In the dunk tank

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In the dunk tank, edged on the precipice, and a charcoal cloud passes across the sun which has just started warming the edges off a cool morning.

I give a shiver; I’ve already been dropped in the big drink a good five times and I’m only 10 minutes into my 30-minute stretch as the stooge. So far I’ve learned this: A dunk tank is not a pool; it’s just water in there, seasoned by whomever happened to be the stooge before you. And though it’s possible to keep your mouth shut upon impact, almost nothing short of nose clips, which I do not own, can stop the rush of water into the sinus cavity — save for just standing up, because the dunk tank is really only 3 or 4 feet deep, and it’s not necessary to become completely submerged upon a strike of the target, but I like to give the people what they pay for.

Another thing: Every time the button triggers and I’m dropped into the cool water, it comes as a complete surprise — even when I know it’s about to happen.

It’s for charity, of course — I’m donating my proceeds to Fellowship Hall — which is why I dragged myself out to the Hops & Shop at the Foothills Brewery parking lot on a Sunday afternoon, and also because Kristin Schollander asked me to, and she’s a nice lady. Regret did not kick in until just before I ascended the platform.

If I was a real carny, I’d be shouting insults to the passers-by, enticing them to wipe the smirk off my smug, smug face with a drop into the tank. But I’m hoping my shift in the dunk tank sort of stalls out when the little girl steps right up and pays her money.

She’s small, maybe 4 years old, in a tiny pink sundress and hair so blonde it’s practically white. She accepts her first softball, turns to the target and then weighs the missile in her left hand. Lefties are always trouble; I prepare for the worst.

True enough, she drops me with her first throw. I’m still sputtering on the platform when she nails me again with her third throw, the best performance of the day so far. Then she loses interest and wanders off with her parents towards the food trucks.

She comes back two more times before my shift is through. By now I can’t take my eyes off her, and I involuntarily cringe every time she releases the ball. Before she’s through, she’s sent me four more times into the sauce.

I catch her afterwards, running through the fairgrounds with her parents, her white-blonde hair flouncing in the sunlight. She smiles and waves as she walks past, looking nothing at all like the sniper she is.