Art by Norman E. Masters
'This'll be the biggest thing since old man
Barker got run over by the train last year.'"
from PARADISE PLAYLAND
It was crisp and clear after raining in sheets all afternoon; the sky was a clear milk white. Little deltas of propeller seeds ran down the middle of the street and along the edge of the sidewalk. A blackbird perched on a frayed telephone wire. The 6:07 train chuffed past the crossing. A truck filled with baskets of fruit and vegetables waited next to the brick wall of Sam's Grocery Store; green paint covered a few pink bricks. Crisp silhouettes of trees and the Paradise Hotel; a slight breeze blowing. Camp lawns were neatly mowed and clipped green velvet. There were the black reflections of the trees in the white puddles and the white light off the black windows of the small ivy-covered red brick schoolhouse, strangely drab.
Reflected in the small silvered world atop the pole in the center of Paradise Playland were all the rides and the concessions; directly below were standing a group of children.
"I dare you" he said, clutching the object in a paper bag.
The ring of faces closed in around the two boys.
"Chicken," they teased.
"Scaridy-cat," they taunted.
"Poofnagle," they cried, grinning, knowing he wouldn't be able to bear this last insult.
"All right," he yelled, flushing. "Give me the bag."
The boy handed him the bag. It did not weigh much considering its contents. "Unscrew the world and then--"
"Never mind. I know all about it."
Thrusting the bag into his shirt he started up the pole. He was up five, ten, fifteen feet.
"This'll be the biggest thing since old man Barker got run over by the train last year." Police had found the body but then never located the head.
"Yeah," the kids said, leering.
Twenty feet up.
"Think how it'll look."
"Yeah," the kids chorused.
"Sittin' inside the world."
"Overlookin' the whole Playland."
"For_ever_! Think of it!"
"Could they arrest us?"
"They'll never know who did it."
Thirty feet. Forty. Then he was at the top. Holding on with one hand the boy took the bag out of his shirt and balanced it in the crook of his arm. Then he withdrew the contents. The bag fluttered slowly downward. The kids, souvenir-hungry, clutched for it, scrambling. At the top of the pole the boy unscrewed the globe and set the precious object inside and then screwed the globe back on again. Coming down, he was cheered.
Suddenly the sheriff was there.
"What're you kids doin'?"
They looked around, frightened.
"Scatter," their leader said.
They needed no other command; the sheriff pursued them in vain.
"Now what were they all gathered around that pole cheering for?"
Squinting upward, he gasped, for there inside the world, secure where the boy had just put it, turning as the world turned, until someone took it down, was old man Barker's head.[pp. 50 - 52, PARADISE PLAYLAND, THE NO-EYED MONSTER #17, Summer 1969]