needles as the lights started to darken again. When they came back up, the Human Pincushion was revealed, sitting on the stool in the center of the stage.
He was a completely bald man with numerous rows of big, vicious-looking hatpins stuck head-first into his shiny, pink scalp.
David stood up, his fists balling up in fury. “It’s just a man in a rubber baldy cap with big, hatpins glued all over it! I want my money back,” he shouted loudly.
At that point, I got up and nervously shuffled David out of the tent, while everyone else glared at us either curiously or angrily.
“I demand to see Mr. Magicola immediately. I want my money back!” he said to me. “Everything’s F-A-K-E.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. He made such a fuss about it that I thought it was best to find Mr. Magicola and discreetly ask him for a refund. Anything, anything, I thought, to make David stop whining, demanding, and complaining.
“So you want a refund, young man?” Mr. Magicola said, after hearing David explain why he wanted his money back. “I’m sorry, but it’s against our policy to give out refunds under any circumstances.”
“But you made the pictures of those freaks look real. And they’re not! It’s false advertising! It’s a fraud!”
“Policy is policy. . .” replied Mr. Magicola.
“If you don’t give me my money back, I’m going to tell everyone standing in line that everything is fake! I’m pretty sure I saw the Two-Headed Man on the Midway two hours ago, without his fake second head!”
Mr. Magicola considered the situation for a while, and then offered a concession.
“I can’t give you your money back, but I can offer you a private viewing at our other tent, where only our truly special acts appear. Normally, we charge extra for the other tent, but I can let you and your friend here go in free, on the house!”
“Why would I want to waste my time looking at more fake acts?” David demanded indignantly.
Mr. Magicola got a strange, almost feral glint in his eyes. “Oh, I assure you, these are not fake acts. It’s true, that for the general public’s viewing, some of our performers have had their unique charms enhanced by make-up, wigs, and the like. You are a very clever boy to notice. But the acts in the special tent are different, I assure you.”
David thought about it for a moment.
“Why not accept the man’s offer?” I said. “Even if you don’t like what you see, you can brag to other kids later about how you got into the special tent for free.”
I knew that David loved to brag to other kids about things like that; it was part of his trouble-making personality. He enjoyed feeling special and superior.
“Well, well. . .all right. Let’s go to the special tent.”
Mr. Magicola bowed to us politely, his golden earring bobbing against the side of his head.
“Right this way, young man. . .and er, young lady.”
Mr. Magicola led us to a smaller tent, that was somewhat hidden behind the big tent where we had just seen the other freak show acts, and then left us at the flapped opening.
“I hope you enjoy yourselves here very much,” he said before he left, again with the strange glint in his eyes. I also thought I detected a tiny hint of a smile around the corners of his dark, full lips.
David and I went into the tent, crunching on sawdust as we walked. The second tent was fixed up much like the first tent, except on a smaller scale. There was a temporary stage with a simple wooden stool set up in the center of it, and a few rows of wooden bleachers placed before the stage. David chose to sit in the very first row, craning his neck in that familiar way, as if he wanted to warn the performers that he was examining their every move with an eagle’s eye.
We were the only audience members in the tent. We waited for a few moments, wondering if the side-show operators had forgotten about us, and then, suddenly, the tent went dark as the lights went down.
There was an eerie sound effect over the PA system of some high-pitched shrieking, followed by a loud, startling explosion, and after that, the lights came up on the stage.
On the stool was sitting an ordinary-looking kid about David’s age, wrapped in a bulky black cape that obscured most of his body. Ordinary-looking, that was, except for his deathly pale face and bruised eye sockets.
“I was the kid from Fresno who made a bomb out of my Shrieky Pete on Fourth of July,” he said. “The Shrieky Pete blew my arm off and now I’m doomed to wander the planet forever, looking for a new arm. They tell me I can get my new arm from another kid who set off a Shrieky Pete bomb on the Fourth of July.” He shrugged off his cape with a sudden, sharp move of his shoulders, and revealed the bloody, mangled stump of his missing arm.
“Do you know a kid like that?” he asked, looking directly at David with his dark-rimmed, dead-looking eyes.
David stared at the kid from Fresno with saucer eyes. “No-o-o,” he whispered shakily. “N-o-o kid I know would do a thing like that.”
Then the lights went down.
“It can’t be real,” whispered David, shivering slightly. “It must be a trick—a fake, just like the Alligator Girl, and the others.”
“If it’s not real,” I whispered back, “it’s certainly a very good trick. That kid’s stump of an arm looked like it was dripping real blood.”
There was another eerie sound effect over the PA system; this time it sounded like the running motor of a carnival ride, mixed with the sound of hurdy-gurdy music, and then there was a loud, piercing scream.
The lights came up on the stage, to reveal another kid about David’s age, sitting on the stool.
“I was another kid from Fresno. I was the one who stood up on the Bobsled ride when it went through the tunnel, even though I was told to stay in my car, and my head came clean off.” He stood up and pulled his head off of his neck with his hands, crimson gore dripping down from both the severed head and the bloody, vacant stump of his neck.
“I’m doomed to wander the earth every carnival season, looking for another head from a kid who stood up on the Bobsled,” mouthed the bloodied lips of the boy’s head, while the body held it in front of its chest with both hands. “Do you know a kid like that?”
David let out a small, frightened cry. “No!” he shouted back. “No, I don’t know anybody who would do a thing like that!”
The head smiled grimly, and then the boy’s body placed it back on its neck, adjusted it so that it fit, and sat down on the stool. The lights went down again.
After a few minutes, there was another strange and scary sound effect over the PA system: the sound of a dog barking fiercely and continuously, and then a lot of horrified screaming and shouting.
David stood up and cried out. “No! No! Stop! I don’t want the lights to come up! I don’t want to see the Fresno Kid who got his face torn off after he poked a dog with a sharp stick!”
Then he ran out of the tent, his sneakers making quick crunching noises on the sawdust-covered ground. I got up quickly and followed him out, just as the lights on the stage were coming up. I too, was afraid to turn around and look at the next Fresno Kid.
I followed David out onto the Midway, where the line was forming for the next viewing of the Alligator Girl and the other main side show acts. We looked for Mr. Magicola at the ticket booth, but he wasn’t there. There was just a very plain, red-headed young woman selling tickets at the booth. Strangely, there was also no gold-lettered sign on the booth advertising “Mr. Magicola,” as there had been before.
“I want to leave!” David yelped, shuddering a bit as he stood, uncaring, in the middle aisle of the Midway, while other fair-goers moved around him, annoyed at the way he was blocking the flow of foot traffic. “I want to leave now!”
It was four-thirty in the afternoon, almost time to meet my mother and her neighbor friend anyway. We joined up with them at the Floral Exhibit Hall, where we found them oooh--ing and ahhh--ing over the arrangements in the tea rose section.
“David’s tired,” I said to my Mom. “He’s all tuckered out from the rides and the cotton candy.”
David said nothing. He had gotten uncharacteristically quiet ever since leaving the second side show tent. I almost felt sorry for him. Almost.
As we drove back over the river to Sutton, I asked David in a whisper if he still wanted to set off the heavily doctored Shrieky Pete bombs that evening, before his mother came to pick him up.
“No!” he said very quietly. “I never want to see a Shrieky Pete again, as long as I live.”